Some recent historians have argued that life in the British colonies in America from approximately 1763 to 1789 was marked by internal conflicts among colonists. Inheritors of some of the viewpoints of early twentieth-century Progressive historians such as Beard and Becker, these recent historians have put forward arguments that deserve evaluation.
The kind of conflict most emphasized by these historians is class conflict. Yet with the Revolutionary War dominating these years, how does one distinguish class conflict within that larger conflict? Certainly not by the side a person supported. Although many of these historians have accepted the earlier assumption that Loyalists represented an upper class, new evidence indicates that Loyalists, like rebels, were drawn from all socioeconomic classes. (It is nonetheless probably true that a larger percentage of the well-to-do joined the Loyalists than joined the rebels.) Looking at the rebel side, we find little evidence for the contention that lower-class rebels were in conflict with upper-class rebels. Indeed, the war effort against Britain tended to suppress class conflicts. Where it did not, the disputing rebels of one or another class usually became Loyalists. Loyalism thus operated as a safety valve to remove socioeconomic discontent that existed among the rebels. Disputes occurred, of course, among those who remained on the rebel side, but the extraordinary social mobility of eighteenth-century American society (with the obvious exception of slaves) usually prevented such disputes from hardening along class lines. Social structure was in fact so fluid—though recent statistics suggest a narrowing of economic opportunity as the latter half of the century progressed—that to talk about social classes at all requires the use of loose economic categories such as rich, poor, and middle class, or eighteenth-century designations like “the better sort.” Despite these vague categories, one should not claim unequivocally that hostility between recognizable classes cannot be legitimately observed. Outside of New York, however, there were very few instances of openly expressed class antagonism.
Having said this, however, one must add that there is much evidence to support the further claim of recent historians that sectional conflicts were common between 1763 and 1789. The “Paxton Boys” incident and the Regulator movement are representative examples of the widespread, and justified, discontent of western settlers against colonial or state governments dominated by eastern interests. Although undertones of class conflict existed beneath such hostility, the opposition was primarily geographical. Sectional conflict—which also existed between North and South—deserves further investigation.
In summary, historians must be careful about the kind of conflict they emphasize in eighteenth-century America. Yet those who stress the achievement of a general consensus among the colonists cannot fully understand that consensus without understanding the conflicts that had to be overcome or repressed in order to reach it.
17. The author considers the contentions made by the recent historians discussed in the passage to be
(A) potentially verifiable
(B) partially justified
(C) logically contradictory
(D) ingenious but flawed
(E) capricious and unsupported
18. The author most likely refers to “historians such as Beard and Becker” (lines 5-6) in order to
(A) isolate the two historians whose work is most representative of the viewpoints of Progressive historians
(B) emphasize the need to find connections between recent historical writing and the work of earlier historians
(C) make a case for the importance of the views of the Progressive historians concerning eighteenth-century American life
(D) suggest that Progressive historians were the first to discover the particular internal conflicts in eighteenth-century American life mentioned in the passage
(E) point out historians whose views of history anticipated some of the views of the recent historians mentioned in the passage
19. According to the passage, Loyalism during the American Revolutionary War served the function of
(A) eliminating the disputes that existed among those colonists who supported the rebel cause
(B) drawing upper, as opposed to lower, socioeconomic classes away from the rebel cause
(C) tolerating the kinds of socioeconomic discontent that were not allowed to exist on the rebel side
(D) channeling conflict that existed within a socioeconomic class into the war effort against the rebel cause
(E) absorbing members of socioeconomic groups on the rebel side who felt themselves in contention with members of other socioeconomic groups
20. The passage suggests that the author would be likely to agree with which of the following statements about the social structure of eighteenth-century American society?
I. It allowed greater economic opportunity than it did social mobility.
II. It permitted greater economic opportunity prior to 1750 than after 1750.
III. It did not contain rigidly defined socioeconomic divisions.
IV. It prevented economic disputes from arising among members of the society.
(A) I and IV only
(B) II and III only
(C) III and IV only
(D) I, II, and III only
(E) I, II, III, and IV
21. It can be inferred from the passage that the author would be most likely to agree with which of the following statements regarding socioeconomic class and support for the rebel and Loyalist causes during the American Revolutionary War?
(A) Identifying a person’s socioeconomic class is the least accurate method of ascertaining which side that person supported.
(B) Identifying a person as a member of the rebel or of the Loyalist side does not necessarily reveal that person’s particular socioeconomic class.
(C) Both the rebel and the Loyalist sides contained members of all socioeconomic classes, although there were fewer disputes among socioeconomic classes on the Loyalist side.
(D) Both the rebel and the Loyalist sides contained members of all socioeconomic classes, although the Loyalist side was made up primarily of members of the upper classes.
(E) Both the rebel and the Loyalist sides contained members of all socioeconomic classes, although many upper-class rebels eventually joined the Loyalists.
22. The author suggests which of the following about the representativeness of colonial or state governments in America from 1763 to 1789?
(A) The governments inadequately represented the interests of people in western regions.
(B) The governments more often represented class interests than sectional interests.
(C) The governments were less representative than they had been before 1763.
(D) The governments were dominated by the interests of people of an upper socioeconomic class.
(E) The governments of the northern colonies were less representative than were the governments of the southern colonies.
23. According to the passage, which of the following is a true statement about sectional conflicts in America between 1763 and 1789?
(A) These conflicts were instigated by eastern interests against western settlers.
(B) These conflicts were the most serious kind of conflict in America.
(C) The conflicts eventually led to openly expressed class antagonism.
(D) These conflicts contained an element of class hostility.
(E) These conflicts were motivated by class conflicts.