Economics During the Revoutionary War - History

Economics During the Revoutionary War - History

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Economics During the Revolutionary War

By Marc Schulman

The ongoing boycott of British goods had changed patterns of consumption for almost a decade before the actual start of the war. Many Americans willingly adjusted their established consumption patterns, with women across the colonies producing homespun clothes and other domestic items to fill the gaps created by the boycott. Once the war began, however, economic conditions changed rapidly. Trade was interrupted, so cheap imports and smuggled goods became scarce and, thus, expensive. Furthermore the British control of the seas made the export of continental commodities very difficult and expensive. In addition, the value of American paper currency which the Continental government printed was constantly decreasing . It was backed only by the guarantee of the Continental Congress and the States standing behind it, a guarantee that was only valid as long as the US won. Everyone in the Continental Army was paid in this paper currency, except for spies, whose services were deemed so vital that they merited special payment in gold.

As the financial demands of the revolution grew, the provisional American government sunk deeper into financial difficulties. Although the idea of a national currency, which took root shortly after the beginning of the war, had benefits in uniting the rebellious colonies, it allowed Congress to print money , and to spend it as quickly as it printed it. This led to a severe depreciation of the currency, the most dramatic depreciation in American history.
Besides printing money, Congress funded its revolution with loans. Britain's European competitors were logical parties to approach for aid, so Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane sailed to Europe. They helped secure a substantial loan from the French Farmers General in 1777, in exchange for the delivery of American tobacco. By 1781, direct foreign aid had been obtained from France, the Netherlands, and Span. Since most of these loans were spent in Europe, purchasing war supplies, they did not affect the money supply in the colonies, so that very little of the war-time currency depreciation could be directly attributed to them.

Congress also tapped into domestic funding sources. The Continental Loan Office was established to sell bonds. The bonds were supposed to pay four percent , depending upon a patriot victory. Few people purchased bonds, since they could invest their money in private loans, which garnered interest rates was 4 to 14 percent higher than the Continental bonds. Congress make adjustments to the interest rate and conditions of payment, which resulted in better bond sales, but still did not provide enough funds to make the venture worthwhile. In 1781, the Continental Loan Office was closed. Congress also turned to individuals such as Robert Morris and Haym Salomon, who helped secure loans, as well as sinking their personal finances into the revolutionary effort. Many such individuals were financially ruined by the war, since Congress was slow to repay these loans. In fact, Salomon was never repaid by the government of the United States, nor were his efforts of behalf of the patriot cause officially recognized until the twentieth century.


Trading Places: Smuggling and the American Revolution

American history has always been decided by its people, as England learned when it attempted to impose harsh trade restrictions on its new colony in the 17th century.

Despite what the behaviour of its current leadership might indicate, America has always been a country ruled by its people. This was true of the nation even before it became independent. Conventional wisdom has it that, after the conclusion of the Seven Years War in 1763, Britain had to levy harsh taxes on its American colonies to cover the cost of the conflict. The result was ‘No taxation without representation!’ and, ultimately, the American Revolution. The reality, however, is more complicated. Conflicts between Crown and colony extended back to the mid-17th century, from shortly after the first colonies were established. As the colonies grew in stature, England sought to establish control of the ocean connecting it to the New World by crippling the Atlantic trade routes of its European rivals, Spain and France. What the English did not foresee, however, was that the American colonists would be the ones rebelling against their own nation.

England passed what became known as the Navigation Acts in 1651, forbidding the American colonies from trading with anyone but England. Authorities rationalised these laws as a way of bolstering English trade and keeping the colonies at close quarters with their mother country. The result was unprecedented: colonial commerce became strangled and the American colonists were driven to illegal avenues to obtain goods. Rather than becoming known as the sovereign power of the Atlantic, England found itself severely undermined by its own citizens. Under the guise of distance, local American governors began to work with pirates to undermine the Navigation Laws.

England sought to assert itself as the maritime master and attempted to combat the colonists’ illegal trading activities. It passed more laws throughout the 17th century that forbade illegal trading. When this did not work, the English began to attack those who actively engaged in trade. Smugglers were rebranded as ‘pirates’ and under English law all captured pirates were to be transported to London for their trial (a mere formality) and eventual public execution. Those on land who worked with smugglers were considered to be pirates, too, and were punished as such.

These harsh measures only encouraged colonists to engage in illegal behaviour and nurtured ideas of autonomy. Colonial governors in the West Indies and North America actively encouraged illegal trade and even offered assistance to pirates in exchange for goods. Conflicts continued and merchants petitioned against the Navigation Acts until the 1730s. In one petition, dated from 1735, Jamaican merchants claimed that trade restrictions would lead to more colonial dissatisfaction and that ‘colonists would break this rule by trading with non-British countries’.

In an effort to further restrict the colonists’ trade rebellions, the British passed more laws in 1715 forbidding the foreign importation of sugar, rum and molasses into any British or American port. Yet the colonists found a loophole. They could simply claim that any supply of molasses was from either Jamaica or Barbados. The colonists realised they did not need to restrict their allegiances to their mother country, so they continued to openly trade with French and Dutch planters from the Leeward Islands and Suriname.

