Sunday, February 23, 2020
The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America by Gerald Horne 
Saturday, February 15, 2020
Some arresting excerpts from Trotsky's Terrorism and Communism, written a hundred years ago. I read it for the first time last week.
....Kautsky is the founder and the most perfect representative of the Austrian forgery of Marxism.
....the Austrian school was transformed into an academy of passivity and evasiveness, because of a vulgar historical and conservative school, and reduced its work to explaining and justifying, not guiding and overthrowing. It lowered itself to the position of a handmaid to the current demands of parliamentarism and opportunism, replaced dialectic by swindling sophistries, and, in the end, in spite of its great play with ritual revolutionary phraseology, became transformed into the most secure buttress of the capitalist State, together with the altar and throne that rose above it. If the latter was engulfed in the abyss, no blame for this can be laid upon the Austro-Marxian school.
What characterizes Austro-Marxism is repulsion and fear in the face of revolutionary action. The Austro-Marxist is capable of displaying a perfect gulf of profundity in the explanation of yesterday, and considerable daring in prophesying concerning to-morrow – but for to-day he never has a great thought or capacity for great action. To-day for him always disappears before the wave of little opportunist worries, which later are explained as the most inevitable link between the past and the future.
The Austro-Marxist is inexhaustible when it is a question of discovering reasons to prevent initiative and render difficult revolutionary action. Austro-Marxism is a learned and boastful theory of passivity and capitulation. Naturally, it is not by accident that it was just in Austria, in that Babylon torn by fruitless national antagonisms, in that State which represented the personified impossibility to exist and develop, that there arose and was consolidated the pseudo-Marxian philosophy of the impossibility of revolutionary action.
The foremost Austrian Marxists represent, each in his own way, a certain "individuality." On various questions they more than once did not see eye to eye. They even had political differences. But in general they are fingers of the same hand.
Karl Renner is the most pompous, solid, and conceited representative of this type. The gift of literary imitation, or, more simply, of stylist forgery, is granted to him to an exceptional extent. His May-Day article represented a charming combination of the most revolutionary words. And, as both words and their combinations live, within certain limits, with their own independent life, Renner's articles awakened in the hearts of many workers a revolutionary fire which their author apparently never knew. The tinsel of Austro-Viennese culture, the chase of the external, of title of rank, was more characteristic of Renner than of his other colleagues. In Essence he always remained merely an imperial and royal officer, who commanded Marxist phraseology to perfection.
The transformation of the author of the jubilee article on Karl Marx, famous for its revolutionary pathos, into a comic-opera Chancellor, who expresses his feelings of respect and thanks to the Scandinavian monarchs, is in reality one of the most instructive paradoxes of history.
Otto Bauer is more learned and prosaic, more serious and more boring, than Renner. He cannot be denied the capacity to read books, collect facts, and draw conclusions adapted to the tasks imposed upon him by practical politics, which in turn are guided by others. Bauer has no political will. His chief art is to reply to all acute practical questions by commonplaces. His political thought always lives a parallel life to his will – it is deprived of all courage. His words are always merely the scientific compilation of the talented student of a University seminar. The most disgraceful actions of Austrian opportunism the meanest servility before the power of the possessing classes on the part of the Austro-German Social Democracy, found in Bauer their grave elucidator, who sometimes expressed himself with dignity against the form, but always agreed in the essence. If it ever occurred to Bauer to display anything like temperament and political energy, it was exclusively in the struggle against the revolutionary wing – in the accumulation of arguments, facts, quotations, against revolutionary action. His highest period was that (after 1907) in which, being as yet too young to be a deputy, he played the part of secretary of the Social-Democratic group, supplied it with materials, figures, substitutes for ideas, instructed it, drew up memoranda, and appeared almost to be the inspirer of great actions, when in reality he was only supplying substitutes, and adulterated substitutes, for the parliamentary opportunists.
Max Adler represents a fairly ingenuous variety of the Austro-Marxian type. He is a lyric poet, a philosopher, a mystic – a philosophical lyric poet of passivity, as Renner is its publicist and legal expert, as Hilferding is its economist, as Baner is its sociologist. Max Adler is cramped in a world of three dimensions, although he had found a very comfortable place for himself with the framework of Viennese bourgeois Socialism and the Hapsburg State. The combination of the petty business activity of an attorney and of political humiliation, together with barren philosophical efforts and the cheap tinsel flowers of idealism, have imbued that variety which Max Adler represented with a sickening and repulsive quality.
Rudolf Hilferding, a Viennese like the rest, entered the German Social-Democractic Party almost as a mutineer, but as a mutineer of the Austrian stamp, i.e., always ready to capitulate without a fight. Hilferding took the external mobility and bustle of the Austrian policy which brought him up for revolutionary initiative; and for a round dozen of months he demanded – true, in the most moderate terms – a more intelligent policy on the part of the leaders of the German Social-Democracy. But the Austro-Viennese bustle swiftly disappeared from his own nature. He soon became subjected to the mechanical rhythm of Berlin and the automatic spiritual life of the German Social-Democracy. He devoted his intellectual energy to the purely theoretical sphere, where he did not say a great deal, true – no Austro-Marxist has ever said a great deal in any sphere – but in which he did, at any rate, write a serious book. With this book on his back, like a porter with a heavy load, he entered the revolutionary epoch. But the most scientific book cannot replace the absence of will, of initiative, of revolutionary instinct and political decision, without which action is inconceivable. A doctor by training, Hilferding is inclined to sobriety, and, in spite of his theoretical education, he represents the most primitive type of empiricist in questions of policy. The chief problem of to-day is for him not to leave the lines laid down for him by yesterday, and to find for this conservative and bourgeois apathy a scientific, economic explanation.
Friedrich Adler is the most balanced representative of the Austro-Marxian type. He has inherited from his father the latter's political temperament. In the petty exhausting struggle with the disorder of Austrian conditions, Friedrich Adler allowed his ironical scepticism finally to destroy the revolutionary foundations of his world outlook. The temperament inherited from his father more than once drove him into opposition to the school created by his father. At certain moments Friedrich Adler might seem the very revolutionary negation of the Austrian school. in reality, he was and remains its necessary coping-stone. His explosive revolutionism foreshadowed acute attacks of despair amidst Austrian opportunism, which from time to time became terrified at its own insignificance.
Friedrich Adler is a sceptic from head to foot: he does not believe in the masses, or in their capacity for action. At the time when Karl Liebknecht, in the hour of supreme triumph of German militarism, went out to the Potsdamerplatz to call the oppressed masses to the open struggle, Friedrich Adler went into a bourgeois restaurant to assassinate there the Austrian Premier. By his solitary shot, Friedrich Adler vainly attempted to put an end to his own scepticism. After that hysterical strain, he fell into still more complete prostration.
The black-and-yellow crew of social-patriotism (Austerlitz, Leitner, etc.) hurled at Adler the terrorist all the abuse of which the cowardly sentiments were capable.
But when the acute period was passed, and the prodigal son returned from his convict prison into his father's house with the halo of a martyr, he proved to be doubly and trebly valuable in that form for the Austrian Social-Democracy. The golden halo of the terrorist was transformed by the experienced counterfeiters of the party into the sounding coin of the demagogue. Friedrich Adler became a trusted surety for the Austerlitzes and Renners in face of the masses. Happily, the Austrian workers are coming less and less to distinguish the sentimental lyrical prostration of Friedrich Adler from the pompous shallowness of Renner, the erudite impotence of Max Adler, or the analytical self-satisfaction of Otto Bauer.
The cowardice in thought of the theoreticians of the Austro-Marxian school has completely and wholly been revealed when faced with the great problems of a revolutionary epoch.
["Free" labor versus compulsory labor]
....The whole of human history is the history of the organization and education of collective man for labor, with the object of attaining a higher level of productivity. Man, as I have already permitted myself to point out, is lazy; that is, he instinctively strives to receive the largest possible quantity of products for the least possible expenditure of energy. Without such a striving, there would have been no economic development. The growth of civilization is measured by the productivity of human labor, and each new form of social relations must pass through a test on such lines.
"Free," that is, freely-hired labor, did not appear all at once upon the world, with all the attributes of productivity. It acquired a high level of productivity only gradually, as a result of a prolonged application of methods of labor organization and labor education. Into that education there entered the most varying methods and practices, which in addition changed from one epoch to another. First of all the bourgeoisie drove the peasant from the village to the high road with its club, having preliminarily robbed him of his land, and when he would not work in the factory it branded his forehead with red-hot irons, hung him, sent him to the gallows; and in the long run it taught the tramp who had been shaken out of his village to stand at the lathe in the factory. At this stage, as we see, "free" labor is little different as yet from convict labor, both in its material conditions and in its legal aspect.
At different times the bourgeoisie combined the red-hot irons of repression in different proportions with methods of moral influence, and, first of all, the teaching of the priest. As early as the sixteenth century, it reformed the old religion of Catholicism, which defended the feudal order, and adapted for itself a new religion in the form of the Reformation, which combined the free soul with free trade and free labor. It found for itself new priests, who became the spiritual shop-assistants, pious counter-jumpers of the bourgeoisie. The school, the press, the market place, and parliament were adapted by the bourgeoisie for the moral fashioning of the working-class. Different forms of wages – day-wages, piece wages, contract and collective bargaining – all these are merely changing methods in the hands of the bourgeoisie for the labor mobilization of the proletariat. To this there are added all sorts of forms for encouraging labor and exciting ambition. Finally, the bourgeoisie learned how to gain possession even of the trade unions – i.e., the organizations of the working class itself; and it made use of them on a large scale, particularly in Great Britain, to discipline the workers. It domesticated the leaders, and with their help inoculated the workers with the fiction of the necessity for peaceful organic labor, for a faultless attitude to their duties, and for a strict execution of the laws of the bourgeois State. The crown of all this work is Taylorism, in which the elements of the scientific organization of the process of production are combined with the most concentrated methods of the system of sweating.
From all that has been said above, it is clear that the productivity of freely-hired labor is not something that appeared all at once, perfected, presented by history on a salver. No, it was the result of a long and stubborn policy of repression, education, organization, and encouragement, applied by the bourgeoisie in its relations with the working class. Step by step it learned to squeeze out of the workers ever more and more of the products of labor; and one of the most powerful weapons in its hand turned out to be the proc1amation of free hiring as the sole free, normal, healthy, productive, and saving form of labor.
A legal form of labor which would of its own virtue guarantee its productivity has not been known in history, and cannot be known. The legal superstructure of labor corresponds to the relations and current ideas of the epoch. The productivity of labor is developed, on the basis of the development of technical forces, by labor education, by the gradual adaptation of the workers to the changed methods of reduction and the new form of social relations.
The creation of Socialist society means the organization of the workers on new foundations, their adaptation to those foundations, and their labor re-education, with the one un-changing end of the increase in the productivity of labor. The working class, under the leadership of its vanguard, must itself re-educate itself on the foundations of Socialism. Whoever has not understood this is ignorant of the ABC of Socialist construction.
What methods have we, then, for the re-education of the workers? Infinitely wider than the bourgeoisie has – and, in addition, honest, direct, open methods, infected neither by hypocrisy nor by lies. The bourgeoisie had to have recourse to deception, representing its labor as free, when in reality it was not merely socially-imposed, but actually slave labor. For it was the labor of the majority in the interests of the minority. We, on the other hand, organize labor in the interests of the workers themselves, and therefore we can have no motives for hiding or masking the socially compulsory character of our labor organization. We need the fairy stories neither of the priests, nor of the Liberals, nor of the Kautskians. We say directly and openly to the masses that they can save, rebuild, and bring to a flourishing condition a Socialist country only by means of hard work, unquestioning discipline and exactness in execution on the part of every worker....
....Born of the struggle of the Third Estate against the powers of feudalism, the democratic State very soon becomes the weapon of defence against the class antagonisms generated within bourgeois society. Bourgeois society succeeds in this the more, the wider beneath it is the layer of the lower middle class, the greater is the importance of the latter in the economic life of the country, and the less advanced, consequently, is the development of class antagonism. However, the intermediate classes become ever more and more helplessly behind historical development, and, thereby, become ever more and more incapable of speaking in the name of the nation. True, the lower middle class doctrinaires (Bernstein and Company) used to demonstrate with satisfaction that the disappearance of the middle classes was not taking place with that swiftness that was expected by the Marxian school. And, in reality, one might agree that, numerically, the middle-class elements in the town, and especially in the country, still maintain an extremely prominent position. But the chief meaning of evolution has shown itself in the decline in importance on the part of the middle classes from the point of view of production: the amount of values which this class brings to the general income of the nation has fallen incomparably more rapidly than the numerical strength of the middle classes. Correspondingly, falls their social, political, and cultural importance. Historical development has been relying more and more, not on these conservative elements inherited from the past, but on the polar classes of society – i.e., the capitalist bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The more the middle classes lost their social importance, the less they proved capable of playing the part of an authoritative arbitral judge in the historical conflict between capital and labor. Yet the very considerable numerical proportion of the town middle classes, and still more of the peasantry, continues to find direct expression in the electoral statistics of parliamentarism. The formal equality of all citizens as electors thereby only gives more open indication of the incapacity of democratic parliamentarism to settle the root questions of historical evolution. An "equal" vote for the proletariat, the peasant, and the manager of a trust formally placed the peasant in the position of a mediator between the two antagonists; but, in reality, the peasantry, socially and culturally backward and politically helpless, has in all countries always provided support for the most reactionary, filibustering, and mercenary parties which, in the long run, always supported capital against labor.
