- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (April 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 156584730X
- ISBN-13: 978-1565847309
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord Hardcover – April 1, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Historian Raphael contends that the United States' war for independence did not begin in April 1775 with the "shot heard round the world." Rather it began the previous summer in rural towns like Worcester as patriots forced royal appointees to publicly resign their offices. These actions brought to a standstill the courts and public bodies established under the Massachusetts Government Act. The thousands of farmers and artisans then reclaimed the Charter of 1691 to democratically reopen the courts, establish new governmental bodies and organize a network of militias. Raphael thus brings into clear focus events and identities of ordinary people who should share the historic limelight with the Founding Fathers. This successful rebellion has until now remained obscure, the author says, because "[t]he telling of history cries out for individual protagonists" while this revolution was decentralized and nonhierarchical, creating not leaders but a participatory democracy that, in Raphael's view, "far outreached the intentions of the so-called `Founding Fathers.'" Moreover, unlike Lexington and Concord, this revolution involved no dramatic shedding of blood. Whether or not "the transfer of political authority to the American patriots" in 1774 was the "real revolution" making the clash in April 1775 a British counter-revolution to regain lost territory Raphael (A People's History of the American Revolution) makes a compelling case that these early events were critical to the success of the war that followed and should no longer escape our notice. His liberal use of primary sources (excerpts from town records, newspapers, letters, etc.), authoritative secondary sources and his meticulous care in footnoting will prove extremely useful for further study.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
A cracking good read....Ray Raphael writes about the American Revolution as if he had been in the thick of it. His no-nonsense approach and style clarify the hig issues and reveal their personal dimensions. This is truly history of the people for the people.
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The sadest part of the story in the last few pages is how those farmers who opposed the British overlords lost their farms to their new, revolutionary, financial overlords.
Author's following works expand on the real roots of the American fight for indepence and add important new detail to the national story.
"At Lexington, professional British soldiers fired at a handful of local farmers. This act of violence, allegedly perpetrated by the enemy, gave the Americans the moral high ground and helped mobilize support. The story had been repeated so often that it has effectively muffled the revolution of the preceding year. Leaderless, ubiquitous, and bloodless, the first transfer of political authority from the British to Americans has not been able to compete. It was not lacking as a revolution, it has only lacked an audience to comprehend and appreciate it."
Hopefully this book will help to provide the audience this neglected episode of American History deserves.
Mr. Raphael has done us a wonderful service in putting forth his research into the rebellion that took place in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1774. The "first American Revolution." He builds an impressive case not only for what took place, but also for the possible reasons why this rebellion has not received the recognition it is due. He even refers to what followed at Lexington and Concord as a "counterrevolution" on the part of the British government in an attempt to regain the colony they had already lost.
Examining what lead up to the British establishment of the Massachusetts Government Act, the response of the local farmers to it, how it spread throughout the rural communities of Massachusetts, and the resulting confrontation that came just under a year later at Lexington and Concord, the author gives factual backing to the belief that people can indeed work together without requiring "leaders" or some hierarchical structure to ensure success.
In general, people like to have individuals to hold on to when studying the past. For some this perhaps relieves them from feeling the need to take personal responsibility for their own lives. I have often heard folks say the reason they do not attend local governmental meetings - such as city council, or county commissioner meetings, is that they "elected" these officials to do the work so they wouldn't have to. It is also a bit easier to blame such individuals when things go wrong. Some of us also convince ourselves (or get the message from those who are more comfortable if we remain docile and obedient servants) that we do not have the stuff to make a difference like someone famous could or can.
This is not the story of specific individuals, even though you will learn of people you most likely have never heard of before, neither is it about a faceless mob. These were individuals who saw beyond personal celebrity status and came together with the full intention of their rebellion being based in "the body of the people." Something folks from the whole spectrum of political thought seem to suggest is sorely needed in Washington, DC today. (I happen to agree.)
Or as Mr. Raphael puts it....
" The telling of history cries out for individual protagonists. If an isolated hero or leader doesn't emerge naturally, we try to invent one. In this case, however, none could even be conjured. There was no one person, not even a small group, who could have made the Revolution of 1774 any more or less than it was. This revolution was conducted by and for the participants, giving it both power and legitimacy."
" Without entrenched leaders, there could be no chain of command. The people of each locality, although communicating with each other through their committees of correspondence, received no orders from a central authority. They did develop some shared motifs - - most notably, forcing officials to recant while passing through the ranks, hats in hand - - but the local groups operated without any coordinating body to plot a strategy or plan the various confrontations."
" The Massachusetts Revolution of 1774 was not only decentralized but thoroughly ubiquitous. Both temporally and geographically, it lacked concrete definition. It simply erupted, everywhere and whenever. It has been as confusing, perhaps, to students of history as it was to Governor Gage, who had no idea how to respond. "
It was indeed quite confounding to folks such as Lord Dartmouth who.......
"...........found it difficult to believe that Governor Gage had lost out to ' a tumultuous Rabble, without any Appearance of general Concert, or without any Head to advise, or Leader to conduct.' Dartmouth failed to comprehend the power of the people to act in their behalf, and even today, the revelation that ordinary people, ' without any Head to advise,' toppled the British-controlled government in Massachusetts engenders blank, incredulous states."
Anyone who believes you MUST have clearly identified leaders and a hierarchical structure in order to accomplish something will be challenged by the history told in this book. Those who sometimes feel there is little chance of changing those things which they believe to be wrong with their government will perhaps find hope within these pages. At the very least, the reader will be made much more aware of a chapter of American History that up until now has received far less recognition then it deserves.
One final note.......
For anyone that might be wondering about the author's understanding of how women, Africans (slave or free), and indigenous peoples were involved and effected by the American Revolution, I highly recommend Mr. Raphael's previous book : A People's History of The American Revolution - 2001 - also by The New Press. The two, read together, serve as an excellent introduction or review of the War of Independence.