The Molasses Act was passed in 1733 as one last effort to control the American colonists. While previous trading acts mostly referred to the West Indies, the Molasses Act included restrictions to North America through increased taxes on all sugar products. In retaliation, North Americans began to trade illegally with France. As a result, the Molasses Act was considered a failure and rescinded. After 80 years of struggle between Britain and its stubborn colonists, it seemed that Britain had finally lost.

At the time of writing, President Trump has unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the federal decision to block his recent travel ban on travellers from some Muslim-majority countries. In response, the president tweeted: ‘See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!’ Were President Trump to examine the period of history discussed above, he would find that legal restrictions without the consent of his people will not hold. The British tried again to exercise strict control over their colonists after the end of the Seven Years War, with a series of acts eventually deemed the Intolerable Acts, outrage at which led to American independence.

One could argue that these measures, both past and present, represent populist feeling. A large proportion of the American population are in favour of restrictive laws. However, despite the amount of Loyalists in the colonies both before and during the American Revolution, the Patriots' narrow majority won out and their actions contributed to the repeal of trade restrictions and ultimately British rule. Although the President Trump won the 2016 election, a majority of nearly three million Americans did and do not support his policies. US citizens will not passively accept laws they deem to be unjust – American history has always been decided by its people.

Rebecca Simon recently completed her PhD in Atlantic history at King’s College London.

Cause And Effect Of The Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War is also known as the American War of Independence. There were several causes that led to this war. The prime cause was the growing demand of freedom among the Americans. They did not want Great Britain, which was an ocean away from their land, to govern their lives.

Secondly, the British government decided to make the American colonies pay a large share of the war debt from the French and Indian war. Thirdly, the British collected huge amounts of money from the Americans in the form of the Sugar Act, Stamp Act and other taxes. Levying of such inconsiderate taxes antagonized the Americans to a great deal. Fourthly, The Americans wanted to have a right in the formation of law and be a part of the parliament. This combination of the harsh taxes and the lack of an American voice in parliament gave rise to the famous phrase of &lsquotaxation without representation&rsquo. Finally, leaders such as Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and many others called for an independent America, colonies free from British rule and interference.

The American Revolution lasted for only 6 years. The war had several effects. Firstly, the Peace of Paris granted land and sovereignty. At the culmination of the war, the peace negotiations were held in Paris, France. A preliminary treaty was signed on November 30, 1782 and the final document was accepted on September 3, 1783. Canada being an exception, all requests made by the Americans were accepted. The new American territory stretched all the way west to the edge of Spanish territory, the Mississippi River. The Treaty also illustrated some other provisions such as the use of Canadian waters by American fishermen. The British were expected to leave behind all property owned in America, including the slaves. However, the issue of slavery was not covered in this document.

The second effect of the war could be seen in the form of a tremulous economy. The Revolutionary War resulted in an instable economy in America. Being a full scale war, both sides utilized enormous amounts of supplies. The demand of these supplies increased the prices by many folds. America also lost her primary trading partner, Britain, as well as the West Indies territory. With the end of the war, the requirement for war supplies ceased. As a result, the surplus supply created more inflation and high unemployment rates in urban areas. Trade with other countries in the Mediterranean also suffered due to the lack of protection by the British navy from the pirates. However, the war did create some advantages for the economy as well. Trade flourished as now American trade was not bound by the British limitations. With the Proclamation Line no longer in existence, agriculture could grow and spread into even more fertile territory. Thirdly, the position of women saw a marked change in society after the war. Property rights moved a little bit more within reach and women got the opportunity to show their potential beyond housekeeping. Fourthly, the Revolutionary War aided in the freeing of slaves in the north but not in the south where it was considered to be necessary to the economy.

The Revolutionary War began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen united former British colonies on the North American continent, and ended in a global war between several European great powers. More..


By 1750, Quakers lived across the colonies, with settlements in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, Maryland, and both North and South Carolina. In addition, Quakers heavily settled in both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey colonies, and controlled the former both culturally and politically. Though widespread, many of these communities maintained contact with each other and with Quakers in Great Britain. This sustained communication complimented Quaker attitudes towards their community and society at large- for the most part Quakerism encouraged a high degree of internal unity, as well as a cultural separation from outsiders. Nevertheless, this separation usually did not negatively affect Quaker communities, and across the colonies (and especially in Pennsylvania) members of the Society of Friends thrived. [1]

Quaker Theology promoted diplomacy and rejected any forms of physical violence. The faith accepted the authority of secular governments, but refused to support war in any form. This is commonly referred to as the Peace Testimony. Those who acted against the religion's tenants and refused to repent were usually expelled from the faith.