Absolutely contrary to all the prophecies of Bernstein, Sombart, Tugan-Baranovsky, and others, the continued existence of the middle classes has not softened, but has rendered to the last degree acute, the revolutionary crisis of bourgeois society. If the proletarianization of the lower middle classes and the peasantry had been proceeding in a chemically purified form, the peaceful conquest of power by the proletariat through the democratic parliamentary apparatus would have been much more probable than we can imagine at present. Just the fact that was seized upon by the partisans of the lower middle class – its longevity – has proved fatal even for the external forms of political democracy, now that capitalism has undermined its essential foundations. Occupying in parliamentary politics a place which it has lost in production, the middle class has finally compromised parliamentarism and has transformed it into an institution of confused chatter and legislative obstruction. From this fact alone, there grew up before the proletariat the problem of seizing the apparatus of state power as such, independently of the middle class, and even against it – not against its interests, but against its stupidity and its policy, impossible to follow in its helpless contortions....
From Chapter 3
Terrorism and Communism by Leon Trotsky (1920)
....We have more than once been accused of having substituted for the dictatorship of the Soviets the dictatorship of our party. Yet it can be said with complete justice that the dictatorship of the Soviets became possible only by means of the dictatorship of the party. It is thanks to the clarity of its theoretical vision and its strong revolutionary organization that the party has afforded to the Soviets the possibility of becoming transformed from shapeless parliaments of labor into the apparatus of the supremacy of labor. In this "substitution" of the power of the party for the power of the working class there is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The Communists express the fundamental interests of the working class. It is quite natural that, in the period in which history brings up those interests, in all their magnitude, on to the order of the day, the Communists have become the recognized representatives of the working class as a whole.
But where is your guarantee, certain wise men ask us, that it is just your party that expresses the interests of historical development? Destroying or driving underground the other parties, you have thereby prevented their political competition with you, and consequently you have deprived yourselves of the possibility of testing your line of action.
This idea is dictated by a purely liberal conception of the course of the revolution. In a period in which all antagonisms assume an open character, and the political struggle swiftly passes into a civil war, the ruling party has sufficient material standard by which to test its line of action, without the possible circulation of Menshevik papers. Noske crushes the Communists, but they grow. We have suppressed the Mensheviks and the SRs – and they have disappeared. This criterion is sufficient for us. At all events, our problem is not at every given moment statistically to measure the grouping of tendencies; but to render victory for our tendency secure. For that tendency is the tendency of the revolutionary dictatorship; and in the course of the latter, in its internal friction, we must find a sufficient criterion for self-examination.
....Kautsky quotes our words to the effect that even before the November Revolution, we clearly realized the defects in education of the Russian proletariat, but, recognizing the inevitability of the transference of power to the working class, we considered ourselves justified in hoping that during the struggle itself, during its experience, and with the ever increasing support of the proletariat of other countries, we should deal adequately with our difficulties, and be able to guarantee the transition of Russia to the Socialist order. In this connection, Kautsky asks: "Would Trotsky undertake to get on a locomotive and set it going, in the conviction that he would during the journey have time to learn and to arrange everything? One must preliminarily have acquired the qualities necessary to drive a locomotive before deciding to set it going. Similarly the proletariat ought beforehand to have acquired those necessary qualities which make it capable of administering industry, once it had to take it over." (Page 173)
This instructive comparison would have done honor to any village clergyman. None the less, it is stupid. With infinitely more foundation one could say "Will Kautsky dare to mount a horse before he has learned to sit firmly in the saddle, and to guide the animal in all its steps?" We have foundations for believing that Kautsky would not make up his mind to such a dangerous purely Bolshevik experiment. On the other hand, we fear that, through not risking to mount the horse, Kautsky would have considerable difficulty in learning the secrets of riding on horseback. For the fundamental Bolshevik prejudice is precisely this: that one learns to ride on horseback only when sitting on the horse.
Concerning the driving of the locomotive, this principle is at first sight not so evident; but none the less it is there. No one yet has learned to drive a locomotive sitting in his study. One has to get up on to the engine, to take one's stand in the tender, to take into one's hands the regulator, and to turn it. True, the engine allows training maneuvers only under the guidance of an old driver. The horse allows of instructions in the riding school only under the guidance of experienced trainers. But in the sphere of State administration such artificial conditions cannot be created. The bourgeoisie does not build for the proletariat academies of State administration, and does not place at its disposal, for preliminary practice, the helm of the State. And besides, the workers and peasants learn even to ride on horse-back not in the riding school, and without the assistance of trainers.
To this we must add another consideration, perhaps the most important. No one gives the proletariat the opportunity of choosing whether it will or will not mount the horse, whether it will take power immediately or postpone the moment. Under certain conditions the working class is bound to take power, under the threat of political self-annihilation for a whole historical period.
Once having taken power, it is impossible to accept one set of consequences at will and refuse to accept others. If the capitalist bourgeoisie consciously and malignantly transforms the disorganization of production into a method of political struggle, with the object of restoring power to itself, the proletariat is obliged to resort to Socialization, independent of whether this is beneficial or otherwise at the given moment.
And, once having taken over production, the proletariat is obliged, under the pressure of iron necessity, to learn by its own experience a most difficult art-that of organizing Socialist economy. Having mounted the saddle, the rider is obliged to guide the horse-on the peril of breaking his neck.
....In the form of the all-embracing class organization of the Soviets, the movement takes itself "as a whole." Hence it is clear why the Communists could and had to become the guiding party in the Soviets. But hence also is seen all the narrowness of the estimate of Soviets as "substitutes for the party" (Kautsky), and all the stupidity of the attempt to include the Soviets, in the form of an auxiliary lever, in the mechanism of bourgeois democracy. (Hilferding)
The Soviets are the organization of the proletarian revolution, and have purpose either as an organ of the struggle for power or as the apparatus of power of the working class.
Unable to grasp the revolutionary role of the Soviets, Kautsky sees their root defects in that which constitutes their greatest merit. "The demarcation of the bourgeois from the worker," he writes, "can never be actually drawn. There will always be something arbitrary in such demarcation, which fact transforms the Soviet idea into a particularly suitable foundation for dictatorial and arbitrary rule, but renders it unfitted for the creation of a clear, systematically built-up constitution." (Page 170)
Class dictatorship, according to Kautsky, cannot create for itself institutions answering to its nature, because there do not exist lines of demarcation between the classes. But in that case, what happens to the class struggle altogether? Surely it was just, in the existence of numerous transitional stages between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, that the lower middle-class theoreticians always found their principal argument against the "principle" of the class struggle? For Kautsky, however, doubts as to principle begin just at the point where the proletariat, having overcome the shapelessness and unsteadiness of the intermediate class, having brought one part of them over to its side and thrown the remainder into the camp of the bourgeoisie, has actually organized its dictatorship in the Soviet Constitution.
The very reason why the Soviets are absolutely irreplaceable apparatus in the proletarian State is that their framework is elastic and yielding, with the result that not only social but political changes in the relationship of classes and sections can immediately find their expression in the Soviet apparatus. Beginning with the largest factories and works, the Soviets then draw into their organization the workers of private workshops and shop-assistants, proceed to enter the village, organize the peasants against the landowners, and finally the lower and middle-class sections of the peasantry against the richest.
....The scheme of the political situation on a world scale is quite clear. The bourgeoisie, which has brought the nations, exhausted and bleeding to death, to the brink of destruction – particularly the victorious bourgeoisie – has displayed its complete inability to bring them out of their terrible situation, and, thereby, its incompatibility with the future development of humanity. All the intermediate political groups, including here first and foremost the social-patriotic parties, are rotting alive. The proletariat they have deceived is turning against them more and more every day, and is becoming strengthened in its revolutionary convictions as the only power that can save the peoples from savagery and destruction. However, history has not at all secured, just at this moment, a formal parliamentary majority on the side of the party of the social revolution. In other words, history has not transformed the nation into a debating society solemnly voting the transition to the social revolution by a majority of votes. On the contrary, the violent revolution has become a necessity precisely because the imminent requirements of history are helpless to find a road through the apparatus of parliamentary democracy. The capitalist bourgeois calculates: "while, I have in my hands lands, factories, workshops, banks; while I possess newspapers, universities, schools; while – and this most important of all – I retain control of the army: the apparatus of democracy, however, you reconstruct it, will remain obedient to my will. I subordinate to my interests spiritually the stupid, conservative, characterless lower middle class, just as it is subjected to me materially. I oppress, and will oppress, its imagination by the gigantic scale of my buildings, my transactions, my plans, and my crimes. For moments when it is dissatisfied and murmurs, I have created scores of safety-valves and lightning-conductors. At the right moment I will bring into existence opposition parties, which will disappear to-morrow, but which to-day accomplish their mission by affording the possibility of the lower middle class expressing their indignation without hurt therefrom for capitalism. I shall hold the masses of the people, under cover of compulsory general education, on the verge of complete ignorance, giving them no opportunity of rising above the level which my experts in spiritual slavery consider safe. I will corrupt, deceive, and terrorize the more privileged or the more backward of the proletariat itself. By means of these measures I shall not allow the vanguard of the working class to gain the ear of the majority of the working class, while the necessary weapons of mastery and terrorism remain in my hands."
To this the revolutionary proletarian replies: "Consequently, the first condition of salvation is to tear the weapons of domination out of the hands of the bourgeoisie. It is hopeless to think of a peaceful arrival to power while the bourgeoisie retains in its hands all the apparatus of power. Three times over hopeless is the idea of coming to power by the path which the bourgeoisie itself indicates and, at the same time, barricades – the path of parliamentary democracy. There is only one way: to seize power, taking away from the bourgeoisie the material apparatus of government. Independently of the superficial balance of forces in parliament, I shall take over for social administration the chief forces and resources of production. I shall free the mind of the lower middle class from their capitalist hypnosis. I shall show them in practice what is the meaning of Socialist production. Then even the most backward, the most ignorant, or most terrorized sections of the nation will support me, and willingly and intelligently will join in the work of social construction."
When the Russian Soviet Government dissolved the Constituent Assembly, that fact seemed to the leading Social-Democrats of Western Europe, if not the beginning of the end of the world, at all events a rude and arbitrary break with all the previous developments of Socialism. In reality, it was only the inevitable outcome of the new position resulting from imperialism and the war. If Russian Communism was the first to enter the path of casting up theoretical and practical accounts, this was due to the same historical reasons which forced the Russian proletariat to be the first to enter the path of the struggle for power.
All that has happened since then in Europe bears witness to the fact that we drew the right conclusion. To imagine that democracy can be restored in its general purity means that one is living in a pitiful, reactionary utopia.
....For a century or more the colonists had taken slavery more or less for granted as the most base and dependent status in a hierarchy of dependencies and a world of laborers. Rarely had they felt the need either to criticize black slavery or to defend it. Now, however, the republican attack on dependency compelled Americans to see the deviant character of slavery and to confront the institution as they never had to before. It was no accident that Americans in Philadelphia in 1775 formed the first anti-slavery society in the world. As long as most people had to work merely out of poverty and the need to provide for a living, slavery and other forms of enforced labor did not seem all that different from free labor. But the growing recognition that labor was not simply a common necessity of the poor but was in fact a source of increased wealth and prosperity for ordinary workers made slavery seem more and more anomalous. Americans now recognized that slavery in a republic of workers was an aberration, "a peculiar institution," and that if any Americans were to retain it, as southern Americans eventually did, they would have to explain and justify it in new racial and anthropological ways that their former monarchical society had never needed. The Revolution in effect set in motion ideological and social forces that doomed the institution of slavery in the North and led inexorably to the Civil War....
I really enjoyed Gordon S. Wood's sweeping book The Radicalism of the American Revolution . He explores in fascinating detail the ways the rise of the money economy, trade, and class differentiation in the Colonies dissolved over decades the brittle social glue of British rule. This is not a book of military history; the military action expressed the climax of a century-long struggle over patronage, monarchy, patriarchy and republicanism; army campaigns are dealt with in a few pages. Wood is in complete command of his material and is a fine stylist.
Now moving on to The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America by Gerald Horne . I have been hearing about the book for a few years. Hopefully I will be able to tough it out.
My underlinings from a few chapters of Wood are below.
....the Revolution made possible the anti-slavery and women's rights movements of the nineteenth century and in fact all our current egalitarian thinking. The Revolution not only radically changed the personal and social relationships of people, including the position of women, but also destroyed aristocracy as it had been understood in the Western world for at least two millennia. The Revolution brought respectability and even dominance to ordinary people long held in contempt and gave dignity to their menial labor in a manner unprecedented in history and to a degree not equaled elsewhere in the world. The Revolution did not just eliminate monarchy and create republics; it actually reconstituted what Americans meant by public or state power and brought about an entirely new kind of popular politics and a new kind of democratic officeholder. The Revolution not only changed the culture of Americans—making over their art, architecture, and iconography—but even altered their understanding of history, knowledge, and truth. Most important, it made the interests and prosperity of ordinary people—their pursuits of happiness—the goal of society and government. The Revolution did not merely create a political and legal environment conducive to economic expansion; it also released powerful popular entrepreneurial and commercial energies that few realized existed and transformed the economic landscape of the country. In short, the Revolution was the most radical and most far-reaching event in American history.
