February 16, 2014

Philadelphia 1787: The second American Revolution

I just got done reading a great book, "The Freedoms We Lost: Consent and Resistance in Revoluutionary America."

And, yes, you saw that fourth word right. A great work of properly revisionist history here. (It's recommended and blurbed by Eric Foner, among others.)

And, I have now, with it's help, properly added 2 + 2 to see that, beyond (and before, as far as preliminaries) Shays' Rebellion (and other similar movements at that time, ignored in our common history books), the Constitutional Convention was a conservative revolution designed to moderate, or even to some degree undo, the "vigor" of 1765-75.

Author Barbara Clark Smith doesn't extend her writing to Philadelphia, or even to Yorktown 1781. Instead, she notes that by 1780, the American Revolution was entering a second phase, in which individualism, particularly in business types and other "betters," was being more celebrated, and ubiquitous committees of correspondence, observation and other things were regarded as meddlesome busybodies.

Lost, she points out, was a communitarianism that was more emphasized before that. This was a communitarianism that was, indeed, somewhat "leveling" on fiscal issues. And, this was a point of division within the Continental Congress and indeed, between the likes of Sam Adams and cousin John.

Before that, even, Smith points back to the 1760s, and notes that the "no taxation without representation" idea in part rang hollow.

Britain, falling far short of universal white manhood suffrage, let alone anything beyond that, and with its pocket boroughs and rotten boroughs, was far from "representing" many of its own people, except in the same way the majority in Commons, backing the Tory line, extended "virtual representation" to the colonies.

That said, the colonies weren't a lot better.

Colonial legislatures were not based on universal manhood suffrage, either, let alone anything beyond this.

Especially in the South, colonial legislators had the equivalent of pocket boroughs.

Beyond that, unequal representation continued until the 1960s and Supreme Court ruling.

So, yes, we did loose some communitarianism. We did lose some financial "leveling," even. And, out of the debt of the Revolution rose the hypercapitalism that's been a bane of America ever since.

No comments: