Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Another Recap of the "American Revolution Reborn" Conference

Posts summarizing the recent McNeil Center's "American Revolution Reborn" conference continue to roll in.  Over at New York History Blog, Peter Feinman, the president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, is in the midst of a five-part series based on the conference. Here is a taste of Part Two:

An issue raised by the conference was the challenge of deciding when the American Revolution era begins and ends. In the concluding session, Thomas Slaughter, University of Rochester, raised a topic not addressed in the conference but related to his book to be published shortly: causation. John Adams’ observation on the 1760s as the beginning (with the Constitution as the end) seems limited. One may divide this issue into four components:

1. Religious – the role of the Great Awakening as a catalyst for the American Revolution only appeared indirectly in passing through some references to Whitefield; similarly the role of Second Great Awakening only appeared indirectly in passing through the growth of the evangelicals and the coalitions of Protestants in the 1820s (when Adams and Jefferson providentially died on the 50th anniversary of July 4 because what other explanation could
there be?).

2. Imperial – Daniel Richter, University of Pennsylvania, after the third session, observed that the period from the French and Indian War to the War of 1812 should be viewed as a continuous one. This is certainly true in New York where some of the same sites were involved in the fighting of all three wars.

3. Slavery – Slavery was the unfinished business of the American Revolution. Fritz observed that slavery went from being a necessary evil in 1776/1787 to being a positive good in the 1820s/1830s for southern whites and the Democratic Party.  Aaron Fogelman, Northern Illinois University, said slavery had never been more secure than it was in 1775 and became a political problem afterwards. In the concluding session, Alan Taylor, soon to be University of Virginia, noted that the Revolution generated powerful new contradictions.  In the Q&A with Aaron Sullivan, the American Revolution was deemed unfilled until Lincoln.

Stay tuned to New York History blog for the rest of Feinman's posts.