Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thomas Fleming's New Book and the Revolution's Conclusion

In his new book, "The Perils of Peace" Thomas Fleming brings up an interesting and disputed point: when did the American Revolution end? I think Fleming gives ample evidence to suggest that the Battle of Yorktown is a poor moment to conclude the Revolution (which is obvious to almost anyone). Washington's struggle to keep his army intact, the constant fighting between states, and the huge war debt were massive obstacles that concerned nearly everyone. During this time, most people were unsure if the "American experiment" would last another year, while others were suggesting a reconciliation with Great Britain.

So when should we conclude the revolution? History textbooks suggest that the Constitutional Convention is the obvious last chapter in the American revolutionary story. I, however, refuse to agree. The Constitutional Convention only established a new set of rules that still needed to be ratified and legitimized. Many colonial citizens refused to accept the new Constitution, believing it to be a carbon copy of Britain's "tyrranical" rule. Clearly the Washington presidency (which added legitimacy to the new government) was desperately needed as was the Jefferson Presidency that solidified republican principles. The Market Revolution of the early 19th century, along with the Second Great Awakening also made dramatic impacts on the infant American experiment.

So when did the Revolution end? You tell me.

10 comments:

Lindsey Shuman said...

Maybe the revolution never ended. Are we not still fighting over many of the same things as or Founders did? You could almost say that the Civil War was also an extention of the American Revolution, since the founders failed to address the slavery problem. Tough to say when it ended.

Curtis said...

Cool blog. I like the music.

Brian Tubbs said...

John Adams said that the "revolution" was in the hearts and minds of the American people - and began as early as 1760. If we take Adams' reasoning, then we could (as you say, Lindsey) argue that it went AT LEAST to the Civil War - and may, in fact, still be ongoing.

Looking at it militarily and diplomatically, the American Revolution ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Brad Hart said...

I agree that the Treaty of Paris in 1783 is a good point to end the FIGHTING of the American Revolution, but I don't believe that we should use that date for the Revolution's ultimate conclusion. It is important to remember that the Constitutional Convention was every bit as important as other earlier events. It was essentially a bloddless overthrow of the government (something extremely revolutionary) and was hotly constested by anti-Federalists throughout the nation. Also, the early years of the American republic were anything but secure and tranquil. The early presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison were all key to securing the revolution's legacy.

Lindsey Shuman said...

What about looking at the revolution's conclusion from different perspectives. When would Native Americans say the revolution concluded? How about slaves? Women? The list goes on and on.

Brian Tubbs said...

Answering Lindsey...

Native Americans - Good question. For them, I think the revolutionary period probably ended with the conclusion of the War of 1812. That pretty much sealed the USA as a sovereign nation with designs on the whole continent.

Slaves and African Americans in general - I think they were hopeful that the ideals of the Revolution would be better translated into actual reality. For them, the revolution (at least in terms of the ideas) lasted through the Civil War and Reconstruction (and beyond).

Women - Speaking as a man :-), my guess is that the gender gap wasn't as big as it would later become. Have you read Thomas G. West's "Vindicating the Founders"?

Lindsey Shuman said...

Interesting take Brian.

I have to say that I agree with the Native American perspective. The War of 1812 was a key mement. I have not read "Vindicating the Founders." With all I have to read for grad school I doubt I will be able to read what I want for a while. I would be interested in hearing what the author says about the gender gap. I personally believe that there was a substantial gender gap. In the book "A Midwife's Tale" I think there is some stong evidence, but I'd love to hear another perspective. I'll have to check out the book when I get a chance.

Brian Tubbs said...

Lindsey, Thomas West makes the argument that the women of the founding era weren't pushing for the same things that women of later generations campaigned for (particularly voting rights). He makes a very compelling case.

Brian Tubbs said...

If we change the term to "War for Independence," then I think it's clearer that the war ended in 1783, with the British recognizing American independence. Although the War of 1812 confirmed US sovereignty. When you say "American Revolution," it's more complicated. A more loaded term.

Kalender 2013 said...

I think they were hopeful that the ideals of the Revolution would be better translated into actual reality.