Wow, these 7 pages are so densely packed with information, I'm having an even more challenged time than usual figuring out what to include in this post.
This is the longest chapter yet. It goes from page 77 - 101. And it is clear why. Because this is one of the biggest moments - which spanned 5 years, from July 1776 - October 1781 - we are taught about in our education as Americans. This was the seed of our independent nation, in which we were supposed to have freed ourselves from the tyrannic, oppressive rule of the British and created a free land in which every man deserved justice and equality and the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Yet things were much more complicated and there were many more people affected by and who were coerced into participating in the revolution for whom it did not bring those freedoms, but quite the opposite.
Zinn quotes Carl Degler from "Out of Our Past": “No new class came to power through the door of the American revolution. The men who engineered the revolt were largely members of the colonial ruling class.” George Washington was the richest man in America. John Hancock was a prosperous Boston merchant. Benjamin Franklin was a wealthy printer. And so on.”
“On the other hand, town mechanics, laborers, and seamen, as well as small farmers, were swept into “the people” by the rhetoric of the Revolution, by the camaraderie of military service, by the distribution of some land. Thus was created a substantial body of support, a national consensus, something that, even with the exclusion of ignored and oppressed people, could be called “America.””
Who were these oppressed and ignored people that Zinn is referring to? They were the majority of the people, surprise, surprise: The Native Americans, the black slaves, the free blacks, the poor whites, white indentured servants, white tenants, whites who did not own (enough) property.
There is too much here. I will not even try to cover it all. I implore of you that you read at least these pages if you haven't gotten to any others.
And I will leave you with this information about, and words from, a man named Benjamin Banneker who lived during this time. He experienced America as a self-educated (in mathematics and astronomy) black man. Apparently, after he accurately predicted a solar eclipse, he was appointed to plan the new city of Washington. He wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson:
I suppose it is a truth too well attested to you, to need a proof here, that we are a race of beings, who have long labored under the abuse and censure of of the world; that we have long been looked upon with an eye of contempt; and that we have long been considered rather as brutish than human, and scarcely capable of mental endowments... I apprehend you will embrace every opportunity to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions, which so generally prevails with respect to us, and that your sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are, that one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same facilities...
"Banneker asked Jefferson "to wean yourselves from those narrow prejudices which you have imbibed." ...Jefferson tried his best, as an enlightend, thoughtful individual might. But the structure of American society, the power of the cotton plantation, the slave trade, the politics of unity between northern and southern elites, and the long culture of race prejudice in the colonies, as well as his own weaknesses -- that combination of practical need and ideological fixation-- kept Jefferson a slaveowner throughout his life."
It takes a lot to let your values take priority over your economic and social status, eh?
And, then, in the years after the American Revolution, the Constitution came about. It was drawn up in 1787 in Philadelphia. Zinn talks about a historian, Charles Beard who presented a new view of the Constitution. He researched it from the angle of economics and looked into the economic interests of each of the men who drew up the constitution and explored in what ways the Constitution was designed to specifically protect their interests. "He researched the 55 men who gathered in Philadelphia to draw up the Constitution. He found that a majority of them were lawyers by profession, that most of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves, manufacturing, or shipping, that half of them had money loaned out at inters and that forty of the fifty-five held government bonds, according to the records of the Treasury Department."
...more on that in today's reading, which I will post about tomorrow.
I'd like to leave with the modern story of the working class, whose work does us all a great service, and how they are currently being affected by the powers of the wealthy and by the decisions that we "the people" make on a daily basis; from what to buy to what information/whose stories we give our attention. The port truck drivers of the USA.