....because the United States in the twentieth century has become the great power that it is, it is difficult, if not impossible, to appreciate and recover fully the insignificant and puny origins of the country. In 1760 America was only a collection of disparate colonies huddled along a narrow strip of the Atlantic coast—economically underdeveloped outposts existing on the very edges of the civilized world. The less than two million monarchical subjects who lived in these colonies still took for granted that society was and ought to be a hierarchy of ranks and degrees of dependency and that most people were bound together by personal ties of one sort or another. Yet scarcely fifty years later these insignificant borderland provinces had become a giant, almost continent-wide republic of nearly ten million egalitarian-minded bustling citizens who not only had thrust themselves into the vanguard of history but had fundamentally altered their society and their social relationships. Far from remaining monarchical, hierarchy-ridden subjects on the margin of civilization, Americans had become, almost overnight, the most liberal, the most democratic, the most commercially minded, and the most modern people in the world.
And this astonishing transformation took place without industrialization, without urbanization, without railroads, without the aid of any of the great forces we usually invoke to explain "modernization." It was the Revolution that was crucial to this transformation. It was the Revolution, more than any other single event, that made America into the most liberal, democratic, and modern nation in the world.
....If we measure the radicalism of revolutions by the degree of social misery or economic deprivation suffered, or by the number of people killed or manor houses burned, then this conventional emphasis on the conservatism of the American Revolution becomes true enough. But if we measure the radicalism by the amount of social change that actually took place—by transformations in the relationships that bound people to each other—then the American Revolution was not conservative at all; on the contrary: it was as radical and as revolutionary as any in history. Of course, the American Revolution was very different from other revolutions. But it was no less radical and no less social for being different. In fact, it was one of the greatest revolutions the world has known, a momentous upheaval that not only fundamentally altered the character of American society but decisively affected the course of subsequent history.
It was as radical and social as any revolution in history, but it was radical and social in a very special eighteenth-century sense. No doubt many of the concerns and much of the language of that premodern, pre-Marxian eighteenth century were almost entirely political. That was because most people in that very different distant world could not as yet conceive of society apart from government. The social distinctions and economic deprivations that we today think of as the consequence of class divisions, business exploitation, or various isms—capitalism, racism, etc.—were in the eighteenth century usually thought to be caused by the abuses of government. Social honors, social distinctions, perquisites of office, business contracts, privileges and monopolies, even excessive property and wealth of various sorts—all social evils and social deprivations—in fact seemed to flow from connections to government, in the end from connections to monarchical authority. So that when Anglo-American radicals talked in what seems to be only political terms—purifying a corrupt constitution, eliminating courtiers, fighting off crown power, and, most important, becoming republicans—they nevertheless had a decidedly social message. In our eyes the American revolutionaries appear to be absorbed in changing only their governments, not their society. But in destroying monarchy and establishing republics they were changing their society as well as their governments, and they knew it. Only they did not know—they could scarcely have imagined—how much of their society they would change. J. Franklin Jameson, who more than two generations ago described the Revolution as a social movement only to be roundly criticized by a succeeding generation of historians, was at least right about one thing: "the stream of revolution, once started, could not be confined within narrow banks, but spread abroad upon the land."6
By the time the Revolution had run its course in the early nineteenth century, American society had been radically and thoroughly transformed. One class did not overthrow another; the poor did not supplant the rich.7 But social relationships—the way people were connected one to another—were changed, and decisively so. By the early years of the nineteenth century the Revolution had created a society fundamentally different from the colonial society of the eighteenth century. It was in fact a new society unlike any that had ever existed anywhere in the world.
Of course, there were complexities and variations in early American society and culture—local, regional, sectional, ethnic, and class differences that historians are uncovering every day—that make difficult any generalizations about Americans as a whole. This study is written in spite of these complexities and variations, not in ignorance of them. There is a time for understanding the particular, and there is a time for understanding the whole. Not only is it important that we periodically attempt to bring the many monographic studies of eighteenth-century America together to see the patterns they compose, but it is essential that we do so—if we are to extend our still meager understanding of an event as significant as the American Revolution.
....already by the middle of the century a thousand different aberrations and peculiarities, a thousand different anomalies and inconsistencies, cried out for resolution and explanation. Powerful social and economic developments were stretching, fraying, and forcing apart older personal bonds holding people together, and people everywhere were hard pressed to explain what was happening. New ideas, new values, were emerging in the English-speaking world, but the past was tenacious. Like all Englishmen, the colonists continued to embrace deeply rooted assumptions about the order and stability needed in a monarchical society.
....All Englishmen in the eighteenth century were known throughout the Western world for their insubordination, their insolence, their stubborn unwillingness to be governed. Any reputation the North American colonists had for their unruliness and contempt for authority came principally from their Englishness.
....in the mid-eighteenth century most Americans still conceived of their society in a traditional manner, composed not of broad and politically hostile layers or classes but of "various individuals, connected together and related and subservient to each other."31 They thought of themselves as connected vertically rather than horizontally, and were more apt to be conscious of those immediately above and below them than they were of those alongside them.
....differences of title and quality did not resemble our modern conception of "class." Although the colonists talked of "gentlemen of the first rank," people of "middling circumstances," and the "meaner sort," they did not as yet think clearly in terms of those large-scale horizontal solidarities of occupation and wealth with which we are familiar today. Distinctions in colonial society were measured by far more subtle, far more emotionally powerful criteria. Money and property were of course critically important, but by themselves they could not create and sustain the inequalities of this social hierarchy. Indeed, the distribution of wealth in eighteenth-century colonial society was far more equal than it would become in the nineteenth century.25 But a more equitable distribution of wealth did not make this traditional society more equal than the one that would emerge in the decades following the Revolution. It was just differently organized.
....The colonies were simple, underdeveloped provincial societies, and they lacked the great inequalities and the intricate calibrations of the more complicated society of the mother country. Yet they had their own degrees and subordinations
....With the resumption of Anglo-French warfare in the 1750s, British funds poured into the colonies, and the colonists responded to the empire's war needs in unprecedented fashion; by the end of the decade many of the colonies had mobilized huge proportions of their manpower and resources to fight on behalf of the British crown.
....European visitors from across the Channel thought that ordinary Englishmen had no respect for authority; common people hooted at their social superiors in the streets and jeered at social pretensions everywhere. Foreigners were stunned to discover common workingpeople of England, even apprentices and streetwalkers, mingling with and emulating their betters on Sunday strolls in Greenwich Park. In France the peasants dressed like peasants, noted the Swedish visitor Peter Kalm, but in England laboring men and women wore knee breeches and perukes, bonnets and panniered dresses.... and indeed seemed infected with a "republican spirit."8
....Continental critics accused the English of being crude and unpolished. But like the colonists, the English turned this lack of cultivation into an advantage: Frenchmen, they said over and over, were overrefined, foppish, and effeminate, sunk in luxury and misery, and overawed by superstitious priests in wooden shoes—no match for their own sturdy, brawling, beef-eating John Bull character. Just as the English commented on the uniformity of speech among the different social ranks of the colonists, so too did Europeans comment on the same characteristic among the English themselves. Americans may have had a multiplicity of religious groups and a consequent reputation for religious toleration. But so too did the mother country. "If there were only one religion in England," wrote Voltaire in his Philosophical Letters, "we should have to fear despotism; if there were two, they would cut each other's throats; but there are thirty, and they live in peace and happiness."6
....Englishmen reveled in their worldwide reputation for freedom.
....Englishmen everywhere simply made poor subjects for monarchy, and they were proud of it. The king had his birthright to the crown, but the people had theirs too: they were "free-born Englishmen," and they had rights and liberties that no other people in the world enjoyed. They had in fact more rights and liberties than any traditional hereditary monarchy could accommodate; and consequently the British monarchy was very different not only from any other but also from what it had been in the days of James I.
Since the early seventeenth century the English had radically transformed their monarchy: they had executed one king and deposed another, written charters and bills of rights, regularized the meetings of their parliaments, and even created a new line of hereditary succession.
....All aspects of life were intertwined. The household, the society, and the state—private and public spheres—scarcely seemed separable. Authority and liberty flowed not as today from the political organization of the society but from the structure of its personal relationships. In important respects this premodern or early modern society still bore traces of the medieval world of personal fealties and loyalties out of which it arose.
2. Patricians and Plebeians
....In the English-speaking world the aristocracy composed a small but immensely powerful proportion of the society, constituting perhaps only 4 or 5 percent of the population, though in the northern colonies of North America that proportion approached 10 percent.
....By the early nineteenth century men looked back puzzled by the "unsophisticated" and "illiberal" "semi-barbarism" of their eighteenth-century childhood. It was a more boisterous, more violent, and more freewheeling world then, Samuel Breck recalled, and people behaved in strange ways. Wild revels and bloody street fights were condoned by people of quality. Pope's Day, the anniversary of Guy Fawkes's attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605, was celebrated in eighteenth-century Boston by parades, with effigies of the pope, the devil, and the "guy" carried about the streets and later hanged and burned. During the day the north and south ends of Boston had rival parades and stoned and fought each other viciously. In the evening, companies of the vulgar, remembered Breck, actually used to enter the homes of the gentry, put on mummeries, and then insolently demand money. What was most astonishing to Breck in recollecting these memories of his youth was that the colonial gentry of his parents' generation put up with such behavior and paid the money demanded; the new enlightened and refined nineteenth-century society, he declared, "would not brook such usage a moment." He could not comprehend that his genteel nineteenth-century world might have lost much more than it had gained.37
...."Everyone but an idiot," said the English agricultural writer Arthur Young in a startling summary of this traditional view, "knows that the lower class must be kept poor or they will never be industrious." It was "poverty," wrote Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts in 1761, that "will produce industry and frugality." To many ordinary people in this premodern age (as indeed to many even today in the Third World) leisure seemed more attractive than work, for as yet they could see no reason why they should work harder. Which is why gentlemen spent so much time and energy urging the common people to be industrious.
....From the beginning of the eighteenth century a number of thinkers—Daniel Defoe, Bernard Mandeville, Richard Steele, and Joseph Addison among them—had attempted to reconcile the astonishing growth of English commerce with traditional notions of gentility. Some even went so far as to extol the exertion for profit as superior to aristocratic leisure, but the classical aversion to money making remained strong. Although Addison in The Spectator tried to make his merchant character Sir Andrew Freeport respectable, in the end he had to have Sir Andrew retire from business and buy a landed estate in order to become a full-fledged gentleman. Thus it was natural for many Englishmen on both sides of the Atlantic to conclude that having a landed estate worked by others was "the only Gentlemanlike Way of growing rich …; all other Professions have something in them of the mean and subservient; this alone is free and noble."
3. Patriarchal Dependence
[Where the 60 families came from - JR]
.....During the second third of the eighteenth century 43 percent of all marriages among the planters of one Maryland county were between blood kin or persons previously related by marriage.
....Entail was used in nearly all the colonies, but most commonly in Virginia. Primogeniture was often used too, but not in the New England colonies, which in cases of intestacy provided for partible inheritance among all children of the decedent, usually reserving a double portion for the eldest son
....Most conspicuously unfree, of course, were the half million Afro-Americans reduced to the utterly debased position of lifetime hereditary servitude. Henry Laurens, the South Carolina merchant and planter, had several hundred black slaves on the eve of the Revolution. Like many other large slaveholders, Laurens regarded his slaves as "poor Creatures who look up to their Master as their Father, their Guardian, and Protector, and to whom there is a reciprocal obligation upon the Master." Most black slaves were held in the South, but slavery was not inconsequential in the northern colonies. By the second quarter of the eighteenth century, one out of every five families in Boston owned at least one slave. At mid-century black slaves made up nearly 12 percent of the population of Rhode Island. By 1746 more than a quarter of New York City's working-age males were black slaves; perhaps one-half the households in the city held at least one slave.19
It is evident that many Northerners as well as Southerners experienced the master-slave relationship and exercised or witnessed this most severe sort of patriarchal authority at some point in their lives. The consequences were damaging for both masters and slaves: the prevalence of slavery in the South, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out, meant that children, both black and white, enslaved and free, were "nursed, educated, and daily exercised in … the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other." Slavery etched deeply into people's consciousness what outright dependence could mean.20
Legal unfreedom, however, was not confined to blacks. Tens of thousands of whites, usually young men and women, were indentured as servants or apprentices and bound to masters for periods ranging from a few years to decades. As late as 1759 Benjamin Franklin thought that most of the labor of the middle colonies was being performed by indentured servants brought from Britain, Ireland, and Germany. It has been estimated that one-half to two-thirds of all immigrants to the colonies came as indentured servants. Among these immigrants there were an estimated 50,000 British and Irish convicts and vagabonds shipped to America between 1718 and 1775 and bound over as servants for periods of seven or fourteen years, or even in some cases for life. Yet being bound out in service or apprenticeship for a number of years was not always an unrespectable status, and it was by no means confined to the lowest ranks of the society. Many of the mid-eighteenth-century immigrants—redemptioners who redeemed the cost of their passage across the Atlantic by contracting their labor—were skilled craftsmen; even schoolmasters offered to sell themselves, usually with few buyers.21
Indentured apprenticeship was different from servitude; it existed at all social levels and still provided the primary means by which young men, even from well-to-do families, learned a skill and entered the world.
....Apprenticeship among the upper ranks or among urban artisans in the colonies resembled that in England. In both societies formal apprenticeship bound master and apprentice by written contract for a term of years. Although it is true that English masters more often had to be paid to take an apprentice than masters did in America, the practice of apprenticeship was similar. But the practice of servitude was not.23
Servitude was common on both sides of the Atlantic; indeed, nothing sets off that distant eighteenth-century world from our own more than the ubiquitous presence of servants. It has been estimated that servants in England made up over 13 percent of the population, and that 60 percent of young people between fifteen and twenty-four were servants.
....Because labor was so valuable in America, the colonists enacted numerous laws designed to control the movement of servants and to prevent runaways. There was nothing in England resembling the passes required in all the colonies for traveling servants. And as expensive property, most colonial servants could be bought and sold, rented out, seized for the debts of their masters, and conveyed in wills to heirs. Colonial servants often belonged to their masters in ways that English servants did not. They could not marry, buy or sell property, or leave their households without their master's permission.27
No wonder newly arriving Britons were astonished to see how ruthlessly Americans treated their white servants. "Generally speaking," said William Eddis upon his introduction to Maryland society in 1769, "they groan beneath a worse than Egyptian bondage."
....By modern standards it was a cruel and brutal age, and the life of the lowly seemed cheap. Slavery could be regarded, therefore, as merely the most base and degraded status in a society of several degrees of unfreedom, and most colonists felt little need as yet either to attack or to defend slavery any more than other forms of dependency and debasement....
....enmeshed in the diffuse and sometimes delicate webs of paternalistic obligation inherent in a hierarchical society.
....the only proper relationship was still "that of Father and Children, Patron and Client, Protection and Allegiance, Benefaction and Gratitude, mutual Affection and mutual Assistance."
....no one in this hierarchical society could be truly independent, truly free. No relationship could be exclusive or absolute; each was relative, reciprocal, and complementary.
....personal loyalties were not the same as the legal bondage of the unfree; they were not like the explicit subjection of the landless; and they were not even precise reproductions of the many subserviencies of patronage-ridden England. Still, these personal relationships were forms of paternalism, dependence, and subordination—vague and subtle as they often may have been.
....The American colonies, even more than the mother country, necessarily had to be organized in these personal terms. In the strung-out colonies there were no institutions, no arenas, in which impersonal relationships might dominate. Of course, in America there was nothing remotely resembling the teeming metropolis of London—at three-quarters of a million the largest city in the Western world. But in America there were not even any cities that could rival the secondary urban areas of Great Britain. By 1760 England had a half dozen cities with populations over 30,000; America had none of that size. By 1760 England had over twenty cities with populations over 10,000; America had three. Indeed, the colonies had only a half dozen or so urban centers larger than 5,000 people, and even its largest—Philadelphia with a population of about 20,000 in 1760—could seem to be little more than an overgrown village.5 Looking back from the urban sprawl of the early nineteenth century, one Philadelphian believed that in the colonial period he had known "every person, white and black, men, women, and children in the city of Philadelphia by name."6 Nothing comparable in scale or importance to England's economic growth and industrialization was occurring in America: there were no burgeoning manufacturing centers, no Leeds, no Manchester, no Birmingham; indeed, by contemporary English standards there was in America not much manufacturing at all. In England less than half the labor force was employed in agriculture, whereas nineteen out of twenty colonists still were farmers; and the bulk of them lived in tiny rural communities in which most people knew one another. In comparison with much of England the colonies were still a very primitive and undeveloped society.
....our sharp modern distinction between private and public was as yet scarcely visible. Living quarters were crowded, and people who were not formally related—servants, hired laborers, nurses, and other lodgers—were often jammed together with family members in the same room or even in the same bed. Members of New England communities thought nothing of spying on and interfering with their neighbors' most intimate affairs, in order, as one Massachusetts man put it in 1760, "not to Suffer Sin in My Fellow Creature or Neighbour."
....That these circumscribed worlds resembled theaters attended by everyone was no trivial metaphor in this culture.
....People were immediately conscious of strangers and unattached persons and subjected them either to intense questioning or to openmouthed staring. Runaway servants, as one British visitor noted, could not hope to lose themselves in such small-scale societies, so detailed were the descriptions of the runaways in the newspapers and so vigilant were the communities "in detecting persons under suspicious circumstances."
....In this face-to-face society, particular individuals—specific gentlemen or great men—loomed large, and people naturally explained human events as caused by the motives and wills of those who seemed to be in charge, headed the chains of interest, and made decisions. No one as yet could conceive of the massive and impersonal social processes—industrialization, urbanization, modernization—that we invoke so blithely to describe large-scale social developments. Such complicated processes were simply not part of people's consciousness.
....The provincial governments were lilliputian by modern standards. They were not impersonal bureaucracies, but particular familiar persons whose numbers could usually be counted on one's hands. Prominent colonists knew personally the governors, justices, customs collectors, naval officers, and other leading magistrates with whom they dealt. They drank and dined with them, played cards or the violin with them, and sometimes went to church with them. Even the provincial assemblies were minuscule. New Hampshire's assembly had thirty-five members; New York's, twenty-eight; New Jersey's, twenty; Maryland's, sixty. Massachusetts's house of representatives was extraordinarily large at 117. The combined membership of the New York colonial assembly and council was even smaller than a committee in today's House of Representatives.
....The popular "deference" that historians have made so much of was not a mere habit of mind; it had real economic and social force behind it. Artisans in America, like their counterparts in Britain, still had patrons more than they had customers. Tradesmen and shopkeepers were told that "the Seller is Servant to the Buyer." At the end of the Seven Years' War wealthy Maryland planters flocked to Annapolis and began building town houses and consuming luxuries at unprecedented rates. By the early 1770s all the hundreds of newly arrived craftsmen and shopkeepers in the town had become dependent on the spending habits of the rich. Elsewhere it was the same. Although a few artisans in some places were already running large manufacturing establishments and turning out goods for distant markets, most colonial craftsmen still made wigs or boots or built homes or ships on demand for familiar gentlemen ("bespoke work") and felt obliged to them.
....the economy in this premodern world was still often thought of in traditional terms as the management of a household. Economy was defined as the art of providing for all the wants of the family, or in the case of the royal household of the king, the nation, which was his extended family. In such an antique conception the distribution of persons and goods in accordance with the organic social hierarchy—everything in its proper and needed place—became the key to proper political management. Although in England modern commercial developments were fast eroding such medieval and mercantilist notions—viewing the economy as an enlarged household administered by patriarchal authorities from the top down—they still lingered on in people's minds, especially in the colonies, which were commercially backward compared with the mother country.20
The financial and commercial revolutions that were transforming English society were slow to take hold in America. Before 1750 the colonies still had undeveloped economies engaged essentially in small-scale farming or in producing provisions and agricultural staples for the greater Atlantic world. The colonies had no Bank of England, no stock exchange, no large trading companies, no great centers of capital, and no readily available circulating medium of exchange. Although by 1750 most of the colonies had experimented with several forms of paper currency, there was little in America resembling the complicated array of monetary notes of England or the dozens upon dozens of private and country banks that had sprung up all over Great Britain in the decades after 1690 to facilitate inland trade. By 1774 there were fifty-two private banks in London alone.
....the colonies were what were called trading societies, dominated by their external commerce. This emphasis on overseas trade confirmed the traditional mercantilist assumption which held that each colony could increase its aggregate wealth only by selling more beyond its borders than it bought. The economic goal of a colony therefore was to have more exports than imports—that is, a favorable balance of trade, which would result in gold and silver specie (the only real money most people recognized) remaining within the colony. But since the colonists tended to import far more than they exported, they always had an acute shortage of gold and silver specie; sometimes farmers had to pay even their taxes in bits and pieces of produce.
In the absence of other forms of currency, this shortage of specie limited the colonists' ability to make exchanges with one another within their borders; it limited, that is, what was commonly called their "inland trade." Before mid-century the colonists' inland trade remained remarkably primitive, especially by English standards. But it was not only primitive, it was unappreciated as well. The colonists believed that their internal trade—say, between Lancaster and Philadelphia—had no real value unless goods were further shipped outside of the colony. Inland trade by itself could never increase a colony's aggregate wealth; it could only redistribute it, move it about.
....Since many colonists did not yet believe that their inland trade was very important, they did not believe that paper money (which made such inland trade possible) was very important. And because the paper currency the colonists issued usually could be exchanged at the rate of 133 to 100 pounds sterling (but sometimes through overprinting of the paper the rate could skyrocket to 160 or 180 to 100 pounds sterling), established merchants who imported from abroad and had to pay their bills in sterling were generally anxious to limit the amounts of paper currency in circulation. Since paper money was therefore not readily available, colonists who needed money for their businesses usually had to rely on loans from local moneyed men, thus increasing their sense of personal clientage and dependency.
....Without banks, without many impersonal sources of credit, without even in some cases a circulating medium, most economic exchanges in the colonies had to be personal, between people who knew one another. Economic relations in this society could never be strictly pecuniary; people rarely dealt directly in "ready pay" or cash—in a paid-and-be-done-with-it manner. Although a cash nexus was emerging here and there, most economic exchanges were by credit and were still clothed in moral and social terms.
....For the very wealthy, moneylending became a common and stable source of income and influence—more stable in America certainly than that resulting from land speculation or tenantry. Indeed, money lent out on interest was a principal means by which many colonial gentlemen maintained their superiority and their leisure. As a source of income for those whom George Washington called "the monied Gentry," it was akin to rent from tenants.27 It was, in fact, just a form of what one historian, in reference to the eighteenth-century French aristocracy, has called "proprietary wealth"—meaning rents, bonds, and interest from loans.
....The dominant aristocratic position of the landed gentry, said Adam Smith, came from their unique source of "revenue." Their income from the rents of tenants on their landed estates "costs them neither labour nor care, but comes to them, as it were, of its own accord, and independent of any plan or project of their own." But in America, as John Witherspoon pointed out, such tenantry and rent-producing land could never be as secure a source of income as in England. In the New World, said Witherspoon, where land was more plentiful and cheaper than it was in the Old World, gentlemen seeking a steady income "would prefer lending money at interest to purchasing and holding real estate."
....Although other, more dynamic and more volatile kinds of property were already emerging, often in the hands of those protocapitalist debtor developers who were demanding paper money, the gentry creditors could scarcely conceive of any property other than their established proprietary wealth, and considered those who wanted inflationary paper money to be "generally of low condition among the plebeians and of small estate, and many of them perhaps insolvent." They "consisted," wrote Thomas Hutchinson, one of the most established of the established gentry of Massachusetts, "of persons in difficult or involved circumstances in trade, or such as was possessed of real estates, but had little or no ready money at command, or men of no substance at all."
....The southern economy was geared to the production of staple crops for distant markets, but well into the eighteenth century only the largest planters had direct access to the great merchant houses of Britain. Small and middling farmers of the Chesapeake, with their plantations of one or two hundred acres, lived in a world of dependency that was as much social as it was economic. The primary market for their tobacco was through the great planters.34 Only these great planters—perhaps only one in fifty or more of all families—experienced firsthand the impersonalities of the larger Atlantic economy through the consignment system of tobacco marketing. They were in fact middlemen in the economy and the society of the Chesapeake.
....The great planters were the protectors, creditors, and counselors—"friends"—of the lesser farmers. They lent them money, found jobs or minor posts for their sons, stood as godfathers for their children, handed down clothing to their families, doctored them, and generally felt responsible for the welfare of "our neighbors who depended upon us." During a particularly bad "ague and fever Season" in 1771, "the whole neighbourhood," Landon Carter proudly noted in his diary, "are almost every day sending to me. I serve them all." They boasted of their paternalism, declaring, as the wealthy Charles Carroll of Annapolis did in 1759, "how commendable it is for a gentleman of independent means … to be able to advise his friends, relations, and neighbors of all sorts." These great Chesapeake planters had the wealth and, more important, the influence to make themselves the strongest aristocracy America has ever had.
....With all social relationships dependent on mutual trust, it is not surprising that the courts treated instances of cheating and deception far more severely than they did overt acts of violence.
....Someone like William Allen of Pennsylvania cultivated both those above and those below him on his chain of interest. He sent gifts of wine to Colonel Barré and Lord Shelburne and pine bud tea to William Pitt, and he married one of his daughters to the governor of Pennsylvania and another to the son of the governor of New York. At the same time he consolidated his interest among those beneath him by the selective use of his power and patronage. In 1764, for example, he secured positions as justices of the peace for some fellow Presbyterians, got the price of land on the frontier lowered, and reduced corruption in the land office. Even in his absence his friends and clients—his "interest"—rewarded him with election to the assembly from Cumberland County. His control of governmental patronage in the colony was awesome.
