The Consequences of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania

The Bicentennial Edition is a special issue of 14 features commemorating the American Revolution Bicentennial in Pennsylvania, published June 1976.

One of the more interesting and controversial aspects of the American Revolution concerns its consequen­ces upon colonial institutions and society in general. Was the society left almost unchanged by a movement fun­damentally conservative in its causes, or was it profoundly altered by a revolution radical in its results, if not in its origins? Specifically, what happened to the society of colonial America when a people transformed thirteen colonies into a new nation? These questions have in­creasingly come to be framed in the fifty years since the Sesquicentennial celebration.*

The consequences of the American Revolution have not always attracted the same attention and controversy as the causes. Such an historical imbalance has occurred perhaps because the results are harder to identify than the causes and less has been written about the results. One’s view of the causes obviously tends to affect the interpretation of the consequences, and vice versa. In the two hundred years since 1776 the task of identifying and explaining the gen­eral features of the American Revolution has proven most difficult since the movement’s character is so contradictory and incongruous. Yet the causes and consequences of it continue to puzzle and to intrigue investigators because the revolution remains as the most important single event in the story of our past.

Investigators must see the revolution in broader aspects than simply the political and military implications; thus, there is more to the phrase “American Revolution” than hostilities between England and the thirteen colonies. It refers also to the political, economic and social changes that presumably caused, accompanied, and resulted from the conflict.

It should be noted that any such analysis is tentative for several reasons. First, because facts are often contradic­tory and are always open to interpretation and it is difficult to measure accurately the rate of change. Second, there is much about the revolution that we do not know. Pertinent facts are lacking and certain questions raised by researchers decades ago remain unanswered and unresearched. Third, what the revolution contributed to Pennsylvania in the way of changes was conditioned by factors of sequence and con­sequence. In short, one needs to consider the pre-revolu­tionary social structure and to appreciate that many con­crete results of independence did not become manifest until long after the event.

The American Revolution in Pennsylvania was largely a political movement, concerned with independence, and with power. Being long plagued by some of the most acrimonious politics in colonial America, the situation was complicated and made more disorderly because a persistent group of conservatives in high places wanted to maintain the old social and political system. There was a “real” revolution in Pennsylvania. There was first an external revolution-the colonial rebellion against Britain and there was second an internal revolution – the conflict between a number of groups, at least three or four, over who would rule at home. The type of society that was to emerge in Pennsylvania by 1789 was a by-product of these struggles, a direct result of political circumstances rather than political planning. Based on the above interpretation of the general nature of the American experience and the causes of the Revolution in Pennsylvania, focus on the changes wrought by the Re­volution will be noted in the following areas: (1) political; (2) economic; (3) social and humanitarian; (4) religion and education.



The political consequences of the Revolution are ob­vious and visible. Institutional reform began about 1774 and proceeded rapidly after the Declaration of Indepen­dence. The act of withdrawing from the British empire pro­moted change because it ultimately forced the people to seek new concepts of government and new sources of auth­ority. Before 1776 Pennsylvanians needed a Royal Grant of authority to act. Now, laws no longer needed to be ap­proved in England; gone too was the superintending control and power of a proprietary governor over local affairs and political appointments. The people, who deeply revered written constitutions, had an opportunity to draw on their past traditions and beliefs in order to constitute a new com­pact in which privileges and duties were spelled out.

During the summer of 1776, at which ti me a special Provincial Conference and Convention was summoned in order to circumvent the assembly and the opposition of the proprietary and Quaker party interests, independence from England was assured in Pennsylvania. At that time the radical patriots not only promoted the revolution but also proceeded to frame a new state government that was even­tually adopted on September 28, 1776. Although the State Constitution of 1776 was never officially submitted to the people for approval, it had been modified to include nearly all of the objections published before adoption. It was the handiwork of men from humble origins and small property: James Cannon, an obscure college teacher; Timothy Mat­lack, a radical politician; Dr. Thomas Young, a radical from New England; David Rittenhouse, the famous scientist from an artisan background; and George Bryan, a fiery Presbyterian lawyer. These men produced a remarkable document, perhaps the most democratic constitution of the thirteen states.

