Presentation on theme: "Lecture 4: Legacies, Character, Consequences, and Significance of the American Revolution Teaching American History."— Presentation transcript:
Lecture 4: Legacies, Character, Consequences, and Significance of the American Revolution Teaching American History
George Washington as Military Leader By the estimate of the historian Richard Norton Smith, Washington fought only nine battles and won only three. Not a great military strategist, but learned from his mistakes. Was almost defeated early in the war because he divided his troops at New York. Tremendous character and judgment Gives up his command in 1783. Surrenders power as “Cincinnatus.” Washington’s greatest legacy may be civilian control of the military. He took direction from Congress, even when he believed they were wrong. Frustrated by the inadequate support of Congress, he nevertheless never broke away from them.
Washington’s Resignation When he assumed power Washington had said, “I shall constantly bear in mind that as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first to be laid aside when those liberties are firmly established” Now he followed through with that promise by immediately relinquishing power. Quoted in Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 984), 226-227.
John Trumbull’s Resignation of Washington “The greatest of Trubull's four paintings, however, is General George Washington Resigning His commission to Congress as Commander in Chief of the Army at Annapolis, Maryland, December 23rd, 1783. Painted in 1824, the formal unities of the congregation reach their height. Trumbull conjures a return to the civil obeisance which marked the Declaration. The Founding Father defers to the United States, the individual submits to the deliberative, and the executive power yields before Congress. The impetus for Washington's noble decision is present in the visitor's gallery, in his wife, Martha, and grandchildren, symbols of the family and private sphere. The gallery sits atop an Ionic capitol, signifying the classical origins of republicanism and the rational order on which democracy rests. Washington's willingness to resign, to give up his power to others in order that he might return home to a domestic life, speaks of his confidence in the capacity of the young nation to continue its democratic experiment.” http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/DESOTO/g eorge.gif&imgrefurl=http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/DESOTO/trumbull.html&h=300& w=458&sz=71&hl=en&start=3&tbnid=1a- kKaE2pzl2iM:&tbnh=84&tbnw=128&prev=/images%3Fq%3DGeorge%2BWashington %2BResignation%2BTrumbull%26gbv%3D2%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den
Jean-Antonine Houdon’s Richmond Statute This is a remarkable sculpture of Washington. It is the only sculpture made posed for by Washington. It may be the representation of Washington that is most like him. "That is the man, himself," Lafayette said, "I can almost realize he is going to move.“ It is also remarkable in its depiction of his resignation, of the soldier becoming citizen. Garry Wills calls this statute Washington’s “metamorphosis to citizen” with Washington caught in “midtransformation.” Washington is still clad in his military uniform, but he hangs up his military sword (on the right) to take up a walking staff as a private citizen. The ploughshare and the Roman symbol of the fasces are to Washington’s right. We think of fascism through the lens of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. But before WWII, the fasces was the symbol of the revived Roman republic. It is, Wills observes, all over Washington in early monuments, sculptures, and paintings. In Houdon’s sculpture. The sword is draped across the fasces, “putting it,” Wills notes, “at the disposal of the republic as he returns to the plow.” “The sword is for service, and must wait upon the call.” For these quotes and Wills’ analysis see Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 984), 225- 230.
The Newburgh Conspiracy Story of the Newburgh conspiracy. After Yorktown, discontent grew among the American troops who feared that they would not receive payments that they had been promised from Congress for service in the war. Several of Washington’s generals and commanders communicated with members of Congress (Hamilton, Robert Morris, Horatio Gates, and Timothy Pickering) about the possibility of threatening or even using force to secure these payments. Several nationalistic Congressmen saw the military discontent and the threat of mutiny as a means of gaining a stronger central government with the power to raise taxes. When Washington heard of this plan, he first sent correspondence to Hamilton warning him that the Army is “a dangerous instrument to play with.” He also suggested that such a ploy might create divisions in the military and undermine efforts to empower Congress. He then assembled and addressed his officers, urging them to see that rejecting the call to mutiny was an unusual opportunity for them to display public virtue. Most famously, he shamed his troops with a bit of theater in which he tried to read a dispatch from Congress and had to put on his spectacles. He then announced, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown grey in your service and now find myself growing blind.” Thoroughly shamed, his officers used the occasion to sign an affirmation of their loyalty rather that to signal support for mutiny.
Character of the American Revolution A Conservative Revolution? Comparison with the French Revolution. Was not fought to create new liberties but rather to preserve old ones. The American Revolution is often characterized as an intellectual event, in that it was spurred and justified on the basis of ideas, not class conflict or gross inequalities in the distribution of wealth. The leaders of the American Revolution were uniquely sober men, not revolutionaries in the classic sense. They were immune to the “enthusiasms” and utopian visions of revolutionaries such as Lenin, Robespierre, or Mao Zedong. The American Revolution did not lead to chaos, a “reign of terror,” or the imposition of a dictator (a Bonaparte). The American Revolutionaries did not devour their own. They also did not redistribute property and, arguably, never abandoned the rule of law/
But was it Conservative in Its Effects? Many historians argue, however, that a profound social revolution was both cause and consequence of the American Revolution.
Consequences of the American Revolution (continued) The Revolution branded slavery as at least a suspect institution. If “all men were created equal,” then how was slavery justified? It is estimated that 100,000 blacks escaped during the American Revolution. More slaves escaped during the American Revolution than in any other time before the Civil War. Some went to Canada, others to Britain, others to live with the Indians or on Indian lands, others formed “maroon communities” in Georgia and South Carolina, and still others were shipped to Africa by the British.
