October 6

Blog #159 – 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 fifteen years since I’ve started teaching APUSH,  so my ideas 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.

However, 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 133 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 stay in North America to protect the Indigenous nations 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 and hoped to be freed from their debts by overthrowing the system.

The study of the history of the history, or historiography, looks at how historians framed the American Revolution.  What follows is a brief summary of how historians throughout American history have interpreted the Revolution.  Most often, the facts of major and minor events don’t change, it is the times and interpretations that change and reflect the historians’ view points.

Portrait of Mercy Otis WarrenOne of the very first histories of the American Revolution was written by Mercy Otis Warren and published in 1805; it was called The History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.  Her history began with the Stamp Act and continued in 3 volumes to chronicle life after the Revolution, including the writing of and debates over the Constitution.   She was worried that without a national Bill of Rights, the new Constitution “Betray the people of the United States into an acceptance of a most complicated system of government, marked on the one side with the dark, secret and profound intrigues of the statesman … and on the other, with the ideal project of young ambition … to intoxicate the inexperienced votary.”   She was sharply critical of the Federalists who supported the new Constitution, and would later criticize Presidents George Washington and John Adams (though she wasn’t critical of Washington’s military success).  The books didn’t sell well, but her history has become a great source for current historians to look over her sources and immediate insights so soon after the war.


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 origin 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 (1890s – 1940) 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 7 Years War – 1754-63.  American colonies had moved in the direction of more home rule which, in essence, was revolutionary, by nature, and set up an inevitable conflict.

The Progressive School (1910s-1940s) emphasized that the Revolution was sparked by the economic split brought on 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.

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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 of political and constitutional theory.  These Revolutionary 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 and frontier farmers felt at being left out of the rapid economic change happening along the eastern coast of the colonies.  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.

Using what you’ve read here and in chapters 4 and 5 (“How Radical was the Revolution?” on p. 95 in the review book, and “Debating the Past” in Ch. 5 of the hardcover textbook, 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 or somewhere in between – maybe both?  Don’t forget the handout, “Conflicting Views” too (included in the handout with the Navigation Acts on the first page).  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, October 9th by class time.  Minimum of 350 words. 

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Posted October 6, 2023 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

68 thoughts on “Blog #159 – How Revolutionary was the Revolution?

  1. Gabe Macwilliams

    The American Revolution was undoubtedly influential, but a major topic of debate is if it was actually radical. In my opinion, while it may have begun as a conservative revolution, it developed into a radical revolution over time. Many factors contributed to the tension, but the idea of a revolution was conceived almost solely because of the abolition of salutary neglect. King George situated more troops in the colonies, in part enforcing the British laws much stricter. Colonists had missed the days when they could govern themselves, and wanted to reinstate that policy. A revolution based on keeping an old system in place is the textbook definition of a conservative revolution. To the majority of the founding fathers, that is what America stood for. It was masked under mass propaganda about freedom from tyranny, but many founding fathers still tyrannically owned hundreds of people. Among the hordes of conservatives, there were a few influential radicals that managed to make major changes. One of these was Alexander Hamilton, who alongside making many contributions to the young country, proposed and eventually passed a bill that allowed slaves to be granted their freedom in exchange for fighting for the war. While this was mainly done to combat the British’s similar policy, it wasn’t seen that way from the slaves’ perspective. Slaves had turned a strategic policy and converted it into a method to fight for their freedom. This policy brought 5000 free black men to the colonies, leading to 5 of 13 states granting suffrage to free black men by 1789. Among many ex-slaves using the revolution to liberate themselves, many lower and middle class people utilized it to limit differences between classes. Aside from the founding fathers, many aristocrats sided with the British in the revolution. The British were expected to win, and the British throne had treated them and their families for so long. After the British lost, most rich loyalists either left the country and abandoned their property, or had their property taken by a group of Patriots. This wealth and land left behind was redistributed to the community, and the people that needed it most. Through the expulsion of loyalists, a Robin Hood effect took place, in which the upper class decreased in size and influence, while the lower class was elevated. The removal of any piece of a feudal system led to the rise of capitalism, and the creation of the American Dream. This was never the intention of most founding fathers, but it is undoubtedly the single greatest positive of the revolution.