The Constitution of 1776 which these men produced institutionalized Pennsylvania’s status as an independent commonwealth. Preceded by a preamble and declaration of rights, the document provided for a structure of govern­ment that was both democratic and undemocratic and radi­cal and conservative. It consisted of a powerful unicameral legislature, called the Assembly; a twelve-member executive body, called the Supreme Executive Council; an appointed judiciary that sat during good behavior; a revising committee, referred to as a Council of Censors, which met every seven years; and a local government which was the basis of control for the entire system. All male taxpayers twenty­-one years of age had the right to vote and were eligible for any office. Also, they could choose their own militia officers as high as the rank of colonel. In each case voting was by ballot. Initially, however, only those persons who took an oath supporting the revolution could vote. All members of the Assembly were elected for one year, and rotation was provided for since no one could serve for more than four years in seven. Councillors served for three years. Finally, executive vetoes, referendums, and all property qualifications for electors and officials were abolished.

The creation of a single chamber legislature clearly ran counter to the prevailing concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers. Some tinkering also had been done to create a government more responsive to majority opinion. Yet, with the exception of the Council of Censors and the provision for suspensive legislation – neither of which ever became effective – the drafters maintained over­all the traditional institutions of the province. The alterations in the charter government, such as abolition of the proprietorship, reapportioned representation, extension of suffrage, abolition of property qualifications, election oaths, and the elimination of executive veto represent tangible evidences of revolutionary change.

Paradoxically, the Constitution of 1776 received a stormy reception largely because it “represented the doctrine of a single party.” Besides, conservative Whigs (they tried to stem the tide for independence in 1774-76) were unwilling to be governed by the common sort, who wore “leather aprons.” Of the constitution-makers, Robert Proud, the famous early historian of Pennsylvania, wrote:

Of all the plagues that scourge the human race,
None can be worse than upstarts, when in place;
Their power to shew, no action they forebear;
They tyrannize over all, while all they fear;
No savage rage, no ravenous beast of prey,
Exceeds the cruelty of the Servile Sway!

Specific criticism of the Constitution was directed against the voter’s oath and the unicameral legislature. The questions to be asked here are twofold: first, was the general criticism of the constitution justified? second, had society itself actually been altered or just the tone of it?

There is no denying that the revolution was an impor­tant democratizing force, for it resolved the immediate issues of popular participation in politics and it served to make issues more clear-cut. In the process of undermining the older habits of deference, local sentiments were more broadly represented than under the colonial system. The ideology of popular government and majority rule had been rekindled as witnessed by the shift of power from the executive to the legislative branch. The Associators repre­sented in part a new body of voters – to fight is to vote. A larger number of ordinary people (yeoman and artisans) were drawn into politics than ever before. Politicians in fact gained a new importance at the expense of the clergy and other professionals. The result was that the social basis of both the Assembly and the Administrative council was much broader after 1776. That is not to say that a wholesale turnover in political leadership or immediate repudia­tion of deferential politics occurred. Instead, fewer wealthy and prominent families stayed in politics. Those who withdrew from the partisan arena included Benjamin Chew, John Reynell, Henry Drinker, James Pemberton, only to mention a few.

The entrenched interest of a largely hereditary governing class of the colonial world would be replaced by a new one. For all the lip service paid to the Declaration of Indepen­dence which propounded equality in theory, the words that all men were created equal were not taken literally in practice. By design, blacks, women, and the propertyless were not included in the new hierarchy of public servants. And, if more offices were elective and if plural office­holding was undermined, patronage still remained the political staff of life in Pennsylvania.

Political changes of fundamental importance accom­panied the American Revolution, just as they have other major revolutions in western history. Perhaps the most important change, although one difficult to characterize clearly, was the awakening of the “lessor and middling sort,” who slowly rose to challenge the traditional domi­nance of society by a landed and mercantile elite. Pennsyl­vania’s constitution of 1776 is but one example of the new activism inspired among previously deferential classes by the rhetoric of liberty and representative government and the spirit of individualism and egalitarianism. If in the short-run, the common man did not take over government and the people’s ideas remained as much “aristocratical” as they were “popular,” the groundwork for democratic change had at least been laid.