....The system of recruitment for the Massachusetts forces in the Seven Years' War of the 1750s depended largely on the personal loyalties that local men had for the officers who enlisted them. Governor William Shirley, commander in chief of the provincial forces, expected ascending ranks of officers, who were appointed in accord with their corresponding social influence, to be able to recruit increasing numbers of men: each ensign, fifteen; each lieutenant, twenty-five; each captain, fifty. Of course, this system of personal influence also worked in reverse: gentlemen who could raise a company might be entitled by that very demonstration of patronage to a captaincy.
....This system of personal influence did not necessarily scorn merit or discourage social mobility. It did require, however, that a talented person attract the attention of some patron in a position to help him. When that happened, a person's rise from obscurity could be spectacular
....Influential patrons everywhere were on the lookout to sponsor the mobility of young talent.
....Pennsylvania and Maryland organized subscriptions to send two struggling young painters, Benjamin West and Charles Willson Peale, to Europe to study art. That was what real aristocrats presumably did. Of course, some talented individuals of humble origins in this greater British world did make it on their own. John Paul Jones, son of a Scottish gardener, was apprenticed to sea at thirteen; through drive and luck he became at age twenty-one a master of a merchant vessel in the West Indies trade. But for most men seeking to move up through this personally organized hierarchy, ambition and ability were usually not enough. They also needed the patronage or "friendship" of someone who had power and influence—whether it was a governor awarding a printing contract, a merchant taking on an apprentice, or a minister helping a communicant's son get to Yale.
....at every crucial point in Franklin's meteoric rise it was not simply his hard work, brilliance, and character that moved him upward; most important was his ability to attract the attention of an influential patron.
....For the very wealthy, moneylending became a common and stable source of income and influence—more stable in America certainly than that resulting from land speculation or tenantry. Indeed, money lent out on interest was a principal means by which many colonial gentlemen maintained their superiority and their leisure. As a source of income for those whom George Washington called "the monied Gentry," it was akin to rent from tenants.27 It was, in fact, just a form of what one historian, in reference to the eighteenth-century French aristocracy, has called "proprietary wealth"—meaning rents, bonds, and interest from loans.
5. Political Authority
....patronage politics was simply an extension into governmental affairs of the pervasive personal and kin influence that held the colonial social hierarchies together. The appointing to governmental offices, the awarding of military commissions or judgeships, the granting of land or contracts for provisions—all these were only the visible political expressions of the underlying system of personal obligations and reciprocity that ran through the whole society
....Weak in fact as royal authority may have been in America, the crown was responsible for the empire, and as such it ultimately bore the burden of nearly all personal political influence exercised in the colonies. Even when local notables encroached on the crown's authority and built up their own countervailing connections with which to combat royal officials, the notables still seemed somehow to be only links in that long chain of dependency whose end disappeared into the distant and murky corridors of Whitehall.
....It is almost impossible today to comprehend the ancient monarchy in its own terms or to understand the role that patronage played in sustaining its authority. We apply modern republican standards that were already emerging in the eighteenth century. "Corruption" is nearly all we see. Indeed, we find it very difficult to understand why members of that society put up to the extent they did with the flagrant efforts of political officials to exploit their positions for their personal gain. Charges of "covetousness" and "corruption" were repeatedly made, to be sure, but before mid-century these accusations were much less effective than they would be on the eve of the Revolution. In fact, before 1745 in Massachusetts opponents of royal authority remained preoccupied with technical constitutional issues—the right of the assembly to elect its own speaker, adjourn itself, and so on—and rarely attacked the government in the radical whig language of "corruption."9 For that monarchical society there was something traditional and justifiable in the crown's patronage authority that ultimately allowed it to persist as long as it did in the face of the notorious abuse of it and the continual criticism of it.
Eighteenth-century monarchical government still rested largely on inherited medieval notions that are lost to us today. The modern distinctions between state and society, public and private, were just emerging and were as yet only dimly appreciated.
....Everywhere in the colonies men resigned offices in favor of their sons and then exulted, as Joseph Read of Pennsylvania did to Edward Shippen III in 1774: "Is it not agreeable to find our Descendants thus honoured?" The practice of "a father resigning his place to his son" was common enough that even Thomas Hutchinson complained that it was "tending to make all offices hereditary."17
....Since these colonial governments lacked most of the coercive powers of a modern state—a few constables and sheriffs scarcely constituted a police force—officeholders relied on their own social respectability and private influence to compel the obedience of ordinary people. Common people could become hog reeves or occupy other lowly offices, but they had no business exercising high political office, since, in addition to being caught up in their petty workaday interests, they had no power, no connections, no social capacity for commanding public allegiance and deference. Thus, when, in 1759, the governor of Massachusetts appointed as a justice of the peace in Hampshire County someone whose company the other local justices declared they were "never inclined to keep," eleven of the justices resigned in protest, saying that such an appointment would make the office contemptible in the eyes of the people and diminish their ability to enforce the law. For mechanics and other manual laborers, holding high office was virtually impossible while they remained in their inferior status and were involved in market interests.
....stability of the political system thus depended on the social authority of the political leaders being visible and incontestable. No wonder, then, that officials were so sensitive to public criticism of their private character. They knew only too well—"these are dry commonplace observations, known to everyone"—that their ability to govern rested on their personal reputations.
....Few if any of the common people regarded government as a means by which economic and social power might be redistributed or the problems of their lives resolved. Usually they confined themselves to local issues and to wrangling over such questions as whether or not to allow their hogs to run free in their communities. And whenever they did discover the inclination to place demands on government, they lacked the power to challenge the personal influence of the dominant elites.
....Probably no one in late-eighteenth-century America used his property and patronage to create political dependencies more shamelessly than John Hancock. Hancock patronized everyone. He made work for people. He erected homes that he did not need. He built ships that he sold at a loss. He sponsored any and every young man who importuned him. He opened trade shops and staffed them. He purchased a concert hall for public use. He entertained lavishly and habitually treated the Boston populace to wine. John Adams recalled that "not less than a thousand families were, every day in the year, dependent on Mr. Hancock for their daily bread." He went through the mercantile fortune he had inherited from his uncle, but he formed one of the most elaborate networks of political dependency in eighteenth-century America and became the single most popular and powerful figure in Massachusetts politics during the last quarter of the century.
....Even the recurrent mobbing and rioting of Anglo-American society, which seem to be challenges to the structure of authority, were in fact ultimately testimonies to the paternalism and personal organization of that society. The crowd riots were disorderly protests by common people, to be sure, and gentlemanly authorities were not at all happy with them. But the riots took place within the existing structure of authority and tended to reinforce that structure even as they defied it; often they grew out of folk festivals and traditional popular rites and had much in common with them. In fact, it was the awesomeness of personal and social authority in this premodern age that compelled common people to resort to mock ceremonies and rituals as a means of dealing with their humiliations and resentments. Such rituals momentarily allowed humble people to overcome their feelings of inferiority and subordination and to control the release of their pent-up anger and hostility. Consequently, role reversals, in which boys, apprentices, and servants became kings for a day, worked not to undermine but to reaffirm that existing hierarchy. Brief saturnalian transgressions of the society's rules by the populace tended to underscore the power of those rules. And the use of effigies and the heavily ritualized behavior of the mobs, such as those in Boston's Pope's Day celebrations of November 5, served to keep these challenges to authority at a distance.31
Often these popular mobs or riots were simply products of local frustration with the way the ordinary processes of society were operating; they indicated, said Samuel Adams, that the "wheels of government" were "somewhere clogged."32 Whether destroying bawdy houses that magistrates had been unable to close, or protecting communities against the threat of smallpox, or preventing the king's ships from impressing local sailors, crowds of people periodically took to the streets to set things right in a direct and immediate fashion. Often the crowds acted to support traditional customs and moral relationships against changes brought on by new impersonal market conditions, maintaining by force, for example, customary prices and the traditional ways of distributing goods against the perceived forestalling and gouging practiced by unscrupulous shopkeepers and middlemen.
Such mobbing was a means by which ordinary people, usually those most dependent—women, servants, free blacks, sailors, and young men—made their power felt temporarily in a political system that was otherwise largely immune to their influence. Although the crowds usually acted outside the bounds of law and of existing institutions, they were not necessarily anti-authoritarian. The mobs' actions often enjoyed widespread support in the local community, and in fact were condoned or at least tolerated by many gentlemen who remained confident of their paternal hegemony and who often wanted to separate themselves from crass and greedy tradesmen and moneymakers. Sometimes members of the gentry even participated in the rioting and guided it. The mobs often showed remarkable restraint, pinpointing their objectives with extraordinary care, and limiting themselves to the intimidation of particular persons and to the selective destruction of property. These common crowd actions, at least before the imperial crisis deepened in the 1760s, were generally thought to pose no great threat to the hierarchy of the society. Popular uprisings were commonly viewed as momentary releases within the political system, temporary "Thunder Gusts" that "do more Good than Harm" in clearing the political atmosphere. Far from being symptoms of the breakdown of traditional authority, the behavior of the mobs indicated that the customary mechanisms of social control in the society were still working.33
Even the riots against royal officials and stamp agents in the 1760s were not always as deeply threatening to authority as they sometimes seemed. The mobs dared to whip, hang, and burn effigies but usually not real persons, and their mock ceremonies—the crowning of petty merchants and craftsmen as captains-general or kings, for example—were, like all parodies, backhanded tributes to what was being ridiculed. The severely ritualized nature of much of the crowds' behavior often kept the mobs from running amok. The destruction of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson's home by a Boston mob on August 26, 1765, aroused so much more shock and fear in the community, even among whigs, than a riot against the Stamp Act twelve days earlier precisely because it ignored the prescribed rituals and effigy-parading that the previous riot had carefully followed. It seemed much more a private than a public mob.34
Perhaps nothing is more revealing of the paternal and face-to-face nature of this society than the way the prominent Charleston merchant-planter Henry Laurens dispersed a Stamp Act mob in 1765. Perceiving that the mob, disguised in blackened faces, sailors' clothes, and slouch hats, was about to force an entrance to his house in search of stamped paper, Laurens let the rioters in. Although held with a brace of cutlasses against his chest, Laurens called out the names of members of the mob—"to their great surprize"—and forced them by sheer familiarity to back down in their threats. The crowd eventually ended up praising Laurens: they said they "loved" him, gave him "three cheers," wished his "Lady" well and retired with "God bless your honour, Good night, Colonel."35
This sort of popular rioting was ultimately evidence that politics remained essentially a preserve of the dominant gentlemanly elite. The processes of government still depended on the face-to-face relations of gentlemen or on the widespread use of personal correspondence among gentlemen. Even much of the writing of pamphlets or newspaper essays was an extended form of personal correspondence among gentlemen who knew one another intimately. By filling their writings with personal references, Latin quotations, and esoteric allusions to the heritage of Western culture, gentlemen showed that they still thought of the audience for their political polemics as roughly commensurate with the social world comprised of other educated gentlemen.
6. The Republicanization of Monarchy
....disintegration of the traditional eighteenth-century monarchical society of paternal and dependent relationships prepared the way for the emergence of the liberal, democratic, capitalistic world of the early nineteenth century. This reordering of the society of the ancien régime was not confined to America, or even to the English-speaking world. It occurred throughout Western society, sometimes but not always accompanied by violence and revolution. Indeed, the late eighteenth century in the Atlantic world has been called "the age of the democratic revolution." It might better be called "the age of the republican revolution." For it was republicanism and republican principles that ultimately destroyed this monarchical society.
....Republicanism did not replace monarchy all at once; it ate away at it, corroded it, slowly, gradually, steadily, for much of the eighteenth century.
....Republicanism, in particular, assumed a wide range of meanings.... republicanism was not to be reduced to a mere form of government at all; instead it was what Franco Venturi has called "a form of life," ideals and values entirely compatible with monarchical institutions. Republicanism "was separated from the historical forms it had taken in the past, and became increasingly an ideal which could exist in a monarchy."
....it was in every way a radical ideology—as radical for the eighteenth century as Marxism was to be for the nineteenth century. It challenged the primary assumptions and practices of monarchy—its hierarchy, its inequality, its devotion to kinship, its patriarchy, its patronage, and its dependency. It offered new conceptions of the individual, the family, the state, and the individual's relationship to the family, the state, and other individuals. Indeed, republicanism offered nothing less than new ways of organizing society. It defied and dissolved the older monarchical connections and presented people with alternative kinds of attachments, new sorts of social relationships. It transformed monarchical culture and prepared the way for the revolutionary upheavals at the end of the eighteenth century.
....It was as if George I, by abolishing the royal touch, had begun a steady process of desacralizing the English crown. It reached the point where radical whigs like "Cato" could describe the king as being no different from the mayor of a town: "they are both civil officers."
....Republicanism did not belong only to the margins, to the extreme right or left, of English political life. Monarchical and republican values existed side by side in the culture, and many good monarchists and many good English tories adopted republican ideals and principles without realizing the long-run political implications of what they were doing. Although they seldom mentioned the term, educated people of varying political persuasions celebrated republicanism for its spirit, its morality, its freedom, its sense of friendship and duty, and its vision of society. Republicanism as a set of values and a form of life was much too pervasive, comprehensive, and involved with being liberal and enlightened to be seen as subversive or as anti-monarchical.
