7

RACE AND THE PROCESS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONS

Christopher McAuley

In a footnote to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber made an interesting observation on the "racial" dimension of the English Revolution, a dimension which may serve as an unexpected point of departure for our present concerns on race and revolution in the Americas. Weber noted:

One who shared the philosophy of history of the Levellers would be in the fortunate position of being able to attribute this in turn to racial differences. They believed themselves to be defenders of the Anglo-Saxon birthright, against the descendants of William the Conqueror and the Normans. It is astonishing enough that it has not yet occurred to anyone to maintain that the plebian Roundheads were roundheaded in the anthropometric sense! 1

The rank and file of Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army were able consequently to bolster their conviction and morale in unifying race and class during the revolution in the idea of the "Norman Yoke." The New Model Army was Parliament's armed force in its dispute with Charles I over "unparliamentary taxation" and over which political body would decide British commercial policy, among other issues. Having "forgotten how to fight," 2 Independent Members of Parliament persuaded Parliament to employ "commoners" (yeoman farmers, artisans, small merchants) as armed surrogates while royalists sought the aid of Scottish Presbyterians.

The Norman Yoke theory which surfaced forcefully during the revolution was a reinterpretation of English history (a requirement of all race and class based theories) whose vision of the past held that "Before 1066 the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of this country lived as free and equal citizens, governing themselves through representative institutions. The Norman Conquest deprived them of this liberty, and established the tyranny of an alien king and landlords." Little did it matter, Christopher Hill continues, that "Anglo-Saxon society was already divided into classes before William the Bastard set foot in England;" 3 what the New Model Army found and employed in the English Revolution was an historical reconstruction which

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