Fifty years ago it was fashionable for historians to consider the American Revolution as an economic movement. That economic causes existed is hard to deny. Sur­viving historical records suggest, however, that the short­-run economic results are less pronounced than the political. Yet, independence clearly altered the future course of American economic development. It enabled Americans, at least in theory, to send their exports wherever they wished. No longer were merchants obligated to send their major products as enumerated commodities to Britain and no longer were they compelled to buy goods only through middlemen in Britain. American ports could be opened to ships of every nation. Also, Americans were now free to issue currency as they saw fit to foster the development of their economy. Philadelphia was the largest and most economically active seaport town. Unfortunately, full­-blown theories did not always coincide with daily practices.

It seems that the task of supplying armies and navies both aided and detracted from economic development. On the one hand, the waging of war gave a boost to the de­pressed pre-Independence economy and, on the other, it created serious uncertainties which affected politics. As producers waged a battle to overcome their competitive disadvantages and to become more comprehensive, tradi­tional organizational patterns in the market place gave way to new ones and frequently older economic groups lost status in their respective communities to rising entrepreneurial classes.

In the agricultural sector there was striking prosperity for the farmers of southeastern Pennsylvania. Higher agri­cultural prices and increased demands were brought on by the war by both armies. Producers were known to sell their goods to the British who offered gold and not worthless continental currency. Because farmers could manufacture for themselves and could refrain from buying what they could not make, they suffered less from inflation than their urban counterparts. The steady inflation of currency al­lowed farmers to pay off dear debts with cheap money. Small farmers also flourished because agriculture was little affected by the violence of the war in Pennsylvania.

Urban dwellers, residing in such places as Philadelphia, Lancaster and York, suffered from inflation because wages lagged behind prices. Many of them worked to have prices fixed in order to check profiteers and speculators. In Philadelphia, where a sizable poverty class already existed, times were hard. Inflation also hit the Army and all the fixed-income groups. The British occupation of Philadel­phia not only shook public confidence in the ability of the state to win the war, but also resulted in damages estimated at nearly $200,000. The overall impact that the war had on widows, children, families, and in general on “little people” is, of course, not reflected in the above figure. In the minutes and general correspondence of the Supreme Executive Council and the General Assembly of Pennsylvania numerous requests are found for financial assistance and relief. These petitions and letters document how the war for Independence, which was clearly won by a rising middle class, added up to a winless battle especially for the “inarticulate” members of the society.

Manufacturers were no longer bridled by the restrictive legislation of the English commercial system. Therefore, skilled artisans and tradesmen generally anticipated the beginning of a new era of economic growth. Private socie­ties were formed to promote manufacturing and to subsidize individual enterprises. According to one recent scholar, during the early war years the manufacturing sector of Pennsylvania’s economy “worked at peak productivity.” For example, small scale industrial establishments for the manufacture of cloth and gunpowder and the production of iron experienced considerable prosperity. The shipping industry in Philadelphia and her suburbs (Northern Liberties and Southwark) was also stimulated by the war. In light of these developments new markets were added to old ones. To buy American goods had become the “patrio­tic” thing to do. Cordwainers, for example, resolved not to sell or buy any imported wares, nor even to mend any boots or shoes that were not American made. Such pres­sures did not prevent prominent Philadelphians from buying British luxury goods because they were cheaper and better made than anything the French and the Americans could offer.

As everyone knows, there is more to economic growth than the removal of legal restrictions and the creation of new markets. Prosperity was related to capital, costs, labor, expanding markets, and managerial skills. Meaningful long­-range expansion was stifled because capital, skilled labor, and raw materials were expensive and in short supply. During these years employers had to compete with the manpower needs of fighting the war and militia commit­ments. In the iron industrial communities, for example, plebeian types even bargained for wages and their institu­tions. The most profitable enterprises were also frequently carried on by men who possessed wealth and commercial connections. After 1783 these men preferred the enriching opportunities of commerce (importing and shipping) over manufacturing because it was a proven field for large invest­ments.

