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In Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776, Jon Butler argues that a remarkable, yet overlooked, transformation took

place in the American colonies between 1680 and 1760. This transformation manifested itself in almost every aspect of colonial life, and changed the socioeconomic makeup of America forever. This gradual revolution included an ethnic and racial diversity, an increasingly modernized economy, a growing display of power that would form the foundation of the political system and reveal itself in the colonists material lives, and a display of religious pluralism that is not seen even today in some societies. Butler not only gives an excellent summary of matters such as immigration and indigenous religion, but also gives credible and convincing reasoning that it was the middle years of the colonial period that would define Americanot the victories and defeats of the revolutionary war. In the years between 1680 and 1760, America had become modern (aside from technological advancements that would appear throughout the 19th century.) In Peoples, the first chapter of the book, Butler explains the importance of the expanding population. This population enlargement resulted in a diverse ethnic and racial society. In 1650, the total population of the colonies was roughly 50,000. By 1700 it had reached over 250,000. In 1770, the population exceeded two million. Prior to 1680, the colonial population was primarily that of English settlers, who composed approximately 80-90% of immigrants. In the years that followed, however, there was a massive flux of immigration from not only the forced shipment of Africans to the colonies to be used as slaves, but also the arrival of numerous Huguenots, Jews, Germans, Scots, Irish, and French. By 1703, Butler points out, there was no national, ethnic or religious majority (9). The Scottish, Irish, French, German, and Swiss immigrants represented about 75% of migrants to the colonies. This heterogeneity made the British colonies unique compared to colonies belonging to other nations. For example, the overseas colonies owned by France, Spain, and Portugal never developed or contained the diversity of European settlers that Britains mainland colonies saw. Additionally, immigrants tended to settle across all the colonies. While certain ethnic groups may have grouped together within certain cities, they did not limit themselves to only one area. Any given culture could be found throughout the Northeast, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the southern colonies. For example, while German immigrants may have relocated heavily to the area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there was still a more or less equal distribution of German immigrants throughout the mainland colonies. While the European settlers were making America increasingly heterogeneous, they were also causing the cultural genocide of the Native Americans. Through violent acquisition of territory or contracting European diseases, the American Indians experienced a radical population decline. The Massachusetts and Patuxet tribes, for example, were reduced from 25,000 people in 1600 to less than 300 people by 1700, while the European population rose to nearly 90,000. (12). This mixture of ethnic and racial groups was uniquely Americanno other society had provided or supported such an extent of diversity. This diversity would allow for the economic changes that the colonies would go through and eventually embrace.

Butler contends that the economy of the mainland colonies was the first of its kind, and unique in numerous aspects. First, it experienced faster growth than any previous industrial economy. Secondly, it was more complex and diverse. Third, it was able to expand as the colonists expanded their territory. And, finally, it was able to play into the international market through both imports and exports. The economy in colonial America revolved around farming and agriculture, but simply because it had not reached the level of complexity that it would in the 20th century, Butler argues, does not mean it was simple and primitive. The economy in the prerevolutionary era reached a level of modernity that had not been seen in the economies back in Europe. Because the economy revolved around agriculture, as the agricultural system developed and changed, so did the economy. After 1680, farming slowly shifted from being solely subsistent to becoming increasingly commercial. At the very least, farmers would produce extra crops to sell to neighbors. Some payed attention to prices of certain crops and would produce more of them to sell to factors, who would then ship them off to the world market. In the Chesapeake area, farmers began focusing so much on the tobacco market that the Dales Laws were incorporated, which required every settler to plant two acres of corn to safeguard the food supply as everyone hurried to grow tobacco for export. (52). In this regard, it was the South that led the way towards the increasingly capitalist economy that the colonies were developing. The pervasive use of slavery allowed for the southern colonists to farm for profit much easier than in the north, where slavery was limited. This, in turn, made economic competition much tougher, which resulted in the slaveholders vying for even more labor. Butler also argues that the farmers were able to manipulate the economy in order to make a profit. For example, as rice prices fell, (due to the amount of the crop being produced) farmers supplemented their income by producing indigo to sell to Europe. By 1750, the value of indigo crops had grown tenfold. The growing influence the economy began to have on the colonies can be seen through how the Indians reacted. After 1680, as the economy was growing and expanding, the Indian economies began to resemble the European (and emerging colonial) market system. As the colonists and the Natives furthered their trade connections, they became increasingly interdependent. As a result, the Indian economy became entangled with the fluctuating market both throughout the colonies and overseas. This economic connection became more complex because the two groups economies did not simply center on tradeboth the colonists and the Indians realized that their economic fortune would be controlled by the amount of land they possessed. This, in turn, led to a competitiveness and violent struggle between the Natives and the settlers. The colonies also had the advantage of having a link to an already strong economy back in Europe from the very beginning. Merchants and craftsmen were present in the colonies from even the very first settlements such as Jamestown. Unlike mainland Europe, which took hundreds of years to develop into a modern economy, the colonies economy took shape at the height of Mercantilisms popularity. Butler contends that there were three aspects of the

