Morgan

Edmund Morgan’s article, “The Puritan Ethic and the American Revolution” centers around the argument that the major motivation behind the American Revolution was the standards of “Puritan Ethics”, particularly their belief in doing God’s will through hard work for the good of the community. I find it interesting that Morgan places a Puritan emphasis on events leading up to the American Revolution that are taught from a relatively young age. Generally speaking, it is taught that the Americans fought for their freedom from Britain for reasons ranging from unreasonably high taxes to the unfairness of being ruled by a king thousands of miles away to the simple need for self reliance and leadership among the “American” people. Never, however, have I heard it taught that the reasoning behind these grievances was a set of Puritan Ethics. All the same Morgan takes numerous events in early American history and sheds a Puritan light on them to show how these ethics led to the course of history. For example, as a result of high British taxes, colonists staged boycotts and refused to purchase British goods instead choosing to make them domestically. In the traditional sense, this boycott was a way to show the British crown that the Americans were not completely dependent upon England for its goods. In the light of the Puritan Ethic, however, the boycotts were a way to fend off idleness and sloth that is created by the dependence on the purchase of common goods.

In an attempt to view the origins of this particular stance, I tried to find more information about Morgan to see if I could find any clue to his personal religious views. It would have been interesting to see how his religious beliefs may have shaped this particular argument, considering it is not one which would, I think, generally be defended. However, I was unable to find any clue to his background other than that he was a Professor of History at Yale University. I must admit I am disappointed that I could find no such information. Short of knowing Morgan’s religion, it is difficult to simply assume the origin of his argument. Despite this, however, it is still interesting to see the importance of Morgan’s argument. When learning American History, at least in grade school, there is very little variety on the perception of historic events. Lessons carry the basic structure of “because of x, y happened” and through this basic formula, it is difficult to see what could be the true motivation behind such events. Morgan’s article puts and entirely new view on an extremely old, and frequently told, tale. If he were able to minutely change the view of one event, I would be interested in what other well known events in history could have had a hidden, or little known, agenda.

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