Historians often argue that the American revolution was politically radical but was more socially and economically conservative. Which of the following groups do you think saw the most change from the mid-1760s to the late 1780s? What type of change was it? Which group saw the least change? 1. Elite merchants2. Elite planters3. Artisans4. Yeoman farmers

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In answering this question, we need to look at some of the social causes of the War of Independence. The North American continent was wide open (if one can ignore the civilizations of indigenous people), and the English settlers had felt a new empowerment from the victory in the French and Indian War. However, the British declared that the territory between the Appalachians and the Mississippi river was reserved for the Native Americans. The decision was partly due to Pontiac's War, the 1763 uprising that occurred in the aftermath of the French and Indian conflict. But the British forts along the Alleghenies couldn't prevent the inevitable flow of white settlers to the West. The "American Dream" at this time was to have one's own claim, one's own homestead to farm (in contrast to Europe, where rural laborers did not own the land they farmed). The British effort to restrict the settlers was a major cause of the Revolution. After independence was granted, there was an even greater westward flow and expansion of settlements, increasing the number and power of yeoman farmers.

Elite merchants were also, in many cases, restricted by British rule and were in favor of independence. The monopoly on trade by the East India Company triggered resistance in New England and, of course, the Boston Tea Party. To say the incident in December 1773 of tea being thrown off a ship singlehandedly brought on the war is an exaggeration, but not much of one. The British overreaction—closing the port of Boston and essentially enacting military rule—sent shockwaves through the Colonies. It was a mercantile dispute at the heart of this conflict.

At this point, small artisans and elite planters were less affected by the changes of the period. Eventually industrialization would marginalize the artisans. The planters underwent an expansion after this period, with the mass processing of cotton beginning in the 1790s. From 1760 to 1790, yeoman farmers and elite merchants benefited most from (and, to an extent, participated the most in causing) the political changes in North America that resulted in the creation of the United States.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial