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The Radicalism of the American Revolution

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History of the United States I AMH 1010 CRN 10800, December 1, 2014
Wood, Gordon. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, Inc., New York, 1991
Gordon Wood describes the American Revolution as a journey from paternal colonialism to an egalitarian democracy. His contention is that the American Revolution does not seem to have the same kinds of causes that Revolutions usually display. There were no big social wrongs, no class conflict, no severe poverty, or gross inequitable distribution of wealth. Wood claims our revolution was not about independence as most history books claim but about the radical transformation of the American society.
In this section the author describes the structure of colonial America in the 1750s and 1760s. In colonial society, authority and liberty flowed from the structure of personal relationships. Society was held together by networks of personal loyalties, obligations and dependencies. In this hierarchical society, the elite or aristocrats ruled. The aristocrats (also called gentlemen) used their wealth and their hereditary advantages to keep the common people as dependents. The aristocrats lived a life of leisure which meant that they were not expected to labor. Their income was supposed to come from their landed estates. They used these landed estates to control the issuance of government offices and created laws that would keep their estates in the family. Most estates were passed on to the first born male, wives did not inherit the estate upon death of the husband but had lifetime use of it unless they remarried. Women were considered to be legally like children. People who were dependent could not be free and were excluded from participation in public life which was handled by the Patriarch (Father).
Republicanism challenged the practices of monarchy-“its

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