The American Revolution had a critical impact on class or, at least, on the perception of class in American society. Unlike later revolutions such as those in France and Haiti the American Revolution did not see a dramatic change in the composition of the ruling class. With the exception of some wealthy loyalists, forced to flee after Britain's defeat, the merchants and landholders who held sway in the colonies composed much of the ruling elite in the new United States. They were now, however, less likely to command the kind of automatic loyalty, or deference, they once had.
Participation in the Revolution led many ordinary farmers and artisans to believe that they had a voice in their own governance. They were no longer willing to except, without question, the rule of their social betters. Of course, this social transformation had been going on during colonial times, but the Revolution accelerated the pace.
By eliminating British imperial restrictions on trade and westward expansion, the Revolution also opened up economic opportunities for poor and middling whites. Along with those opportunities came a more fluid class order. Ty M.
Reese See also: Artisans; Laborers, Rural; Laborers, Urban; Landlords; Land and Real Estate; Merchants; Property and Property Rights; Document: Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation (c. 1744). Bibliography Nash, Gary.
Race, Class and Politics: Essays on American Colonial and Revolutionary Societies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Nash, Gary.
Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early America. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974. Nash, Gary.
The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness and the Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979. Pestana, Carla Gardina, and Sharon V.
Salinger, eds. Inequality in Early America. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1999.
Schultz, Ronald. The Republic of Labor: Philadelphia Artisans and the Politics of Class, 17201830. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
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