  2. Ashley Glime

    I think the revolution gives ways that could make people think it leans conservative and radical. Personally I think the revolution was both radical and conservative. For the more radical side, Colonists were controlled by a parlament pre-revolution which gave them thoughts that they had no control over the government and what they could do or say. The british also did not do a good job of running a society that gave support to the colonists. For the conservative side it gave ideas that they wanted to keep the colonies the same and not change anything. Examples of this are from conflicting views when it says “The colonials revolted against british rule in order to keep things the way they are and to not start another uprising”.An example of evidence is the stamp act of taxation without representation. This gave unfair rights to people and didnt allow them to have a say on weather not to be taxed.

  3. Helena

    Looking through all the information, with opinions so divided, it’s extremely hard to decide. Conflicting viewpoints analyze how society changed, or economics, but it seems that an even smaller portion falls into where I stand, which is a combination of both and more. Everything became dramatically different the moment England chose the path of salutary neglect with the American government. So many settlers moved not just from Great Britain, but the surrounding areas, each possessing an idea of how the government should be formed. Because so many people were left almost entirely alone without royal influence, a system of republican government soon formed. That led to radical changes like freedom of the press in the Zieger case and the appearance of elected officials (although only elected by Christian white male property owners). Starting with these facts, it’s evident that a conservative revolution was formed. Americans fought for Independence to protect the rights that had already been formed in their states. Now the story might just end there, and we could sum it up in that version, but that’s not the whole truth. Take the Boston Massacre, for example. People were already accustomed to the idea of soldiers in and around the places that they were living, and while it’s true that the Quartering Acts meant that soldiers were being unfairly housed in American homes, the British military was commonplace at the time. The revolution may have started out as a conservative one, but it evolved into an inseparable mixture of the two. After the British were overthrown, Americans sought to create a new doctrine stating how they were different from Britain, something that hadn’t existed until that point. It had been in the minds of revolutionaries for a long time now, but that’s all they were: ideas. People chose to live as they please, with not much idea of a united authority presiding over all of the colonies. A royal monarchy was thrown out in favor of a representative assembly, in which everyone spoke their mind and was not burdened by the decisions of one person. All in all, people grew to discover their own principles on how a government should be for the people, but the act of rebellion, open rebellion, and further creation of an entirely different structure of authority creates a very different picture, almost a new term combining both types of revolution.

    long with the growing economic and political changes, but socially. Bernard Bailyn is another historiographer who wrote that colonists were influenced by revolutionary ideas, not motivated by economic turmoil. However, the Neft Left theory exposes the resentment of middle class colonists against power hungry, wealthy British and American rule. Bailyn and Nash both bring up good points, but if they combined their argument, it would be even stronger. A revolution doesn’t occur in a day, that much is obvious, but it also doesn’t occur from one rationale. A combination of factors create a situation of this scale, and there isn’t only one type of factor. One could argue that Britain was squelching the economic side of America, but that’s still not the whole story. Representatives in government were being replaced for royal governors, and the very essence of American vs. English society has changed. Jesse Lemisch also delves more into how people who weren’t white, rich, or property owners reacted to the end of the war or caused the events.

    In summation, historiographers get it both wrong and right on many occasions. History is a mystery, but many factors caused a change in society, not the simple decisions of a few (also, some parts of politics affected economics, etc., so they work in tandem).

