In Zinn’s “Persons of Mean and Vile Condition” chapter, he argues that one of the main priorities of the colonial elites’ was to divide the persecuted people of North America, specifically between racial lines, so they could maintain their power in society and prevent rebellions. This division was created through laws such as forbidding interracial marriages and preventing blacks from traveling into Indian territory. It still baffles me that the colonial legislature could create such racially motivated laws during this time period. I am thankful that no laws exist with such explicit racism within them today, but I cannot say our government is completely free of these underlying racist motives that divide society.
In Zinn’s “Tyranny is Tyranny” chapter, he brings in a new idea of how the colonial elite managed to hold such immense power over all other classes. In order to truly assert power, the elite had to gain the working-class’ loyalty. This weapon of power became the “rhetoric of freedom” that Zinn deems “the most effective system of national control devised in modern times”. According to Zinn, the elite managed to focus the anger of the working-class towards the British instead of at the rich to keep the power dynamic undisturbed. The Declaration of Independence was a tool for this, with the phrase “all men are created equal” blurring out any distinctions between the rich and poor.
Reading these chapters honestly makes me question the intentions of any ruling body now. I have never been taught the hidden flaws within the American Revolution until coming to Richmond. A class I took freshmen year, Slavery and Freedom, highlighted that the Revolution was quite hypocritical in that Americans were vouching for freedom while still possessing slaves. Now I hear the argument that the Revolution was an attempt for colonial elites to maintain their power by pinning the anger from the working-class against the British. I am sure there are many critiques of the American Revolution and other glorified moments of American history, and I am glad I am finally learning about them. Despite scholars formulating arguments of the true intentions of America’s leaders, how will we ever truly know their motivations if it is all in the past and there is no historical document that clearly states it?