Many of these religious guidelines were dictated at regular meetings. Biweekly Preparative meetings acted as the regular worship times, while regional Monthly meetings dealt with disciplining those who acted against the faith's beliefs. Additionally, annual Yearly Meetings served as the highest authority on both spiritual and practical matters. Of these, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting held the most recognized authority. [2]

By the second half of the eighteenth century, many Quakers held positions of authority in the Pennsylvania Assembly. However, the onset of the French and Indian War caused most Quaker members to leave their governing positions. This experience encouraged many within the faith to forsake external success and instead focus on religious reform. Consequently, Pennsylvania Quakers became much more strict concerning their congregation's conduct, and expelled increasingly more members for such offenses. Other Quaker communities soon followed Pennsylvania's example. [3]

Though opposed to violence, Quakers nonetheless played a part in the growing tensions between Britain and the colonies. Due to their ties to the British Society of Friends and economic situation, Pennsylvania Quakers largely supported reconciliatory measures in the early years of disagreement. [4] In addition, the 1763 Paxton Riots challenged Quaker domination in the colony and increased fears of religious persecution dramatically. [5]

However, by 1765 some in the community began to criticize the increased British taxation under the newly passed Stamp Act. Quaker merchants from both sides of the Atlantic opposed the act, and many peacefully protested its economic impact and lack of colonial representation. Almost immediately after the act was passed, eighty Quaker merchants from Philadelphia signed a non-importation agreement. [6] Quaker leadership largely attempted to keep the protests nonviolent, and their moderating influence kept events Pennsylvania and New Jersey comparatively peaceful next to those in New England.

This relative peace disappeared in 1767 with the passage of the Townshend Acts. Much like before, Pennsylvania Quakers attempted to curtail protests against the acts, but by mid-1768 were unable to contain the swell of anti-British sentiments. Instead of suppressing conflicts, the Friends were losing political support to more radical factions without reservations towards violence. [7]

The American Revolutionary War created significant issues for the Quakers and their pacifism. The population of Pennsylvania could no longer be controlled or kept from conflict - for example, groups of Philadelphians began to assemble as informal militias in direct violation of the Pennsylvania Assembly. [8] With the publication of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Quaker communities all across the colonies were forced to deal with a situation that could no longer be resolved without violence.

Quaker Assemblies respond Edit

Pennsylvania's Quakers devoted considerable time to the issues of the war in their Yearly Meetings. Even as late as 1775 those at the Meetings protested the increased hostilities, and argued they had attempted to prevent them:

We have by repeated public advices and private admonitions, used our endeavours to dissuade the members of our religious society from joining with the public resolutions promoted and entered into by some of the people, which as we apprehended, so now we find have increased contention, and produced great discord and confusion. [9]

Additionally, Quakers rejected not only the conflict itself, but also refused to pay any taxes or fines that supported a militia. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of 1776 outlined this rule for its constituents:

It is our judgment [it laid down] that such who make religious profession with us, and do either openly or by connivance, pay any fine, penalty, or tax, in lieu of their personal services for carrying on war or who do consent to, and allow their children, apprentices, or servants to act therein do thereby violate our Christian testimony, and by doing so manifest that they are not in religious fellowship with us. [10]

Some Friends also refused to use the paper money, called "Continentals," which the Second Continental Congress produced during the war. They viewed the currency as supporting a violent cause and therefore against their religious beliefs. Unlike with the issue of direct taxation, however, Quaker leaders never reached a consensus regarding the Continental, and oftentimes allowed individuals to decide for themselves whether or not to use the currency. [11]

These restrictions did not stop all Quakers from participating in the war effort, and as a result high numbers of Friends were disciplined for some level of involvement. Historian Arthur J. Mekeel calculates that between 1774 and 1785 1,724 Quakers were disowned from the faith for participating in the Revolution in some way, shape or form. [12]

Alternative Quaker responses Edit

The individual Quaker's response to the American Revolution varied widely. While some supported the colonies and others were avowed loyalists, the majority of Friends followed their faith and largely stayed out of the conflict. [13]

Quakers active in the Revolution Edit

One faction that did participate in the war were the future founders of the Free Quakers. These Friends considered the Revolution to be a fight for a divinely-ordained new system of government that would change the world for the better. [14] The Free Quakers were expelled for violating the Peace Testimony, but after the Revolution founded a short-lived sect of Quakerism based on those principles.

Several notable figures in the American Revolution were also Quakers. Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet Common Sense, was born into a Quaker family, and Quaker thought arguably influenced his writings and philosophies. [15] Similarly, the American General Nathanael Greene was raised Quaker, and, as historian William C. Kashatus III states, "wrestled with a fundamental ideological dilemma: 'Was it possible to balance an allegiance to the state without deviating from the principles of the Society of Friends?'" [16] Greene likely dealt with this internal conflict throughout his life, and after the war never completely returned to the Society of Friends. [17]

Quaker relief efforts Edit

Some Quakers also participated in relief effort during the war without fighting in it. In the winter of 1775–1776 Friends from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and elsewhere donated money and goods to the inhabitants of Boston while the British occupied the city. This and other donations throughout the war were accepted with varying degrees of suspicion by both American and British forces. In addition, individuals sometimes attempted relief efforts by tending to wounded after battles or comforting prisoners of war. [18]

Impact on Quakers during the war Edit

Quakers who refused to support the war often suffered for their religious beliefs at the hands of non-Quaker Loyalists and Patriots alike. Some Friends were arrested for refusing to pay taxes or follow conscription requirements, particularly in Massachusetts near the end of the war when demand for new recruits increased. [19] However, substantially more Quakers experienced economic hardship. Throughout the war, British and American forces seized both Quaker and Non-Quaker goods for their armies, yet Non-Quaker authorities throughout the colonies seized additional property from Quakers, both for refusing to pay taxes and occasionally for opposing the war effort. [20]

