In The Radicalism of the American Revolution Gordon Wood attempts to disprove the common thought that the American Revolution was simply a war for independence from a tyrannical mother country. He explains how America formed such a unique from of government. The form that American government took was a collaboration of many different forms that emphasized the rights of individuals. Woods finds it essential to explain colonial life and the factors that dictated people’s lives to understand how radical the revolution was compared to other revolutions. In the 1700’s it was impossible for people to imagine a society operating independently of government, but through shifts in society and through parallel shifts in government that is what emerge. Up until the American Revolution society and government were interwoven.
Once Woods explains society and the shifts that were taking place in society and government, he goes on ...view middle of the document...
He had already financially secure and did not need to engage in business, therefore allowing him to not worry about private interests. Unfortunately, there were few men that fit this role and instead people remained concerned about private interests. This resulted in a shift from disinterest to self-interest being a building block for American society. Business began to play a larger role in American society as a result.
In the colonial class system, which was derived from the system in England, there were three main classes, nobility, gentry, and common folk. People believed that there was a physical and psychological difference between the people in these classes. This view of people began to shift during the American Revolution and the early years of the country. People today generally take for granted the idea that all men are created equal. Equality is overlooked today, but at the time of the revolution the idea that all men are created equal was a radical idea. The gentry and nobility generally felt that common folk were “idiots” and that they were born simply “to be born and eat and sleep and die, and be forgotten”. On the other hand the gentry and nobility, gentry being the lowest level of nobility, were the elites and the enlightened, which sought purpose.
Along with the radicalness “disinterest” and the idea that all men are created equal, Woods also poses the idea that that unlike other revolutions in history the social antagonists were different in that of the American Revolution. In other revolutions the antagonists were the rich vs. poor, workers vs. employers, democrats vs. aristocrats, or anything likewise. In America it was the patriots vs. courtiers. The patriots were those who loved their country and were independent of connections and influence. The positions they held came from talent and below. On the other hand Courtiers were in positions of rank that came artificially from the crown or the court. An American in 1776 declared “a real patriot [was] the most illustrious character in human life.” In this sense people ought to strive to be a patriot; one who loves their country and has earned their position.