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History 109 Midterm

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Question: What factors pulled the colonies away from Britain?

The separation of the thirteen colonies from Mother England cannot be attributed to one single factor. Years of history were required before the revolution was to take place, and within these years several factors built upon one another. These few however, stick out more than others: distance, taxation, and progressive pamphlets.

Distance played a crucial role in driving the colonists away from Mother England. To have a simple question answered the colonists would have to wait a minimum of three months, and to receive goods from England at least one month (Divine 128). This resulted in a complete lack of communication. "...Rumors sometimes passed for true accounts, and misunderstanding influenced the formulation of colonial policy" (Divine 128). Because of the great distance between England and America, "few Englishmen active in government had ever visited America", yet they were still permitted to create policies that governed the colonists (Divine 128). Colonists deeply resented being governed by those so far removed from their circumstance. Animosity grew as the gap seemed to widen.

Distance was not the only factor responsible for the growing rift. "The British government...needed revenues to pay for the [Seven Years] war, and looked to the colonies for that" (Zinn 60). King George the III implemented several taxation policies designed to drain the wealth of the colonists back to England. There were several highly unpopular tax acts, but among the most unpopular was the Stamp Act of 1765. "By taxing deeds, marriage licenses, and playing cards, the Stamp Act touched the lives of ordinary women and men" (Divine 133). Parliamentary oppression such as this had not before existed and being sons and daughters of liberty as they were, the colonists were not going to stand for it. "Riots against the Stamp Act swept Boston in 1767" as well as other colonial cities (Zinn 65). Angry men and women burned effigies of hated stamp masters and organized boycotts against British goods until Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. However, the repeal of the Stamp Act did little to quell the feelings of resentment that had developed.

Many brilliant pamphlets arose during this time of civil unrest, but perhaps the most influential was "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine. "[He] pushed the colonists even closer to independence" by writing this "instant best-seller. In only three months, it sold more than 120,000 copies" (Divine 144). Paine had given words to the colonists inner most thoughts, had illuminated the prospects for something different. He "persuaded ordinary folk to sever their ties with Great Britain" by "systematically stripp[ing] kingship of historical and theological justification" (Divine 144). He also spoke powerfully on rescuing "man from tyranny and false systems of government", of enabling "him to be free" (Divine 144). Paine said elegantly what most colonists could not put into coherent from. "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" said Paine (Divine 144). Words of this magnitude, in conjunction with distance and parliamentary oppression, had the power to move people towards action.

The Revolution did not happen overnight. It took many years for enough factors to accumulate; many years for the gap between England and its colonies to widen so much that the colonies would finally separate and become Americans. Distance, systematic parliamentary oppression, and the brilliant mind of Thomas Paine catapulted a movement that changed the identity of the colonists from British subjects to Americans.

Question: Describe the development of race, class, or gender social structures in the

colonies. (I am developing the idea of black as an inferior race, white as

superior)

Does it ever seem odd that a country as developed and modern as the United States of America still fights the problem of racism? Well it shouldn't. Racism is woven into the very fabric of the country. It is one of the building blocks on which the foundation was built, an aspect of culture that has never managed to dissipate. To know why racism still exists today it is necessary to examine its roots in American culture. These roots extend into economics and the desperate need of the aristocracy to keep poor whites from aligning with enslaved blacks.

Economics is a powerful motivator. It seems as if money can drive people to do just about anything. For instance, "the decision to bring African slaves to the colonies...was based primarily on economic considerations" (Divine 71). By studying the slave labor systems of Spanish and Portuguese colonies, the British colonists quickly figured out the economic advantage of slave labor (Divine 71). However, money alone was not responsible for the beginnings of the North American slave trade. Blacks in Africa were associated with "heathen religion, barbarous behavior, sexual promiscuity, [and] with evil itself' (Divine 71). Viewing African's as lesser humans enabled and justified their despicable and deplorable treatment in the eyes of rich white planters.

It didn't take long for the economic advantage of slavery to catch on throughout the colonies and for "a vicious pattern of discrimination" to emerge (Divine 72). This pattern of discrimination was racism. By 1700 blacks were slaves simply because they were black. There was nothing they could do about it, not even convert to Christianity. They had become slaves for life, destined to a life that was "morally crippling, destructive of family ties, without hope of any future" (Zinn 28). Blacks were viewed as property and therefore the master could do anything he desired to them. "Black women constantly had to fear sexual violation by a master or his sons" (Divine 72). It was common practice to engage in "the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave" (Zinn 28). Yet while all this hatred was occurring amongst masters and slaves, something else was happening amongst slaves and poor whites.

Relationships amongst black slaves and white servants were remarkably different than those of slaves and masters. "Black and white worked together, fraternized together," and combined, the population of poor whites and enslaved blacks greatly outnumbered the population of the white aristocracy (Zinn 31). The aristocracy knew "if

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