In the aftermath of the American Revolution, two divergent memories of the conflict developed among its North American veterans. Loyalist and Revolutionary soldiers created recollections that revealed distinctive concepts of political manhood emerging among them. Revolutionary veterans told stories in their nineteenth-century pension applications that emphasized their identity as politically empowered white men.1 This image related to the steady post-Revolutionary progression towards universal white-male suffrage and the formation of an ideology that linked white-male status with citizenship in the United States. As eligibility for citizenship expanded, Revolutionary veterans created democratized recollections. Additionally, they remembered their military service in ways that emphasized their roles as white prosecutors of race war against Native Americans. Such memories paralleled popular notions of independent, democratic white-male citizenship in the early United States.2
- Militia Service
- Racial Identity
- British Government
- Political Subject
- American Revolution
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The analysis in this chapter is adapted from my monograph, Gregory T. Knouff, The Soldiers’ Revolution: Pennsylvanians in Arms and the Forging of Early American Identity (University Park, PA, 2004).
Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York, 1991);
Dana D. Nelson, National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men (Durham, NC, 1998).
Robert M Calhoon, The Loyalist Perception and Other Essays (Columbia, SC, 1989).
Terry Bouton, Taming Democracy: The People, the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution (New York, 2007);
Wayne L. Bockelman and Owen S. Ireland, ‘The Internal Revolution in Pennsylvania: An Ethnic-Religious Interpretation’, Pennsylvania History 41 (1974): 125–156.
Anne M. Ousterhout, A State Divided: Opposition in Pennsylvania to the American Revolution (Westport, CT, 1987).
Robert J. Dinkin, Voting in Provincial America: A Study of Elections in the Thirteen Colonies, 1689–1776 (Westport, CT, 1977), 29–38;
John B. Frantz and William Pencak (eds), Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland (University Park, PA, 1998), xii and 70.
David Hawke, In the Midst of a Revolution (Philadelphia, 1960), 170–173, 184.
Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (New York, 1972), 226–237.
The voting and militia provisions are from the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution, repr. in Theodore Thayer, Pennsylvania Politics and the Growth of Democracy (Harrisburg, PA, 1953), 215.
Ousterhout, A State Divided, 171–173; Henry J. Young, ‘Treason and Its Punishment in Revolutionary Pennsylvania’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 90 (1966): 287–313.
In 1818 an act of Congress provided half-pay pensions to all enlisted men in the Continental army for nine months and were in ‘reduced circumstances.’ A subsequent act required the appending of a personal property schedule to prove the applicants’ indigence. The pension legislation of 1832 offered a stipend to anyone who had served six months in any military capacity, including the militia, regardless of financial need. For analysis of the provisions of the 1818 act, see John Resch, Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and the Political Culture of the Early Republic (Amherst, 1999), 118. On the provisions for the federal Revolutionary War pension acts,
see John C. Dann, The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution (Chicago, 1980), xv–xvii.
Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York, 1998), 3–96 and 155–208.
According to Marcus Cunliffe, Washington ‘did not inspire enthusiastic affection among the rank and file’ during the Revolution; see Cunliffe, George Washington: Man and Monument (New York, 1960), 108.
M. L. Weems, The Life of George Washington (Philadelphia, 1858). On the influence of Weems’s portrayal of Washington in the early nineteenth-century as a ‘self-made man’ around the time of the pension depositions,
see Steven Watts, The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America (Baltimore, 1989), 144–145.
Alfred Young comes to similar conclusions regarding the democratized memory of the Massachusetts veteran George Robert Twelves Hewes, who recalled standing next to John Hancock at the Boston Tea Party; see Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston, 1999), 44–45, 55–57.
On the nineteenth-century conception of Native Americans as ‘red’, see Alden Vaughan, Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience (New York, 1995), 3–33.
On the ‘Indianized’ Indian-hater, see Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (Middletown, CT, 1973);
and Richard White, Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region (New York, 1991), 368–375.
On Indianized Americanness as a statement of identity and opposition to Europe in general and Britain in particular, see Philip J. Deloria, Playing Indian (New Haven, 1998), 10–37.
Gary B. Nash, The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2006), 163.
On the denial of voting rights for black men by most American states and federal laws limiting naturalization to whites and militia enrolment to white men, see Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans (Cambridge, MA, 2000), 47. Appleby points out that only Vermont and New Hampshire had ‘“colour-blind” constitutions’ and that New York allowed only propertied black men the vote while all white men were enfranchised.
On the British acts of compensation to American Loyalists, see Wallace Brown, The Good Americans: The Loyalists and the American Revolution (New York, 1969), 181.
On Loyalists clinging to their traditional pre-Revolutionary view of colonial self-government even while in exile, see Neil MacKinnon, This Unfriendly Soil: The Loyalist Experience in Nova Scotia, 1783–1791 (Montreal, 1986), 118–136. On the highly centralized nature of the British administration of post-Revolutionary North America,
see Alan Taylor, ‘The Late Loyalists: Northern Reflections of the Early American Republic’, Journal of the Early Republic 27/1 (2007): 1–34.
Steven Sarson, British America, 1500–1800: Creating Colonies, Imagining an Empire (New York, 2005), 239–240.
On the typical Loyalist self-presentation as dependent victims, see Janice Potter-MacKinnon, While the Women Only Wept: Loyalist Refugee Women in Eastern Ontario (Montreal, 1993), 94–160.
Edward Countryman argues in ‘Indians, the Colonial Order, and the Social Significance of the American Revolution’ (William and Mary Quarterly 53 : 342–363) that the British viewed Indians as constituent parts of their hierarchical empire. On the thousands of slaves who sought to free themselves by taking advantage of British promises of emancipation in return for serving the British military, see Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Freedom (Boston, 2006);
and Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (New York, 2006).
Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (New Haven, 1992). On the more hierarchical model of empire (epitomized in laws such as the India Act) that emerged as an immediate result of the American Revolution, see ibid. 143–145.
See also Eliga H. Gould, The Persistence of Empire: British Political Culture in the Age of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 2000), 181–214;
and C. A. Baylya, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830 (Harlow, UK, 1989), 75–132.
For archival evidence that rank-and-file soldiers were disproportionately drawn from the lower and propertyless classes, see Charles Patrick Neimeyer, America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army (New York, 1996), 8–26;
and Steven Rosswurm, Arms, Country, and Class: The Philadelphia Militia and the ‘Lower Sort’ During the American Revolution (New Brunswick, NJ., 1987), 113–199.
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© 2010 Gregory T. Knouff
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Knouff, G.T. (2010). Masculinity, Race and Citizenship: Soldiers’ Memories of the American Revolution. In: Hagemann, K., Mettele, G., Rendall, J. (eds) Gender, War and Politics. War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230283046_17
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