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This series focuses on the region from where the roots of Western Judaic and Christian civilization of today are traced: the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern region surrounding the Mediterranean  from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine,  Jordan, Iraq, (western) Iran, and Egypt to Europe and then to the Americas.

To read the entire Punishing Eve series on Zeitgeist Change, and about the novels written by Janet Wise, go to


French and Indian War
French and Indian War
The French and Indian war was so-named because most of the indigenous tribes sided with the French against the British. Why? Because the French were traders and trappers, whereas the British pushed the Native Americans off their land, and shipped in thousands of colonists to claim (the land) as theirs. (See the map of the British Colonies and the French territory posted in Both imperialists were in it for the gain of wealth—it was just a difference in approach. After the British won the Seven Years’ War by 1763 (named and known now as the French and Indian War) expelling the French from North America, “ambitious colonial leaders were no longer threatened by the French. They now had only two rivals left: the English and the Indians.”[1] At the end of the war, to appease the Indians, the British declared the land beyond the Appalachians off-limits to whites: The Proclamation of 1763. Angered by this, the wealthy colonists began dividing into two factions—those loyal to the British Crown and those who saw the British as an obstacle to their increased wealth.  Leaders of the colonists (large property owners and merchants) coveted those lands. Now with the French out of the way, the second faction began seeing the British overlords as being in the way.

From the British point of view, with the French out of the way, they could begin tightening their control over the colonies. The empire needed revenues to pay for the war and looked to the colonies for those funds. As well, the colonial trade had become more and more important to the British economy and more profitable: it had amounted to about 500,000 pounds in 1700 but by 1770 was worth 2,800,000 pounds (or $700 million in dollar equivalency today). The status–quo was: the American leadership was less in need of English rule, while the English were more in need of colonists’ wealth—thus developed the elements of conflict.[2]

The poor
The Poor Colonists in the Cities
In the meantime—as war always provides—the wealthy profited from the control of goods needed to fight the French, while the numbers of the poor increased. The small tenant farmer was forced off his land by the conflict, and while he was conscripted to fight, his unemployed wife and children were displaced, joining the starving beggars and wandering poor in the streets of the city, as one newspaper editor wrote. Gary Nash’s study of the city tax lists shows that the early 1770s divided Boston’s wealth as: five percent of Boston’s taxpayers controlled forty-nine percent of the city’s taxable assets, and Philadelphia and New York also showed the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few with the wealthiest people in the cities leaving 20,000 pounds to descendants in wills (equivalent to $5 million today.)[3]

Nash and others have described how certain lawyers, editors, and merchants of the upper classes, but excluded from the ruling circles close to England—men like Samuel Adams and James Otis, Royal Tyler, Oxenbridge Thacher—organized a caucus through links to the artisans and laborers through a network of neighborhood taverns, fire companies, and espoused a vision of politics that gave credence to the laboring class views, and through their oratory and writing, began shaping and molding laboring class opinion into a “mob rebellion” in thinking and action. Nash writes of Otis speaking against the conservative (Loyalist) rulers of the Massachusetts colony, “I am forced to get my living by the labour of my hand; and the sweat of my brow, as most of you are and obliged to go thro’ good report and evil report, for bitter bread, earned under the frowns of some who have no natural or divine right to be above me, and entirely owe their grandeur and honor to grinding the faces of the poor…”[4]

Burning of the Stamp Act
Burning of the Stamp Act
The mechanism for collecting tax from the colonists to pay for the French and Indian War (which already added to England’s wealth by expanding their territory, and had added great suffering to the colonists) was the Stamp Act of 1765. A mob attacked and destroyed the home of Thomas Hutchinson, who was a symbol of the rich elite who ruled the colonies in the name of England. They smashed up his mansion with axes, emptied out his wine cellar, and looted his house of its furniture and other objects. His home was one of several targeted. Someone wrote to the New York Gazette, “Is it equitable that 99, rather 999, should suffer for the Extravagance or Grandeur of one, especially when it is considered that men frequently owe their Wealth to the impoverishment of their Neighbors?” This mob fury against the rich went further than anti-British leaders like Otis wanted. They worried that such aggression could be turned on themselves. So the challenge and the strategy became how to keep the focus of this class-anger on the pro-British, yet deflected from the nationalist elite.[5]

