Holton's maintains that in explaining the origins of the U.S. Constitution historians have emphasized the concerns expressed by elites while overlooking the issues that most troubled large numbers of “ordinary” Americans. The strength of the argument is that Holton gives voice to the protests and grievances of small farmers and debtors, who believed that the state governments were imposing oppressive and unjust taxes during the 1780s. Yet his argument has several weaknesses. First, he overlooks regional differences within the country in the way that state legislatures responded to the taxation issues of the 1780s. Southern states, in which slave labor was most important, addressed the complaints quickly and minimized conflict among whites. Second, Holton overlooks the work of the historian Jackson Turner Main, which suggests that there was no definite connection between indebtedness and opposition to the U.S. Constitution. Finally, Holton's narrow focus on economic issues obscures the broader motives that led to writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
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Rosemarie Zagarri; Response to Woody Holton's “Primitive Accumulation”. Labor 1 September 2009; 6 (3): 49–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-2009-007
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