colonies that allowed for the rapid growth and modernization that the economy would experience between 1680 and 1770expansion, extension, and specialization. Merchants expanded in number faster than any other profession, and were not limited to the emerging metropolises such as Philadelphia or New York. Merchants could be found even in the rural countrysidewhether as permanent shopkeepers or making visits to sell their merchandise. Merchants also focused on specialized industries, such as dry goods and cloth/sewing materials in order to make a profit and gain a competitive edge. Another aspect that arose through the shift towards a modern economy was the inequality it created. The merchant elite of the major cities differed sharply from the poverty that had not been seen in the colonies prior to 1680. The top 10% of Bostons elite owned 46% of the citys wealth in 1687. By 1770, they owned 63%. This signified that as the years progressed, more was held by the few, and it was becoming increasingly more difficult for newcomers to the economy to succeed. These patterns of prosperity versus poverty that were established during the middle years of the colonial period would become one of the American economys most enduring characteristicsone that continues to plague society today. The third chapter of Becoming America examines politicsboth on the local and national level. Butler focuses not so much on the political thoughts and ideologies that were prevalent at the time, but on the systems that arose during the middle years, such as legal issues, assemblies, and the public sphere. He argues that the partisanship, partiality, incessant personal intrigue, and institutional creativity turned otherwise placid New World backwaters into laboratories for exceptional yet unplanned political experiments. (90). An increasing number of legal disputes (mostly over unpaid debts) emerged in the early 18th century, which in turn led to a rise in the practice of law. These issues mostly played out at the local level, where the political process was not as complex or involved as at the regional or national level. As the colonies developed past 1680, suffrage became more and more important. Unlike local politics, which centered on land and personal grievances, provincial elections prompted widespread public discussions of political issues and the formation of political groups. (96). Butler also argues that although voter turnout in these formative years was low by modern standards, it was extensive by 18th century European standards. 40% of eligible Virginians voted in 1760 compared to only 20% of eligible voters in Britain that year. Butler asserts that these middle years marked a transition from a hierarchical political structure to a more open, democratic system. One of the most crucial ways this was done was through the development of the modern political system. While Butler acknowledges that it was not until after the Revolution that the national assemblies would wield the power and authority that would begin to develop and expand throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, he maintains that it was during the prerevolutionary era that the groundwork was laid for this system to progress. The years of 1680-1770 saw the development of a bicameral legislature throughout the majority of the colonies. While these assemblies lacked the national power that they would gain after the revolution, the years leading up to the revolution proved to be

