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  • Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course U.S. history.

  • There are two kinds of revolutions:

  • those where things DO change and those where things don’t change.

  • [there's also the Dance Dance variety]

  • Like, not to get all Crash Course Mathematics on you or anything,

  • but a Revolution is a 360 degree turn, which leaves you back where you started.

  • [200 would-be comments just evaporated]

  • That’s what happened with the French Revolution,

  • basically they just exchanged a Bourbon for a Bonaparte. [make your own joke]

  • What? I don’t have to say it all French-y.

  • This is American history.

  • And shut up French people about how if it weren’t for

  • your support in the American Revolution, this would be the History of

  • Southern Canada. [does have a certain ring to it]

  • But other revolutions,

  • like the Industrial Revolution, actually change things.

  • So, which was the American Revolution?

  • Well, little of column A, little of Column B.

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green!

  • Yeah, we went from a bunch of rich white guys running the show

  • all the way to a bunch of rich white guys running the show.

  • Youre not wrong, Me from the Past.

  • But the 1700s were a pretty good century for rich white guys everywhere:

  • [whoah. nearly a respectful exchange]

  • I mean, they were running the show in Holland and Portugal and Spain,

  • but only the United States became the country that invented baseball,

  • the Model T, and competitive eating. [and surely the Snuggie, right?]

  • So youre right, Me from the Past,

  • but even if the US didn’t live up to its rhetoric,

  • that rhetoric was still powerful.

  • And in the end whether you care more about ideas or policy

  • defines whether you think the American Revolution really was Revolutionary.

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  • Alright, let’s start with the War for Independence.

  • If youve been watching Crash Course,

  • youll know that were not big on gratuitous war details.

  • But were obligated to tell you something about it.

  • The main strategy of the British in the Revolutionary war was

  • to capture all the cities and force the colonists to surrender.

  • And the first part of that strategy pretty much worked.

  • They captured Boston and New York and Charleston,

  • but all the colonists had to do was NOT QUIT.

  • I mean, they had home-field advantage, knowledge of the terrain,

  • easier supply lines, and Mr. Creepy Eyes down here.

  • So while the British took the cities,

  • the Americans, or Continentals, held onto the countryside.

  • The most famous battle of the war was probably the battle of Trenton,

  • where Washington was like,

  • “I’m gonna cross the Delaware on Christmas morning.”

  • He had a funny voice.

  • Everybody knows he had a funny voice. It’s famous.

  • That’s a made up fact! [oh. shocker there.]

  • Don’t put it on your AP test.

  • What do I know about Washington? Well, I know he had a funny voice.”

  • Washington surprised a bunch of Hessians, which was a pretty impressive victory

  • especially since he had just come off of a string of defeats.

  • But he wasn’t able to turn it into an all out rout,

  • and ended up having to spend a miserable winter at Valley Forge.

  • But remember, generals always get to eat.

  • But the most important battle, at least in the North, was not Trenton but Saratoga.

  • This was a major defeat for the British, and while it’s often put forth

  • as an example of the superiority of the Continental fighting man,

  • the British mostly lost because of terrible generalling.

  • The French would eventually bankrupt themselves helping us,

  • which would lead to their own Revolution. [not a great poster for humanitarianism]

  • As thanks, we named our most important food after them.

  • In the South the country-city trend continued with the British taking

  • Charleston but then continuing to lose smaller scale battles and

  • be harassed by guerrilla style tactics.

  • The key battle of the war in the south

  • because it was the one where the British surrendered

  • was at Yorktown in 1781.

  • Lord Cornwallis made the brilliant tactical decision

  • to station his troops on a peninsula,

  • surrounded on three sides by water filled with French ships,

  • and the British lost the war.

  • So what did this all mean for actual people?

  • Well, Americans like to think that we all pitched in together

  • and got rid of British tyranny, and lived happily ever after.

  • Also that the Continental army was the bravest, most loyal,

  • and most effective fighting force in human history thanks to

  • the leadership of George Washington.