Occasionally, suspicious non-Quakers also accused Friends of being British sympathizers or spies. In August 1777 American General John Sullivan supposedly discovered a letter from the (fictitious) Quaker Yearly Meeting at Spanktown, NJ (modern-day Rahway) that contained movements and information on American military forces. Sullivan subsequently wrote to John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, and accused the Quakers of being loyalists and traitors. [21] These "Spanktown Papers" Sullivan 'discovered' were clear forgeries, but nonetheless turned many against the Friends. [22] Sullivan's forgeries convinced a committee of the Continental Congress composed of John Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and William Duer to exile twenty leading Philadelphia Quakers to Staunton, Virginia for more than seven months. [23]

The American Revolutionary War officially ended with the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Quaker communities throughout the newly established United States of America immediately began to influence small factors in the formation of new governments. For example, before this time a public official usually needed to swear an oath of allegiance to the state, yet this rule was altered to allow affirmations as well, allowing Quakers to freely participate in the government. [24]

However, the Revolutionary War negatively impacted many Quakers as well. Partially thanks to the negative climate following the "Spanktown Papers" and partially because of economic factors, beginning in 1783 hundreds of Quakers left the United States and moved to Canada, with many settling in Pennfield, New Brunswick. Some of these Friends had been expelled from the faith for siding with the British during the war, and others had been genuine pacifists, but none could remain in the United States after the nation had gained independence. [25]

The Revolution's legacy impacted American Quakers in one other major way. Before the war, many Quakers possessed extensive economic and political power in several states, most notably in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, the war had alienated the pacifist Quakers from their neighbors, causing most Friends in power to begin withdrawing from active political life as early as the 1760s. The Revolution increased American Quakers' sense of isolation, consequently making postwar Quakerism less culturally diverse and more dogmatically unified. American Quakers would never regain the amount of political influence they had once possessed. [26]


"Whigs" or "Patriots"

The critics of British policy towards the colonies called themselves "Whigs" after 1768, identifying with members of the British Whig party who favored similar colonial policies. In Britain at the time, the word "patriot" had a negative connotation and was used as a negative epithet for "a factious disturber of the government", according to Samuel Johnson. [1]

"Tories" or "Royalists"

Prior to the Revolution, colonists who supported British authority called themselves Tories or royalists, identifying with the political philosophy of traditionalist conservatism dominant in Great Britain. During the Revolution, these persons became known primarily as Loyalists. Afterward, some 15% of Loyalists emigrated north to the remaining British territories in Canada. There they called themselves the United Empire Loyalists. 85% of the Loyalists decided to stay in the new United States and were granted American citizenship.

Many Patriots were active before 1775 in groups such as the Sons of Liberty, and the most prominent leaders are referred to today by Americans as the Founding Fathers. They represented a cross-section of the population of the Thirteen Colonies and came from many different backgrounds. According to Robert Calhoon, between 40 and 45 percent of the white population in the Thirteen Colonies supported the Patriots' cause, between 15 and 20 percent supported the Loyalists, and the remainder were neutral or kept a low profile. [2] The great majority of the Loyalists remained in America, while the minority went to Canada, Britain, Florida, or the West Indies. [3]

Patriot and Loyalist differences

Historians have explored the motivations that pulled men to one side or the other. [4] Yale historian Leonard Woods Labaree used the published and unpublished writings and letters of leading men on each side, searching for how personality shaped their choice. He finds eight characteristics that differentiated the two groups. Loyalists were older, better established, and more likely to resist innovation than the Patriots. Loyalists felt that the Crown was the legitimate government and resistance to it was morally wrong, while the Patriots felt that morality was on their side because the British government had violated the constitutional rights of Englishmen. Men who were alienated by physical attacks on Royal officials took the Loyalist position, while those who were offended by heavy-handed British response to actions such as the Boston Tea Party became Patriots. Merchants in the port cities with long-standing financial attachments to Britain were likely to remain loyal to the system, while few Patriots were so deeply enmeshed in the system. Some Loyalists, according to Labaree, were "procrastinators" who believed that independence was bound to come some day, but wanted to "postpone the moment", while the Patriots wanted to "seize the moment". Loyalists were cautious and afraid of anarchy or tyranny that might come from mob rule Patriots made a systematic effort to take a stand against the British government. Finally, Labaree argues that Loyalists were pessimists who lacked the Patriots' confidence that independence lay ahead. [5] [6]

Patriots and taxes

The Patriots rejected taxes imposed by legislatures in which the taxpayer was not represented. "No taxation without representation" was their slogan, referring to the lack of representation in the British Parliament. The British countered that there was "virtual representation" in the sense that all members of Parliament represented the interests of all the citizens of the British Empire. Some Patriots declared that they were loyal to the king, but they insisted that they should be free to run their own affairs. In fact, they had been running their own affairs since the period of "salutary neglect" before the French and Indian War. Some radical Patriots tarred and feathered tax collectors and customs officers, making those positions dangerous according to Benjamin Irvin, the practice was especially prevalent in Boston where many Patriots lived. [7]

Economics During the Revoutionary War - History

How the Jews Saved the American Revolution

"They (the Jews of St. Eustatius, Caribbean Antilles) cannot too soon be taken care of - they are notorious in the cause of America and France."
Admiral Sir George Rodney commander of the British Fleet, February, 1781.