extremely influential in the modern political structure that would begin to develop after 1800. This groundwork for a modern political system was also allowed for the public discussion that came to characterize the colonies during the prerevolutionary era (and would prove to be a lasting characteristic after the war.) The vast number of printers, publishers, newspapers, a growing literacy rate, and taverns allowed for this public forum. Any newspaper in circulation during the 18th century printed political news. This, coupled with an astounding literacy rate of 70% among men, and 45% among women by 1750, (compared to 40% in Britain) resulted in a cycle of increased circulation of newspapers throughout the colonies. Butler states that this literature, which discussed taxes, religion, political dissent, and public policy turned eighteenth-century America into a raucous political hothouse. This openly public political discourse resulted in a large number of factions and debate, which largely took place in the tavern culture that arose extensively throughout the major cities and rural areas. The large-scale political system that developed during 17th and 18th centuries reflected an autonomous system. The colonies did not look to approval from Britain on matters of provincial politicsthe empire back home could not be bothered by such trivial matters anyways, Butler argues. As war and its consequences would show, the years of 1680 to 1770 resulted in political institutions and processes whose significance extended far beyond their provincial and often partisan origins. (130). It was not until after changes to the governance and oversight of the colonies in the early 1760s that the British fatefully realized the political tools and accomplishments of the colonies. Chapter four of Becoming America discusses Things Material, focusing on the rise of a secularly based social life throughout the colonies. The subtly changing way of life, Butler argues, would reshape the meaning of America before political independence was achieved. For Butler, there were four main characteristics that shaped the colonists material worldfood, clothing, furnishing, and housing. The colonists enjoyed a better diet than their European counterparts, due largely to the availability of farmable land, and the relative ease with which they [Europeans] obtained and worked it, and the bountiful crops it produced. (134). In addition, after 1660, farmers began to utilize domestic livestock production, and their reliance on hunting began to diminish. Clothing production also shifted during the prerevolutionary era. During the 17th century, most clothing worn by colonists was imported from Europe. Manufacturing clothing in England was much cheaper and less labor-intensive than in the newly formed colonies. Yet as the colonial economy advanced, domestic production began to rise. The expansion of retail merchants throughout the colonies allowed clothing to be available for cheap prices, and the kind of clothing worn slowly became a symbol of wealth and status. The patterns shown through food and clothing production were also reflected through housing and furnishings. They came to reflect differences in wealth, race, ethnicity, and urban versus rural society. After 1680, housing began to dramatically increase in size and sophistication, whether through expanding the colonists original housing, or new construction. Both ways resulted in the addition of parlors, larger rooms,

and aesthetic modifications such as decorative wood trims. While these expansions paled in comparisons to the stately manor homes of Europeans nobility, they still represented a dramatic improvement, and opened the way for larger estates that would increase throughout the 18th century. Butler argues that the Whether in the choices available or unavailable, the sources of materials, imported or domestic, or the simple care, quality, and sophistication of work, residents of the mainland colonies created an increasingly distinctive secular material culture. Butler also believes that perhaps the most striking transformation was not that of private space, but that of the public space throughout the colonies. The rise of courthouses symbolized a slight departure from religion as the primary focal point of social lives. Even more influential in the rise of secular life was the rise in taverns and the growing importance of tavern culture. Tavern life came to characterize the material culture of eighteenth century America. While the tavern itself was not unique to the colonies or the 1700s, the implications of tavern life were enormous. Taverns increased by 81% between 1719 and 1722 in Boston alone. The taverns of the colonies produced a culture where men drank, socialized, critiqued, schemed, sometimes to promote individual interests, often to create and expand neighborhood and town interests. (171). It brought contemporary issues to the forefront of social life in colonial America, and promoted political arguments and the spread of political ideologies in a way that newspapers could not. Secular literature was not limited to men either. Womenalbeit wealthy, elite women gathered in coffeehouses and tearooms where they engaged in philosophical and literary discussions. All of these emerging trendswhether something as simple as a desk, or as noteworthy as a literary circle for womenhad consequences far greater than their material value. Becoming Americas final chapter, Things Spiritual, discusses religious life in colonial America. Butler argues that religion in Colonial America became significantly varied during the prerevolutionary period. The religious patterns that had taken shape in the 17th century were transformed; giving way to the religious pluralism that has since endured. Prior to 1680, Butler states, Christianity was the dominant religion in the colonies. 90% of congregations formed in the seventeenth century were Anglican or Congregational. After 1680, however, religious activity exploded, and the religious landscape of the colonies began to diversify. Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Lutheran, and Judaism all expanded throughout the colonies. Protestantism saw religious revivals, which Butler argues were able to have such a large influence due to social and economic tensions. Butler does not focus so much on the effect of the religious revivals, but rather on their implications. He stresses that the intense advocacy of different religions that spread throughout the colonies during the 18th century signified the open society that the Europeans who came to America had created. Butler also discusses the religious patterns among the Native Americans that were established after 1680. The integration of traditional tribal practices with European practices, the resistance to acculturation, and the conflict of conversion to Christianity resulted in substantial change to American Indians during the 18th century. These patterns resulted in a religious

