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1775: Revolution And Realignment

American Revolution. Historian Kevin Phillips looks at American politics then and now from 1775.

Percy's rescue at Lexington, 1775. (Amos Doolittle)

Percy’s rescue at Lexington, 1775. (Amos Doolittle) 

1776 gets super-top billing in the telling of the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence. July 4th. Fireworks.

Historian and political analyst Kevin Phillips says hold on a minute. If you really want to understand the American Revolution, you have to roll the tape back a bit. To where all the groundwork of revolution lies.

To 1775, he says, and the infrastructure of rebellion. Phillips knows American politics well. Republican, Democrat, old, new. Now he goes to the heart of it.

This hour, On Point: Kevin Phillips on American Revolution.

-Tom Ashbrook


Kevin Phillips, author, historian, and political commentator.  Author of “1775: A Good Year For Revolution.”


Author Kevin Phillips in the studio. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Author Kevin Phillips in the studio. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Republic “Kevin Phillips, a keen analyst of American politics, is also a historical sociologist in the best sense of the term. The ways in which our society is both constituted and divided, not only in the present but as a consequence of history, have long been his concern.”

The Boston Globe “I would say people in Massachusetts and Boston, in particular, are predisposed to believe in THE IMPORTANCE OF 1775, but perhaps not in the fullness of its 13-colony context. By early 1775, people were really feeling — I don’t want to say invincible — but they truly believed that their arms would be strong and JUSTICE WOULD PREVAIL. That was very much the mind-set, and it guided people in the Revolution.”

Excerpt from “1775″


Cool, Cool Considerate Men by Paul Hecht and the 1176 Chorus

Bunker Hill by Mark O’Connor

Chester by William Appling Singers

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  • ttajtt

    How does or can stuff like this today, change thens history books for tomorrow pass on of info talk for the day..

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      What can of historians talk scholars stuff today hippopotamus yesterdays, of all the talk meaning past news nothing nonsense..

      • L armond

        Hippocampus, good choice

  • ttajtt

    I like real true story stuff vs fake unless tales.   tomorrows history started does not need.  if we were alive cave days then the danziel in distress got be real time story?  the “WHAT Ifs”  like pole shift, california did fall of.  one do then there of here.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      Yes unless tales and fake story stuff of tomorrows needless distress. if the cave men come to denzial of a real life engine then the “what IFS” makes us some sense and then all goes clear. over there then off here away. so much like the pole shift.

      • JGC

        (Again, you may be needlessly embarrassing yourself in your bizarre, troll-like replies to ttajtt.)

        If L.B.’s comments are irritating, hit the minus symbol on the far right on his name line above, and they will disappear from view. 

        • BHA_in_Vermont

           Sadly, it needs to be done on EVERY post, not a global “Ignore user”. Which means you need to look at the name of the poster before deciding if you want to read the post.

  • http://twitter.com/TheRostovHunt Fitzhugh Winter

    Would you please ask your guest how Royalists were treated after the revolution. What happened to their land and property? And was the revolution a means of seizing property from upper class families resented by the revolutionaries. 

  • ttajtt

    power of the church in the old land vs this new land of deals must set the pace on we heathens of no money or Biblical mention.      

    • andrea5

      I don’t understand this comment at all.

      • ttajtt

        the church took land for sins.   money was not so plentiful to repent trade food meat or crop, different neighbors.   even the class of people sent or contracted out for the newly tobe uncapitalized, noncapitalized, anewcapitalized land for the king and queen.   talk off new countries of land for whoms.  even the method of the what if then.   

        you and family get this deal.   what are your bests dos and nots.   skill needed raised with then anew land utopia was idealized soon after.   carl marks said the Igneous peoples way of government was beyond hes thought or like.   white women run back to them to live in time of take over.    

        • J__o__h__n

          Are you typing with your elbows?

          • Steve__T

             ttajitt is recovering from a brain injury, you have to use a little thought to understand his posts, but please don’t criticize he is trying hard to give his thoughts, and it helps him with his therapy.

          • ttajtt

            thank you… both for your corretive corrections of my missing our under standings.   I believe is it better now to look at me that i be your all weak link, then to lower someone else to this privileged standard of living off the greatful, for itis what i, we went in for, us ALL in these privileges.   

                       I Say 
                       THANK YOU

            THANK YOU

        • Vigilarus

          Translation: The Catholic Church gained land in Europe due to the sale of indulgences and lack of specie in circulation.  A barter economy arose, particularly among those who went or were indentured for passage to the colonies, often under royal charter.  Who were the early colonists, and what method was used to select them and, if so, on what terms of settlement?

          For those who emigrated under such contractual agreements, what actions and talents best served their interests? Settling the new frontier required developing new skills, and the availability of land led to the rise of a utopian ideology. 

