SOCIETY, FREEDOM, AND CONSCIENCE: The Coming of the Revolution in Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York by

SOCIETY, FREEDOM, AND CONSCIENCE: The Coming of the Revolution in Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Three essays exploring attitudes toward government among important groups in important colonies. A pleasant if relatively unoriginal contribution by Jack Greene describes the ""impressive harmony"" prevalent in pre-revolutionary Virginia, based on the English idea of stewardship or government by the ""virtuous and enlightened"" gentry. By the 1760s, debt, slavery, extravagance, and one-crop reliance generated anxiety, but the tradition of strong leadership persisted. Richard Bushman takes the Massachusetts dirt farmers and shows how pro-independence propaganda reached inland, drawing on late-17th century fears of losing freehold status to greedy lords and bishops. The most polemical essay comes from Michael Kammen, author of Colonial New York (1975), who argues that other historians have neglected the large minority of New Yorkers who maintained a principled or apathetic neutrality toward the Revolution, or took a ""Vicar of Bray"" course, sometimes swearing multiple oaths on each side. Because oaths were taken seriously in those days, crises of conscience ensued, which Kammen considers as significant as the optimism of independence. As a whole, this small, scholarly book adds what Kammen calls ""three-dimensionality"" to pre-Revolutionary studies.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1976
Publisher: Norton