  • LIBERTAGE! [libertage]

  • But actually, well, yeah.

  • Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • Morale among continental soldiers was often pretty low.

  • Rations were poor and soldiers went unpaid.

  • As Joseph Plumb Martin, a soldier from Connecticut, wrote, they felt they were

  • starving in detail for an ungrateful people who

  • did not care what became of us.”

  • And many other colonists didn’t fight for independence;

  • they fought with the British.

  • Others were pacifists, like the Quakers, who often had their property confiscated

  • when they refused to fight, and in colonial America, of course,

  • losing property also meant losing rights.

  • And for slaves, the so-called fight for freedom was very different

  • than it was for Continental soldiers,

  • because loyalty to Britain in the war could mean freedom.

  • In 1775, British governor Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation that granted

  • freedom to any slave who deserted his master and fought for the British.

  • Something like 5,000 slaves took him up on the offer.

  • And in addition, many slaves saw the revolution as chance to escape.

  • Boston King left a cruel master and later wrote,

  • “I determined to go to Charles-Town and throw myself

  • into the hands of the English.

  • They received me readily, and I began to feel the happiness of liberty,

  • of which I knew nothing before,”

  • are estimated to have fled to the British.

  • Now, many slaves were returned to their masters,

  • but more than 15,000 left the U.S. when the British did.

  • And it’s worth remembering that the British empire abolished slavery

  • in all of its territory by 1843 and without a civil war.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble.

  • So, Native Americans were also profoundly affected by the Revolutionary War.

  • Generally, they wanted to stay out of it,

  • and the Colonists mostly wanted them to remain neutral, too.

  • Like, the Continental Congress was eager to remind the Iroquois

  • of their history of neutrality, writing:

  • This is a family quarrel between us and Old England.

  • You Indians are not concerned in it.

  • We don’t wish you to take up the hatchet against the king’s troops.

  • We desire you to remain at home, and not join on either side,

  • but keep the hatchet buried deep.” [politically correct brain is exploded]

  • Right, well, many of the Iroquois fought for the British, anyway.

  • The Oneidas joined the Patriots, fighting against the Iroquois.

  • Sometimes there were divisions within tribes themselves.

  • Like, with the Cherokees; younger chiefs tended to side with the British,

  • older ones with the Americans.

  • And it should be mentioned that unsurprisingly,

  • American troops were particularly brutal to American Indians

  • who fought for the British, burning their villages and enslaving prisoners,

  • contrary to the accepted rules of war.

  • And, if the American revolution was really about, as Thomas Jefferson would have it,

  • the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,

  • then the Indians were definitely the losers because

  • they didn’t get any of those rights.

  • So, we know slaves and Indians didn’t get much out of the Revolutionary War.

  • How did it go for women? Not great. [oh history; you're the worst]

  • Some colonial women fought in the war:

  • Deborah Sampson, dressed up as a man and fought at several battles,

  • once even pulling a bullet out of her own leg. [#respect]

  • But women didn’t get much out of the Revolution.

  • They were basically still considered wards of their husbands.

  • Or, if they were unmarried, saleable assets of their fathers.

  • However, the idea of Republican Motherhood became really important.

  • It held that for the republic to survive,

  • it was necessary to have a well-educated citizenry.

  • And since women were the primary educators,

  • they themselves needed to be educated so they could,

  • to quote Founding Father Benjamin Rush,

  • instruct their sons in the principles of liberty and government.”

  • But not vote or own property. [face palm]

  • So the war didn’t end slavery, it didn’t much change the roles of women.

  • And it didn’t displace the elite,

  • land-owning, pasty white guy leadership of America.

  • So what was revolutionary?

  • Well, the ideas. A lot of which are summed up in a single sentence

  • of the Declaration of Independence:

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

  • that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights

  • and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

  • So, when the colonies became states, they all created constitutions,

  • which opened voting to more people.

  • While most states still had property qualifications for voting,

  • the bar was lowered, so there were far more voters than there had been.

  • Although they were mostly white and male, but still.