In addition to the above problems, manufacturers saw their profits wiped out by a postwar depression. In light of the British policy of dumping huge inventories on the American market, Philadelphia’s artisans and mechanics came to oppose a laissez-faire economy which had worked so well. They beseeched the government of Pennsylvania to impose tariffs (taxes) on imports of items which they manufactured, so that they might enjoy a competitive advantage. The tariff measures of 1785-86 were not only designed to encourage manufacturing but also appeared necessary to combat America’s unfavorable balance of. trade and reduce the drain of specie from the country. Impressed by these arguments and attracted by the lure of additional revenue, many states established tariff laws (barriers). Pennsylvania was as protectionist-minded as any of the northern states. However, because the states were unable to cooperate on economic regulations to stem the hard times, matters became worse instead of better. Be­sides, the several manufacturing interests in Philadelphia were not united on how to deal with the ruinous competi­tion. The issue of tariff protection split the State Constitu­tionalist party (a coalition built in 1779 of urban mechanics (Philadelphia) and backcountry common men); as the class related rhetoric, liberally basted with tory-baiting, wore thin, the Anti-Constitutionalist party (Republicans) of Pennsylvania used the economic issue to gain political ascendency.

The effect of the revolution on commerce, and merchant class. varied considerably. Foreign trade was in the dold­rums when the war began. During the war years of 1775-1783 market gains were cancelled by losses. While Philadel­phia lost fewer leading merchants than either Boston or New York, some were either wiped out in 1775-76 or saw their trade disrupted because of their British connections. Conspicuously affected were such merchants as Issac Wharton, Tench Coxe, Henry Drinker, Thomas Clifford, and John Parroch. The withdrawal from commerce of neutrals, especially the Quakers who manned the counting houses along the Delaware River, gave rise to new business opportunities for war-time profiteers and upstart merchants who filled the vacuum. In opening new trade channels­ – importing directly from continental Europe and from China – many a fortune was made as a result of the conflict. Privateering was not only supported by the state but passed as patriotism. Wartime profiteering was transmitted into peacetime land speculation.

There is another side to the picture. Independence was advantageous for economic growth, but it carried a high price in the short run because Britain now excluded Americans from many benefits they had previously enjoyed under the mercantilist system. Although the price was less high for a middle state like Pennsylvania, the assets of increased trade with non-British countries must be balanced by the loss of advantages provided by the navigation system. One such advantage was the lucrative, well-established West Indies Trade. This market was legally limited to British ships, yet Philadelphia’s exporters of wheat and flour still managed to use it. Britain also drastically reduced its importation of iron, but domestic consumption had picked up to keep the furnaces in operation. Yet, without the protection or control of the imperial system, Philadel­phia’s mercantile community worked in an uncertain commodity market that was filled with economic dislocations, especially at the close of the war. The increased rate of bankruptcy was related to the hazardous trade and the uncertain market. The final years of the war inflicted injury not only on merchants but on those who held paper fortunes.

The one sector of the economy that clearly benefitted from independence was finance. During the war there was more money in circulation than ever before because of the substitution of debts, increased taxes, and issuance of paper money by the General Assembly. The currency situation rejoiced the hearts of debtors but angered creditors and substantial citizens. After 1781, with the increasing amount of foreign trade this currency picture improved. The Bank of North America was established in Philadelphia in 1782. It reduced the financial strains that were related to the scarcity of specie (hard money, such as gold and silver). In finance as well as commerce the urban upper class was broadened sufficiently to include nouveaux riches merchants to a remarkable degree. The economic elite and political elite of Pennsylvania, although not as interchangeable as existed during the pre-war years, nonetheless had a lot in common.

