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In these two chapters of Peoples History of the United States, Zinn discusses a growing gap between the rich and poor as well as a racial division. In 1676, Bacons rebellion occurred. It began over a conflict of how to deal with the Indians on the western frontier and included violence, Indian raids, extreme poverty. The Indians fought white settlers as a way to defend their land. The white settlers were angry with the wealthy land-owners for raising taxes and making them leave. In Zinn’s chapter, persons of mean and vile condition, the quote that stuck out to me most was, “Better to make war on the Indian, gain the support of the white, divert possible class conflict by turning poor whites against Indians for the security of the elite” (54). And this is exactly what Bacon’s rebellion did. The part that really strikes me is when he says “protecting the elite” because it shows that this class divide was wanted and they didn’t care that they were creating violence between the Indians and poor white people. While some servants eventually became free, it was rare and Abbot Smith says this was a system, “dominated by men who had money enough to make others work for them” (46). This created a lasting and stronger divide in classes. 

In Zinn’s next chapter, Tyranny is Tyranny, he discusses the American Revolution and how it was actually “a work of genius.” He talks about how people in the English colonies discovered by uniting themselves as the United States, they could gain land and political power from the British colonies. analyzes the Declaration of Independence and the constitution. Zinn says that the declaration is to secure life, liberty and happiness. By saying this, it lets people be hopeful for the idea that maybe they will work their way up the class system, when in reality Zinn tells us of the majority of servants who never made it up, no matter how hard they worked. We see this in Zinn’s examples as well as today in our current society. Zinn later says, “how could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth?” (73). Both this question, and the title of the chapter, tyranny is tyranny go hand in hand to me. We talked about this in an earlier class, but people of power and wealth want to keep it, and whether they don’t want this to change. Whether they like being the people in power or don’t realize the harmful patterns created, nothing is as equal as promised.

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  1. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    Its strange to think of the Declaration of Independence as propaganda, but in many aspects it was a tool used to gain the support of the masses almost like propaganda. The top class who wanted to become separate from Britain knew they needed the support of the lower classes to serve in their army. They made promises of a better life after the revolution when in reality, the majority still struggled to move up the social ladder.

  2. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    This is a very strong description of historical wealth disparities in the United States, established by a capitalist economy structure and perpetuated by an elite who hides these problems behind cultural differences. Unlike many improvements made in the last 300 years, this is a problem that has grown worse as the divide between the uber-rich and the majority of the populace has extended.

  3. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    I completely agree, especially the point about “protecting the elite.” I feel this idea is still happening in our country. Wealthier people have the opportunity to bribe and hire the best lawyers allowing them to not get in trouble for things that poorer people would be put in jail for. This is an ongoing cycle that makes it difficult for people in lower classes to advance in society.

  4. Morgan Crocker Morgan Crocker

    I agree that the quote, “Better to make war on the Indian, gain the support of the white, divert possible class conflict by turning poor whites against Indians for the security of the elite” was interesting. I think it further proved how white people would rather turn on/ make war with the Indians, who did nothing wrong, then turn on their own race even though they were actually in the wrong.

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