  4. Carl

    The American Revolution included a wide range of ideological, social, and political changes, including elements of both conservatism and radicalism. One conservative aspect of the American Revolution was the desire to preserve traditional English rights that colonists believed Parliament was denying them. The belief that Parliament violated their rights played a significant role in instigating the revolution. One of the central grievances of the colonists was the imposition of taxes by Parliament without colonial representation. The British government also suspended colonial legislature in response to resistance and protests. Colonists saw this as a denial of their right to self-government. Furthermore, many American colonists were not seeking a complete overthrow of the existing social order or the monarchy. Instead, they were initially more inclined towards resolving their grievances with Britain through negotiation with the British Crown, such as the Olive Branch Petition. In terms of radicalism, the American Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideas that emphasized individual rights, liberty, and the idea that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. These ideas were radical in the context of the time when absolute monarchies were common. The Revolution also brought about significant social changes, including the erosion of traditional hierarchies and the empowerment of ordinary citizens. The extremely uncommon idea that social and political status should not be determined by birth but by merit and virtue gained traction. Additionally, while the Revolution did not immediately grant women equal rights, it did prompt discussions about the role of women in society. Some women, like Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren, advocated for greater women’s rights and participation in political matters. Finally, the Revolution raised questions about the institution of slavery, as the colonists’ fight for liberty and freedom contrasted with the institution of slavery. Some Northern states began to take steps toward gradual emancipation during and after the Revolution, while the South continued to rely heavily on slavery, setting the stage for later conflicts over this issue. In conclusion, the American Revolution can be seen as a mix of conservative elements, where colonists sought to maintain certain traditional rights and institutions, and radical elements, where they embraced Enlightenment ideas and aimed for significant social and political change.

  5. Will Reynolds

    The American Revolution was truly revolutionary in thought, but in action, it was a conservative revolution. The ideas voiced in the documents of the time would be considered revolutionary, but after the creation of the government, none of the things that made it radical ever came to fruition. The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal”. This would theoretically imply that men of all races, classes, religions, and political standings have equal rights and opportunities without oppression. If this idea had become a reality, the revolution would have been incredibly radical for the time period. As we know, this was far from the truth. Under the Articles of Confederation, slavery was completely legal and would continue to plague the Americas until the conclusion of the Civil War. Free African Americans were denied rights like voting among other things based solely on their race. Although there was religious freedom, the government greatly encouraged Christianity. The right to vote was restricted in most states to only property-owning white men. Although some states originally allowed black men to vote this was quickly taken away. All Natives were barred from this now fundamental right. As far as the treatment of women goes, there was little to speak about. They still didn’t have the right to vote and wouldn’t have that right protected for more than 100 years. Things like the rule of thumb were still supported and virtually nothing was passed in order to protect women until the 20th century. Men may have come back from the war with “greater appreciation for women”, but appreciation doesn’t help under the law. Republican motherhood was introduced as a concept that in theory may seem good. In reality, the idea says that the only purpose of women’s education was to help future leaders, who would be men and their spouses who would likely get minimal input if any. For example, when Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams to “consider the ladies”, she was completely ignored and women weren’t acknowledged in any way in either the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution. All of these examples show that nothing really changed. The American Revolution was just wealthy white men who didn’t want to pay taxes because they were greedy. The acts that the British parliament passed were reasonable considering the support the British government gave to the Americans.

  6. Ella

    From the view of a privileged person at the time of the American revolution the revolutionary war was most likely seen as a radical or life changing event, but I believe that it was a much more conservative revolution with radical aspects for certain members of the population. Through the process of the American colonies becoming independent from Britain the majority of people were left out. Most places making decisions or carrying them through were dominated by white property-owning men. The very document that was written for the purpose of declaring our nation independent was signed by all upper class white men. The declaration of independence, written by Thomas Jefferson states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This excerpt holds extreme importance to the history of the United States and yet even after it was written the majority of the population continued to not have rights that white men expected themselves to obtain. Leading up to the revolution there was a period of salutary neglect from the 1690s through the 1760s. During this period colonies began systems of self government appointed by the King. After the French and Indian War Britain ended the period of salutary neglect and was so far in debt they began taxing colonists, but they were not taxed nearly as much as the average person in Britain. The colonists saw this as violating their rights and many supported the phrase “No taxation without representation”. Colonists began forming ways to resist the new acts, such as boy cottings, riots, and petitions, such as the Olive Branch Petition. The King responded to this with the Proclamation of Rebellion. By the end of the revolutionary way although most issues did not change for people of color or women after the revolutionary war we begin to see changes in certain states, such as women having the “right” (not specified that only men could vote so some women voted) in New Jersey until 1808, and slavery beginning to get abolished in the northern states starting with Vermont in 1777. Even though the revolution sparked the beginning of further changes for enslaved people and women the time was seen as radical although it may have only been for the property owning white men of time.

