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American Revolution

By callqoa Oct 25, 2014 1137 Words
Despite the fact that Britain was the mother country of colonial America from 1607, it could not shape the colonies to be exactly like Britain. In fact, Britain’s politics, society, and economy affected those of colonial America into actually becoming more democratic than the mother country. Most of the various immigrants who came to America left their own country with a hope to live a more prosperous and freer life. These dreams and aspirations were all related to individual success and the immigrants were determined to achieve them. Obviously, colonial America had to be different from the place the people had left; they were seeking change and new opportunities. Colonial America became more diverse than Britain. In the class lecture, we learned that aside from the British, there were about 16% black, 10% German and 10% Scottish inhabitants in colonial America. Colonial America offered better job opportunities and higher wages. This was because the new country had a continual labor shortage due to an abundant quantity of land. People could choose their job and move up or down depending on their work ability and success. Among the immigrants were people who also had left their country because of religious persecution. The colonies adopted much more religious toleration compared to other countries (9/3). In Colonial America, people were judged entirely by their success and work ethic. Working elites were the wealthiest people, most of whom were land owners. Owning land produced the most wealth at that time.

Colonial America had a larger middle class, and therefore more equality than British society. The lower class was smaller than in Britain, mostly consisting of black slaves. As the population increased rapidly in colonial America, there was a need for more churches and places of worship. “Popular demand for more and better religion led to a series of revivals, known as the Great Awakening, that swept through the colonies between 1734 and 1745”(152). For the people who were under pressure from the new highly competitive society and the rapid population growth, the democratic fellowship of the revival was appealing. This Great Awakening encouraged individualism in colonial America by promoting the ideal of equality - that everyone is equal under God. This principle was attractive to people of all classes (154).

In Britain, land meant power. People who didn't have land could not vote and had limited rights. However, it was hard to be a landowner if you weren't born as one. The lands were too expensive for normal folks and the country was relatively small. As a result, the landowners in Britain were the Aristocracy. Britain had a small middle class and a large poor class. Due to the large size of the poor class, there were many available laborers and so Britain had few slaves. Only the upper class had slaves, the purpose of which was mainly to show off their wealth. There was very little social mobility in England. People could not escape their social class. Their name and title was very important and determined their status in most cases. Only rarely a few fortunate ones were able to rise above poverty or their social class. (9/8)

After the victory of Parliament in the first English Civil War in 1647, King Charles I was beheaded, and the English monarchy was replaced. The British government shifted to a constitutional monarchy where the power of the King was checked and balanced by the Parliament: the King could not govern without Parliament’s consent. The political power in Britain was centralized, but now divided equally between a monarchy and a parliamentary system (93). Unlike Britain, colonial America did not originally have a balanced system itself. The colonies had governors and assemblies, but the assemblies were considerably more powerful than the governors. A governor’s position was not permanent; in fact, governors were required to rotate in and out of their political seats. Therefore, the most desirable position for a governor was to work in powerful urban jurisdictions, not in poorer rural locations. To become a governor in a rich and powerful zone, would mean working alongside the upper class. These legislators did not have to rotate their positions like the governors; they stayed where they were and therefore had more power and influence (9/8).

The point of the British economy was to serve the state. Britain used the economic policy known as mercantilism, which made the state wealthier and more powerful through trade. Having much gold and silver defined wealth. However, since the amount of gold and silver is limited, if one side won the other would lose. This limit of precious metal obviously created a highly competitive atmosphere between nations. To support the growth of its military and bureaucracies, Britain had to keep a balance of trade by making more exports and less imports. (93) “Between 1651 and 1969, the mercantilist British government passed a series of trade regulations, or Navigation Acts, requiring that all goods shipped to England and her colonies be carried in ships owned and manned by the English (including colonists)”(94). The British were trying to keep all the benefits from trade to themselves and avoid losing gold and silver to other countries. After the Navigation Acts, Colonial America could only export goods to Britain such as tobacco, sugar, indigo etc. Thus, the Navigation Act that banned the export from colonial America to any countries other than Britain, limited the commercial growth of colonial America. As a result, the colonists started to smuggle their exports directly to other countries and sold them for higher prices in order to make a greater profit. Britain did not provide effective enforcement of this prohibition. Moreover, colonists didn't care; they were motivated to work hard and make money to succeed in their lives in spite of the British regulations and restraints. Britain was not even providing incentives for its own people to work hard and succeed as individuals – but only to promote the national interest. Even British people who worked hard would never see the individual rewards that the colonists were experiencing. (9/8).

The life of Benjamin Franklin personifies the dreams that the American colonists were able to achieve. He was born in Boston in the early 1700’s and had working-class roots. His first job was in his brother’s print shop. Eventually he became a wealthy man, publishing the famous and popular Poor Richards’ Almanac. Franklin was credited for discovering electricity and creating many useful inventions, like the bi-focal reading glasses and the lightning rod on tall buildings. He became powerful and very influential in Philadelphia and Washington, and is one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Today his image can be found on the one hundred dollar bill. He is an American colonist success story and a hero of the nation.

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