Instead of constituting some thin eddy flowing only on the edges of British or even European culture, this republican tradition thus became an important current in its own right that blended and mingled with the monarchical mainstream and influenced its color, tone, and direction. Eighteenth-century republicanism did not so much displace monarchy as transform it. Republicanism was never a besieged underground ideology, confined to cellar meetings and marginal intellectuals. On the contrary: there were no more enthusiastic promoters of republicanism than many members of the English and French nobility, who were presumably closest to monarchy and who depended for their status upon it. All those French nobles who in 1785 flocked to the Paris salon to ooh and aah over Jacques-Louis David's severe classical painting The Oath of the Horatii had no idea they were contributing to the weakening of monarchy and their own demise. Nor did all those aristocrats who in 1786 applauded Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, with its celebration of humanistic and egalitarian values, believe that they were espousing republicanism and undermining monarchy. Likewise, all those aristocratic sponsors of the 1730 edition of James Thompson's whiggish poem The Seasons—including the queen, ten dukes, thirty-one earls and countesses, and a larger number of the lesser peerage and their sons and daughters—little sensed that they were contributing to the erosion of the values that made their dominance possible. When even hereditary aristocrats, "disclaiming as it were [their] birthright, and putting [themselves] upon the foot of a Roman," could subscribe enthusiastically to the view voiced by Conyers Middleton in his Life of Cicero (1741) that "no man, how nobly soever born, could arrive at any dignity, who did not win it by his personal merit," then we know something of the power of these republican sentiments in the culture. "Radical chic" was not an invention of the twentieth century.10
....All the ancient republics—Athens, Sparta, Thebes—were familiar to educated people in the eighteenth century (their names had "grown trite by repetition," said one American) but none was more familiar than Rome. People could not hear enough about it. "It is impossible," said Montesquieu, "to be weary of so agreeable a subject as ancient Rome." The eighteenth century was particularly fascinated by the writings of the golden age of Roman literature—"the First Enlightenment," as Peter Gay has called it—the two centuries from the breakdown of the republic in the middle of the first century B.C. to the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the middle of the second century A.D.12
....what is remarkable is the extent to which the thinking of eighteenth-century educated Englishmen on both sides of the Atlantic was republicanized in substance, if not in name. Many Englishmen were quick to respond as the editor of the South Carolina Gazette, Peter Timothy, did in 1749 when he was denounced as a republican for publishing Cato's Letters: he was not a "Republican …," Timothy said, "unless Virtue and Truth be Republican."14 Invoking these classical ideals became the major means by which dissatisfied Britons on both sides of the Atlantic voiced their objections to the luxury, selfishness, and corruption of the monarchical world in which they lived.
So pervasive, so dominant, was this literature of social criticism that it is difficult to find anything substantial that stood against it. All the great eighteenth-century British writers spoke in republican tones.
....Republicanism thus put an enormous burden on individuals. They were expected to suppress their private wants and interests and develop disinterestedness—the term the eighteenth century most often used as a synonym for civic virtue: it better conveyed the increasing threats from interests that virtue now faced. Dr. Johnson defined disinterest as being "superior to regard of private advantage; not influenced by private profit." We today have lost most of this older meaning. Even some educated people now use "disinterested" as a synonym for "uninterested," meaning indifferent or unconcerned. Perhaps we cannot quite conceive of the characteristic that disinterestedness describes: we cannot quite imagine someone who is capable of rising above private profit and private advantage and being unselfish and unbiased where a personal interest might be present.
....Mechanics and others who worked with their hands were thought servile and totally absorbed in their narrow occupations and thus unqualified for disinterested public office. Indeed, the very term "occupation," by which everyone except gentlemen was designated, meant being occupied and having no leisure for public service. Even members of the liberal professions, if they were too dependent on their work as a source of income, were regarded as ill equipped for virtuous leadership. On the eve of the Revolution, Virginians debated in the newspapers as to whether or not lawyers practiced "a grovelling, mercenary trade."
....For all those who claimed to speak for the interests and the good of the people, the crown and all other rulers with soaring passions were dangerous, and the people were always justified in their suspicion and jealousy of power. Precisely because rulers in government were thought to be men of extraordinary and frightening capacities—"like elephants in war," said one colonial minister—they had to be watched constantly. Radical whigs turned "political jealousy" into a "necessary and laudable Passion."
....no one paid more attention to this need for virtue than did members of that generation of North American colonial leaders who came of age in the middle decades of the eighteenth century.
7. A Truncated Society
....American society was riddled with contradictions. It was still remarkably underdeveloped commercially compared with the mother country, it was still largely agricultural and rural, and it possessed as yet few modern alternatives to traditional personal and kinship relations to tie itself together—fewer certainly than the economically advanced society of England. Not only were the legal dependencies of white servitude and black slavery harsher and more conspicuous in the colonies than in England, but the relative backwardness of the colonists' society and economy meant that Americans had fewer opportunities than Englishmen to substitute impersonal market exchanges and a cash nexus for older personal and patriarchal connections; and thus they were more apt than Englishmen to continue to think of social relationships in familial and personal terms—as expressions of the household rather than of a market society. Colonial society was therefore a society in tension, torn between contradictory monarchical and republican tendencies. It had many exaggerated expectations of subjection and dependency but at the same time lacked sufficient personal influence and patronage power to fulfill these expectations. Consequently, the connectedness of colonial society—its capacity to bind one person to another—was exceedingly fragile and vulnerable to challenge.
....American aristocracy, such as it was, was not only weaker than its English counterpart; it also had a great deal of trouble maintaining both the desired classical independence and its freedom from the marketplace.
....Despite increased social stratification during the eighteenth century, American society remained remarkably shallow and stunted by contemporary English standards. All the topmost tiers of English society were missing in America.
....The Americans did not have to invent republicanism in 1776; they only had to bring it to the surface. It was there all along. The revolutionaries shed monarchy and took up republicanism, as Jefferson put it, "with as much ease as would have attended their throwing off an old and putting on a new suit of clothes."
...., it was often difficult for the colonists to appreciate how radical their thinking was. When the colonists in the 1760s and 1770s were accused of fomenting rebellion and promoting republican principles, they were surprised and indignant. The spirit of republicanism, they said, the spirit of Milton, Needham, and Sidney, was "so far from being uncompatible with the English constitution, that it is the greatest glory of it." In resisting tyranny the colonists saw themselves acting only as good Englishmen should. "We boast of our freedom," Samuel Adams told his fellow Englishmen across the Atlantic in 1767, "and we have your example for it. We talk the language we have always heard you speak."
...."the relation between Landlord and Tenant could have no existence where every Man held by the same tenure."
....in the years after mid-century, that New York landlords expected less and less filial affection from their tenants and more and more monetary payments. Fewer of the landlords were able or willing to ignore or burn their tenants' overdue debts, as Colonel Frederick Philipse and Sir William Johnson continued to do. More and more landlords wanted their rents, and those like Beverly Robinson who raised them at every opportunity were willing to evict tenants who could not pay. Yet every act of exploitation, every suggestion that only profit mattered, eroded further the paternalistic bonds tying superiors and inferiors together.
....they were in fact the most republican of people in the English-speaking world. Every visitor to the New World sensed it. All the republican peculiarities for which Englishmen were noted were magnified in the colonies and carried to excess. If Englishmen were known to be liberty-loving and unruly, then the colonists seemed absolutely licentious.
....As strong as the colonial gentry may have been in some places and at some times, they never were able to duplicate the mutual protection and allegiance between superiors and inferiors that made the eighteenth-century English squirearchy relatively so secure
....Royal authority operated much of the time on the surface of American life, masking the confused reality of decentralized institutions and localized authorities that made up the central governance of the colonies. The harmonious compromise between central and local authorities that had developed in Britain since 1688 was not duplicated in America. The crown always seemed to the colonists to be an extraneous overlaid power antagonistic to their local institutions, especially the provincial assemblies.... colonists had little understanding of state authority, of a united autonomous political entity that was completely sovereign and reached deep into the localities. And thus they were not prepared to accept that authority when after 1763 it tried to intrude into their lives.
....lacked the religious backbone that an established church offered royalty at home. ... personal patronage within any of the numerous religious groups was never strong. Even where the Church of England was most solidly established—in Virginia—it was dominated by the local vestries. Regardless of the circumstances of their ordination, clergymen everywhere tended to be appointed by their congregations and thus dependent on them. The disorders and confusions of American religious life by themselves made difficult the maintenance of a traditional monarchical society in the colonies.
....America could not sustain the stable pattern of tenantry that lay at the heart of a traditional landed society, and thus that dependency that lay at the heart of monarchical society was undermined. The tenants often lived on land far removed from their landlords and were very poorly supervised. Many landlords had trouble not only in collecting rents but in preventing their tenants from selling their leases and moving on without paying their debts. Since tenantry was often regarded as simply a first step toward an independent freehold, mobility was high. The New York manor leases, which were usually for life, turned over on the average every ninth year.
....The southern planters built and maintained country houses, but they relied on their slaves to supply them with most of their needs, from making hogsheads to caring for their gardens. Thus not only did the great planters' reliance on the labor of their own slaves prevent the growth of large middling groups of white artisans in the South, but their patronage and hence dominance of the communities beyond their plantations was correspondingly reduced.
....Some planters kept taverns on the side, and many others were intimately concerned in the day-to-day management of their estates. Even with overseers and agents and dozens of slaves, few of the great planters could treat their estates as self-perpetuating patrimonies.
....The legal devices of entail and primogeniture that in England worked to perpetuate family estates intact through a prescribed line of heirs had a contrary effect in America: by limiting a father's discretion in disposing of the estate, such devices tended to risk the family property on the particular talents—or shortcomings—of an eldest son.
....years after mid-century the Virginia planters became more and more concerned about the state of their society. Pressure from their British creditors forced them to hound each other for repayment of debts. Circumstances were compelling them to cut through the appearance of independent country gentry they had sought to maintain and to expose the raw commercial character of their lives. They discovered, as James Mercer did, that they were not as free from the day-to-day business world as they made out.
..... Everywhere wealthy commoners, even those who still worked with their hands, sought to buy their way into gentlemanly status. Building a second home in the country, for example, was very much a sign of being a gentleman. By the 1770s eighty-two Philadelphians owned places clearly defined as "country seats" in Philadelphia County alone.
....Most ordinary colonial merchants—perhaps 85 percent or more of the two or three hundred merchants in Philadelphia—were ensnared in such "a hardharted Iron-Fisted & inhospitable world," unable "to lay up such a Stock, as would maintain me without dayly labour," and thus could not even pretend to gentility. Most were in fact very new to wholesale trade, often having begun their careers as artisans, shopkeepers, or smugglers.
....weakness of the colonial aristocracy—its relative lack of gentility, its openness to entry, its inability to live up to the classical image of political leadership, and its susceptibility to challenge—that accounts for the instability and competitive factiousness of colonial politics.
....By the eve of the Revolution three-quarters of English farmland was owned by noble and gentry landlords who leased their estates to tenants of one sort or another. Indeed, four hundred great families owned a fifth of all the land in England.25
By contrast, most American farmers owned their own land ("We are Lords of our own little but sufficient Estates"). The radical importance of this landownership in an English-speaking world dominated by rent-paying tenants and leaseholders cannot be exaggerated: even before the Revolution it gave Americans a sense of their egalitarian exceptionalism.
8. Loosening the Bands of Society
....everywhere in the colonies the sudden increase and movement of people in the middle decades of the eighteenth century shattered traditional monarchical relationships that were often not strong to begin with. People were freed from customary connections and made independent in new, unexpected ways. This demographic explosion, this gigantic movement of people, was the most basic and the most liberating force working on American society during the latter half of the eighteenth century, and it would remain so for at least another century after that.
....Perhaps in time this truncated republicanized monarchical society might have matured and become more hierarchical. Already by mid-century colonial society in some areas was more stratified than it had been, and social distinctions seemed to be hardening. The rich were getting richer and the poor were growing in number. Despite pockets of instability in some areas and the spread of republican values, the ruling gentry in most colonies were more visible, interconnected, and conscious of their identity than ever before.1
....Most Americans, like most Europeans, scarcely grasped the immensity of the fundamental forces at work in the Western world.
....The basic fact of early American history was the growth and movement of people.
....For nearly a century and a half the colonists had been confined to a several-hundred-mile-wide strip along the Atlantic coast. Now in the middle decades of the eighteenth century they began to feel pressed by the growing numbers of people. Overcultivated soil in the East was becoming depleted. Older towns, especially in New England, now seemed crowded, and greater numbers of young men were coming of age without their fathers' having land to give them. The political system was unable to absorb the increasing numbers of ambitious men. Educated, aspiring young men like William Hooper of Boston and Hugh Henry Brackenridge of Philadelphia set out for distant frontiers in North Carolina and western Pennsylvania because there was "no room" for them in their native cities. Expansionist urges among the colonists were suddenly intensified. Men dreamed of landed empires in the West, founded land companies, requested and often received grandiose grants of land from colonial and imperial authorities, and threatened the French in the Ohio Valley and Indians up and down the continent.
