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Sam Hussey Blog Post 9/12

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Mia Slaunwhite Mia Slaunwhite

    The idea back then and now is still the same. The elites with all the money get to decide what’s best for “everyone”… more like just themselves.

  2. Henry Groves Henry Groves

    I was also interested in the different motivations of the classes in the revolution. I was always taught that the people joined together in this Revolution, however, like you said, the elite wanted to expand their power and the lower classes really had no interest in it, until getting incentivized by the elite.

  3. Michael Childress Michael Childress

    I thought you made a great assessment of the beginning of America with the constitution. Zinn describes that yes, the constitution pushed for freedom and equality for all. However, “all” was white men who owned property. Furthermore, it was white men who owned property that drafted this bill, and as you said, aimed to further their own agendas. As Zinn writes, “Four groups were not represented in the Constitutional convention: slaves, indentured servants, women, and men without property. So the constitution did not reflect the interests of those groups”. (Zinn 91). I agree with you too that “blaming the founding fathers” is not necessarily required, but acknowledging the fact that this constitution was written with their own interests in mind, and to an extent designed for the rich to get richer, is a fair assessment.

  4. Michael Stein Michael Stein

    I also think the difference in motives between social classes was interesting. One part from the book that was particularly noteworthy was the excerpt about a shoe maker who only joined the war in hopes of advancing his social rank. Indeed, his shoe making business would continue the same whether or not the British controlled the country, however, fighting in the war allowed him to get some money and possibly climb the military ranks before the end of the war. In essence, he used the war as a vehicle for socioeconomic mobility.

  5. Mohamad Kassem Mohamad Kassem

    It was really interesting to see how the upper-class elites only wanted to expand their wealth and gain more power from the Revolution while tricking the lower class to believe that they would also benefit from joining the war by gaining socioeconomic mobility and social rank. However, as we see the constitution was of benefit only to rich white men who owned property.

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