With the defeat of the Iroquois and other tribes, the way was cleared for a renewal of westward expansion. Between 1777 and 1785 a large number of people migrated from south central and central Pennsylvania (Susquehanna River Basin) to the huge northwestern and western part of the state. The state was also settled by Yankees, with expansion in such areas as Wyoming, Meadville, and Bradford. Under the authority of the state two large tracts of land south of Lake Erie, respectively called the “Donation Lands” and the “Depreciation Lands,” were reserved for revolutionary veterans of the Pennsylvania Line. Soldiers were to be given plots from 200 to 2,000 acres depending upon rank. These settlements ultimately led to the creation of numerous counties, such as Armstrong, Allegheny and Butler. The disposition of this domain, including the land disposed by the Divesting Act, perhaps constituted the largest economic activity of the revolutionary era and was one of the most important in the subsequent decades.

Probably one of the more important aspects considered by specialists on the American Revolution is the treatment of the loyalists. They lost completely by the war. Pennsylvania has had a reputation of being a Tory stronghold. When the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778 some 3,000 Tories fled. It has been written that General Clinton abandoned at least 4,000 loyalists. Thus, this group represented a sizable segment (one-third) of the population.

In the campaign against royalty and loyalism the dis­affected were initially punished by double-taxation, banish­ment, and quarantine. Of course, Tories also ran the risk of being tarred and feathered. There were four legal execu­tions for treason in Pennsylvania. Eventually, in 1779, the property of loyalists was seized by the State. The confiscation act was passed for four primary reasons: 1) to pay for the damages done to Philadelphia during the British occupation; 2) to punish loyalists; 3) to raise funds desperately needed to carry on the war; and 4) to encourage the friends of the state.

We still do not know a great deal about the sale of con­fiscated estates in Pennsylvania. One authority claims that the value of the confiscated land stood at perhaps £400,000. For example, the Divesting Act of 1779 alone divested the Proprietors of nearly 22 million acres of land, for which the state paid £130,000 sterling. Although the Supreme Executive Council by 1781 identified 453 persons as traitors, not all of those attainted persons lost their property. Among the more notable individual estates to be sold were owned by such attainted traitors as Joseph Galloway, Samuel Shoemaker, William and John Allen, William Rankin, and the Rev. Jacob Duche.

Generally speaking, the motive for selling loyalist lands was punitive or fiscal rather than egalitarian. Consequently, in the process of selling to the highest bidder economic opportunity was neither extended nor was a peasant free­-holding class established. From the beginning, it seems that the land was not divided but sold as a unit. It was often wealthy men or patriot speculators who bought these con­fiscated lands, but such owners usually sought a speculative profit by holding these lands for future retailing; a large percentage of these persons were in state government. Famous patriots, including Thomas McKean, Blair McClenachan, Charles Willson Peale, and Dr. James Hutchinson, bought or acquired the use of these estates. In short, only a small number of individuals acquired land who might otherwise not have done so. The cost of urban confiscated property would have effectively barred poor men from buying even the smallest parcel of land. Finally, because purchasers could use state money and notes, the sales not only failed to benefit tenants and small farmers but also failed to bring in expendable revenue for the state. In summary, then the entire disposition of these lands merely enriched the rich and helped to retire the debt. If a fund­amental change in land ownership occurred, the state government of Pennsylvania as well as the Continental Congress (for ceded Western Lands) followed policies more favorable to speculators than to settlers. Instead of a break­up of estates, conceivably greater concentrations followed. Decades would pass before these lands would fall into the hands of the middling or lessor sort.


Social and Humanitarian

In Pennsylvania there were a number of important social and/or humanitarian changes and trends which had been stirred by the Revolutionary ferment. The egalitarian impulses, which probably had originated in Europe, were nonetheless nourished by the new environment. Contrary to older notions of class structure and social mobility a hardening of class lines, or a decline in social cohesion, occurred in the original three counties during the late colonial period. Wealth (land and commerce) was more con­centrated at the top of the social pyramid. Newcomers still acquired wealth, but they were fewer than before; more­over, those persons who achieved material success were not always granted social prestige by the older elite. For example, a well-established upper class of merchants and lawyers in Philadelphia, typified by Thomas Willing, Robert Morris, John Dickinson, and the Quaker gentry, had come to occupy the most advantageous positions. A study on Chester County suggests increasing social stratification, if one examines the distribution of wealth. Finally, if greater opportunities existed in the urban areas, the gap between top and bottom was much greater in the cities than ever before.