          Karl Marx, writing in historic retrospective, said that the pre-European indigenous society was primitive and non-capitalist, thus falling outside the rubric of his historical dialectic theories. 

          Despite being ‘primitive’, native society was sufficiently appealing to attract defectors from settler society, particularly women, during times of warfare and conquest.

      • BHA_in_Vermont

        Not surprising. This person posts nothing but gibberish. If you could make sense of it, I would be concerned for your mental state. :)

        Unfortunately there is no “Ignore user” option here.

  • geraldfnord

    To what extent was many of the Founders’ interests (theoretical or extant) in lands denied them by the Crown’s treaty with a factor in their rebellion?  The Empire was no real friend of ‘savages’, but did have a better record at honouring its agreements (maybe the ‘u’ helped) than our more [white-]populist governments….

    And I can’t help but ask the Southern Strategy’s notional father:  are we near to seeing its end as an overwhelming success, and if so, what would his summary of the past forty-five years’ history say about it.  (‘Account no strategy happy until its death?’)  Thanks.

  • ttajtt

    what would the record been if reversed won.  same or not in treatment?  germ war far was ezer on this side gold was not found

  • Coastghost

    Could Mr Phillips comment on the failure of our latter-day Tea Party movement (and the failure of both its supporters and detractors) to invoke the mechanism of the colonial and revolutionary Committees of Correspondence. My faint understanding is, the colonial tea partiers undertook their efforts under the guidance/direction of the Committees: the ideological foundation for tea party “events” came not from the tea partiers themselves, correct?

  • Jian Sun

    Liberty is not an idea. Liberty is animal desire.

    • Vigilarus

      So the Tienanmen Square massacre and the crushing of Tibet were moral then?  Look at the utter hypocrisy and corruption of the Chinese dictatorship, how moral is that?  Repression and censorship will not serve China well when they are done stealing America’s intellectual property.

      Even though American elites have been utterly craven and self-dealing in selling this country out to China, that does not mean that the Chinese system is better.  It means that we have not lived up to our own.

  • Jian Sun

    Liberty is immoral. Morality is to restrain animal desire of human being.

    • ttajtt

      makes sense, what we see, hear we will copy, even back in the garden days before tv.   i don’t know how gays would have fell in to this.  there is extinct animals here, since 1492 too.  

    • Vigilarus

      As Keynes (of all people) said, animal spirits are an essential component of capitalism.  Capitalism is ruthless and exploitative, but provides development and growth like no other system.  Morality lies in regulation of the excesses and failures, but not essential rewards, of capitalism. 

      As for individual desire, if all participants are willing and of age, then liberty is moral.  Freedom of choice is vital to the fullest life.

  • TinaWrites

    And after the Revolution who had the political power?  White men who owned land.  And why the right to “bear arms”?  So the white men with land could send off the white men with no land into militias — armed — to find and bring back the landed gentry’s slaves. 

    My comments cover maybe a 15-year period rather than 1775 alone, and to some extent represent the sectionalism that would be written into the Constitution, altho with exchanged compromises.

    • Vigilarus

      There was no significant slaving (capture of previously unenslaved natives) in North America after the 1650s.  Native American slavery had been tried and abandoned because the Indians had too much mortality due to disease and they were not capable of as much work as Africans. 

      Landless whites in Britain were able to secure passage via indentured servitude, work their terms (usually 7 years) and then gain their own land.  The frontier provided a continuing supply of land for those who had none in the settled regions. 

      The sectionalism between slave plantation economy and pioneer farm economy arose in part because of settlement patterns, regional agricultural differences and labor requirements, not because the North was comparatively virtuous.  Much of the Southern slave economy was underwritten by Northern investors and suppliers.  That being said, being a slave society did come to distort and hold back Southern economic and cultural development unlike the self-reliant North.

  • Charles Vigneron

    There were English acts that required colonial debt be required to pay in specie. In the mid to late 1760s there were massive foreclosure filings, in some Pennsylvania counties as high as 40% of all property-holders.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Do the editors of the show read the comments?

    If so, will you please read those from ttajtt. Then delete them  and remove posting privileges.

    The person posts nothing but disjointed sentence fragments that have
    no connection to the topic of the show (or anything else for that

    • Debbie Israel

      Did you see the post below from someone else that says he is recovering from a brain njury and that this is part of his therapy? Just be patient. We could all have this problem some day.

  • Paul1719

    I am curious as to how much the subsistence economy contributed to peoples anger against Britain? I have a scathing letter from my town in central Mass in 1765, where the people of the town were being crushed by the taxes. The tax valuation of 1771 demonstrates that few had much in the way of cash.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Not everyone was being crushed with taxes and not everyone supported revolution so who was behind the fomenting of widespread discontent and preparation for war?