Consequences of the American Revolution (continued): The First Great Emancipation The American Revolution culminated in the “First Great Emancipation.” In 1776, there were approximately 400,000 to 500, 000 slaves in the United States or between 17% to 2)% of the population. One of every five persons was a slave. Although concentrated in the South, northern states had numerous slaves. Fourteen percent of New York’s population was enslaved; New Jersey and Rhode Island had slave populations of 8 and 6 percent respectively. The North was also deeply implicated in the slave trade. “By 1804, all of the states north of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware had either ended slavery outright or had passed legislation to gradually abolish the institution. “ (Finkelman, Defending Slavery, 2) After 1804, slavery was a southern institution. “Massachusetts implicitly ended slavery in its 1780 constitution, and in the Quock Walker Cases (1781-1783), the state’s highest court affirmed this result; New Hamsphire adopted virtually identical language in its constitution o f1783, and by 1790, there were no slaves in that state. Vermont, which would become the fourteenth state, banned slavery in its constitution of 1777, and this clause remained when Vermont joined the Union in 1791. In 1780, Pennsylvania took steps to end slavery through the passage of a gradual emancipation act. Under this law, no new slaves could be brought into the state, and the children of all existing slaves would be free at birth. Connecticut and Rhode Island adopted similar legislation in 1784, the year after the Revolutionary War ended, as did New York in 1790 and New Jersey in 1804.” While no slaves were emancipated directly under these laws, the statutes put slavery on the road to extinction, and very quickly it ceased to be an important social or economic institution in these states, even though in some places a few individuals were held as slaves as late as the 1840s.” (Finkelman, Defending Slavery, 16-17)
Consequences of the American Revolution (Creation of American Identity and Nationhood) The American Revolution brought many Americans together for the first time. It began the process of creating a nation from states. Many Americans fought in the Revolution as it came through their state. Congressmen supported the war effort when it came through their state. The nationalists of the mid -1780s became the advocates for strong centralized authority in the 1780s. The Revolution thus made possible the constitutional settlement of 1787.
But other Historians Point to what the Revolution did not accomplish “Restricting women’s politicization was one of a series of conservative choices that Americans made in the postwar years as they avoided the full implications of their own Revolutionary radicalism. By these decisions Americans may well have been spared the agony of the French cycle of revolution and counterrevolution, which spilled more blood and produced a political system more regressive than had the American war. Nevertheless, the impact of these choices was to leave race equality to the mercies of a bloody civil rights movement of our own time. And the impact of these choices was also to leave in place the system by which marriage stood between women and civil society. For most of the history of the United States, deep into the twentieth century, the legal traditions of marriage would be used to deny women citizens juries drawn from a full cross-section of the community, deny them control over their own earnings, sometimes deny them custody of their children, even deny them their rights as citizens should they marry a foreign man.”   Kerber, “The Republican Mother and the Woman Citizen,” 126. 
The American Revolution and American Exceptionalism Many Americans define the significance of the United States in terms of the Revolution that created it. Our sense of national purpose, our sense of nationhood, and our belief that we are an exceptional nation (one blessed by God with exceptional liberty and that our values and form of government are superior to others) come out of the American Revolution.
Discussion of American Exceptionalism Thomas Paine – “the cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.” Paine explaining British defeat: You “cannot conquer an idea with an army.” The American Revolution was an intensely religious war at least in the sense that many Americans came to be that Providence had made them different for a reason and had great plans for them.
The American Revolution as the Beginning to the End of Colonialism Finally, the American Revolution is the first battle in what would become the most sustained source of conflict in the 19 th and 20 th centuries: battles by colonial dependencies to gain independence.
Battles for Colonial Independence (continued) “Picture the following situation. The greatest power in the world is confronted with an insurgency thousands of miles away, which it expects to put down quickly and easily. It sends a large army to deal with the insurgents, but counts on many loyal supporters to flock to its standard. Recruiting soldiers, however, is difficult, and since the great power cannot enlist enough of its own troops to deal with the situation, it has to hire thousands of mercenaries. It occupies the remote land, sends increasing numbers of soldiers, spends enormous amounts of money, and suffers more and more casualties, all of which arouses a good deal of criticism at home. The hawkish cabinet minister in charge of the war remains confident and vainly tries to micromanage the war an ocean away. But finally the great power is unable to put an end to the insurgency. It carries on for many long years until its political will is sapped, and it is forced to abandon the distant country it invaded. This could be the United States in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, or it could be what might happen with America's intervention in Iraq. But it is neither of these. Instead, it is the story of Great Britain's attempt in the 1770s and 1780s to put down the rebellion of its colonists in North America.” Gordon Wood, Review of Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775–1783 by Stanley Weintraub Free Press in The New York Review of Books, 52, April 28, 2005.
Johnny has gone for a soldier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKkRjS CnY6I.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKkRjS CnY6I
Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill Who can blame me, cryin' my fill And ev'ry tear would turn a mill, Johnny has gone for a soldier. Me, oh my, I loved him so, Broke my heart to see him go, And only time will heal my woe, Johnny has gone for a soldier. I'll sell my rod, I'll sell my reel, Likewise I'll sell my spinning wheel, And buy my love a sword of steel, Johnny has gone for a soldier. I'll dye my dress, I'll dye it red, And through the streets I'll beg for bread, For the lad that I love from me has fled, Johnny has gone for a soldier.