  7. Hannah Martens

    The question of whether the American Revolution was radical or conservative brings up good points on both sides of the argument, however I believe the event leaned towards the conservative side, especially towards the beginning of the war, but continuing in some capacity throughout. The majority of America’s population merely wanted the freedom that they had during the French and Indian War back after the end of salutary neglect, their initial objective was not to become independent from Britain, but to make peace. As pointed out by Gary Nash and other New Left historians, the growing apart of social classes before the revolution was another cause for the revolt. Poor laborers and farmers wished to stop or slow the separation of social classes, keeping things how they were before to prevent their economic decline. If the revolution was truly radical then more Americans would have been striving to achieve a more drastic change in things like social order and economy, but the results did not show that change, especially for people like African Americans and women, who were disincluded from the constitution’s words “all men.” While I disagree with historians like Charles and Mary A. Beard who argue the drastic social and economic change for the majority, some claiming the radical point of view are not wrong. One statement by J. Franklin Jameson that “many aspects of colonial society [were] profoundly altered by the forces thus let loose” proves the point of the revolution having some radical results. Some of these aspects that Jameson may be referring to are explained by Gordon Wood in The Radicalism of the American Revolution and Empire of Liberty. Here he discusses the effect on traditional gender relations, and while I agree that people strayed from the norm during the war, when women ran farms and shops as well as being active participants in the war both on and off of the battlefield, to say that women’s roles permanently changed due to this sudden shift is an exaggeration. In general the men who returned after the war were not willing to give up the power they had before, once again showing the conservative mindset of those who fought for America’s freedom. I will say a strong argument for the radical side would be the drastic change in politics when comparing Britain to the United States. Obviously the result of a democratic government in America proves that Americans wanted a change in the way their people were or were not controlled, but individual governments within the states were already put in place before the end of salutary neglect. So while the new central government was a change, the idea of democracy was conservatory to the states.

  8. Saanvi

    The American Revolution can be considered both a radical and conservative revolution. From the colonist’s perspective, they had come up with their laws for the colony and those rights were being taken away from them by the British. This can be seen as a conservative revolution. Carl N. Degler agreed with this ideology in his writing “Conflicting Views” when he talks about how colonists wanted to keep things the way they were not starting something new. From the British perspective, the rights the colonists were fighting for they had never had, making it a radical revolution. George Bancroft’s theory also supports this because he thought the revolution was a QUEST for liberty, meaning that it was something that they wanted rather than something they already had. Another differing perspective of the revolution was that between progressive and imperial schools. The imperial school believed that salutary neglect helped the colonies but taxation was not unreasonable. Even though taxation was not wrong they believed that it and other political issues were the cause of the revolution. This differs from the progressive schools which focused on economics, in that there was an economic battle about taxes between Britain and America, and there was another battle over money between the classes in America. This conflict shows how the revolution can be seen differently from different perspectives and both sides can be true. In Gary Nash’s “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up’” he claims that the revolution is radical because of the complete change of class structure and climate. Some people saw the revolution as both radical and conservative. An example of this could be Carl Becker who said that there were two main questions that started the revolution. First was could the colonists rule from home, as it would not be controlled by Britain, and the second being who would do the ruling at home. The question of separation from Britain supports a radical perspective but the question of who would rule is more conservative as deciding on rulers was something colonists did frequently during the period of salutary neglect. In summary, the American Revolution can be seen in many different ways but overall it had significant impacts on people’s lives and American culture.