While the laborers, and small tradesmen and artisans were revolting in the cities, there was a similar conflict between the poor and the rich in the countryside—one which nationalist politicians would use to mobilize against England, granting some benefits for the rebellious poor, and many more for themselves in the process. The tenant uprisings in the cities, and the rebellion in rural northeastern New York that led to the carving of Vermont out of New York State were all more than sporadic rioting. They were long-lasting social movements, highly organized, involving the creation of counter-governments. They were aimed at rich landlords—but often with the landlords located far away. Some, such as the Green Mountain Rebels in Vermont and the land-hungry farmers in the Hudson Valley turned to the British for support against local wealthy and corrupt officials. Similar rebellions were breaking out in the south—in all of them it was the poor against the rich.[6]

When riots against the Stamp Act swept Boston in 1767, the commander of the British forces in North America, General Thomas Gage wrote, “The Boston Mob, raised first by the Instigation of Many of the Principal Inhabitants, Allured by Plunder, rose shortly after of their own Accord, attacked, robbed, and destroyed several Houses, and amongst others, that of the Lieutenant Governor… People then began to be terrified at the Spirit they had raised, to perceive that popular Fury was not to be guided, and each individual feared he might be the next Victim to their Rapacity. The same Fears spread thro’ the other Provinces, and there has been as much Pains taken since, to prevent Insurrections, of the People, as before to excite them.” In other words, Gage’s comment tells us that leaders of the movement against the Stamp Act had instigated crowd action, but then became frightened by the thought that it might be directed against their wealth too.[7]

Thomas Paine, Common Sense
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
The rich set up armed patrols, and the same people who had instigated the riots now denounced them. James Otis now proclaiming, “no possible circumstances, though ever so oppressive, could be supposed sufficient to justify private tumults and disorders…” But the “Sons of Liberty” (the anti-British elite which was made up entirely of middle and upper classes of colonial society) continued their own insurrection against the British while working and worrying about how to direct the anger of the poor against England,  and thus join their revolutionary cause. The talents of Patrick Henry fit this role well: It was written about him, “he was firmly attached to the gentry, but spoke in the words the poorest whites could understand.” Tom Paine’s Common Sense appeared in early 1776 and also rose to the occasion. He wrote such statements as, “I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliations to show a single advantage that the continent can reap by being connected to Great Britain. I repeat the challenge; not a single advantage is derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and our imported goods must be paid by them where we will… But the injuries and disadvantages which we sustain by that connection are without number… any submission to, or dependence on, Great Britain, tends directly to involve this Continent in European wars and quarrels, and set us at variance with nations who would otherwise seek our friendship…”[8] And so it was that the wealthy elite induced the poor—many of whom saw no benefit for themselves—into a war of independence.

Howard Zinn writes: Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred plus years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal entity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership. When we look at the American Revolution this way, it was a work of genius, and the Founding Fathers deserve the awed tribute they have received over the centuries. They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of (elite) leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command.[9] In other words, they formed a nation under legal Constitutional rules that allowed the rich to rule over the poor (legally) that would have made King John proud! (To be explained…)

They wooed the poor and recalcitrant with the eloquence of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, and officially proclaimed July 4, 1776. It began with, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands…” (and then in the second paragraph states) “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”[10]

It went on to list grievances against the King. All the language of popular control over governments, the right of rebellion and revolution, indignation at political tyranny, economic burdens, and military attacks, was language well suited to unite large numbers of colonists, and persuade even those who had grievances against one another to turn against England. Some people were clearly omitted from this circle of united interest drawn by the Declaration of Independence: Indians, black slaves, and women. Indeed one paragraph of the Declaration charged the King with inciting slave rebellions and Indian attacks.[11] And guess what? When it came time to be conscripted to fight, it was the poor who would bear the load. The wealthy could avoid the draft by paying for someone to serve in their place. The wealthy who would serve as officers and generals, would receive pay more than ten times that of a private—the privates often not getting paid at all. In the same year the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, Adam Smith issued his capitalist manifesto, The Wealth of Nations: “… a rising class of important people was needed to enlist on their side enough Americans to defeat England without disturbing too much, the relations of wealth and power that had developed over 150 years of colonial history.”[12]

