To me, this chapter again highlighted a common theme we have seen throughout Pre-revolutionary America: those with immense power or those with referent power will consistently manipulate those in poverty with the expectation of possible power in attempts to control and distract. There were many different examples of this in this PHUS’s Chapter, Persons of Mean and Vile Condition, but I think the most striking one for me was Bacon’s Rebellion as it was the one I knew most about. Before reading this I honestly had a positive view of Nathaniel Bacon because I saw Bacon’s Rebellion as one of the first movements against over-taxation before revolution. Even though it had a bloody ending, with many killed and 23 hung, I thought it was rooted with a good motive. Realizing that this movement, that was facilitated to both control and kill Native Americans and suppress the poor, was named after someone who had substantial government power (meaning he was not just a regular farmer) and enthusiastically wanted to kill Native Americans again forced me to re-evaluate how I examine history. Those that joined, including real impoverished people, slaves, and indentured servants, were ripped of an opportunity to make real change because they were deceived by someone with power. This reminded me of what is happening currently where many people join or contribute to a movement with an initial positive idea, but then have their contributions manipulated by those in charge for a “larger purpose”, usually unknown to those who participated. This I think speaks volumes about the structure of American society (or about humans themselves) if the same type of behavior can be seen 400 years later.
I have, and honestly will continue to see, America as the land of the best opportunity to progress and allows for the most social mobility, but a quote from page 50 really stuck with me in terms of the foundation of our current society. “The country therefore was not ‘born free’ but born slave and free, servant and master, tenant and landlord, poor and rich.” These relationships founded in extreme power dynamics and fear are the basis for our country today, which I think transcends the idea that America was founded by those who were free. Those in power feared the intersection of disparity, which I think is something that is still feared in modern politics but obviously with less of a direct and more intertwined connection. No one was free at the time unless they had money, which is a concept that resonates with many today.