  9. danedimmer

    I think the American revolution was both a conservative and radical revolution depending on the person and viewpoint. Ever since the war ended there have been historians on both sides of this idea, each with their own reasonings, this leads me to believe that it was a revolution of both conservative and radical ideals.There are historians who believe that the revolution was a class conflict according to the progressive school, and there were two real revolutions, an external against the British, and an internal against the class system. To support this, historian Arthur Schlesinger has said that usually conservative merchants played a key role in starting the revolution in order to keep their positions and avoid the lower class from winning the internal revolution. Some historians from the consensus school of history say otherwise, they say there was no class conflict and the colonists rebelled because of their common ideas of a self government with fundamental political principles. Other historians from the imperial school say that the colonists were gonna rebel regardless because they had developed revolutionary ideas of home rule government and that the British were in the right for taxing them for the money and manpower wasted in the seven years war. While the ideas between the consensus school of history and the progressive school contradict each other i still think there is truth between them, i think there was a class conflict and two revolutions because of the information given from Schlesinger but i also think there were colonists who were united by the common goal of self government as seen in the written words of the declaration of independence. Jefferson, the founding fathers, and other wealthy revolutionists may have tried to keep their positions with the revolution but there was no denying that the effort they put into their self government political ideals like John Adams and his revolutionary writings was genuine. I think to figure out if the revolution was a conservative or radical revolution is to check the point of view of everyone who wrote about it, each person had their own ideas and own goals and the American revolution only furthered those ideas, that’s why i think the revolution was both depending on the person.

  10. Zoe Burrell

    I believe the Revolution had a devastating impact on Britain and positive impact on the colonies. There was an explosion of dramatic political, societal and economic changes for both. While Britain wanted to maintain the status-quo, the colonies wanted radical change-their independence. The relationship between the two, Britain and the colonies, became very contentious and had political strongholds. Regarding the political aspect, the colonies wanted their own type of government where they would make their own laws and be able to govern themselves. Britain wanted to maintain the control of having a King govern over the colonies. The colonies were being overtaxed and had no vote or say-so in making the laws. The colonies were demanded to repay the British Empire for their defense in the French and Indian War. While the colonists were experiencing political stress, economically they were suffering also. There were drastic economic restrictions that had an adverse impact on the colonies. The British Empire had numerous restrictions on the colonies as it related to trade, manufacturing and settlement. Because of the over taxation imposed by the British the American colonies revolted. This uprising ended the era of mercantilism. Many changes in societal areas came to pass. The American colonists wanted freedom of religion and to have the opportunity to vote and have a say in the politics. The British wanted to maintain their status-quo of having a king rule over the colonies, imposing outrageous laws and limiting the American colonist’s independence. The British were devastated after the Revolution. The loss of 13 colonies was the turning-point of the Revolution. America colonies gained their independence. However, all was not lost. The Brits did keep Canada, Africa, India and the Caribbean. So, was the Revolution radical? Yes, the Revolution was radical. Radical because it brought about world change that has impacted countries across the globe. Politically America gained their right to self-govern and the right for each citizen to vote. There is a Constitution that brings together all States under one union. Economically the Revolution brought about new trade and the ability for America to trading across the world.

  11. Clare G

    Revision; first one didn’t meet word count

    There is no contest on whether or not the American Revolution was an influential event in history, but there is a debate nowadays on whether or not it was truly revolutionary. The complex nature of the events makes it hard to define as either revolutionary or conservative and there are many historians who argue both sides. I believe that the American revolution was a blend of revolution and conservatism, as there is a valid argument for both sides. Some of the more revolutionary ideas were the political changes, such as democratic self governance, and ideological shift that came with the revolution; putting more emphasis on enlightenment ideas such as John Locke’s natural rights of life liberty and property. However, it failed to provide considerable change to matters like racial and gender equality, keeping slavery in play and not allowing black Americans or women to vote. Some of the more conservative aspects were the fact that the colonists framed their arguments as preserving their rights and the self governance they had already established. By the time they declared independence, the colonies had already been living with a functioning system of self governance and social order. They had also evolved into the mindset that they had certain rights, which they integrated into their society. Although these rights were not explicitly written into law, the people of the americas all abided by the unwritten rules, and so when Britain began exerting more control over those rights, colonists felt violated and retaliated to keep them. Also, compared to other revolutions like the French Revolution, the American Revolution did much less to uproot society as it was, focusing rather on the creation of a stable government. The intent was not to destroy and recreate all of the previously existing societal norms and systems, but rather to break away from Britain and organize these systems into widespread, unanimously acknowledged laws. The Revolution encompassed both conservative and revolutionary elements, driven by a desire to protect existing rights, while simultaneously embracing revolutionary ideas, and cannot be simply categorized as one or the other, instead lying somewhere in the middle.