The Colonial American Jewish experience 1654 - 1770 was characterized by sharp departures from historic European anti-Semitic patterns of isolation, social, economic, physical, legislative and religious discrimination. The American Colonial world was growing, changing and evolving so rapidly it did not have time to focus on historical Jewish scapegoat-ism. The demands of the frontier and the expanding new American economic power needed the best of all of its people.

Jews in Colonial America struggled and won rights that were inconceivable and nonexistent in Europe. Jews struggled for and won the rights to equal economic opportunity, to own land, to go to higher secular education, to serve in the armed militias, to vote and in some colonies to become members of the legislative bodies. In some colonies the struggle was easy, in others it was very hard.

The American experience was not an automatic entitlement to toleration and sufferance, rather the pre-revolutionary experience was one that permitted the old discriminations to be challenged and eventually to be put aside. Hatred of the Jew and imported anti-Semitism did exist but it could not flourish in the melting pot of common need and survival.

Patrick Henry, the revolutionary war governor of Virginia, rose in assembly and made his famous "Give me Liberty or Give me Death," speech. He did so with the belief in liberty for all except for Jews, Blacks and Indians.

Jews traced their earliest participation in Virginia's life from the 16 th century with Sir Walter Raleigh through Jamestown and the revolution. The first permanent synagogue community Kehilah ha Kadosh Beth Shalome , was founded in 1789 in Richmond, Va.. Beth Shalome built its first permanent building in 1820 in Richmond. The president of the congregation at the time of dedication was Jacob Mordecai, born in 1762 in Philadelphia. His mother Elizabeth (Esther) Whitlock had been a Christian convert to Judaism.

Who could do the best became more important than who was who's parentage in Colonial America. It was not until many years later that who were your parents and where did they come from became more important than what can you do to better yourself, your community and your country.

In 1753, the British Parliament, to legitimize and encourage economic development both in the colonies and in the mother country passed a Jewish Naturalization Bill. The purpose simply enough was to grant limited rights, such as land ownership, to foreign born Jews who wished to become British subjects. The bill had the opposite effect in England stirring intense violent anti-Semitic feeling and prejudices. The bill was repealed by Parliament in 1760. In Colonial America the legislation was generally ignored or circumspectly treated.

For almost a hundred years, if one colony refused to grant citizenship to a Jew the expedient thing was to go to another colony that would grant it or more simply ignore the issues of Naturalization entirely as most immigrants did. For the most part the tiny Jewish community was not affected by the machinations of the mother country's bigotry. Jews were generally free to develop economically, participate in colonial life and practice their faith.

Political equality was not a universal right but an evolving right in colonial America. Yet it left a lasting impression on Jews before the Revolution that the old world, if given the opportunity, would try to transfer it's bigotry to the new world. The repeal of the Naturalization act placed an awareness in the minds of much of colonial Jewry that America was different from Europe. It was the commonality of the challenge of America that was to shape American views and identity.

The colonies were different from each other, the North from the South, or the West. The British struggled to impose a central government on a frontier world that was rapidly developing far away from London. For the Jew, the Colonial experience was different in that there was no fully established homogenous world that they encountered. Rather they encountered a world that was being established and was not fully formed or mature. It was not until many years later, as the American frontier officially closed, (1890), that Nativism and the weak seeds of anti-Semitism would grow as Americans searched for identity.

The Jews tended to settle wherever doors were open most frequently in the urban environments but also in rural and frontier areas. Jews did not come seeking freedom of religion as much as freedom of opportunity. Traditional Judaism weakened in the face of American freedom of choice only to be reborn later with an American voice.

The American Revolution, 1776-1783, did not start out intentionally as a revolution. The Colonial American world was an evolving, growing English world that demanded fair representation from the British Parliament. The British government saw the Americas as a source of money, power and natural resources to be delivered and ruled unquestioningly by the mother country.

The British government failed to realize that the Colonials saw themselves as British Americans with the right to a voice in their affairs, to influence their laws, their economy their frontiers and their taxation. The Revolutionary war was to be the longest war in American history prior to Vietnam. It was fought over a one thousand five hundred mile front on the developed farmlands of thirteen colonies, on the sea and on the frontier.

Oct. 25. 1765, a group of Philadelphia merchants gathered in the State House to sign the non-importation agreement to fight the hated Stamp Tax of the British government. The first man to step forward to sign his name was the president of Mikve Israel Congregation, Philadelphia's only synagogue, Mathias Bush.

As the tensions between Britain and the American Colonies increased and finally erupted into war the American Colonial population was split almost into thirds one third supported the war, one third was neutral and one third was pro British. The small Jewish population of America was also divided – the choice though was very heavily and disproportionaly in favor and support of the American Revolution. Not only did the Jews pledge their fortunes and sacred honor for America but their very lives.

Compromise between Britain and its colonies could not be reached. The British blockaded Boston and sent an occupying army to take the city. The call to arms rang throughout the countryside. Volunteers rushed to defend the city at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1776. The famous order of the American commander during the battle was " do not fire until you see the whites of their (the advancing British Regular's) eyes ."