To be sure, after 1776 Pennsylvania functioned in a more open society. Independence had created new entre­preneurial arrangements and temporarily reversed the pro­cess of exclusion. While statements about social changes or wealth redistribution must be made with great caution in Pennsylvania, the war contributed for the most part to the increase in social mobility of the bourgeois group connected to the war effort. The American Revolution was not, of course, fought along class lines, for all classes were divided in their allegiance. Yet, the exodus of 3,000 Loyalists led to the decline of the aristocracy. Their emigration cleared the way for many men to rise to the top, many of whom would not have attained prominence had the colonies remained British. All attempts to establish a hereditary aristocracy were censured as were all programs of leveling.

In seeking to reduce the upper class, the status of the deprived groups in Pennsylvania was also raised. Arguments were aired by would-be reformers against the evils of in­dentured servitude; the practice which steadily diminished even before the Revolution was further reduced. The con­sequences of the American Revolution on black Americans have not yet been fully detailed. Negroes fought on the patriots’ side, but it seems that many more Negroes were probably Tories. Moreover, they were among those persons who left Philadelphia following the British occupation. This matter is not a well-known fact.

Slavery was also a standing affront to the ideology of the Revolution, and consequently it came under strong attack during and at the conclusion of the war. In Pennsyl­vania, slavery served no important economic function and was unnecessary as a means of assuring white supremacy since blacks were relatively few. In 1780 the Negro popula­tion stood at 6,000. Although slavery was a contradiction of the moral foundation of the Revolution – the concept that all men are entitled to liberty – elimination of slavery in Pennsylvania was conditioned by an anxious society interested in some form of social control.

Nevertheless, Pennsylvanians can be proud of their early initiatives toward the emancipation of black Americans. The Quakers, who were forced to abandon their activity in the slave trade by the levelers within their society, now also sought to abolish slavery because so many wealthy members owned slaves. In 1775 certain members were instrumental in the founding of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery. The Quaker abolitionists agreed to expel slave owners from the Society of Friends. This decision ultimately led to enforce manumission of several thousand blacks in the Philadelphia area. In 1779 Constitutionalist Party leaders, being carried by the idealism of the day, at last picked up the spirited campaign of John Wollman against human slavery. Over the opposition of some Presbyterians and Germans, the state assembly adopted the first abolition law in the nation in 1780.

Although the period perhaps favored greater gains for blacks, the act provided only for the gradual emancipation of slavery. (The assumption of social Negro inferiority was virtually universal). Because these underlying feelings pre­vailed, a semi-free status was established. In short, only children born after the passage of the act were freed and then only after they had served as indentured servants until maturity. Number of manumissions were few; often freedom came as a result of a master’s failure to register a slave. By 1790 the number of slaves had declined to fewer than 4,000. The courts of Pennsylvania consistently supported the concept of personal freedom, which made it difficult for local citizens to own slaves after 1808.

In the area of crime and punishment and the treatment of prisoners, there were also changes. The harshness of the criminal law in America in 1776 was in part a reflection of a still harsher criminal code existing in England. By 1776 sixteen crimes were punishable by death in Pennsylvania, which exceeded by four the Duke of York’s code and colonial practice. However, for the crimes of rape, besti­ality, burglary or willful murder, blacks and whites were not treated the same. As a result of the revolution, Pennsyl­vania gradually returned to the more humane criminal codes of William Penn. In 1794 Pennsylvania was the first state to come up with a revised criminal code. Imprisonment for debt proved more difficult to remove from the law books. Conditions of prisons and programs for rehabilitation were also scrutinized by reformers. Reforms began in Philadelphia where the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons was founded in 1787. Owing to the work of Benjamin Rush a plan for the permanent improvement of prison discipline was approved by the state legislature in 1790. This plan would serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

Benjamin Rush had also advanced ideas on the treatment of the insane and he pushed for a Peace Department in the continental government. Anthony Benezet, a Phila­delphia Quaker educator and humanitarian, crusaded not only for these reforms but also for temperance and for the fair treatment of the American Indian.

