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Blogpost 9/9: Power Dynamics of the Past and Today

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.

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  1. Alexander Barnett Alexander Barnett

    I feel as if this artificial story we have been taught about Bacon’s Rebellion is just another example of our education system trying to push a narrative of nationalism.

  2. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I also believe that these chapters highlighted again the theme of manipulation. The people in control or who have higher status than others should not feel the need to exploit the lower class. It is a system that has been going on since forever, and I do not see it ending anytime in the near future.

  3. Delaney Demaret Delaney Demaret

    What I find most interesting about Bacon’s Rebellion is the way it was used as a fear tactic to create division and a fear complex among white laborers. For years, it was used as justification for increasingly cruel slave codes, as well as a mode of keeping poor white laborers divided from slaves in the era.

  4. Alexandra Oloughlin Alexandra Oloughlin

    I had a similar reaction while reading about the rebellion, and found myself re-evaluating what I thought was true in history. Spefically with what you said, I found myself connecting back to the podcast, where Dr. Bizio talked about how poverty has been “an exclusionary measure” since the founding of this country. This helped create another form of exclusion and oppression- class.

  5. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    I was also really liked Zinn’s statement on page 50 that, “The country therefore was not ‘born free’ but born slave and free, servant and master, tenant and landlord, poor and rich,” (50). This quote serves as a prime example that history is very biased and inaccurate due to the control of rich, white men. As Dr. Bezio mentioned in Podcast Episode 5 rhetoric such as “All Men Are Created Equal” in the Constitution allowed the upper class to mobilize and control the lower classes and create a false sense of freedom within all classes in Colonial America. Although many perceive our country was ‘born free,’ minority groups were oppressed by rich, white men (the upper class).

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