In the front ranks of the smoke and fire of battle was Aaron Solomon standing shoulder to shoulder with his Christian comrades of the Gloucester volunteers. Eight hundred miles to the South the British were stirring up the Cherokee Indians to attack and kill settlers on the South Carolina/Georgia frontiers.

Francis Salvador, a Jew of Sephardic heritage, the first Jew to be elected to a Colonial constituent assembly rode out to carry the alarm and raise the volunteers to repel the impending Indians attacks. He returned at the head of a force of frontiersmen only to be ambushed, shot down and scalped, July 1, 1776. Salvador had the dubious honor of being the first American Jew to give his life for his adopted country.

A few days later in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was written. A copy was sent to Amsterdam via the small Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius. The Declaration was intercepted by the British at sea. An accompanying letter with the Declaration of Independence was also intercepted and sent to London as being a secret code about the document that needed to be deciphered - the letter was written in Yiddish.

The war was not going well at first for the young American army. Though facing hard times and even defeat, Jews stood and fought along with their neighbors. Into the terrible dark cold winter at Valley Forge, Abraham Levy and Phillip Russell stood their watch. Joseph Simon from his frontier forge at Lancaster, Pa. supplied the Army with the famous Henry Rifles. Jewish trading merchants, peaceful before the war, outfitted their ships to become privateers and ravage the British at sea. The cost to many was great, the great merchant traders of Newport, Rhode Island saw their fortunes lost.

Men such as Aaron Lopez were bankrupted supporting the Revolution when their ships were lost to the British. In the area of finance the young American government might have foundered too except for the financial genius and personal financial risk and support taken on by Hayim Solomon. Solomon was to die bankrupted by his total support of the American cause. Though small in number the Jews chose to caste their fate with America.

But how did the Jews save the American Revolution? As late as 1781 the war had not been won by the Americans nor was it lost by the British. Arms were being funneled into the Colonies by arms merchants running the British blockade primarily from the tiny free trading Island of Dutch St. Eustatius. Jewish merchants and arms traders were a major presence on the island.

In 1781, the British realized they had to cut off the open door of arms shipments to the rebels through St. Eustatius. Admiral Sir George Rodney was sent to capture the island. His goal was to destroy the supplies and destroy the island's commercial and merchant class so they could not provide any more aide to the rebels. Early in 1781 the lightly defended island fell to the heavy presence of the main British battle fleet. Rodney in his vehemence destroyed the warehouses and the supplies. He burnt every home. He paid particular venomous attention to the Jews of St. Eustatius. The British burnt their homes and the synagogue, Honen Dalim , "She Who is Charitable to the Poor" – built 1739. Jewish property was confiscated and the men imprisoned with particular cruelty. Rodney spent months directing half his fleet to convey much of the stolen treasure back to England.

While Rodney was engaged in St. Eustatius, Lord Cornwallis and his army of British regulars were forced out of the Carolinas and retreated to the small port of Yorktown, Virginia on the James Peninsula. He needed to await critical reprovisioning and fresh reinforcements being brought by the British fleet. The weakened British fleet, with Cornwallis's reinforcements, was intercepted at sea by the French fleet under Admiral DeGrasse and soundly defeated. Degrasse took up positions at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay blockading Yorktown from the Sea.

General George Washington saw his chance. Washington trapped and besieged Cornwallis. In short course Cornwallis surrendered. The war was over. The Americans had won with the help of the French.

But how did the Jews save the American Revolution? If the Jews had not helped turn St. Eustatius into a major arms center for the Revolution and if Admiral Rodney had not spent so much time destroying St. Eustatius and particularly the Jews, the war might have ended differently. There is little doubt that Admiral Rodney's anti-Semitism helped squander his time and played a role in delaying and weakening the British fleet. Ironically it was the Jews of St. Eustatius who helped win the American Revolution.

13b. The War Experience: Soldiers, Officers, and Civilians

Before they could fight for independence, harsh winters during the Revolutionary War forced the Continental Army to fight for their very survival.

Americans remember the famous battles of the American Revolution such as Bunker Hill , Saratoga , and Yorktown, in part, because they were Patriot victories. But this apparent string of successes is misleading.

The Patriots lost more battles than they won and, like any war, the Revolution was filled with hard times, loss of life, and suffering. In fact, the Revolution had one of the highest casualty rates of any U.S. war only the Civil War was bloodier.

A battle flag carried by Revolutionary War soldiers. The banner reads "Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God."

In the early days of 1776, most Americans were naïve when assessing just how difficult the war would be. Great initial enthusiasm led many men to join local militias where they often served under officers of their own choosing. Yet, these volunteer forces were not strong enough to defeat the British Army , which was the most highly trained and best equipped in the world. Furthermore, because most men preferred serving in the militia, the Continental Congress had trouble getting volunteers for General George Washington's Continental Army . This was in part because, the Continental Army demanded longer terms and harsher discipline.

