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Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution Paperback – July 25, 2011
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About the Author
Michael E. Newton earned multiple degrees and graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University. He currently writes about the financial markets and is also the author of The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society's Descent into Tyranny.
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The Angry Mobs: For the most part, these "mobs" remain the nameless, faceless masses of colonials they are in almost every history book. There is some mention of names, especially with mob action that was associated with a specific person, e.g., Shay's Rebellion. However, even with a discussion on the motivation of the mobs, I came away with the feeling that one mob was much like another. Yet, I have to wonder if they weren't as different from each other, not just in their ideologies but also in their approach, as the Occupy Wall Streeters are from the Tea Party.
The Founding Fathers: On this side of the equation I got more than I hoped for. Unlike many historians, Mr. Newton has a background in economics and was able to add a layer of detail that is lacking in accounts of the Revolution and the years that followed. If you've ever wondered how the United States went from a country struggling with war debt and under constant threat of war between the states to one of the most prosperous nations on Earth within a few decades, Newton lays it all out for you in details that even the non-economist can appreciate. Hint: He spends a fair amount of time on Alexander Hamilton's role.
I'm giving this one four stars mostly because I felt it could have been two books: one that did the title justice and focused more on the mobs, and a second that focused on the economics of the Revolution and the nation-building years.
Newton lays out a claim that the mobs in the New England colonies first instigated through demonstration, then armed rebellion the conflicts between the American Colonies and her mother country, Great Britain, with primary and secondary sources, quoting members of the founding fathers as well as respected authors. He claims that even though the American colonies were some of the most privileged and well off of any citizens in the world, they would not be happy until they were able to make all of their own financial decisions. Newton also claims that after the mobs began armed confrontations with British soldiers, IE., Lexington and Concord, that British tyranny pushed the conflict passed the point of arbitration through heavy handed acts of burning selected American cities. The mob made up a bulk of the forces fighting with and against Washington, coming and going as they willed, without any real or permanent commitment to the cause of freedom. This lack of commitment, as much as finances hindered Washington as he attempted to follow through with his military strategy of outlasting the British. His real concern was not so much winning battles but not being destroyed by them.The founding fathers learned to understand that if they wanted to keep what they had earned here in America they needed to organize and harness the passions and powers of the mob. Being positioned directly between Britain and the mob, they chose to gamble on the power of organized chaos, a chaos whose power might turn at a moments notice and destroy them all.
Throughout his book, Newton argues that it was the passions and power of the mob that drove the founding fathers to their tasks and understood that if they failed in their duties then the mob would destroy them and only General George Washington truly understood how to control the mob. Financial conditions and considerations drove both the mob and the founding fathers to actions against the British crown both politically and militarily. It was the desire of the founding fathers to establish a system of government that understood and respected the liberties of people while balancing powers between a centralized government and the states. The founding fathers feared the power of the mob and moreover feared a government controlled entirely by the people, this he calls total democracy which the founding fathers deemed would bring about a tyranny of a different kind, more dangerous than what they had previously experienced at the hands of the crown. Through the experiences of the founding fathers with the British crown and the Articles of Confederation they understood the dangers of unchecked power and feared a lack of balance between the people, states and central government. This is the power of the mob. The mob is dangerous, passionate and largely unskilled in matters of governance, military and should be appreciated and feared as well as taken advantage of if possible.
Newton's use of primary and secondary sources adds weight to his argument and he skillfully builds a case that is very hard to refute or even argue against. Michael E. Newton is an author and historian who writes about politics, economics and the market. His other works include The Path to Tyranny.