Howard Zinns’ Chapter A Kind of Revolution added to my fascination of my favorite time period in US History by looking at many underrepresented perspectives. The American Revolution is idolized as an inspiring unity of different people fighting one common cause. In reality, the war was for the benefit of the elite landowning colonists so they could expand their wealth and power. For many colonists in the lower classes, they had no motive for fighting in the war. The elite tried to fabricate incentives for the lower classes to enlist, but coercion was often the most effective way.
After our talk about social classes last class, I was surprised to hear that many people used the war as a way to elevate their social status and “climb the ladder”. This served as the main motivation for many lower class farmers to enlist, because if they were able to advance their rank in the army they could save some money and change their social status. Alexander Hamilton famously chose this path and ended up being one of the most important founding fathers.
When Zinn analyzed the motivations of the founding fathers in the Constitution, it surprised me how much they were really writing for their own benefit and not the benefit of the whole population. In my prior history classes, we have revered this document as a “work of genius put together by wise, humane men who created a legal framework for democracy and equality”(90). However, many of the founding principles were put into place to benefit the wealthy men who were drafting it. They wanted a strong federal government to secure their industries and protect their investments. This system designed in part by self interest for a few wealthy colonists has lead to the growth and development of the most powerful country in the world. So, should we be blaming the founding fathers for putting their needs first when their needs indirectly benefitted the country as a whole? I believe it is not so much that we have to blame them, but simply be cognizant of this fact that our country was designed from its beginnings for the rich to get richer. When ignorant Americans try to argue our country was build by the many for the many, it is important to note the asterisk in this statement. America, regardless of how it turned out over the following centuries, was drafted by the political elite to expand their fortunes and use the lower classes to amass more wealth.