American History I

Response sheet 10, for class, Thursday

1.  The Continental Association was a radical document because it profoundly raised the political stakes in 1774, even if it did not yet imagine any independence of the thirteen colonies.  Boycotts had been tried before, and had largely failed, but where and by whom would this boycott be enforced?  What would that mean for the everyday life of ordinary people in colonial American communities?

2.  The Tory Acts sought to suppress dissent in the colonies — i.e., to suppress those who disagreed with the unauthorized actions of unauthorized political entities like the Continental Congress and committees of safety, and with the violent actions of street mobs.  What was the difference in how such dissent was characterized earlier on, versus how it would be characterized later on?  What were the perceived restraints on stamping out dissent?  What could be done?  What shouldn’t be done?

3.  The Declaration of Independence should speak for itself.  Even if you are not a citizen of the United States, hopefully everyone can be grateful for the ideals it inserted into human history, as an ongoing, imperfect, elusive, ever unfulfilled experiment.  If you are a U.S. citizen, you cannot read it often enough, so that, some day in the future, these ideals might actually be fulfilled.  Either way, how did the Declaration aim to address itself to a wider world beyond the colonies and Britain?

4.  American historians are increasingly making the argument that every trend and event in American history happened always in the broader context of world history, and if one examines world history, one can find both connections and parallels between the United States and the rest of the world.  This would include the American Revolution, which resembled fiscal and military crises around the world, all around the same time.  How could one pay for massive war and continuous warfare?  This was the problem faced not only by the British empire in the mid 18th century, but by many lesser empires in the same era, just as it is being faced by the American empire today.

One of the important questions we might ask is to what degree ordinary people in the past noticed those connections and parallels between “America” and the rest of the world.  To what degree did people living in the British empire and American colonies actually recognize what was happening in other parts of the world?

Meanwhile, do you, today, know what is happening in other parts of the world, and how it might be connected to or parallel with the United States?

4.  So, let’s take a stab at it.  What are now, in your current historical moment, some main connections between the United States and the rest of the world?  Does the United States affect other parts of the world, how and why?

4b.  Meanwhile, do other parts of the world affect the United States — how and why?