PART III. DEVELOPMENT OF A WEAK AND INEFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT:

THE TRIUMPH OF THE WHITE MIDDLE CLASS IN AMERICAN POLITICS

This book takes a very unorthodox approach; it takes the position that the leading founding father of American government was not Thomas Jefferson but Andrew Jackson. The triumph of the white middle class under the guise of Jacksonian democracy basically overturned the complicated balances of power worked out by Jefferson and others.

Part II covered the creation of a common racist culture smothered in such sweet but misleading terms, as liberty, justice, and equality. Although the thirteen colonies became relatively united culturally, they never united politically in any effective sense. The slave economy of the South and the growing capitalist economy of the North ensured a basic divergence of interests under any shared system of government. The chapters in this part illustrate the political divisions within the colonies and the states and tell the story of the creation of a weak and ineffective government.

Chapter 13 stresses how very surprising it was that the thirteen colonies were able to unite at all to carry off a revolution. The fact that the war had to be waged as a guerrilla war testifies to the ineffectiveness of the fragile political unity of the colonies.

Chapter 14 discusses the federal period and stresses the powerlessness of the new government. In fact, throughout the formation process of the new government, one cannot help but notice the signs of an inevitable Civil War.

In chapter 15 and all subsequent chapters dealing with American history, we employ the political model of the American system described in chapter 5. The reader will recognize the common pattern in the section headings. One should also note how easy it is to place the events of American history within this political model. No other theory matches the historical data so well. Chapter 15 illustrates Jefferson's resistance to the coming political victory of the white middle class. The Virginian undoubtedly foresaw the ultimate destruction of Jeffersonian democracy by middle-class Jacksonian democracy.

And chapter 16 deals with the triumph of Jacksonian democracy. This so-called revolution actually established middle-class dominated democracy in the nation.

CHAPTER 13. THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

This chapter emphasizes the continuing importance of regional divisions within the thirteen colonies. The American Revolution illustrates just how disunited the colonies were politically. Indeed, the United States was lucky to win the war, and this was largely the result of the British having to cover such a huge area and having extremely long supply lines. The point is not to give a detailed history, which is available elsewhere. The purpose is to illustrate the larger social forces that shaped American history. In the case of the American Revolution, these forces expressed themselves in regional divisions so strong that they greatly delayed the call to independence. The story of the revolution illustrates how reluctant the colonial leaders were to declare independence. This timidity is indicative of the weak government the nation's leaders would eventually form.

In the popular view of American history the thirteen colonies became one by their desire to gain their freedom from Great Britain. The emphasis is always on unity and cooperation. But a more impressive factor was how difficult it was for colonials to achieve this unity. This is particularly interesting considering that the American Revolution was not really a revolution, as was the French Revolution, but a colonial rebellion. The people of France acted to overthrow their own government, not a foreign occupying power. While revolutions tend to be relatively rare, colonial rebellions are common and likely. In fact, it would be hard to think of a colonized country that has not pursued its own independence. The leaders of colonized nations obviously see great national advantages in seeking independence. America's colonial rebellion actually was slow to develop, and the reason for this was the existence of racially (and landlord) created regional differences.

Arthur Schlesinger (1968:227) has described the considerable disunity among the colonies. Each colony pursued its own ends, despite being plagued by such problems as boundary disputes, discriminatory customs duties, lack of a uniform currency, and the need for cooperation to fight the French and Indians. Schlesinger concluded that in these early days collective secession from Great Britain appeared absolutely improbable.

The most reluctant region was the Mid-Atlantic. Wealthy landowners there worried that talk of rebellion might encourage their tenants to revolt against the manorial system. Indeed, there were constant rumblings of revolt and actual tenant rebellions against this unfair system of land distribution.

The existence of slavery and the possibility of slave revolts obviously made the South cautious when approaching the subject of rebellion. But the control of the political system was so tightly in the hands of the wealthy plantation owners, and so supported by other whites, that southern leaders were more likely than others to see the advantages of independence (see Morgan 1975).

New England provided the main thrust for the revolution. The primary reason for this was that the region had no internal political divisions to frighten its leadership. It is not surprising that the revolution actually started in Massachusetts among independent farmers, the Minutemen, who had prepared themselves for a possible fight.

The regional divisions within the thirteen colonies were so great that they prevented even a declaration of independence from Great Britain until some fourteen months after the outbreak of actual war. The battles of Lexington and Concord occurred in April 1775, but it was not until July 1776 that independence was actually declared. The founding fathers were still not calling for an open break with England; they clung to the hope that the mother country would negotiate a better relationship with the colonies. Mid-Atlantic leaders such as New Yorker John Jay worked tirelessly to combat the call for independence.

Great Britain wanted to punish the New England colonies for initiating the war; however, resistance in that region was so great that the British had to abandon Boston on St. Patrick's Day 1776. The British regrouped and sailed for more friendly territory; New York City and its many Loyalists. In New York the British scored one military success after another, pushing Washington out of Brooklyn, up through Manhattan, through Westchester County, across the Hudson River, and finally across the entire state of New Jersey. Washington's only respite occurred when his troops reached the Delaware River, where they gathered all the available boats on the Pennsylvania side of the river. When the British arrived, they had no boats with which to cross.

The lack of support in New York and New Jersey greatly discouraged George Washington. If this had been New England, independent farmers would have turned out like a swarm of bees. But the lesser commitment to the cause of rebellion of tenants who did not own their own land and the lower population density provided little revolutionary fervor and fewer soldiers. Washington had to resort to guerrilla warfare in the hope of exhausting the British. Thank goodness for the Watchung Mountains in New Jersey. Washington hid his troops behind these mountains, often wintering them in and around Morristown, New Jersey.

With the Battle of Short Hills, the British tried to coax Washington from his hiding place to fight on the open fields. Failing in this, they decided to take a sea route to Pennsylvania. They landed at Head of Elk in Maryland and marched overland to Philadelphia. Thrusting the Americans aside at the Battle of Brandywine, the enemy paraded into Philadelphia unopposed.

While the British held Philadelphia, they did not control the ground between that city and New York. Not learning from their Boston experience, the British foolishly sent General Burgoyne down the Hudson River to cut off the New England colonies from the Mid- Atlantic ones. The swarming New Englanders brought disaster to Burgoyne's plans at the battles of Bennington and Saratoga. Eventually, the British abandoned Philadelphia to regroup in New York City.

The British then decided to try their luck in the South, where they believed they would find pockets of strong Loyalist support. One such pocket was the Highland Scots in the Carolinas. But the traditional enemies of the Highland Scots, the Scots-Irish, strongly supported the rebel cause. These people were largely Lowland and Presbyterian Scots who had settled in what became Northern Ireland, but who were pushed out of Europe because of discrimination against Presbyterians.

The British took the ports of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. When their troops moved inland, the British also won several battles, but they were unable to hold any of the captured territory. In 1780 and 1781 the Americans won several major battles (King's Mountain and Cowpens in South Carolina and Guilford Court House in North Carolina). The victory at King's Mountain prevented a British invasion of North Carolina. The American success was primarily due to a band of about nine hundred mountain yeomen, largely of Scots-Irish descent, who marched against Major Patrick Ferguson and on October 7 killed or captured his entire force, while suffering fewer than a hundred casualties themselves. This immigrant group turned the tide of the war in the South and broke the Tory influence in the Carolinas for all time. British General Charles Cornwallis retreated to Virginia where in August 1781, at the Battle of Yorktown, the Americans captured him and his 7,500 man army, thereby bringing the fighting to a close.

 

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