In Chapter 4 of A People's History of the United States, how were the Founding Fathers similar to leaders under English rule?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 4, Howard Zinn is comparing the Founding Fathers to the leaders under British rule because (he says) they were both from the elite class and they both had the same sorts of attitudes towards the lower classes.  He says that the Patriot elite were similar to the elites who ruled under the British.  In fact, many of the Patriot elites were government officials.  The only real difference between them was that the Patriot elite wanted more control over their own affairs while other elites were content to remain under British rule.

Zinn tells us that 69% of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had held office under the British.  He wants to emphasize that these Patriot leaders were part of the elite class.  As he says

In Newport, Rhode Island, for instance, the Sons of Liberty, according to a contemporary writer, "contained some Gentlemen of the First Figure in 'Town for Opulence, Sense and Politeness."

He also emphasizes that they had very conservative attitudes towards the lower classes.  When the protests broke out against British rule, the Patriot leaders were very concerned because they did not want massive participation and protest by the lower classes.  They were afraid that anger would be turned against them.  He says

John Adams expressed the same fears: "These tarrings and featherings, this breaking open Houses by rude and insolent Rabbles, in Resentment for private Wrongs or in pursuing of private Prejudices and Passions, must be discountenanced.

In pointing this out, Zinn is saying that the Patriot elites did not have much sympathy for the common people, calling them things like “rude and insolent rabbles.” 

Zinn ends the chapter by saying that a draft was called after the reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston.  The poor, he said, had to serve but the rich were exempt.  This is typical, he says, of the elitist attitudes of the Patriot leaders and those attitudes made them very similar to the people who led under British rule.

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