The Story of Congress, 1789-1935

The Story of Congress, 1789-1935

The Story of Congress, 1789-1935

The Story of Congress, 1789-1935

Excerpt

The American Revolution was primarily the struggle of a Colonial power against the Mercantile System which strangled its industry and commerce in the interest of the mother country. Both the system and the struggle against it were incidents in the early development of bourgeois capitalism.

Since the American Colonists belonged almost exclusively to the upper and lower bourgeoisie, accustomed to a considerable degree of self-government in the Colonial assemblies, whereas in England the upper bourgeoisie had allied itself with the aristocracy and crown in temporary control of Parliament, the American movement took on a republican and democratic character. But the kind of a republic desired and the amount of democracy to be permitted in it depended upon who should control the movement.

From the outset it was naturally those classes most injured by the British navigation acts who took the lead--the merchants of New England and the tobacco-planters of Virginia. The legal profession, which found its richest clients in these groups, supplied the appropriate ideologies for their interests. But lower down in the social scale, the tradesmen and artisans also suffered severely from the restrictions on Colonial industry and the resulting business depression, while the small farmers were hard hit by the imposition of the new British taxes and were alienated from the imperial government by its foolish threat to prohibit the sale of western lands. Hence the demagoguery of a Samuel Adams and a Patrick Henry had an easy task in arousing Boston mechanics and back-country Virginia farmers to revolutionary measures. Once the support of the landless and small land-holding groups had been gained, the leaders soon became alarmed at their extreme equalitarian tendencies and took effective steps to prevent their . . .

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