  • Another aspect of the American revolution that was pretty revolutionary was

  • the beginning of true religious freedom.

  • Like, with independence,

  • the Church of England ceased to be the Church of America.

  • And some founders, like Jefferson, were Deists,

  • believing that God had created the world, but then stepped away to, like,

  • create other universes or try to build a boulder too big for him to lift.

  • Jefferson called for a “wall of separationbetween Church and State

  • that’s best embodied in

  • the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia,

  • which Jefferson was so proud of that he had it mentioned on his tombstone.

  • And the American revolution profoundly changed the economy, too.

  • Like, all these new ideas of liberty led to a decline in apprenticeship

  • and indentured servitude.

  • And, immediately after the war, you began to see the split between the North,

  • with its reliance on paid labor, and the South, with its reliance on slavery.

  • Slavery was actually on the decline in the South until Eli Whitney went and invented

  • the cotton gin in 1793, which

  • A. made it possible to turn a profit growing inferior American cotton,

  • and B. reinvigorated slavery. Yay, innovation. [yeah, notsomuch]

  • Oh, no. It’s time for the Mystery Document!

  • The rules are simple. Mystery Document.

  • Get it wrong: shock pen. Get it right: WOOO.

  • An equality of propertyconstantly operating to destroy combinations of powerful families,

  • is the very soul of a republicWhile this continues, the people will inevitably possess

  • both power and freedom; when this is lost, power departs, liberty expires, and a commonwealth

  • will inevitably assume some other form. … Let the people have property, and they will have

  • power – a power that will for ever be exerted to prevent a restriction of the press, and

  • the abolition of trial by jury, or the abridgment of any other privilege.”

  • Stan, why did you put communism in my Mystery Document?

  • Alright, so weve got a fan of wealth distribution. But, it isn’t Marx because

  • a) he’s not American, b) he wasn’t born.

  • There were a bunch of far-left hippies in early America

  • with their hemp-growing and their liberty-espousing.

  • Ugh, I hate the shock pen. [yes, it's super totally legit]

  • Alright, I’m gonna guess that it is noted lexicographer, Noah Webster.

  • AH HA YES! Yes, yes, yes!

  • NAILED IT!

  • Yes. Stan, that was the best one ever. That was my biggest victory to date.

  • So it’s worth remembering that some early Americans proposed a vision of liberty

  • that sprung out of the idea of equality of property,

  • which is very different from the way we imagine liberty today.

  • But ideas of libertyas diverse as they were

  • are really at the heart of what makes the American Revolution revolutionary.

  • And that brings us back to slavery.

  • The most common complaint among

  • American high school students is that the Revolution was deeply hypocritical.

  • I mean, how could this guy write thatAll men were created equal

  • when he himself held slaves? And had kids with one of them.

  • And, even crazier, American colonists, often referred to themselves as slaves

  • because they were denied the right to have a vote in parliament about their taxation.

  • [ugh]

  • Now, some people recognized that it was a smidge hypocritical

  • to claim to be enslaved by British taxation while they themselves

  • were ACTUALLY enslaving people.

  • [most likely the pesky womenfolk]

  • But very few made the leap to say that liberty

  • should mean freedom for the slaves.

  • One exception was James Otis of Massachusetts who wrote,

  • concerning America’s slaves, that unless they were free, there could be no liberty:

  • What man is or ever was born free if every man is not?”

  • But most of the Founders,

  • including this guy and this guy,

  • were the cream of the colonial elites,

  • and so they held slaves and made arguments against abolition.

  • [an even more challenging time to try and subvert the patriarchal paradigm]

  • Like, many historians now argue that

  • Jefferson was trying to condemn slavery in the Declaration of Independence,

  • but without slavery he wouldn’t have had his amazing life.

  • I mean, if he’d been working,

  • he couldn’t have designed Monticello or stolen all of those ideas from John Locke.

  • And speaking of Locke, Locke equated liberty with property,

  • and a revolution based on securing property against tyranny couldn’t

  • very well turn around and take slaves, who after all were considered