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Chapter Fifty-Four. The impact of the Revolution on social problems: poverty, insanity, and crime

Melvin Yazawa

Subject History

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence, crime, madness, poverty, social issues

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116749.2003.00057.x


How revolutionary was the American Revolution? In the realm of politics and ideology, the impact of the Revolution was conspicuous. The switch from being loyal subjects of a king to being independent citizens of a republic entailed, we know, much more than simply a modification in the forms of rulership. But how much change did the Revolution produce in American society? Social evolution is an ongoing phenomenon; it becomes difficult to determine, therefore, which changes in society were due to the Revolution itself and which were due to evolutionary impulses that owed little if any of their impetus to the imperial crisis. In assessing the impact of the Revolution on social problems, we must begin with an understanding of long-range trends that preceded the mid-century crisis. Ultimately, as we shall see, changes in social and political perceptions were intimately intertwined. The problems associated with poverty and providing for the poor did not sprout suddenly as a result of the Revolution. To be sure, the War of Independence exacerbated the conditions of the poor and may temporarily have added to the total number of needy in America. Wartime dislocations were unavoidable: seaport economies were disrupted, towns and communities occupied, the laboring poor burdened with military service, and destitute war widows left to care for dependent children. But the problem of poverty was ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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