....growth of settlement was phenomenal. In Pennsylvania, twenty-nine new localities were created between 1756 and 1765—more in a single decade than in the entire previous three-quarters of a century of settlement. Between 1750 and 1775 North Carolina increased its population sixfold to emerge from insignificance and become the fourth-largest colony.
....Immediately after General James Wolfe's victory at Quebec in 1759, speculators and settlers moved into the area around Lake Champlain and westward along the Mohawk into central New York. In the ten years between 1761 and 1771 New York's population more than doubled, from 80,000 to over 168,000. By the early 1760s hunters and explorers like Daniel Boone were beginning to open up paths westward through the Appalachians. Settlers, mostly small farmers, soon followed.
....More colonists needed land and suddenly in 1763 more land was available. On the frontier—in northern New England and New York, in western Pennsylvania and Virginia, and in the backcountry of the Carolinas—land remained generally cheap and accessible. But of course the more people wanted it, the more prices rose.
....Speculative land fever seemed to infect all levels of the society.
....effects of this increase and movement of people were momentous. The population outran the society's political institutions, and most of the small and exclusive colonial governments remained unresponsive to the powerful forces at work. In many of the colonies, in the middle colonies especially, representation in the legislatures did not come close to keeping up with the expansion of population.
....the New York assembly had one representative for 320 adult white males; by 1770 this ratio had jumped to one for 1,065. The Pennsylvania assembly was even worse: one representative to 336 white adult males in 1730 became one representative to 1,301 white adult males by 1770. On the eve of the Revolution, Pennsylvania, with a population of 250,000, had an assembly of only thirty-six members. Although such disproportionate representation was common enough to Britain (the House of Commons was a hodgepodge of inequalities and anomalies), the colonists were historically used to more direct and equal representation; and their small clublike assemblies became more and more of a grievance.
....In New England the multiplication of "idle and indigent" persons required towns to build workhouses for the poor, and in 1750 Massachusetts for the first time began regulating these "houses of industry." By 1760 the numbers of transients and wandering poor in some counties of New England had doubled or even tripled over what they had been a decade earlier. Never before had there been so many men and women living in places where they had not been born. By the end of the century even Providence, Rhode Island, with a population of only five thousand, was thought to have "a great many strangers always here."
....By the 1790s New Englanders were at last willing to acknowledge the fact of population movement, and they finally abandoned the old warning-out laws. Thereafter, citizens were free to migrate from town to town, at least within their respective states, without being subjected to warnings or exclusions.
..... Exports and imports began rapidly rising in the 1740s and 1750s. Higher prices and increased demand for foodstuffs to feed the expanding populations of the Atlantic world began enticing more and more American farmers into producing for distant markets. Even Chesapeake planters, both large and small, began shifting from tobacco to grain production. Between 1760 and 1770 Virginia's exports of corn to the West Indies increased ninefold, its exports of wheat to Southern Europe, sevenfold. Its exports of flour to all destinations boomed from 15 tons to 2,591 tons. By the eve of the Revolution old Charles Carroll had seen America nearly become "the granary of Europe."
....America was so economically backward, so primitive compared with Great Britain, that the effects of this sudden commercialization were exaggerated. They became both more exhilarating and more alarming. The rising demand in the Atlantic world for wheat and other foodstuffs set off chain reactions throughout the colonies. Networks of towns abruptly emerged to move the produce to the market, and hosts of new people, from wagoners to innkeepers, appeared to serve the towns. The nature of tobacco culture and its marketing had long inhibited the development of towns and marketing centers in the southern colonies; but with the shift in the upper South to grain production, strings of communities reaching deep into the hinterland now arose.
....particularly in the northern and middle colonies, growing numbers of small farmers, many for the first time in their lives, were drawn into producing "surpluses" for the market. Supplying the armies that fought the French at mid-century had already helped to incite many farmers into expanded sales of provisions. But an even more important stimulus for increasing the productivity of farmers than new markets was the growing opportunities they had for consumption. The prospect of raising their standard of living and enlarging their purchase of "luxury" goods spurred farmers to work harder and produce more and more "surpluses."
....Both Bernard Mandeville and later David Hume argued that, far from being an unrelieved vice, as the severe republican moralists would have it, luxury and the desires of ordinary people to acquire the goods and trappings of fashion actually stimulated manufacturing and industriousness, and helped to develop a middling group in the society standing between the aristocracy and the poor. It was precisely these developments that eventually allowed theorists like Adam Smith to perceive that, contrary to centuries of thought, labor was not based on necessity and poverty after all but was instead the principal creator of productivity and prosperity in the society; it might in fact be the sole source of wealth in the society.
....All sorts of shopkeepers and petty mushroom traders now became involved in the importation and sale of British dry goods—that is, in the kind of trade that the richest and most prestigious of colonial merchants had long controlled. In reaction, these established merchants tried to form rudimentary chambers of commerce in order to keep such upstarts out of their ranks, but the availability of British credit and the willingness of British exporters to deal with anyone in the colonies undermined their efforts.
....Better roads, more reliable information about markets, and the greater number and variety of new towns all encouraged domestic manufacturing for local, regional, and inter-colonial markets. By 1768 colonial manufacturers were supplying Pennsylvania with eight thousand pairs of shoes a year. In many towns 20 to 30 and even 40 percent of the male population followed a trade or craft of some sort. In 1767 the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts, with fewer than three hundred residents, had forty-four workshops and nineteen mills. By the 1760s immigrants and ex-soldiers were becoming mechanics and craftsmen in Philadelphia in such numbers as to alarm British authorities worried about American manufacturing competition with the mother country. But it was not just a case of more artisans producing for domestic and inland markets; much of the farming population itself was manufacturing and trading..... proto-industrialization," where rural manufacturing developed alongside commercial agricultural production.
....momentous shift of the basis of American prosperity from external to internal commerce.
Before mid-century, inland trade in the colonies had remained limited and rudimentary compared with the century-long experience of the mother country with home markets. Now, in the middle decades of the eighteenth century, Americans suddenly began experiencing on an expanded scale what Englishmen had known for generations. A new kind of business world rapidly emerged, involving the extensive exchange of goods and services not simply with the mother country or foreign territories but within and between the colonies themselves, and no one was culturally equipped to understand or justify it.
....written credit obligations constituted a major intrusion of impersonal market relations into lives that hitherto had been governed by custom and communal norms.34
By borrowing in this way on this expanded scale, the colonists began contributing their part to the long, slow process of transforming the traditional meaning of credit and debt.
....As the colonists expanded their inland trade, they necessarily increased their use of paper money, which, as one historian has noted, was "a public variant of private credit instruments."
....paper money opened up possibilities for increasing numbers of people to participate more independently and more impersonally in the economy. For farmers to borrow from a land bank meant that they were no longer dependent on city merchants or great moneyed men of the community for their credit. Paper money thus had a corrosive effect on traditional patronage dependencies.
....development of inland trade and the resort to paper-currency emissions do suggest the various ways in which ordinary people of middling rank were becoming more independent and more free of traditional patron-client relationships.
....Robert Munford's plays The Candidates and The Patriots, written on the eve of the Revolution, less confirm the gentry planters' confidence in their superiority than betray their uneasiness with electoral developments in the colony, "when coxcombs and jockies can impose themselves upon it for men of learning."
....Up and down the continent there were momentous religious stirrings and convulsions that ran through the middle decades of the century. They were often diverse, complicated, and local in their origins, but in general they grew out of people's attempts to adjust to the disturbing changes in their social relationships caused by demographic and commercial developments. It is not surprising, for example, that New Light religious awakenings in Connecticut centered precisely in those eastern counties most unsettled by population growth, trade, and paper-money emissions. Although the Great Awakening commonly represented an effort by people to bring some order to their disrupted lives, its implications were radical, especially since supernatural religion remained for most ordinary people, if not for enlightened gentry, the major means of explaining the world. By challenging clerical unity, shattering the communal churches, and cutting people loose from ancient religious bonds, the religious revivals became in one way or another a massive defiance of traditional authority.
9. Enlightened Paternalism
....Throughout the eighteenth-century Anglo-American world, traditional authority was brought into question. Personal and social relations were not working properly. The social hierarchy seemed less natural, less ordained by God, and more man-made, more arbitrary.
....Subordinates and inferiors felt more independent, more free, than they had in the past. People were less willing to fulfill customary obligations. Superiors seemed more selfish and more unresponsive to those below them, and subordinates seemed more sullen and suspicious.
....The problem really lay with authority itself, with masters and patriarchs and all those traditionally designated to govern this monarchical society. By adopting new enlightened standards of paternalism, rulers of all sorts in the Anglo-American world collaborated in weakening their own authority.
....superiors of all sorts—fathers, masters, and magistrates—were increasingly uneasy and self-conscious about the legitimacy of their position, their right to dominate.
....English rulers could not rely on standing armies or companies of guards to frighten and compel people into obedience.
....the more those in authority sought to earn the esteem of those below them, the more fearful and resentful their subordinates became.
...The problem began naturally enough with the family—that model of all superior-subordinate relationships in a traditional society. Decades later, after the entire ancient structure of society in Europe and America had been transformed, John Adams knew only too well where "the source of revolution" lay: in "a systematical dissolution of the true family authority. There can never be any regular government of a nation," he told one of his sons in 1799, "without a marked subordination of mother and children to the father."
....Nearly every work of the age—whether of history, fiction, or pedagogy, from Marmontel's Memoirs to Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield to Chesterfield's Letters—dwelt on issues of familial responsibility and warned against the evils of parental tyranny and the harsh and arbitrary modes of child-rearing of an older, more savage age. Charles Rollin's Ancient History attacked primogeniture and other legal devices that supported an artificial patriarchal authority.
....This revolution against patriarchal authority was a century-long affair at least (indeed, it is still going on), and even so the new enlightened thinking about parent-child relations was never complete, never undisputed, never final.
....was precisely the continuing power of ancient patriarchal thought that made the revolution against it so intense and widespread. Nothing like it on such a scale had happened before in Western history. Never had so many people become so self-conscious about the problems of child-rearing and parental authority.
....Perhaps no household more vividly illuminates the problems of paternal authority in this enlightened age than that of the wealthy eighteenth-century Virginia planter Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall. https://archive.org/details/diaryofcolonella05cart/page/n1
....All political authority in the eighteenth century was still described in paternalistic terms. These terms, however, were not those of the divine-right patriarchism made notorious by James I and Sir Robert Filmer a century earlier. To be sure, well into the eighteenth century, especially on the annual commemoration (January 30) of the execution of Charles "the Martyr" in 1649, tory high-church Anglicans and Jacobite orators and writers in England kept alive the idea that unlimited submission and nonresistance were the duty of all subjects to their rulers. But since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the installation of the Hanoverian monarchy in 1714 the doctrines of indefeasible hereditary succession and absolute patriarchism steadily lost their appeal in England; in colonial America, where there were no Tories to speak of (at least before the imperial crisis), such absolutist ideas scarcely existed at all.
....English society was still a gradation of degrees and ranks held together by ties that seemed to resemble those of the family or household more than those of any other institution. The very persistence with which whig intellectuals were compelled to attack the identity between familial and political authority testified to its staying power.
....all the ambiguity and anxiety infecting the new enlightened paternalism of the family could likewise be found in government and in all superior-subordinate relationships. Just as parents were bewildered by the mass of literature that advised them to be enlightened and liberal in the rearing of their children and blamed them for any mistakes, so too were all rulers confused by a culture that stressed the rights and liberties of subjects even more than their obligation to obey.
....royal magistrates had simply lost the people's confidence; for when the people "see their rulers actuated by principles of benevolence and a love of justice they need little else, than this confidence, to secure their obedience." The entire obligation for obedience now seemed to rest on authority, on those who were to be obeyed. Indeed, so inherently weak, so intrinsically liberal, had traditional paternal authority become in American culture that by 1775 the Maryland preacher Jonathan Boucher came to believe that if order in America were to be defended at all, there was no alternative except to return to something resembling the archaic doctrines of Filmer's divine-right patriarchy.
....increasingly in the commercialized eighteenth century contracts became much more voluntary, explicit, and consensual, much less declaratory of previously existing rights and duties and much more the consequence of conscious acts of will. Instead of defining social relationships, they now focused on individual transactions. Contracts for apprenticeship, for example, became more formal and more explicit, with obligations specified in greater detail and translated into monetary value. Contracts came to be thought of as positive bargains deliberately and freely entered into between two parties who were presumed to be equal and not entirely trustful of one another. Such formal written contracts made sense in the emerging commercial world
....By mid-century, positive written contracts and other impersonal legal instruments were more and more replacing the informal, customary, and personal ways people had arranged their affairs with one another.
....During the Seven Years' War in the 1750s Lord Loudoun, commander in chief of the British forces in America, was confronted with what seemed to him astonishing disobedience by the New England militia under his authority. When Loudoun attempted to get the various New England militia to serve with regular royal troops, the New England soldiers simply refused to obey. They refused on the grounds that joint service with royal troops had not been part of the contractual agreements they had made when they enlisted in the militia expeditions. And their militia officers and even their colonial civilian superiors agreed with them!