During and after the Revolution reformers also sought to reform the land laws by eliminating relics that symbolized the past. One of the major reforms to come about was the legal abolition of entail (an inheritable estate) and primogeniture (descent to the first-born male heir). It has been rightly argued that the democratic effect and impor­tance of this reform was minor in Pennsylvania because these customs had fallen into disuse except when a man died intestate. Proprietary quit rents, which had become almost impossible to collect, were altogether written off the books.


Religion and Education

The new declaration of freedom came to embrace religion and education as well as politics and economics. Many persons saw the Revolution itself as a revival, with republicanism the “God-head.” Believing in an impersonal God and an afterlife, many American Revolutionaries considered theology as outside of respectable learning. More specifically, in liberal Pennsylvania because the principles of religious toleration and the separation of church and state were well-established, the revolution had less of an impact there than in colonies where established religion was the rule. Catholics and Jews were discriminated against in the Constitution of 1776. For example, it required mem­bers of the Assembly to take an oath that they were ortho­dox Protestant Christians. Pennsylvania’s constitution also specifically recognized public responsibility for the educa­tion of the young. Trying to cleanse the land of that part of the British heritage that failed to fit the American experience, classical education was replaced by a practical one. Moreover, Americans wanted their children to be educated at home and not in Europe. Thus, the revolution fostered the beginnings of new American academies and colleges, and American-produced grammars and other books. The Presbyterians founded Dickinson College at Carlisle in 1783 and the Lutherans and Dutch Reformed set up Franklin College at Lancaster in 1787. The Pittsburgh Academy of 1787 developed into the University of Pitts­burgh.

In summary, then, the consequences of the American Revolution were more than superficial or incidental. If the results were not profound, they were nevertheless catalytic in nature. In a sense the ingredients for a nation had long been present in colonial America but it took. the Revolution to quicken and force them into the open. The process of change was particularly speeded in Pennsylvania. There the political results of the war were potent and visible. The patriots did not fight for democracy; only a few persons viewed the revolution as an opportunity to rebuild society on the basis of the Declaration of Independence. Yet the movement contributed much to the coming of democracy because of the acceptance of newer concepts of government. The economic results of the revolution were mixed. The basic structure of economic system remained largely unchanged, but Americans possessed greater economic free­dom than ever before. Socially speaking, the revolution spilled over in areas of redistribution of landholdings, land laws, indentured servitude, slavery, prisons, mental illness, religion and education. Some changes were more symbolic than others. The lot of the common man was improved, but more exhaustive research is still required in this area.

Benjamin Rush captured the significance of this event when he remarked in 1787 that the American Revolution and the American War were not one in the same. The war ended in 1783, but Rush concluded that the American Revolution of 1763 to 1783 was merely the first act of the great drama. “It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government,” he noted. To a large degree, the new American reflected the patriotic conviction that it was in our destiny to create a new and better civiliza­tion. Over the next half century, even perhaps two cen­turies, the political and socio-economic ideals freed during the revolutionary decade has been gradually, although not completely fulfilled.


* In a series of lectures presented by J. Franklin Jameson (published in 1926 as The American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement), the much-neglected consequences of the Revolution were for the first time broadly treated. This volume, which was intended primarily as an incitement to further study in this wide field, was significant for two reasons: first, it gave the event a truly revolutionary character and. secondly. it offered to historians a model by which to develop a comprehensive and comparative analysis of the event.


Dr. Roland M. Baumann is a specialist in revolutionary and early national history. He has published articles and book re­views in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Bio­graphy, Pennsylvania History and The William and Mary Quarterly. Currently, he is the editorial consultant for the archival and historical work involved in the major project entitled “Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Govern­ments, 1775-1790: Microfilm and Guide.”