pluralism that mirrored the Europeans, but it was a pluralism that was forced and met with violent conflict. Similarly, African spirituality underwent a spiritual holocaust that prevented traditional African religious systems from prospering in Britains mainland colonies. (215). While traditional customs were almost completely wiped out, those that survived, such as healing and burial rituals, would eventually mix with the Christianization that occurred among Africans in the southern colonies, and give rise to modern African-American religious practices. The religious tolerance that the European settlers enjoyed and the reshaping of traditional customs of the American Indians and Africans would form the unique religious landscape that has ever since become the very soul of modern American culture. (186). Butler concludes the book by discussing the year of 1776. He does not contest the revolutions importance, but he does argue that it was not the inevitable consequence of the changes that transformed Britains mainland colonies after 1680. (225). Rather, these transformative changes allowed for the revolution to take placeby 1776, America had become a completely different society than what it was only decades before. The emigration that created a diverse population, economic development, political advancement, material consumerism, and religious pluralism was a gradual transformation that was would influence the political revolution of 1776. While the Revolution was caused by the disastrous of events of the 1760s-1770s (the Stamp Act, Sugar Act, and Quartering Act, for example), the changes that took place between 1680 and 1770 would dictate the American Revolution, and allowed for the transformation of colonies controlled by Britain to become a modern society that epitomized the progress, for good or ill, of modernity itself. Although the colonies lacked the technology and urban characteristics we associate with modernity today, by the time of the Revolution, the colonies were essentially modern. Overall, I agreed more than disagreed with Butlers argument. His summary of events and colonial lifestyle alone was one of the most informative I have ever read. He makes excellent use of available accounts and statistics from the prerevolutionary period. One of the biggest strengths in his argument was the layout of his argument. By clearly defining five characteristics that made the colonies modern, the implications of each characteristic are more convincing. And despite clearly defined traits of modernity, he interrelates each trait and each implication. His challenge of the view that Americans underwent a shift in values following the Revolution during a transition towards capitalism is especially strong. By discussing the emerging secular life of the colonists, for example, he interweaves the impact this had on the economy, and how a rise in consumerism and demand for material goods resulted in the expansion of merchants and artisans who could supply and sell such merchandise. For example, Butlers discussion of the improvement of colonial housing and the furnishments and goods found inside colonial homes during the prerevolutionary period showcases the expanse of material objects and consumption. Butler notes that, Items that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were deemed luxuriesmore furniture, more elaborate

and greater amounts of clothing, increased quantities of dishes, silverware, and household goodsbecame far more widely available, if not yet common...from Wedgwood pottery to suits, dresses, and mens shaving equipment, commercial products became a means of economic expansion and a major symbol of social prestige. Imports from Europe (specifically England) to the colonies resulted in a mini consumer revolution. Consumption increased throughout the colonies, from clothing and furniture to paintings and carpets. Connecting the economy with emerging secular lifestyles of the colonists not only seems logical, but it strengthens Butlers argument by allowing the reader to draw parallels between eighteenth century and twenty-first century economic trends and consumer lifestyles. One of the biggest strengths I noticed when reading Becoming America was the attention Butler paid to minorities and the dark side of Americas modernization process. In doing so, he touches slightly on the public and hidden transcripts of societal groups in prerevolutionary America. He fully recognizes that Africans underwent a spiritual holocaust, which reflects the public transcript of slaveholders dominating the traditions and customs of slaves in America. But he also discusses how the rituals and beliefs that survivedthe hidden transcriptwould later emerge and become the foundation for African-American culture in the 20th century. For all of the books strengths, there are a couple flaws I see in the overall generality of his argument. The first is the extreme focus on the importance of the influence of the prerevolutionary years, which seems to dwarf the importance of the Revolution itself. While he acknowledges the revolutions achievement of preserving the transformations that took place during 1680-1770, it nonetheless seems to diminish the Revolutions significance in furthering Americas modernization process. By only setting aside twenty-some pages at the end of the book to discuss one of the most significant events in American history, Butler makes the revolution seem like no more than an interlude. Another issue prevalent throughout the book is the question of exclusion. Butler covers so many groups and their impact on the coloniesfrom Native Americans to women to Scot-Irishthat it made me wonder if anything was being left out. For example, Butler discusses the British settlements and the mass emigration of numerous ethnic groups, but he does not discuss the Spanish and French colonies, and the implications of the quest for, and control of, land throughout America. It would be interesting to have a comparison between the economies and ethnic makeup of these colonies, and Butlers reasoning for why the Spanish and French never expanded like the British colonies did. Butler also touches only briefly on the French and Indian War, and when he does, it is only to discuss the economic and social impacts of the military conflict. The same goes for the numerous violent clashes between the European settlers and Native Americans. Butler, overall, talks about the accommodation of the European settlements by the American Indians. True, he does acknowledge that American Indians underwent a spiritual holocaust and a forced rather than voluntary adaptation to European life. But the overall discussion of European/Indian encounters seems to be offhanded and inconsequential to the development of a modern America. When discussing the diminishment of American Indians, he acknowledges that entire Indian cultures, which had existed for

