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I found Gordon S. Wood’s essays on the Revolutionary War to be very interesting. Wood deciphers many of the different social classes and their motivations behind the revolution, while also pointing out many of the complex contradictory aspects to the revolutionists’ claims. One point he makes, that I found particularly interesting, was that “society was becoming more unequal, but its inequalities were not the source of instability and anxiety” (111). Wood goes on to argue that the idea that hard work and labor paid off, and that people were chosen based on their skills and not on the family they were born in to was such a novel idea. In this way, society was becoming more and more unequal because one’s ability to be heard was based on public endorsement (and skill), rather than maintaining status quo by following in one’s family’s footsteps. While the notion of popular participation in politics was first used by colonists already in power as leverage against their opponents (royal authority), “once aroused, [popular participation] could not be easily put down” (112).
It was interesting to read Wood and the chapter from Inhuman Bondage together because both mainly focused on distinct groups, allowing many of the revolutionists’ ideals to be seen as contradictory to their actions. As Willie mentions in his post, in some ways, this seems like a case of the rich wanting to get richer by making themselves the “natural aristocracy” while the lower classes remained stagnant. While, as Willie also remarks, Wood deciphers many of the more complex issues to this, reading Inhuman Bonding shows the huge discrepancy between the revolutionists’ fight for independence and fight to preserve slavery — the epitome of dependence which they so slandered. This chapter shows how the colonists were fighting against being dependent on the British, while using their dependents to help them in the war. Emma, in her post, points out the irony here, mentioning that “America is supposed to represent freedom and a new life, yet it doesn’t” because of the enslavement.
While I’ve only heard an aggrandized and heroic version of the origins of the Revolutionary War, Wood sheds light on the many layers of reason and motivation behind it in society at this time. I liked that he explains how the Revolution was as much social as it was political, showing the different social classes and their arguments for independence or loyalty.
It is interesting to note many contemporary parallels to things Wood mentions. For example, Revolutionists believed that courtiers relied on favors and preferments for their position and rank. Favors and preferments still happen today in politics all the time, when a politician supports another politician’s move in order to secure a returned favor in the future. Additionally, to see how children born into lower class today do not have the same opportunities for education as someone born into a more privileged family is interesting to note in light of all the revolutionary leaders stoof for. While revolutionary leaders “did not expect poor, humble men […] to gain high political office. Rather, they expected that the sons of such humble men […] would thereby rise into ranks of gentlemen and become eligible for high political office”, it is provocative to see how there is a stagnancy for those still born into lower class due to the lack of privileges they have access to. While social standing is not hereditary, opportunities still (for the most part) are. Maybe we haven’t come as far as we hoped to.