Friday, December 14, 2007
The Market Revolution in Jacksonan America
I realize that this posting may seem like it doesn't belong on a blog of the American Revolution but hear me out. The Market Revolution (or Capitalist Revolution) is one of the newest and most groundbreaking historical events in recent years. The idea was proposed by Charles Sellers, a professor of American history and author of the landmark book "The Market Revolution." In this book, Sellers explains how American society in the early parts of the 19th century evolved from a localized neighborhood economy to a thriving capitalist society. This change completely revolutionized American society at virtually every level. Cultural and religious ideals were changed, along with the concept of labor. Instead of seeing labor as a necessary evil (which most of our Founding Fathers believed), labor was seen as a blessing from god. Many common people found themselves able to climb the social ladder by working hard and making lots of money (which was very uncommon in the 18th century).
So why do I bring this up? Because the American Revolution was the catalyst that allowed these changes to take place. Instead of seeing the American Revolution as a war between "patriot and loyalist" or "the oppressed rebels and the evil empire," we should strive to understand it as a social revolution. Historian Gordon Wood suggests that the American Revolution was the most successful revolution in world history because it changed political, governmental, social, cultural and religious norms. The colonists were not fighting an "evil" nemesis, but instead were fighting for changes to their social structure (even though many of them never realized it).
We must stop the ridiculous notion that the American Revolution was a war against "evil" oppression. Yes, the British oppressed the colonists to a certain degree, but let us remember that the American colonies were the most prosperous place on earth for the common man. There was more freedom and equality to practice religion, embark on business ventures, or protest in those small colonies than anywhere else on the planet.
The Market Revolution became one of the major changes that these colonists created upon winning their independence. The Market Revolution established the ideology of the American Dream, and helped propel the United States to the front of world affairs.