Near the end of one of my classes in American History today, a group of my students were clearly not getting the idea of Revolution.
I was having a hard time explaining that American colonists in 1773 weren’t really sure if they liked British governance or not. A lot of the colonists didn’t, a lot of them did, and a lot were just unsure. But British treatment of Boston — calling out the Army and Navy to punish Boston for the losses of a private corporation — deeply rattled and unsettled New Yorkers and Georgians alike, and nearly everyone in between.
So, I went with my gut instinct. I asked them, “OK… what would cause you to decide that the existing government, in Washington DC, was no longer the legitimate government of America? Discuss this question… I want an answer from your tables in two minutes.” And I started the countdown timer.
In two minutes, the four tables of kids had come up with the following reasons:
- Frivolous laws with harsh penalties that make everyone into criminals.
- Atrocity — conscious murder of large numbers of citizens
- Conspiracy with foreign governments to run the country the way the foreigners want.
- Conspiracy with domestic persons or organizations to run the country for private benefit.
- Failure to respond to invasion — foreign army inside the borders of the country, no response from government.
- Unresponsiveness to crisis — major catastrophe, no real effort to relieve people’s concerns or injuries, or to reduce harm.
- Responds only to faction — the government only answers to one small part of the country’s needs.
- Re-introduction of slavery = “required work for no wages”
- Deliberate discrimination: conscious, obvious official persecution and violence against a large subset of the population.