Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina

Univ of North Carolina Press
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Ten years before the start of the American Revolution, backcountry settlers in the North Carolina Piedmont launched their own defiant bid for economic independence and political liberty. The Regulator Rebellion of 1766-71 pitted thousands of farmers, many of them religious radicals inspired by the Great Awakening, against political and economic elites who opposed the Regulators' proposed reforms. The conflict culminated on May 16, 1771, when a colonial militia defeated more than 2,000 armed farmers in a pitched battle near Hillsborough. At least 6,000 Regulators and sympathizers were forced to swear their allegiance to the government as the victorious troops undertook a punitive march through Regulator settlements. Seven farmers were hanged.

Using sources that include diaries, church minutes, legal papers, and the richly detailed accounts of the Regulators themselves, Marjoleine Kars delves deeply into the world and ideology of free rural colonists. She examines the rebellion's economic, religious, and political roots and explores its legacy in North Carolina and beyond. The compelling story of the Regulator Rebellion reveals just how sharply elite and popular notions of independence differed on the eve of the Revolution.

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About the author

Marjoleine Kars is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of North Carolina Press
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Published on
Apr 3, 2003
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780807860373
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)
History / United States / State & Local / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Americans are fond of reflecting upon the Founding Fathers, the noble group of men who came together to force out the tyranny of the British and bring democracy to the land. Unfortunately, as Terry Bouton shows in this highly provocative first book, the Revolutionary elite often seemed as determined to squash democracy after the war as they were to support it before. Centering on Pennsylvania, the symbolic and logistical center of the Revolution, Bouton shows how this radical shift in ideology spelled tragedy for hundreds of common people. Leading up to the Revolution, Pennsylvanians were united in their opinion that "the people" (i.e. white men) should be given access to the political system, and that some degree of wealth equality (i.e. among white men) was required to ensure that political freedom prevailed. As the war ended, Pennsylvania's elites began brushing aside these ideas, using their political power to pass laws to enrich their own estates and hinder political organization by their opponents. By the 1780s, they had reenacted many of the same laws that they had gone to war to abolish, returning Pennsylvania to a state of economic depression and political hegemony. This unhappy situation led directly to the Whiskey and Fries rebellions, popular uprisings both put down by federal armies. Bouton's work reveals a unique perspective, showing intimately how the war and the events that followed affected poor farmers and working people. Bouton introduces us to unsung heroes from this time--farmers, weavers, and tailors who put their lives on hold to fight to save democracy from the forces of "united avarice." We also get a starkly new look at some familiar characters from the Revolution, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington, who Bouton strives to make readers see as real, flawed people, blinded by their own sense of entitlement. Taming Democracy represents a turning point in how we view the outcomes of the Revolutionary War and the motivations of the powerful men who led it. Its eye-opening revelations and insights make it an essential read for all readers with a passion for uncovering the true history of America.
Even as the 250th anniversary of its outbreak approaches, the Seven Years' War (otherwise known as the French and Indian War) is still not wholly understood. Most accounts tell the story as a military struggle between British and French forces, with shifting alliances of Indians, culminating in the British conquest of Canada. Scholarly and popular works alike, including James Fennimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, focus on the action in the Hudson River Valley and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Matthew C. Ward tells the compelling story of the war from the point of view of the region where it actually began, and whose people felt the devastating effects of war most keenly-the backcountry communities of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Previous wars in North America had been fought largely on the New England and New York frontiers. But on May 28, 1754, when a young George Washington commanded the first shot fired in western Pennsylvania, fighting spread for the first time to Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ward's original research reveals that on the eve of the Seven Years' War the communities of these colonies were isolated, economically weak, and culturally diverse. He shows in riveting detail how, despite the British empire's triumph, the war brought social chaos, sickness, hunger, punishment, and violence, to the backcountry, much of it at the hands of Indian warriors.

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