Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Unknown American Revolution

It wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped--I found it a little difficult to follow because I wasn't familiar with the period to start with, apart from a little bit of general knowledge. It expects you to know the events of the main 'American Revolution' (why is it a revolution and not a war of independence? When I lived in America it was referred to as the American War of Independence. All of a sudden it's the American Revolution...). I did make notes, and they are slightly less confusing than the ones I did for the Origins of the Second World War would be, but I read a large chunk of it in the car and that made it hard to make notes so I kinda gave up.

Anyway, here goes.

Roots of the Revolution: Jailbreaks at Newark. Yeoman farmers were asserting their claims to land. The New Jersey land system was very confused. Scottish proprietiers tried to assert their rights, which led to violent dispute. Erupted mid 1740s. The gentry saw it as treason against the crown, especially when they were threatened with house-pulling (basically what it says on the tin--a mob would get a bunch of ropes and collapse the house). The yeoman argued that they'd improved it so it was their land. There were religious tensions between the two groups as well--the gentry were Anglican, the yeoman more radical. The Awakeners preached antimaterialism and condemned the rich. There were tenant revolts in New Work, North and South Carolina and Vermont. The case against the monarchy and aristocracy was being built. Christ's Poor was a group full of enthusiasm, with a message that God did not operate through clergy and aristocracy, but through all. There was anger over the fact that people with no formal teaching started to teach others. The group appealed to slaves. Ministers feared that they would take moral license. The Declaration of Rights in Virginia 1776 guaranteed religious freedom. "Little Carpenter's Dilemma"--Cherokee-English alliance had been in place, but coming to an end in 1750s. 7 Years War led to breakdown in relations (this book kept coming back to the issue of Native Americans, suggesting that it was a kind of double war, with a background of settler v native fights going on).
"The Mobbish Turn" in Boston (Massachusetts). Town meetings there allowed low social ranks to outvote gentlemen (basically, they had a bit of a democracy going already). There were huge protests over attempts to press gang men into Royal Navy ships. The Militia was called in toturn away rioting crowd, but most were part of the crowd already. Boston was nearly bombarded, but it was averted after the release of townsmen. 'Independent Advisor'--a newspaper for labourers--was launched in 1748. Leveller sentiments were echoed in it. There was a general fear that the town meetings would be overthrown in 1760.
There were problems on the frontier in Philadelphia, which poisoned the air. 20 peaceful Indians were murdered, which led to 'verbal civil war' between Quakers and Presbyterians. There were arguemetns over instituting the royal government too. Discussion everywhere, with pamphleteers using lots of strong language.
There was a general longing for freedom amongst the many slaves. Lots of slaves were held in the south, many of whom were treated badly. They worked towards freedom as best they could. This period also saw the start of a call for abolition. Lay (who was a Quaker) became determined to stop his fellow Quakers owning slaves. This work continued after his death in 1759.
The hated Stamp Act was passed on March 22 1765 (apparently this is what most people think of as the cause of the American Revolution--I thought it was to do with taxing tea and the Boston Tea Party...). Anyway, the crowds were angry because they didn't think Parliament had any right to pass an internal law. Parliament were trying to pay for the 7 Years War, and they figured it was pretty fair to get some of the money off the Americans. However, there was a bit of a mob revolt on August 14 1765, with pulling down the building to distribute stamps, then having a big bonfire and destroying the Lieutenant Governer's carriage. It spread to other areas too, and the Stamp Act enforcers homes were destroyed and they were forced to resign.

Anyway, that just gives you a bit of a flavour of the sort of stuff in the book. Wow, did you know it'd take about 2million 2 ounce packages of jell-o to fill the white house? Sorry, I was just on the nanowrimo forums... Right. Back to the book. It was quite interesting, but, like I said, difficult to follow when you don't really know the 'known' American Revolution. There was a lot about slaves, women and Native Americans in relation to the politics of the time, and very little on the fighting etc. Fairly interesting, but unless you know something to start with and want to know more about the experiences of 'ordinary' people, I wouldn't really recommend it.

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