  12. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    I think that the revolution was one of radical actions justified by conservative ideologies. Although some events that occurred during the revolution were more aggressive and/or impactful than they had to be, the ideas that they grew from were conservative. Evidence of these conservative ideologies can be seen in the the shift of intention concerning discussions during 2nd continental congress, an event that took place after the first two battles of the revolution. More specifically, the shift occurred sometime in 1775. The immediate effects of said shift can be seen in the rapid development of radical opinions and attitudes within the colonists, some of which were directly expressed in the pamphlet Common Sense (January 1776).
    Before Lexington and Concord, colonists and delegates alike wished to mend their relationship with the king and his forces. During the 1st continental congress, these wishes became clear. But not all colonists wished for conservative action forward Britain. Colonists like these organized and/or participated in the Boston Tea Party(1773). Although the Tea Party happened not long before the first meeting of the congress, the relative extremes that took place in Massachusets must be considered. The events were very radical, a claim that many historians agree on, but, not all colonists agreed with the actions of those that took part in the events of the Boston Tea Party. Discussions concerning colonists’ opinions regarding the event further support the conservative ideologies that were the roots of the American Revolution.
    In alignment with ideals of the imperial school, I believe that the revolution can be interpreted as radical when analysing the colonial response to The Intolerable Acts, and the King’s refusal to honor the wishes admitted in the Olive Branch Petition(1775). But, the following colonial actions were encouraged by geography: “in no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet; and as England and America, with respect to eachother, reverso the common order of nature, it is evident that they belong to different systems, england to europe, and america to itself…” (Paine).
    Not only this, but I also agree with the foundations of the Progressive and New Left periods. The dual revolution interpretation of the American revolution is very complex, but has an abundance of evidence to support it. Siad interpretation agrees with the statement that the revolution presented an opportunity for multiple oppressed, ignored, and/or unrepresented groups of people. At that time, these groups were the Native Americans, African/African Americans (enslaved and free), and women. As the revolution progressed, and the need for support increased, the ignorance of the white, property owning male became evident. Using ths ignorance against the males, these groups of people were able to demand more equal standings for themselves and others in a situation similar to theirs. For example, Abigail Adams went from requesting that her husband fought for female representations: “dont forget about the ladies”, to demanding the adoption of laws that would ensure that married woman has the same entitlements as single women. This shift in Abigails expression and emotions when dealing with the topic of womens rights can be interprested as a small scale example similar to the shift on colonial attitude toward Britain.

    Lauren G

  13. Daphne Breen

    The American Revolution is known for the patriotic victory by the colonists over the tyranny of the British government, making a huge impact on the world and the events to follow. As much as the revolution and creation of America’s democratic government inspired many leaders and invoked further change, The American Revolution was more conservative than radical.
    First, many colonists were still loyal to the crown even during the revolution. an estimated 60,000 colonists fought next to the British and supplied them with food, shelter, as well as arms. Some even joined in raiding parties from patriots’ homes. After the war ended with the Treaty of Paris, many of these people fled to Canada or England to escape prosecution. As much as the creation of the United States was an influential change in history, it changed every few people’s perspectives on the strength of this new nation and whether or not their approach to government would succeed. The government right after the revolution was weak, leaving most of the power with individual states because of the limited powers of the Articles of Confederation. The federal government did not have the right to tax, and inflation skyrocketed as they made too much paper money to pay off debt. Instead of sparking change and influencing other nations, this new nation was in a worse place than before the war. Laws and rights written the Constitution and Bill of Rights were fixed previously made rights and laws, thus the revolution made little radical change, instead fighting to keep already existing rights with few changes.
    Another reason the Revolutionary War was more conservative than radical was the usage of slavery within the United States before and after the revolution. Before the revolution, about 14,867 lived in New England, 34,679 lived in the mid-Atlantic colonies, and 347,378 in the five Southern Colonies. Slaves played an important role in the economy, specifically in the southern colonies with many plantations harvesting cash crops. However, during the revolution, many enslaved people ran away to join either British or later patriot troops in exchange for their freedom. Although the British lost the war, and thus did not grant the enslaved individuals freedom, some managed to sneak onto British ships going to England. Regardless, the enslaved still in the colonies were not granted their freedom, and plantation owners still used many slaves on plantations. The American Revolution did grant the colonists independence from Great Britain, but the enslaved, who made up 20% of the population in 1776, were not free.
    In conclusion, The American Revolution was more conservative than radical because although some changes happened in the world following the events of the revolution, in the United States, little changed. Patriots fought simply to keep the rights they already had. And even though the colonists were fighting for their freedom, slavery within the United States lasted until 1865, compared to America’s independence in 1776.