hundreds or thousands of years, disappeared within a century or two. Yet this admittance is directly followed by arguing that those tribes who did not succumb to disease or conquest went through a process of adaption, accommodation, and survival. This meant that during prerevolutionary society, Indians and Europeans not only lived side-by-side, but also interacted with each other for trade. While they may not have lived in harmony, Butler argues, the era of greater segregation would come in the nineteenth centuryyet in the prerevolutionary era, Indians solidified new ways of dealing with the European challenge. (16). It seems like he is completely ignoring the numerous violent clashes between Natives and settlers. There are countless accounts of revolts by the American Indians towards Europeans who were intruding on their land. Likewise, most Europeans viewed Indians as a savage people, which led to hostility among settlers, which often resulted in violence towards the Indians. This is vastly different than the adaptation and accommodation that Butler claims the Native Americans used to deal with the small inconvenience that was the European challenge. In addition to the cultural genocide that the Europeans subjected the American Indians to, Butler also pays a great deal of attention to the rise of slavery in the colonies. Slavery caught on rapidly at the close of the 17th century, mostly due to convenience and the Europeans view of Africans as savage heathens, Butler argues. This resulted in Africans becoming the largest group of immigrants to the mainland colonies, despite the fact that it was a forced migration. In South Carolina, for example, enslaved Africans represented 2/3 of the colonys population by 1720. Fear of revolt led the slave owners to forbid the expression of African ethnic culture. Because of this, Butler contends, the small parts of these cultures that survivedthe hidden transcripts of African culturewould go onto form the basis of the racially diverse culture that America eventually grew into and adopted. Despite the fact that the African cultural traditions were lost, the enslaved transformed this loss into a New World culture. This emerging folk life took the form of games, songs, dancing, and story telling. The middle years of the colonial period saw a transition where the people of America became the American people. This population shifted from that of mostly homogenous Caucasian, British settlers to that of multi-racial, multinational men and womena characteristic that has depicted American society ever since. While there is no contesting the economic impact of slavery in the colonies, Butler comes dangerously close to appearing like he believes that arguably the most shameful mark on Americas past was a necessary evil. Butler also does not seem to focus much attention on the Great Awakening. To devote an entire chapter to Things Spiritual and never directly mention the Great Awakening is astonishing to me. He mentions protestant revivalism, and the spread of religious tolerance throughout the colonies, but that is more or less the extent of his discussion on one of the most fervent religious movements in history. Butler could have greatly benefited from incorporating the Great Awakening into the rest of the book. It could be argued that the Great Awakening played a key role in the development and promotion of democratic principles that would come out of the American Revolution. Additionally, the second wave of the Great Awakening, which took place between 1790-1840, (outside of the timeline Butler utilizes) gave

rise to the abolitionist movement. The final issue I had with Butlers argument was the danger of him turning other societies into what Edward Said defines as the other. Butlers overall argument seems to be that becoming America is essentially becoming modern. The two terms seem interchangeable, so his perspective on what it means to be modern is a crucial in evaluating the colonies. Does he consider the world that the European settlers left behind as premodern? Surely, Britain during the 17th and 18th century was more economically and politically developed than the newly formed colonies. Even the Greek and Roman empires could be categorized as modern, even by using Butlers standards. It begs the question of whether Butlers argument hinges too much on the American uniqueness viewpointthat America is an anomaly throughout history, and thus, inherently better than other societies. While I think overall that Butler avoids falling victim to this, it is certainly an issue that should have been addressed and clarified. For the most part, I not only found Butlers summary of colonial America interesting and informative, but intriguing as well. Prior to reading Becoming America, I had been under the impression that life in colonial America was unsophisticated, and even primitive, and that it was the Revolutionary War that changed that. I had no knowledge of how socially, politically, and economically contemporary the colonies became between 1680 and 1770. The parallels between eighteenth century America and our present day society are astounding, and it pays tribute to a period of American history that has been vastly underrated and overshadowed by preceding and succeeding events.