Washington correctly insisted on having a regular army as essential to any chance for victory. After a number of bad militia losses in battle, the Congress gradually developed a stricter military policy. It required each state to provide a larger quota of men, who would serve for longer terms, but who would be compensated by a signing bonus and the promise of free land after the war. This policy aimed to fill the ranks of the Continental Army, but was never fully successful. While the Congress authorized an army of 75,000, at its peak Washington's main force never had more than 18,000 men. The terms of service were such that only men with relatively few other options chose to join the Continental Army.

Part of the difficulty in raising a large and permanent fighting force was that many Americans feared the army as a threat to the liberty of the new republic. The ideals of the Revolution suggested that the militia , made up of local Patriotic volunteers, should be enough to win in a good cause against a corrupt enemy. Beyond this idealistic opposition to the army, there were also more pragmatic difficulties. If a wartime army camped near private homes, they often seized food and personal property. Exacerbating the situation was Congress inability to pay, feed, and equip the army.

When British General John Burgoyne surrendered to the Patriots at Saratoga on October 7, 1777 (illustrated above), colonists believed it would be proof enough to the French that American independence could be won. Benjamin Franklin immediately spread word to Louis XVI in hopes the king would offer support for the cause.

As a result, soldiers often resented civilians whom they saw as not sharing equally in the sacrifices of the Revolution. Several mutinies occurred toward the end of the war, with ordinary soldiers protesting their lack of pay and poor conditions. Not only were soldiers angry, but officers also felt that the country did not treat them well. Patriotic civilians and the Congress expected officers, who were mostly elite gentlemen, to be honorably self-sacrificing in their wartime service. When officers were denied a lifetime pension at the end of the war, some of them threatened to conspire against the Congress. General Washington, however, acted swiftly to halt this threat before it was put into action.

The Continental Army defeated the British, with the crucial help of French financial and military support, but the war ended with very mixed feelings about the usefulness of the army. Not only were civilians and those serving in the military mutually suspicious, but also even within the army soldiers and officers could harbor deep grudges against one another. The war against the British ended with the Patriot military victory at Yorktown in 1781. However, the meaning and consequences of the Revolution had not yet been decided.

All Other Persons

Reasons for the Revolutionary War, as typically taught in American schools:

• The American people were fiercely independent. They wanted to do things for themselves. They didn’t want the British government, which was an ocean away, telling them how to live their lives.

• A combination of harsh taxes and the lack of an American voice in the British Parliament gave rise to the famous phrase “taxation without representation.”

• Americans started stockpiling guns and ammunition in violation of British laws. Their defense of such a stockpile led to the shots fired at Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

On June 22, 1772, nearly a century before the slaves were freed in America, a British judge, with a single decision, brought about the conditions that would end slavery in England. His decision would have monumental consequences in the American colonies, leading up to the American Revolution, the Civil War, and beyond. Because of that ruling, history would forever be changed. This book is about that decision and the role of slavery in the founding of the United States.

– from Slave Nation: How Slavery United The Colonies And Sparked The American Revolution, by Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen

“You can’t handle the truth.”
– from the 1992 movie A Few Good Men

Truth hurts. And this might be one of the more hurtful truths an American can learn: a major reason for the Revolutionary War was the protection of slavery.

That’s not something they teach in the schools. But our history lessons might look different in the future, if more people read the book Slave Nation: How Slavery United The Colonies And Sparked The American Revolution, by Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen. (The book cover is to the left.)

The Blumrosens, former lawyers for the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice, have a background in equal employment law. Over the course of their careers, they developed an interest in the historical causes of America’s racial inequities. The result is this book, which applies a lawyer’s insight into what they show to be a disturbing aspect of American history.

The main point of their book is that the American colonists-particularly Southern colonists-were afraid that the British government would abolish slavery. And that this fear was a major reason for the colonists’ desire to break away from Great Britain.

Here’s the problem with the way the Revolutionary War is taught: much of the story about the War centers on the northern colonies, particularly Massachusetts, where pivotal events such as the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre took place, and where the term “no taxation without representation” originated. And there’s no doubt that Massachusetts was a flashpoint in the coming war of independence.

But there were 13 original colonies, and the southern colonies had a unique interest of their own to worry about: protecting their “right” to keep slaves.

In June of 1772, the British courts issued judgement in what is called the Somerset Case. The case involved a runaway slave, James Somerset, who was the “property” of Charles Stewart, a customs officer from Boston, Massachusetts. Stewart and Somerset came to England from America in 1769. During his time in England, Somerset was exposed to the free black community there, and was inspired to escape his master in late 1771.

Somerset’s escape was not successful he was caught, and was to be sent (for sale?) to the British colony of Jamaica. However, Somerset was defended and supported by abolitionists who went to court on his behalf, and prevented his being shipped to Jamaica. As noted in Wikipedia, “The lawyers… on behalf of Somerset… argued that while colonial laws might permit slavery, neither the common law of England nor any law made by Parliament recognized the existence of slavery, and slavery was therefore illegal.”

The Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, Lord Mansfield, said in his ruling:

..The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political but only positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory: it’s so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England and therefore the black must be discharged.

Although the Somerset decision was binding in England, it was not the law of the land in the American colonies… yet. However, the charters from Britain that created the various colonies contained so-called “repugnancy clauses” which said that the Americans could not make legislation that was contrary to British laws. And in 1766, Britain passed the Declaratory Act which gave the British parliament power over “all cases whatsoever” involving American laws.