Zinn writes something that will make all modern-day gun-lovers happy: “The American victory over the British army was made possible by the existence of an already-armed people. Just about every white male had a gun, and could shoot.[13] (Note: But before gun-lovers giddily buy into the idea that owning guns—even automatic military-style weapons with extended magazines—prepares them for their own insurrection, they need to be mindful that those weapons would be like going after today's U.S. military or homeland police state with pitchforks against tax-payer funded weapon arsenals of drones, armored tanks, microwave weaponry, and other high-tech armaments owned by the government and ready to put down any insurrection!)

But, back to the poor of 1776: armed or not, they had to be wooed and forced to fight in a war of independence that was contrived by the nationalist elite for their own personal gain. John Shy, in A People Numerous and Armed, estimates that a fifth of the population was actively treasonous.[14] Alexander Hamilton, an aide of George Washington and an up-and-coming member of the new elite, wrote from his headquarters, “… our countrymen have all the folly of the ass and all the passiveness of the sheep… They are determined not to be free… If we are to be saved, France and Spain must save us.”

History tells, it was a long and bloody war. And through it all, the conflicts between the rich and poor among the Americans kept reappearing. In the midst of the war, in Philadelphia, which was described as “a time of immense profits for some colonists and terrible hardships for others,” the inflation rate rose in one month that year by forty-five percent. And indeed, it was the French who saved the American Revolution by the French Navy blocking British supplies and reinforcements, and the French Army aiding the Americans in battle.

For all the talk and inspiring words about “all men are created equal” one only has to look at the Revolution’s effect on class relations, and at what happened to the land confiscated from the fleeing British Loyalists to see the reality of truth. It was distributed in such a way as to give a double opportunity to the Revolutionary leaders (those nationalist elite): to enrich themselves and their friends, and to parcel out some land to small farmers to create a broad base of support for the new government. This became the characteristic of the new nation: finding itself possessed of enormous wealth, it could create the richest ruling class in history, and still have enough for a middle class to act as a buffer between the rich and the dispossessed.[15] But the design was, and still is, for the nation to be a class-based society, with the real wealth going into the pockets of the wealthy, and with the political power in their hands in order to maintain the structure. It was a new form of capitalistic patriarchy that simply transformed the feudal monarchy model of Europe into a corporatocracy—a new design but with a ruling wealthy aristocracy nonetheless.

George Washington Receiving French Generals
George Washington Receiving French Generals
The huge land-holdings of the Loyalists had been one of the great incentives to Revolution. Lord Fairfax in Virginia had more than five million acres encompassing twenty-one counties. Lord Baltimore’s income from his Maryland holdings exceeded 30,000 pounds a year. After the Revolution, Lord Fairfax was protected; he was a friend of George Washington (one of the richest men in America at the time). But other Loyalist holders of great estates, especially those who were absentees, had their land confiscated. In New York, the number of free-holding small farmers increased after the Revolution, and there were fewer tenant farmers—those rabble who had created so much trouble in the pre-Revolution years. But Edmund Morgan sums up the class nature of the Revolution: “The fact that the lower ranks were involved in the contest should not obscure the fact that the contest itself was generally a struggle for office and power between members of an upper class: the new against the established.” Looking at the situation after the Revolution, Richard Morris comments: “Everywhere one finds inequality.” He finds “the people” of “We the people of the United States” (a phrase coined by the very rich Governor Morris) did not mean Indians, or blacks, or women, or white servants. In fact, there were more indentured servants than ever, and the Revolution did nothing to end and little to ameliorate white bondage.[16]  For in order for a class-based society to create wealth for the aristocracy, that national structure must have a base of slave labor, or slave-wage labor.

