Eighteenth Century America Essay, Research Paper
Eighteenth Century America Europe during the eighteenth century was at the height of the industrial revolution, none of which reached America. In New England the population was largely English, but America as a whole had more than 20 ethnic strains present, nowhere in Europe could such a heterogeneous mixture be found. America was unique in its political structure. Americans vested authority in personalities, rather than, as in England, in institutions of tradition. As a people they had been striped of traditions. America lacked the centuries of tradition that other societies had. American cities not only solved thier problems, but they sought to solve them. European cities were encrusted with centuries of tradition and moved only by custom, problems just accumulated and increased. America also found unique ways to solve thier problems. Whereas in Europe the government was controlled by a closed, self perpetuating corporation of Aldermen and council men with a high resistance to all pleas for civic improvements. Americans circumvented this block in governmental action by the concept of the voluntary society. Benjamin Franklin utilized this concept in developing the American voluntary fire department in 1736. The public library, college of Philadelphia, the America Philosophical society are all out growths of this voluntary society. Another unique feature of America was that the rigid class structure of Europe has degenerated into a cliche observed in form but not practice. Leadership in America was open to anyone had the ability to assert it. European societies of the eighteenth century had the bulk of their cites composed of unemployed laborers, vagabonds, beggars. No large laboring class dominated America cites. Amidst urban dwellers were merchants, lawyers, clergy, craftsmen, shopkeepers, and tradesmen. The expanding towns and cities worked to keep the roving poor down. As Lucas points out that even with slavery and indian exploitation there was a development of a wealthy and powerful elite, based on ability rather than caste. Like European counterparts Americans believed that only those with land would have nay interest in the affairs government. Law was first administered in the colonies without benefit of lawyers. The clergy of New England pressed hard for rule by Biblical law. The average settlement wanted the kind of laws and procedures which was known in Europe. In working out thier legal systems developed systems which freed them from the rigid technicalities of medieval jurisprudence so prevalent in Europe. The Great Awaking that swept through Britain also came to America. The great Awaking and American enlightenment promoted higher eduction in the colonies and also joined to promote separation of church and state. By the middle of the eighteenth century there was less church going people in America than any other country in the western world. America used the ideals of Enlightenment to promote modification and reforms in society, not revolution. There are several features that sets the southern colonies apart from thier northern neighbors. The most striking of which is slavery. The spread of slavery made a society whose continuance depended on a rigid discipline. This prominent feature gives southern life a distinctive and separate sense, creating in the course of time a nation with in a nation. Land tenure in the south was marked by the accumulation of many large estates. This in turn gave rise to a yawning abyss between the very rich and the very poor. Another feature eighteenth century south was that public benevolence played some role in the founding of the southern colonies, and southern governments can only be thought of as a benevolent aristocratic oligarchy. The pulse of religion did not pound with the same beat as in New England nor did the southern religious class ever acquire the prestige and power that quickly won it dominance in the puritan colonies of the north. Another feature of the south is few towns an almost no manufacturing. Even population set it apart from the North. The souths population of seven hundred thousand in 1763 nearly equaled the North, but a third of that number were black slaves. The south during the eighteenth Century cannot be thought of as a single region. It is mainly divided into three areas; Chesapeake, Carolina, and the backcountry. The Chesapeake country included Maryland, Virginia, the Albemarle section of North Carolina, with a western boundary of the piedmont. Tobacco was the overwhelming influence on all life in the Chesapeake region. The basic colonial tobacco farm of about 100 acres, worked by the farmer and his family, and a few servants or slaves faded under the importance of the plantations. The large plantation of one to six thousand acres, and worked by 50 to 100 slaves, became the dominate feature of the Chesapeake country. The plantation worked to tightened tobacco’s hold on
the economy and cemented slavery into the culture. The Chesapeake economy centered on slavery grown tobacco down the Revolution. Tobacco was not only grown by slaves, small white farmers also worked the plantations. Like all of the south, above the social scale of the negro slave was the small white farmer. There were considerable numbers of these “squire” farmers in the eighteenth century. For the inhabitants of Chesapeake area the social hierarchy was clear cut and fixed. While men strove to obtain social stature in the more open society of the Northern Colonies, they strove to maintain the statues quo in the Chesapeake region. The introduction of rice culture in 1693 to Carolina found a very congenial environment, and rice became the great staple of South Carolina. Rice grew well in the wet, rich mud of the coastal lowlands. Successful cultivation of indigo, which is suited to high dry loam, also worked to alter the face of the Carolina area, and the two crops became the main feature of Carolina. Rice and indigo are adapted to different growing seasons, planted and harvesting would occur at different times allowing a single labor force to work both crops. The labor force to this rice/indigo crop was slave labor. The growing of rice and indigo involved using large numbers of slaves. This was the economic base upon which was built the southern aristocracy. In 1720 the population was estimated at 9,000 whites and 39,000 negroes. At the time of the revolution (1775) the numbers were 70,000 whites and 100,000 negroes. In addition to this population difference there was a wide social gulf between plantations owners and slaves. With negroes outnumbering the whites fear of insurrection became a constant feature of south carolina. The negroes spot at the bottom of the social ladder was fixed by law. The social ladder in Carolina was the home to an immature aristocracy, for it had no real middle class. By the beginning of the eighteenth century it had created two carolinas; an aristocratic save owning and an affluent plantation society. The government of the southern colonies was in complete control of the planter-merchant aristocracy of Charleston. Charleston was the center of Carolina aristocracy. It was a wealthy, prosperous center of economic, cultural, and commerce from which nearly 200 ships cleared in 1748, of which 68 sailed for Europe carrying in all exports to the value of L1,179,559 south carolina currency. Charleston was a great boom town of the eighteenth century. One of the features of the Backcountry was that it contained large numbers of non-english of society. Most of them non-english were white middle class settlers with few slaves. It was an agrarian society, farming at the self-sufficiency with some tobacco. It was a frontier stage of settlement, few slaves, white men worked with thier own hands at clearing the land and the raising of houses. There was neither time nor money for luxury. No schools for children, and few minsters. In eighteenth century America the Englishness of the colonies had increased, and all men looked to England to set the fashion in eduction, science, literature, and the arts. At the opening of the eighteenth century the population of the English mainland colonies stood about 250,000. By 1750 this figure had increased to some 1,500,000. These people (black as well as white) represented many different European nationalities, not distributed in uniform fashion. Colonial population remained will into the century a costal based population. Even with such urban centers as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, American colonials were overwhelming rural. 90% of the population lived in a rural environment and were engaged in agricultural pursuit. The abundance of land, scarcity of capital (many were newcomers) and inadequate labor supply are the major features in the developing colonial economy. Through the eighteenth century economic activities continued to be based on extractive industries as colonies exploited the land, the forest and the sea. Increasing diversification did occur and the economy became more and more complex. Industrial development dependant upon skilled and semi-skilled labor took place in the towns and cities, and the produce of that development continued with the benefits of a burgeoning agricultural sector to stimulate an every expanding maritime enterprise, but it was the American farmer who stood at the center of the colonial economy. In the first century and half the history of the British colonies in America, women occupied a distinctively submerge position in society. A Woman could not hold property expect in very special circumstances; nor were they expected or even permitted to have any opinions upon the great affairs of the world. Education for women as considered a waste of time and money. They were expected to bear children, keep house, and go to church on sunday. With the approach of the revolution to change the status of women, as America looked to the more advance movements in France and England. By the eighteenth century even language took on a different from the British from. American spoke words that had long dropped out of the British vernacular.