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  • Hi, I’m John Green.

  • This is Crash Course World History

  • and today you AREN’T going to get a blow by

  • blow chronology of the American Revolution,

  • and you AREN’T going to get cool biographical details about

  • Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.

  • But you are going to get me not wearing any pants.

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green!

  • Did you know that

  • George Washington might have had slave teeth implanted into his jaw?

  • Yeah, I did Me from the Past,

  • and while it’s fun to focus on metaphorically resonant details,

  • what were concerned with here is why the American Revolution happened

  • and the extent to which it was actually revolutionary.

  • Plus, for the first time in Crash Course history,

  • I have a legitimate chance of getting through an entire episode

  • without butchering a single pronunciation. [Wouldn't bet your Sword of Destiny on that]

  • Unfortunately,

  • next week we will be in France and

  • je parle francais comme une idiot.

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  • So, intellectual historians might put the roots

  • of the American revolution earlier,

  • but I’m going to start with the end of the 7 Years War in 1763,

  • which as you will recall from last week was

  • 1. Expensive,

  • and 2. A victory for the British,

  • including British subjects living in America, who now had more land and therefore more money.

  • Right, so,

  • in 1765 the British government was like,

  • Hey, since we went into this debt to get you all this new land,

  • we trust that you won’t mind if we pass the Stamp Act,

  • in which we place a fancy stamp on your documents, newspapers, playing cards, etc.,

  • and in return, you give us money.”

  • Well,

  • it turns out the colonists weren’t so keen on this,

  • not so much because the tax was high

  • because they had no direct representation

  • in the parliament that had levied the tax. [Some things never change, eh, D.C?]

  • And plus,

  • they were cranky about the Crown keeping large numbers of British troops in the colonies

  • even after the end of the 7 Years War.

  • And then the British government was like,

  • You are inadequately grateful,”

  • and the colonists were like,

  • Shut up we hate you,” [That old chestnut]

  • and the British government was like,

  • As long as you live under our roof, [This old chestnut]

  • you live by our rules,”

  • and so on,

  • but eventually the British backed down and repealed the Stamp Act.

  • The repeal inspired a line of commemorative teapots,

  • thereby beginning America’s storied tradition

  • of worthless collectible ceramics. [atleast Beanie Babies double as cornhole

  • bags]

  • But, in the end,

  • this only emboldened the colonists when the British tried to put new taxes on the Americans

  • in the form of the Townshend acts.

  • These led to further protests and boycotts and most importantly,

  • more organization among the colonists.

  • The protests escalated: 1770 saw the Boston Massacre,

  • which with its sum total of five dead was perhaps

  • the least massacrey massacre of all time,

  • and in 1773,

  • a bunch of colonists dumped about a million dollars worth of tea into Boston Harbor,

  • in protest of British government decisions that

  • actually would have made British tea cheaper.

  • Oh it’s time for the open letter?

  • [oh no! he's coming in hot!]

  • Ah…..oh,

  • that did not go well. [admittedly not your best work, John.]

  • An Open Letter to Tea.

  • But first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today.

  • Oh,

  • it’s a gigantic teabag. [not touching that]

  • Hm. Let’s see what flavor it is...

  • Bitter tyranny variety! [SleepyTime sure ain't gonna keep the fires

  • of rage a'burning]

  • Dear Tea,

  • Like all Americans who love justice and freedom,

  • I hate you.

  • [You're harshing my Mint Magic mellow, Bro]

  • But I understand youre quite popular in the UK

  • where the East India Company would periodically go to war for you.

  • But,

  • what fascinates me about you, tea,

  • I mean, aside from the fact that people choose to drink you when

  • there are great American refreshments available,

  • like Mountain Dew, [Hey, like on Mad Men!]

  • is that even though youre stereotypically English,

  • youre not English.

  • It’s Chinese,

  • or Burmese,

  • or Indian.

  • No one really knows,

  • but it’s definitely not English.

  • You didn’t even have tea until, like, the 1660s.

  • Posers.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • So,

  • The Boston Tea Party led to further British crackdowns

  • and then mobilization of colonial militias

  • and then Paul Revere

  • and then actual war, but you can hear all about

  • that stuff on, like,

  • TV miniseries.

  • I want to focus on one of the ways that colonists protested unfair taxation.

  • Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. [Because Canadians are so unruly & disagreeable?]

  • As previously noted,

  • the English Crown benefited tremendously from the import of consumer goods to the American

  • colonies,

  • and one of the most effective ways American colonists could protest taxation without representation

  • was by boycotting British products.

  • In order to enforce these boycotts,

  • the protesters created Committees of Correspondence, which spread information about who was and

  • was not observing the boycotts.

  • And these committees also could coerce non-compliers into compliancewhich is to say that they

  • were creating and enforcing policy,

  • kind of like a government does.

  • The Maryland Committee of Correspondence, in fact,

  • was instrumental in setting up the first Continental Congress, which convened to coordinate a response

  • to the fighting that started in 1775.

  • This was back when congresses did things, by the way.

  • It was awesome.

  • Anyway,

  • the Continental Congress is most famous for drafting and approving

  • the Declaration of Independence.

  • No, Thought Bubble.