  14. Delilah

    I personally believe that the American Revolution wasn’t quite as revolutionary as many people make it out to be. I believe this for reasons such as, Many upper class citizens still held positions of power, it didn’t significantly change the lives of marginalized groups, and colonists were fighting for rights they had been exercising for years. Here is a closer look into both of those.
    One example is how many of the upper class citizens who held power before the revolution continued to hold power after, limiting the amount of social change that could truly happen. People like George Washington or John Adams still held plenty of power while the colonies were under British rule.
    Another point is that the revolution didn’t significantly alter the lives of marginalized groups. While the revolution did inspire discussions about liberty and equality, these ideals were not fully brought to reality for everyone. Slavery, for example, continued to exist in almost all parts of the country, and women were still denied many rights and opportunities, like the right to vote in almost every state. So, in terms of social progress, the revolution fell short in quite a few areas.
    Furthermore, a majority of the revolution was colonists fighting for the rights and powers that they had already been exercising for many years. Until things like the Stamp Act were in place, people in America had not been paying taxes on things like paper, and they had started to revolt because the act was placed.That being said, it’s important to remember that the American Revolution did bring about significant changes. It challenged the idea of monarchy and established a new form of government. It inspired other movements for independence around the world and it also brought about the concept of individual rights and freedoms, which influenced the drafting of the Constitution.
    While the American Revolution may not have been as radical as some other revolutions, it did have a lasting impact on the course of history. It laid the foundation for the development of the United States as a democratic nation and set the stage for future social and political changes. So, while it may not have been a complete revolution in every sense, it was still a pivotal moment in the history of the United States.

  15. Mamy Diop

    In my opinion there is no yes or no answer to this question. It really depends on whose perspective you look at. For white men, the revolution probably wasn’t that revolutionary, but it also depends on what social class you look at. For the men who were in government, their lives probably changed a lot. For example, John Adams or George Washington who became president and vice president. However, we know, also based on where we are now, that the margins between the rich and poor only get bigger from here. Now if we look at it from a black man’s perspective things change. Many slaves were freed to fight in the war, which opened a whole new world to black men, by 1789 5 of the 13 states allowed free black men to vote. So if you look at It from a black man’s perspective the revolution was pretty revolutionary. After the war people started to see black people more as people, many black people gave their lives for the patriots and others saw it. The last perspective to look at is women. Although the revolution wasn’t a huge turning point for women, a lot still changed for women. After the revolution, men had a new respect for women, they thought the world would fall apart if the women were in charge. While the men were away, on top of their other responsibilities, women were in charge of the businesses and some of the politics. Once the revolution was over the idea of republican motherhood was born. The idea was that women needed to be educated to be able to educate their sons on how to be proper patriots and their daughters on how to be proper wives. Although to us today this doesn’t seem like a big deal, for women at that time it was a huge change.
    There is no easy way to answer this question, to try and answer this question simply would neglect the change or the lack thereof for different people. Too many people were affected by the revolution to simply say that it wasn’t revolutionary but there is also a large group of people for which nothing changed.

  16. Vishwa Charabuddi

    I believe the American Revolution was that of a radical revolution, as it encompasses the work of every citizen who seeked for new opportunities in the new world. Specifically, page 95 explains, “In their view, Americans did not revolt against outmoded institutions but, in their quest for independence, merely carried to maturity a liberal, democratic movement that had been gaining force for years.” The commitment of each citizen goes out of their way, as now women represented the household and men went on to forseek independence through sacrifice of war. Absent these men and womens dedication, we wouldn’t see the United States that we see today. The economical burden was also very costly as page 132 explains, “the states had to resort to persuasion and force: to paying bounties to attract new recruits.” It brought upon change because now with the new financial responsibility, it allowed for a new door to self development independent of Britain, rather than one correlative. Moreover, the layoff of acts like the stamp act brought ease to the economy and stimulation because now a freer trade market was available to the people. Also the effects of the enlightenment such as Common Sense brought unity as page 133 explains “they cannot defeat an idea with an army”. Ideas as such brought the United States into the Union instead of the thirteen colonies, because of the encroachment it displayed. The symbolism displayed also went a long way as page 133 explains, “Washington provided the army and the people with a symbol of stability around.” The symbolism went far because it’s another form of unity that helped the revolution to be radical similar to books. It contributes to radicalism because it allows for a more united country through a symbol as the British brought upon multiples division when they weren’t independent such as the slave trade. This revolution is similar to many, including my home country of India, because both displayed an effort through multiple years, along with the strong force back of the military, and a nation that is more united than ever for a common goal: Independence.

  17. Carly R

    I believe that the American Revolution has elements of both radical and conservative revolutions. When I first learned about the American Revolution, I thought that it was clear cut. The Americans were right and the British were wrong. As I’ve learned more, I begin to wonder if the revolution was really radical or more conservative. In Gary Nash’s article, “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up’”, he argues that the ordinary people played a big role in the American Revolution and had political and social changes. Nash argues that women, African Americans, and Native Americans helped shape the revolution, and in turn, there were large impacts on these groups. Women continued to fight for the revolutionary cause even without political rights. However, it is evident with the letters that Abigail Adams sent to John Adams that women were not taken seriously throughout the revolution. This is the same for The Daughters of Liberty, who were ridiculed in the cartoon, “A Society of Patriotic Ladies, at Edenton, North Carolina”. Another reason that makes me think the American Revolution was conservative was the fact that while the founding fathers fought for independence, they were often from a higher social class and had an abundance of wealth, and their motivations were often to benefit themselves, not others. Nash also argues that African Americans fought for freedom and independence from Great Britain, but many enslaved Africans also fought with the British in return for their freedom. These examples make me think it wasn’t very revolutionary for people who weren’t white male landowners. To summarize, I believe that the American Revolution was both radical and conservative. The revolution was radical in the way that regular people got to be involved and help the revolution, not just wealthy and educated people with a higher social status. People began to boycott unfair taxes, protest, and join local militias. This is what Gary Nash was arguing in his article. It challenged a traditional structure where only the elite could participate in important events. It was also conservative because of the lack of change. Despite the ideas of liberty and freedom, women were still oppressed and slavery still persisted.

  18. Rocco Firth

    I Believe the revolution was revolutionary in the sense it made people truly divided. With so many different viewpoints there was truly a large and visible division between the groups during the revolution. Focusing on conservative and radical viewpoints, the more conservative groups wanted to just negotiate and try to retain the rights they have kept for so long, the more radical views wanted a complete and full revolt against the British. I can understand the ideas of both, but to truly understand why they had such different ideas we need to consider some of the reasons for both viewpoints. For the radical views they saw the British as only using them for their resources and that they were an evil tyrannical power as the following states “The British were a big issue to the states and the colonists knew action was needed soon.” For the more conservative the people in this group only wanted to safeguard their rights as British citizens. This would make sense considering many thought that the U.S. was not strong enough to fight off and continue to hold back British forces if they did successfully revolt and get independence as stated throughout the whole chapter up until the revolution was over. This would obviously make some view simply settle for the rights they have always had as the best possible option. I also believe it was revolutionary in the way it shaped and motivated future revolutions. As stated in the book on page 95 “historian Crane Brinton found striking similarities between the American Revolution and two later revolutions.” These revolutions, being the French and Russian Revolutions, both which were most likely inspired by the American revolution as many historians believe. I believe that the American Revolution, in the sense of these revolutions, helped change how some of Europe’s biggest powers governed and overly changed Europe as well as helped set the stage for democracy in Europe, The Americas, and eventually most of the world. Thanks to these revolutions and the views produced and used in the revolution itself, I believe that the American Revolution was truly revolutionary.

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