APUSH Discussion Groups: Was the American Revolution a Conservative Movement? (Yes)

This will be the first of APUSH discussion group prep on Outlet. In APUSH, we have discussion groups where we would debate on historical topics based on information we were given or had to research. These articles will be the prep work that I did for certain topics that my class had to debate on and the position that was given to me and my partner. So your particular discussion group topic might not pop up or your position would be on the opposite side of the debate. Let’s get into it:

Position: Yes; supported by Carl N. Degler, from Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America, rev. ed. (Harper & Row 1970)

Synthesis and Thesis:

After being under British rule for over a century, American colonists and their British rulers reach a critical point in their relationship. Mutual distrust, already strained by disagreeable actions taken by the British Parliament and the distasteful responses of the colonists, set off several violent encounters between British forces and American revolutionaries before the war. This would lead to the beginning of a war that pitted the American colonists against their masters in Britain. Yet, contrary to its name, the Revolutionary War was anything but revolutionary. The American Revolution was a conservative movement because the political and social structure of newly formed nation remained largely the same as before and in fact, preserved some elements of the British government while the common people more or less kept their pre-war status. The conservatism in what should otherwise have been a revolutionary movement was once again asserted after the Civil War when, in a time of potential radical change to the nation, the results fell flat of what was expected. The radical Republicans after the Civil War wanted equal rights for all races and punishment for Confederate leaders and yet, didn’t achieve long-lasting change in either area, thus only affecting the political and social landscape minimally. The main difference in this case, however, is that while the radical Republicans of the Reconstruction failed in their mission, the Founding Fathers achieved theirs.



  • Main reason for War: to regain traditional British rights and preserve their motives in colonising (RI, Mass.) (conservative)
    • Violated by:
      • Intolerable Acts- (punishment for BTP)
      • Sugar Acts-(searches and seizures)
      • Fewer rights than British counterparts
        • Declaratory Act
  • Leaders were of the ruling class
    • All either rich or had high political offices
      • Examples: Washington richest, Ben Frank well-established and popular, Hancock a wealthy merchant
    • had the most benefits and retained/improved status, didn’t suffer any inconvenience after War, merely shifted alliance
      • Stat: 95% of signers of the Declaration held office before and after, 40% high education (rare)
  • No social or political upheaval after War, returning to life before the war
    • Slavery, an institution acknowledged by the Constit.
      • 3/5th Compromise (Art. 1 Sect. 2), Slave Trade Clause (Art. 1 Sect. 9), Fugitive-Slave Clause (Art. 4 Sect. 2)
      • Preserved slave-holding traditions in face of Declaration
    • Similar gov’t structure with Great Brit.
      • Rejected Articles in favor of centralized Constitution
      • Bicameral legislature with similar memberships
      • Voting restricted: white males over a certain age with significant land holdings
      • Took ideas from the Magna Carta (trial by jury) and English Bill of Rights (quartering and 2nd Adm)

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