    • Vigilarus

      I’ve learned that general alignment of the colonists was in thirds: 1/3 loyalists, 1/3 patriots, and 1/3 unaffiliated/wait-and-see, with some regional variations, such as NYC being mostly loyalist and Boston and Philly having a patriot majority.  The plantation regions tended towards support of the break with Britain, but the backcountry in Virginia and the Carolinas less so because of political disenfranchisement by the colonial elites who supported the revolution.  Westerners saw little advantage to throwing in with the wealthy eastern elites who ran the governments to their benefit in those states, giving little representation, fair governance, or improvements to the western regions.  

      In general, newly emerging urban classes like merchants, craftsmen, and publishers were the staunchest supporters of the revolution, seeing economic opportunity in independence from British corporate monopolies such as the East India Company- a lesson that the modern Tea Party would do well to remember.

  • Charles Vigneron

    Establish Justice is the first imperative of the Preface to the Constitution.

  • Hal Baker

    The Taliban comment and ensuing discussion brought to mind the myth of the rustic who was skilled with the gun and defeated the British regular. Gen Galvin (fm Wakefield and USCINCEUR in the 80s) wrote a book explaining how the initial armed conflict in New England was more a situation akin to today’s Army Reserves/National Guard fighting against our active duty Army. The organization and mobilization system had been used to augment regular forces against the French in the preceding 100 years. Canada fell prey to a similar “militia myth” after the War of 1812.
    Also, in 1975, the Bicentennial for New England, we were told a story in school about how some small towns were far enough away from Boston that Loyalists were allowed to stay after the war. The legend says that those towns are the towns that still have a King Street vice a Washington or Main Street. These towns were supposedly derisively referred to as “Tory Towns.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HHTIS2WLTVCBQJJZUXLGXVRZ7Y Dave

    I am curious how Mr. Phillips sees the Nation’s compliance with the Law of Nations over the years since 1775. The founding fathers included upholding the Law of Nations within the US Constitution. They also created the US Constitution to establish a central government, reduce State powers and override conflicts which states created internationally. They also needed a more convincing way to prepare for War and to protect the Land militarily as States had violated treaties, congressional laws, regulations etc.. And Spain, Netherlands, and the British were also attempting to wage hostilities towards those States. Since then, the US Supreme Court, Congress and many States – including the federal government, has not followed the Law of Nations when engaging in War, creating Laws, developing legislation or being true to society. The real purpose to which the Founding Fathers created this nation, was for independence from British King and Church rule, unfair treatment and to prove to the international community they could ensure the US newly formed country could be trusted and act as a valuable country within the World. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/HHTIS2WLTVCBQJJZUXLGXVRZ7Y Dave

      The last time the US Supreme Court actually did something really important for this nation as a whole, versus making ruling based on who has the most money to influence them, was Rockefeller vs US.. in which the US SC ruled that Rockefeller’s empire should be broken up. The result? The economy soared and many small businesses were created. It is just sad that the wealthy powers at be, retaliated by purposely tanking the Market in the 1929 crash. Three Republican Presidents in a row prior to the crash, did nothing…

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/HHTIS2WLTVCBQJJZUXLGXVRZ7Y Dave

        The breaking up of Rockefeller’s empire actually created the middle class. Since then, the wealthy powers and corporations have been doing everything possible to influence Congress, politicians and the Supreme Court- to keep the middle class at bay.. 

        • ttajtt

          A filtering out as like now a stopping a low class raising up into upper. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HHTIS2WLTVCBQJJZUXLGXVRZ7Y Dave

    If anyone would like to read a great book, title is 
    Independence on Trial: 
    Foreign Affairs and the Making of the Constitution by Frederick W. Marks

  • http://www.facebook.com/Curt.Allred Curt Allred

    I teach history at a university, and one of the main topics in my classes is: Why are Americans different than Europeans? The shaping of the American character had already taken place before the Revolution began. In order to understand America and Americans, it is absolutely critical to delve into the formative years that shaped our society during the Colonial Era.

    Phillips’ books seem to approach this period with a refreshing and insightful perspective. I was delighted to hear his interview, and am looking forward to reading this book. I’m especially intrigued to see what he has to say about the idea that the American Revolution was actually a civil war – a very fascinating concept.

    • ttajtt

      good, so in shaping or forming this land. 1500 to 1650 0r 1680.  with the way of life style in a todays ptsd form people must thought blood and guts is nothing.   life span for new comer or war man must all taken toll.   this life and time is simple with a bank in food medical money.  the wars in europe where the people comes from brought their stuff and green blush lawns to feed groom water and mow every 10 days now.   

      was it wealth of wildlife, a dead land scape of the old land.  what was the old world first thoughts then after the 90% die off of the native population.

      was this then the plain to move in and go forth with the occupation.   why would people want to do what was done.   is this a matter of old world thinking?