This made Southerners concerned, for two reasons. First, they were worried that American slaves would hear about the Somerset decision, and try to escape to England where they would be declared free per the decision’s precedent. But even more, they were worried that slavery in America was endangered, as explained in the book:

The possibility of a British rejection of slavery anywhere in the empire appalled the (southern) plantation owners… because slavery was a necessary underpinning of their prosperity. Slavery was the foundation of the economic and social environment that their leaders represented and protected.

The riches that flowed from slave ownership were threefold: the value of the slaves themselves, both as capital and as security for loans the value of the product they produced, including more slaves and the value of the land they cleared and planted.

Slavery in the southern colonies made white slave owners the wealthiest group on the mainland…

The importance of slavery to the southern colonists had its roots in the pre-Revolutionary period. As a result of a rebellion by poor whites in 1676, Virginia shifted its labor force from a mix of black slaves and white indentured servants to slaves alone.

Most whites owned one or two slaves, not the much larger numbers owned by the major planters. But these few slaves were crucial to their masters in easing the daily labor necessary for an agricultural existence. For example, owning slaves enabled white children to have some schooling, or enabled ill or disabled family members to bear lighter loads.

All of these considerations combined to make southern political lawyers anxious about their property in slaves that was threatened by the Somerset decision. Taxation might have taken some of their property Somerset threatened to take it all.

The book goes on to tell how major decisions made by the Americans-such as the agreement to break from British rule, the wording of the Declaration of Independence, and the formulation of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution-were all done in a manner that protected the right of the South to maintain slavery.

For example: in early drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the language that said “All men are born equally free and independent” was changed by Thomas Jefferson to “All men were created equal” to prevent the implication that slaves should be free.

In the end, though, the Revolutionary War did not prevent the conflict over slavery from coming to a head it merely delayed it.

As the book notes, many in the North (and some Southerners, too) abhorred slavery, but compromises were made continually with the Southerners for the sake of unity. While much of the enmity toward slavery was based on religious and moral grounds, some of it was based on economics: many felt that slavery undercut the labor market for white men. Over time, anti-slavery sentiment grew to a boil.

Eventually, the Civil War would decide the issue of slavery in America. (And I am personally very happy that the North won… I’d rather be writing this blog than picking cotton.)

It will be interesting to see if the book and others like it eventually spur a change in the way that American history is taught. I looked at several reviews of the book, and one said it contains too much “circumstantial evidence.” That is: some of the intentions of the people (including, very prominently, Thomas Jefferson) who made the decisions mentioned in the book are inferred, as opposed to being proven by actual comments.

My own feeling is, the authors make a quite convincing case. This book is well researched, and even if the evidence is sometimes circumstantial, it is extensive and compelling.

But clearly: this is a very controversial proposition that the authors are making, and something this different from mainstream history will of course come under scrutiny. And that’s not a problem: I hope that the historian community does give this the consideration and investigation it deserves. And even more, if consensus is reached that agrees with the Blumrosens, I would hope that our history books are changed accordingly, no matter what kind of light it shines on our nation’s founding fathers. Just let the truth be told.

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era

In transforming the Bourbon kingdom into a constitutional state, the French Revolution aroused intense excitement east of the Rhine. Most German intellectuals were at first in sympathy with the new order in France, hoping that the defeat of royal absolutism in western Europe would lead to its decline in central Europe as well. The princes, on the other hand, were from the outset fearful of the Revolution, which they regarded as a serious danger, for the example of unpunished insubordination by the French might encourage demands for reform among the Germans. The result was a growing hostility between the government in Paris and the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, which led in the spring of 1792 to the outbreak of the War of the First Coalition (1792–97), the first phase of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. The immediate occasion of the conflict was a quarrel over the rights of German princes with holdings in France and over the propagandistic activities of French émigrés in Germany. But the underlying cause was the clash of two incompatible principles of authority divided by profound differences regarding the nature of political and social justice. The course of hostilities soon revealed that the civic ideals and military power of Revolutionary France were more than a match for the decrepit Holy Roman Empire. After 1793 France occupied the German lands on the left bank of the Rhine, and for the next 20 years their inhabitants were governed from Paris. Yet there is no evidence that they were dissatisfied with French rule or at least no evidence that they strongly opposed it. Devoid of a sense of national identity and accustomed to submission to authority, they accepted their new status with the same equanimity with which they had regarded a succession to the throne or a change in the dynasty. The Prussians, moreover, discouraged by defeats in the west and eager for Polish spoils in the east, concluded a separate peace at Basel in 1795 by which they in effect recognized the French acquisition of the Rhineland. The Austrians held out two years longer, but the brilliant successes of the young Napoleon Bonaparte forced them to accept the loss of the left bank in the Treaty of Campo Formio (October 17, 1797).

Watch the video: 1. Koalitionskrieg 1792-1797


  1. Strahan

    And where is the logic?

  2. Zaim

    This does not suit me.Are there other variants?

  3. Vole

    analogs are there?

  4. Aluin

    I'm sorry, but in my opinion, you are wrong. I'm sure. Let us try to discuss this.

  5. Taukora

    Excuse me for what I have to intervene ... similar situation. Forum invitation.

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