  • That’s the Will Smith vehicle Independence Day.

  • I mean the Declaration of Independence.

  • Right,

  • that one.

  • It’s not your fault,

  • you guys are Canadian. [+ magnificently talented, ruly, agreeable]

  • Youve never declared independence.

  • Worth noting, by the way,

  • that the congress edited out more than a quarter of Jefferson’s original declaration,

  • and

  • he forever after insisted they’d “mangledit.

  • Anyway,

  • I would argue the heavy lifting of the American Revolution

  • was already done by the Declaration.

  • In truth,

  • by the time the shooting started,

  • most of the colonists were already self-governing and had developed a sense of themselves as

  • something separate and different from Great Britain

  • as evidenced by these "Committees of Correspondence,"

  • which functioned as shadow governments

  • eventually reaching out to foreign governments,

  • establishing an espionage network,

  • tarring and feathering loyalists and royal officials which,

  • by the way is incredibly painful and dangerous to the victim,

  • and even recruiting physicians to tell American men that drinking British tea

  • would make them weak and effeminate. [If only they had Dr. Pepper 10]

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble.

  • Now, despite all this,

  • about 20% of colonists remained loyal to Great Britain throughout the war,

  • especially in the major cities that Britain occupied.

  • Also lots slaves continued to support the British,

  • especially after Britain promised that any slaves who fought with them would be freed.

  • And it’s worth noting

  • that while we generally celebrate the Revolution

  • and see it as a step toward justice and equality,

  • the people who most needed the protection of a government might have been better off

  • and more free,

  • if Britain had won.

  • [whoops]

  • Especially since Britain ended slavery well before America did,

  • and, you know,

  • without a civil war.

  • Also, even though most Americans had come to see themselves as separate from Britain

  • before 1776,

  • the British certainly didn’t see it that way.

  • They continued to fight either until 1781 or 1783,

  • depending on whether you calculate by when they actually gave up

  • or when the peace treaty was signed.

  • So you can’t really say the American Revolution was won before the fighting even started.

  • But the truth is, the American Revolution and the war for independence

  • weren’t like this.

  • They were like this.

  • So,

  • here’s what was pretty revolutionary about the American Revolution:

  • The colonists threw off the rule of an imperial monarchy and replaced it with a government

  • that didn’t have a king,

  • a radical idea in a world that didn’t feature many non-monarchical forms of government.

  • And,

  • if you look at the explanations for the revolution,

  • especially those contained in,

  • like, the Declaration of Independence and in pamphlets,

  • like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense,

  • there’s definitely a revolutionary zeal that’s informed by the Enlightenment.

  • And that’s especially true if you focus on the idea of liberty,

  • as many of the pamphleteers did.

  • That said,

  • if you look at the actual outcome of the revolution,

  • aside from the whole no king thing,

  • it wasn’t that revolutionary.

  • Let’s look, for instance, at two ideas central to the revolution:

  • property rights and equality.

  • So the Articles of Confederation gave the government no power to tax,

  • which had the effect of making sure that people who had property were able to keep it

  • because they never had to pay the government anything in exchange for

  • the right to own and use it.

  • And that’s very different from taxation systems dating all the way back to,

  • like, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

  • And it’s probably not a coincidence that most of the writers and signers of the Declaration

  • of Independence were men of property,

  • and they wanted to keep it that way.

  • So, basically,

  • the white guys who controlled the land and its production before the American Revolution

  • were the same white guys who controlled it after the American Revolution.

  • And this leads us to the second, and more important way that as a revolution,

  • the American one falls a bit short.

  • So, if youve ever studied American history,

  • youre probably familiar with the greatest line in the Declaration of Independence:

  • We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

  • Sorry, ladies. [some things never brickabracking change!]

  • And,

  • you also may know that at the time those words were written,

  • a large segment of the American population, perhaps as much as 30%,

  • were slaves of African descent who were held as property and were definitely,

  • 100% not treated as equal to whites.

  • In fact, the guy who wrote those words held slaves,

  • and was fighting against a government who promised to free any slaves who supported

  • it.

  • Furthermore,

  • women couldn’t vote,

  • and neither could white men who didn’t own enough property

  • meaning that the government of, for, and by the people

  • was, in fact

  • of, for, and by about 10-15% of the people.

  • But here’s the real question:

  • Was the American Revolution what the historian Jonathan Israel called

  • “a revolution of mind?” [Like in the Matrix?]

  • Did it change the way we think about what people are

  • and how we should organize ourselves?

  • Addressing those questions will involve a brief foray into the history of ideas.

  • Let’s study the Enlightenment!

  • The Enlightenment was primarily a celebration of humansability to understand and improve

  • the natural world through reason.

  • The Enlightenment had a number of antecedents,

  • including the European Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution,

  • but what made it special was that some of its more radical proponents

  • like, Immanuel Kant, for instance

  • went so far as to argue that human reason rendered a belief in God unnecessary and,

  • by extension,

  • proclaimed that any belief in divine intervention or a divine plan for humanity

  • was just superstition.

  • Given that this was coming out of an overwhelmingly Christian Europe,

  • this was a pretty controversial suggestion,