But back to the Indians: With their French allies, and then their English allies, gone, the Indians faced a new land-coveting nation—alone. As Francis Jennings writes, “… after all, it was the Indian land that everyone was fighting over.” He explains that the Revolution was a “multiplicity of variously oppressed and exploited peoples who preyed on each other.” With the eastern (nationalist) elite controlling the lands on the seaboard, the poor (who had fought the war), seeking land, were forced to go West, there becoming a useful bulwark for the rich. Because, as Jennings says, “The first target of the Indian’s hatchet was the frontiersman’s skull.”[17]

The situation and condition for blacks as a result of the American Revolution was more complex. Thousands of blacks had fought with the British. Five thousand were with the Revolutionaries, most of them from the North. Amid the urgency and chaos of the war, thousands took their freedom—leaving on British ships at the end of the war to settle in England, Nova Scotia, the West Indies, or Africa. But many others stayed in America as free blacks, or those evading their masters—all without rights. The inferior position of blacks, the exclusion of Indians from a new society; the establishment of supremacy for the rich and powerful in the new nation—all of this was already settled in the colonies by the time of the Revolution. With the English out of the way, it could now be put on paper, solidified, regularized, and made legitimate, by the Constitution of the United States, drafted at a convention of Revolutionary leaders in Philadelphia. To many Americans over the years, the Constitution drawn up in 1787 has seemed a work of genius put together by wise, humane men who created a legal framework for democracy and equality. Another view was put forward early in the twentieth century by the historian Charles Beard (arousing anger and indignation, including a denunciatory editorial in the New York Times). He wrote in his book, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution:

“Inasmuch as the primary object of a government, beyond the mere repression of physical violence, is the making of the rules which determine the property relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are thus to be determined must perforce obtain from the government such rules as are consonant with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of their economic processes, or they must themselves control the organs of government.”

In short, Beard said, the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly, or control the laws by which government operates.[18]

And so came the development and adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America—a document that expressly excluded Indians, counted black as three-quarters human (but for population/representation purposes only while not giving them rights of franchise under that Constitution) and under which—as they had been for centuries under European feudal common law—women were completely invisible. They were not human; they were property, not citizens.

[1] Howard Zinn, A People’ History of the United States, (Harper Collins, New York, 1999),  referencing Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas, (Random House, New York, 1958); Richard Maxwell Brown, Violence and the American Revolution; Essays on the American Revolution, ed. Stephen G. Kurtz and James H. Hutson, (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1973); Edward Countryman, Out of the Bounds of Law: Northern Land Rioters in the Eighteenth Century; The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism, ed. Alfred F. Young, (Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalb, 1976); Jack P. Greene, An Uneasy Connection: An Analysis of the Preconditions of the American Revolution; Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain (Knopf, New York, 1972)

[2] Ibid. p 60

[3] Gary Nash, Class and Society in Early America, (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1970)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Zinn, Ibid., pp 62-63

[6] Ibid. pp 63-64

[7] Ibid., p 65

[8] Ibid., p 69

[9] Ibid., p 59


[11] Zinn, Ibid., p 71-72

[12] Ibid., p 74

[13] Ibid., p 78

[14][14] John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence, (Oxford University Press, New York, 1976)

[15] Zinn, Ibid., p 84

[16] Ibid., p 84, referencing Edmund Morgan, Conflict and Consensus in Revolution, Essays on the American Revolution, ed.  Stephen G. Kurtz and James H. Hutson, (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1973; Richard Morris, We the People of the United States, Presidential Address, American Historical Association, 1976.

[17] Francis Jennings, The Indian Revolutions, The American Revolution: Exploration in the History of American Radicalism, ed. Alfred F. Young, (Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalb, 1976)

[18] Zinn, Ibid., pp 88-90, referencing Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, (Macmillan, New York, 1035)

Originally posted to Janet Wise on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 05:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Sexism and Patriarchy.

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