  • marygrav

    Why did you change the design of the page?  Now I cannot listen to OPR via my computer because I can’t click on LISTEN or Download.

  • marygrav

    Why did you change the design of your page.  It no longer contains LISTEN or DOWNLOAD.  And I cannot get my computer to play you suggested ways to listen.

    • Vigilarus

      I’m using Firefox and both play and download are showing in the player box at the top of the page

  • mark grable

    Great picture of author!  Democracy Now also has a good interview on his book and his other books.  Ted Nace also wrote about the period before the revolution/rebellion/self-emancipation from chartered corporations, in his book “The Gangs of America”.  Kevin Phillips, you have such a subtle sense of proportion and perspective.  When I get this book, I’ll read it several times, as I did “Bad Money” and “American Theocracy”, and see if you reference George A. Beard, or Carl L. Becker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/george.papagiannis.549 George Papagiannis

    Hello Tom, you are usually on point, but in your interview with Kevin Phillips, I waited all hour for you to engage with your guest on the role of slavery, and the manipulation of indentured servants and poor white farmers in the pursuit of revolution against the British. In the years just before the revolution, the urban poor was a serious concern of political leaders in Boston (see Historian Gary Nash), and there was constant fear of uprising, not only in Boston, but elsewhere in the colonies.  In the South there were significant concerns that slaves joining with indentured servants and poor white farmers could topple the well established colonial aristocracy, and there were several such uprisings that were brutally suppressed.  

    In fact, the disparity between rich and poor in the colonies was a significant threat to this wealthy class, which also saw increasing British regulation and taxation as another threat to their livelihoods.  What better way to kill two birds with one stone then to redirect anger toward a common enemy.  There were several references to discord among colonials in your interview, but it was never fully explored.  An opportunity to truly fulfill your opening comments about drawing lessons from history was missed until the last caller–and we were out of time.  

    Today, a shrinking middle class seeks a place at the table.  The disparity between the rich and poor is the largest it has been since the Great Depression.  In Washington, the political elite argue over whether the middle class or the very rich should bear more of the tax burden, as if this was a word problem on the SATs. Eerily similar times?  What, those lessons of history.  

    If I were listening to commercial radio, I would roll my eyes and punch up another station, but I hold NPR and WBUR and you to a much higher standard because I believe with all my heart that through an independent media flows the life-blood of the Republic. An informed community thus takes the lead in its own recovery.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

      I think if we find the subliminal prisoner, the defacto servant, the symbolic victim… and Then silently deliver them [blindly] to  whence they came from [whether king or little street sweeper] they will perform as cogs in the mutual! and therefore ordered, balanced and predictable/peaceful revolution; but now just as then, there is a facade of delusion & ambition. Yet it’s a positive! catch-22, release the unhappy pilot and he won’t [have to] go on a destructive raid.  And trust that some of these pilots or slaves do indeed still have crucial destinations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/george.papagiannis.549 George Papagiannis

    See my comments below.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

    import-anti-dote [on norm = honor-movement, enter-logical [etymological refraction/combustionfeeder reactor, metaphysical yin-yang rebel-less revolution THE United S... theory [s=society or fertilizer... Don't think about it, FEEL it, science done with aught-test-tech DBL Blind elemental proof, and age as prime fuel grade - looking for the diamonds in the rough is a NO NO, [choosing=begging and all]. [past prime age cases are especially mind forking ;) {don't laugh i'm warning u} Ideologically spontaneous-computation - informational bon-voyage/bonfire of vanities conquest _without_ the humble value of the newold frontier normally beating in [it's] chest as the axis to Re-Solve …because We Will Doubt what is best, the rhetorical-inquest-/-question unstable territory [terror to Tory] and latitudes above religion …[and] the ever mysterious decision;    friend or flow, end or ignition :) filter as form, equator precision and general provision, civil-society cleaner than fission; station-of-X and the peaceful division.  
    Enemies within and or without don’t want transcendent relief …WITHIN the biggest player.  The Love of your neighbor :) and Identifying the TRUE ODDS :)
    is “how it happened” hopefully we’ll say; fore speculating on the future is a slippery slope, we need A NET to handle our Valuable subjects peacefully, yet blindly ;|

  • marygrav

    I want to listen to this show online.  My local NPR affiliate only broadcast the first hour of OP.  From then on I must listen online.  All the suggest that you offer on how to listen to not seem to work on the PC that I am using.  Why don’t you just use you old listen button?

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