Let the Readers Decide

Compare two descriptions of the same historical event… the American Revolution.  The first is an introduction by the esteemed Colonial era scholar, Gordon Wood.   The second passage is the analysis of “radical historian”  Howard Zinn.  Two very different ideas by men who cannot possibly be writing in the same discipline.

“The Revolution did not just eliminate monarchy and create republics; it actually reconstituted what Americans meant by public or state power and brought about an entirely new kind of popular politics and a new kind of democratic officeholder. . . . Most important, it made the interests and prosperity of ordinary people — their pursuit of happiness — the goal of society and government. The Revolution did not merely create a political and legal environment conducive to economic expansion; it also released powerful popular entrepreneurial and commercial energies that few realized existed and transformed the economic landscape of the country. In short, the Revolution was the most radical and most far-reaching event in American history.”

“Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from the favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.”

Liberty, equality, pursuit of happiness… be damned.  The founding of the United States was simply  for exploitation and profit.  Now, Mr. Zinn can prove all of this with documentation, right?  Ummmmmm…..

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Let the Readers Decide

  1. Where many Americans find themselves on the political spectrum seems to be linked – at least in part – on their view of the Founding Fathers. My question is that, while creating a powerful republic based on a dynamic constitution, history tells us that men like Jefferson and Washington and many Southern Founders were slave owners and racially prejudiced. Doesn’t creating a constitution that only allowed landed white men the vote lend at least some credence to ‘dissenting’ views like Zinn’s? Was the original vision for the “pursuit of happiness” just for the elite few?

    • We must guard against measurin18th century men by our 21st century sensibilities. Zinn’s analysis is deliberately provocative and thus, necessarily naive in its conclusions. The Founders and the Framers weren’t perfect, but they also were not conspiratorial either.

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