....Since the colonists were just beginning to feel the commercial revolution that was transforming English society, they were more apt to see their relationship to the state as being similar to their relationships with each other. Thus it was natural for Americans to turn their familial relationship to the crown into a contractual one, for this merely substituted one personal relationship for another; but this substitution also made it easier for them to take the awful step of rebelling against their own parents.
....paternalism became so liberal, so republicanized, as to surrender itself willingly to modern legal contractualism. If the empire and the colonial governments were still thought of as enlarged families, they had become remarkably artificial and voluntary ones. In the subtle, often unintended ways that the colonists prepared themselves for republicanism, some whigs now even claimed that there was no essential difference between hereditary and elective magistrates: both could be "fathers" to their people and still have their patriarchal authority rest on the consent of the people.
....Government was now being widely pictured as merely a legal man-made contrivance having little if any natural relationship to the family or to society.44
The conclusions were momentous and forbidding, and most colonists were reluctant to reach them. They repeatedly touched on the awesome questions their arguments were raising but never faced them directly. What would this separation of government from nature and from the natural inequalities of society ultimately mean? Would people respect rulers who were not God or their fathers or their masters, who had no visible sacredness or awesomeness, who had no inherent patriarchal authority? Was submission to be without emotion, merely a matter of utility?
....Patriarchy was being challenged in other ways too. Not only were sons and daughters leaving home in greater numbers, but they also claimed a greater say over their choice of marriage partners. Young people were now more apt to marry someone outside of their immediate locality, or even their religion, than they had been earlier. They may even have used premarital pregnancy as a means of compelling parental acceptance of their choices: in the last part of the eighteenth century one-quarter to one-third of all brides in some areas of America (and of England too) were pregnant before their marriage.
....adopting republicanism was not simply a matter of bringing American culture more into line with the society. It meant as well an opportunity to abolish what remained of monarchy and to create once and for all new, enlightened republican relationships among people.
....Because the revolutionaries are so different from us, so seemingly aristocratic themselves, it is hard for us today to appreciate the anger and resentment they felt toward hereditary aristocracy. We tend to ignore or forget the degree to which family and monarchical values dominated colonial America. But the revolutionaries knew only too well what kin and patrimonial officeholding had meant in their lives. Up and down the continent colonial gentry like Charles Carroll of Maryland had voiced their fears that "all power might center in one family" and that offices of government "like a precious jewel will be handed down from father to son."
....People were to be "changed," said the South Carolina physician and historian David Ramsay, "from subjects to citizens," and "the difference is immense. Subject is derived from the latin words, sub and jacio, and means one who is under the power of another; but a citizen is an unit of a mass of free people, who, collectively, possess sovereignty. Subjects look up to a master, but citizens are so far equal, that none have hereditary rights superior to others.
....By the late 1760s and early 1770s a potentially revolutionary situation existed in many of the colonies. There was little evidence of those social conditions we often associate with revolution (and some historians have desperately sought to find): no mass poverty, no seething social discontent, no grinding oppression. For most white Americans there was greater prosperity than anywhere else in the world; in fact, the experience of that growing prosperity contributed to the unprecedented eighteenth-century sense that people here and now were capable of ordering their own reality. Consequently, there was a great deal of jealousy and touchiness everywhere, for what could be made could be unmade; the people were acutely nervous about their prosperity and the liberty that seemed to make it possible. With the erosion of much of what remained of traditional social relationships, more and more individuals had broken away from their families, communities, and patrons and were experiencing the anxiety of freedom and independence. Social changes, particularly since the 1740s, multiplied rapidly, and many Americans struggled to make sense of what was happening. These social changes were complicated, and they are easily misinterpreted. Luxury and conspicuous consumption by very ordinary people were increasing. So, too, was religious dissent of all sorts. The rich became richer, and aristocratic gentry everywhere became more conspicuous and self-conscious; and the numbers of poor in some cities and the numbers of landless in some areas increased. But social classes based on occupation or wealth did not set themselves against one another, for no classes in this modern sense yet existed. The society was becoming more unequal, but its inequalities were not the source of the instability and anxiety. Indeed, it was the pervasive equality of American society that was causing the problems—even in aristocratic South Carolina.
..... The idea of labor, of hard work, leading to increased productivity was so novel, so radical, in the overall span of Western history that most ordinary people, most of those who labored, could scarcely believe what was happening to them. Labor had been so long thought to be the natural and inevitable consequence of necessity and poverty that most people still associated it with slavery and servitude. Therefore any possibility of oppression, any threat to the colonists' hard-earned prosperity, any hint of reducing them to the poverty of other nations, was especially frightening; for it seemed likely to slide them back into the traditional status of servants or slaves, into the older world where labor was merely a painful necessity and not a source of prosperity.
....These hardworking farmers and mechanics were extraordinarily free and well off and had much to lose, and "this, therefore, naturally accounts for these people, in particular, being so united and steady, everywhere," in support of their liberties against British oppression
....This extraordinary touchiness, this tendency of the colonists in their political disputes to argue "with such vehemence as if all had been at Stake," flowed from the precariousness of American society, from its incomplete and relatively flattened character, and from the often "rapid ascendency" of its aristocracy, particularly in the Deep South, where families "in less than ten years have risen from the lowest rank, have acquired upward of £100,000 and have, moreover, gained this wealth in a simple and easy manner."
....The immense changes occurring everywhere in their personal and social relationships—the loosening and severing of the hierarchical ties of kinship and patronage that were carrying them into modernity—only increased their suspicions and apprehensions. For they could not know then what direction the future was taking.
....expansion of popular politics originated not because the mass of people pressed upward from below with new demands but because competing gentry, for their own parochial and tactical purposes, courted the people and bid for their support by invoking popular whig rhetoric. Opposition factions in the colonial assemblies made repeated appeals to the people as counterweights to the use of royal authority by the governors, especially as the older personal avenues of appeal over the heads of the governors to interests in England became clogged and unusable.
....Through the manipulation of puppets or placemen in the House of Commons, the crown—since 1760 in the hands of a new young king, George III—was sapping the strength of popular representation in Parliament and unbalancing the English constitution. Events seemed to show that the crown, with the aid of a pliant Parliament, was trying to reach across the Atlantic to corrupt Americans in the same way.
....They actually were tearing at the bonds holding the traditional monarchical society together. Their assault necessarily was as much social as it was political.
....Only by understanding the hierarchical structure of monarchical society and taking the patriots' assault on courtiers seriously can we begin to appreciate the significance of the displacement of the loyalists—that is, of those who maintained their allegiance to the British crown.
....removal of the loyalist heads of these chains of interest had destructive effects on the society out of all proportion to the actual numbers involved. Only forty-six Boston merchants were named in Massachusetts's banishment act of 1778, yet among these were some of the wealthiest families—the Ervings, Winslows, Clarks, and Lloyds—whose connections of kin, friends, and clients ramified throughout the society. True, the vacancies in Boston created by their removal were quickly filled by ambitious north shore merchants, including the Cabots, Lees, Jacksons, Lowells, Grays, Higginsons, and Gerrys.
....To eliminate those clusters of personal and familial influence and transform the society became the idealistic goal of the revolutionaries.
....In a monarchical world of numerous patron-client relations and multiple degrees of dependency, nothing could be more radical than this attempt to make every man independent. What was an ideal in the English-speaking world now became for Americans an ideological imperative.
....."It was left to John Adams in 1775 to draw the ultimate conclusion and to destroy in a single sentence the entire conception of society as a hierarchy of graded ranks and degrees. "There are," said Adams simply, "but two sorts of men in the world, freemen and slaves." Such a stark dichotomy collapsed all the delicate distinctions and dependencies of a monarchical society and created radical and momentous implications for Americans.24
....The revolutionaries wanted to create a new republican world in which "all offices lie open to men of merit, of whatever rank or condition." They believed that "even the reins of state may be held by the son of the poorest men, if possessed of abilities equal to the important station."
....revolutionary leaders did not expect poor, humble men—farmers, artisans, or tradesmen—themselves to gain high political office. Rather, they expected that the sons of such humble or ungenteel men, if they had abilities, would, as they had, acquire liberal and genteel republican attributes, perhaps by attending Harvard or the College of New Jersey at Princeton, and would thereby rise into the ranks of gentlemen and become eligible for high political office.
....Jefferson has often been thought to have exaggerated the power of primogeniture and entail and this "Patrician order." Not only was the docking of entails very common in Virginia, but the "Patrician order" does not appear to us all that different from its challengers. But Jefferson obviously saw a difference, and it rankled him. In the opening pages of his autobiography Jefferson tells us that the lineage of his Welsh father was lost in obscurity: he was able to find in Wales only two references to his father's family. His mother, on the other hand, was a Randolph, one of the distinguished families of the "Patrician order." The Randolphs, he said with about as much derision as he ever allowed himself, "trace their pedigree far back in England & Scotland, to which let every one ascribe the faith & merit he chooses."
....Eldest sons still had been given preference, and when land became less available fathers had resorted to more traditional patterns of inheritance in order to protect the unity of the estate.34 The Revolution made a major change in these older patterns of inheritance, particularly in recognizing the equal rights of daughters and widows in the inheriting and possession of property.
....Although wives continued to remain dependent on their husbands, they did gain greater autonomy and some legal recognition of their rights to hold property separately, to divorce, and to make contracts and do business in the absence of their husbands. In the colonial period only New Englanders had recognized the absolute right to divorce, but after the Revolution all the states except South Carolina developed new liberal laws on divorce.
....With the post-revolutionary republican culture talking of nothing but liberty, equality, and independence, even hired servants eventually became hard to come by or to control. White servants refused to call their employers "master" or "mistress"; for many the term "boss," derived from the Dutch word for master, became a euphemistic substitute. The servants themselves would not be called anything but "help," or "waiter," which was the term the character Jonathan, in Royall Tyler's 1787 play The Contrast, preferred in place of "servant."38 "The white servants generally stipulate that they shall sit at table with their masters and mistresses," declared astonished foreigners.
....By the early nineteenth century what remained of patriarchy was in disarray. No longer were apprentices dependents within a family; they became trainees within a business that was more and more conducted outside the household. Artisans did less "bespoke" or "order" work for patrons; instead they increasingly produced for impersonal markets. This in turn meant that the master craftsmen had to hire labor and organize the sale of the products of their shops. Masters became less patriarchs and more employers, retail merchants, or businessmen. Cash payments of wages increasingly replaced the older paternalistic relationship between masters and journeymen. These free wage earners now came and went with astonishing frequency, moving not only from job to job but from city to city. This "fluctuating" mobility of workers bewildered some employers: "while you were taking an inventory of their property," sighed one Rhode Islander, "they would sling their packs and be off."
....One obvious dependency the revolutionaries did not completely abolish was that of nearly a half million Afro-American slaves, and their failure to do so, amidst all their high-blown talk of liberty, makes them seem inconsistent and hypocritical in our eyes. Yet it is important to realize that the Revolution suddenly and effectively ended the cultural climate that had allowed black slavery, as well as other forms of bondage and unfreedom, to exist throughout the colonial period without serious challenge. With the revolutionary movement, black slavery became excruciatingly conspicuous in a way that it had not been in the older monarchical society with its many calibrations and degrees of unfreedom; and Americans in 1775–76 began attacking it with a vehemence that was inconceivable earlier.
For a century or more the colonists had taken slavery more or less for granted as the most base and dependent status in a hierarchy of dependencies and a world of laborers. Rarely had they felt the need either to criticize black slavery or to defend it. Now, however, the republican attack on dependency compelled Americans to see the deviant character of slavery and to confront the institution as they never had to before. It was no accident that Americans in Philadelphia in 1775 formed the first anti-slavery society in the world. As long as most people had to work merely out of poverty and the need to provide for a living, slavery and other forms of enforced labor did not seem all that different from free labor. But the growing recognition that labor was not simply a common necessity of the poor but was in fact a source of increased wealth and prosperity for ordinary workers made slavery seem more and more anomalous. Americans now recognized that slavery in a republic of workers was an aberration, "a peculiar institution," and that if any Americans were to retain it, as southern Americans eventually did, they would have to explain and justify it in new racial and anthropological ways that their former monarchical society had never needed. The Revolution in effect set in motion ideological and social forces that doomed the institution of slavery in the North and led inexorably to the Civil War
....The revolutionary state constitutions eliminated the crown's prerogatives outright or regranted them to the state legislatures. Popular consent now became the exclusive justification for the exercise of authority by all parts of the government—not just the houses of representatives but senates, governors, and even judges
....several of the states wrote into their revolutionary constitutions declarations against any man or group of men receiving special privileges from the community "Government," said the New Hampshire constitution, was "instituted for the common benefits, protection, and security of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men." The North Carolina constitution stated that "perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a State, and ought not to be allowed."
....44 The city of New York, for example, working under the authority of the state legislature, set up its own public work force to clean its streets and wharves instead of relying, as in the past, on the private residents to do these tasks. By the early nineteenth century the city of New York had become a public institution financed primarily by public taxation and concerned with particularly public concerns. It acquired what it had not had before—the power of eminent domain—and the authority to make decisions without worrying about "whose property is benefited … or is not benefited."