The Conservative Revolution
It seems to be the case that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution, or at least more conservative than revolutions in places such as France and Russia. There was no social class upheaval, no “terror” like the one in France, and no dramatic redistribution of wealth and land. In fact, the Revolution was a rather expected and natural event of human history. Part of this has to do with the enlightened age. Enlightened people were thinking of themselves as individuals who could use reason to solve problems. They also saw themselves as people with inalienable rights of life, liberty and property. In fact, by 1760, a good amount of colonials already had a liberal mindset that resulted in a revolution that was going to happen anyway. The revolution was more of a result of a new way of thinking, rather than a radical movement in and of itself.
Carl Degler brings up a point about the change in social class in his essay. He concludes that no new social class came to power after the American Revolution. The men who led the rebellion were mostly members of the ruling class. They were wealthy, esteemed individuals, many of whom held legislative posts. Out of the men who signed the declaration of independence “69 percent of them held office under the colonial regimes”.1 After the revolution, this leadership did not change, “Eighty-nine percent of those who filled an office before the Revolution also occupied an office under one of the new state governments.”2 This is very different from the radical revolutions in France and Russia where there was a dramatic shift in social class. Instead, there was great continuity in the social and political realm of America after the revolution, a truly conservative outcome.
While the war brought bloodshed and violence to America, there was nothing like the radical “terror” in France to be seen. Loyalists were simply shipped back to England; they were not executed by a...
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