Around the time Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, Europe was undergoing incredible changes. The Holy Inquisition was an example of efforts by the Catholic faithful to spread and strengthen their faith at the expense of Islam. In Spanish cities like Cordoba and Barcelona, hundreds of Jews and Muslims were burned as heretics for not adhering to the faith (Kamen 17). Religious strife also came about in England; Protestants and Catholics were often at odds with each other’s political and religious views.
In the case of the Netherlands, fidelity to Protestant beliefs proved a potent rallying cry and unifying factor in the fight to gain independence from the Spanish Crown. All these regrettable contexts of religious intolerance would heavily influence the Europeans when they eventually made it to the New World. The Spanish were especially virulent in their religious zeal. Virtually every Conquistador was followed by missionaries who went far and wide to convert the newly-conquered “heathens”.
Not only were the missionaries very good at converting the natives, they were also very effective at destroying the native culture and tribal history.
The shamans and medicine men of the tribes were killed off mercilessly and with them died the knowledge of the tribes’ oral histories. Those tribes advanced enough to have written histories suffered the pain of having these burned or destroyed by the missionaries. All this was done to make the tribes more docile; without traditions to guide them, they had only the missionaries to turn to.
Only in Plymouth, where the English pilgrims traveled to escape persecution, were the Europeans tolerant of the natives and even then, only while they did not yet obstruct the settlers’ needs. What were some of the similarities and differences among the colonial governments of the New World? The Spanish colonial government was an interplay of a powerful theocracy nominally commanded by the Pope and the Catholic Kings of Spain. For example, the Viceroy of Mexico and the Archbishop were often careful not to step on each other prerogatives.
The Viceroy was supposed to send Conquistadors to heathen lands in order to pacify areas where missionaries could be deployed to convert them into productive Christians (Hand Book of Texas Online). This ideal set-up is often disturbed by arguments about Spanish soldiers interfering with Missions or not being there at all to protect the Friar. Other disagreements occurred over allocation of the native population. The Viceroy needed people to work the silver mines while Friars wanted them to man missions which were often located at the frontiers where few Spanish settlers would go.
English colonial governance had no such burden. The King of England was also the head of the Church of England. Unlike Spanish colonial enterprises, the English colonies were commercial affairs out to exploit the wealth of the New World and provide new lands for English settlers. As such, the colonists who came were permanent settlers who were lured to the New World by freedom and land. The colonies were also separate from each other as opposed to the centralized government that Mexico City’s Viceroy imposed upon all of New Spain.
What were the attitudes of each of the European nations toward their North American colonial subjects and the Native Americans living within their borders, and how were these attitudes reflected in their treatment of those subjects? The Spanish treated the Native Americans as heathens who required saving (but not before their gold had been taken, of course) (Catholic Encylopedia Miguel Hidalgo Biograph). Hence, the conquistadors mercilessly invaded Native American territory and took whatever they wanted.
For example, the Aztec and Inca empires were destroyed in Spain’s quest for silver and gold . Afterwards, the survivors were converted to Christianity and turned into virtual slaves for the Spanish Empire. The haughty Spaniards believed that Peninsulares or those born in Spain were the superior social class; beneath them were increasingly undesirable or lowly classes with the bottom being the native Americans and Blacks. This attitude was so heavy-handed that Native Americans were often disenfranchised because they were treated as second-class citizens in their own land.
The French, for their part, were also after conversion of the Native Americans. Unlike the Spanish, they chose to live in the Native American Villages instead of seeking to subjugate. In this sense, their treatment of Native Americans was better but the French still held themselves to be superior by virtue of their white skin. Both the French and the English saw the Natives as useful to their colonization efforts given how few they were versus the great number of Indians. The book, Last of the Mohicans, is an example of how Natives were co-opted by the rival powers for their purposes.
How did Britain’s treatment of its North American colonies evolve from the Seven Years’ War to the American Revolution? The British Empire became the dominant colonial power in North America at the end of the Seven Years’ War. (Corbett 77) Not only did it control vast tracts of lands in the Carolinas, Virginia and Massachusetts, it now included Canada in its possessions. However, the great economic costs of defeating her rivals would lead to repressive taxes imposed upon the American colonies, repressions that would soon lead to revolution.
The British believed that the colonies should be taxed to pay for the expenses incurred during the war; after all the war was mostly fought on colonial soil. The colonists resented this taxation and were soon up in arms. The Stamp act of 1765 and the Quartering Act were among the repressive measures of the British government that would eventually spark the Revolution. (Miller 186). The Boston Tea Party and the boycott of English goods were two examples of resistance by the Colonials. Ultimately, the need to finance its vast Empire led to the impositions of taxes upon the relatively prosperous colonies in America.
While trade profits had sufficed before, now the colonies were milked for more money and they chafed under this oppressive taxation. What factors led the American colonies to declare their independence from Great Britain? The main factor would seem to be resentment about the oft-quoted ‘taxation without representation’ slogan used by the founding fathers. The colonists considered themselves loyal subjects of the Crown and demanded the same rights and obligations as the subjects in England (Greene & Pole 845). However, they had no representatives in Parliament to make their case.
It was in protest of these taxes that the Boston Tea Party was held. Effectively, this became the spark that ignited the Revolution. The economic factor was the most significant because at this point the colonies were economically robust and the settlers felt that their profits were being held down by the requirement to channel all trade with England. The colonies felt that England was taking advantage of them and wanted to break free of her hold. Another factor was the fact that the Colonists were chafing under the rule of the King.
They wanted to be independent and desired freedoms and rights similar to those enjoyed by English subjects back home. Such rights were denied them by acts like the Quartering Act which allowed soldiers to live in their homes in violation of the ancient right of English subjects that his home is his inviolable castle where he is King. In other words, they were second-class citizens in their own homes. What were the social, political and economic revolutions that took place in America as a result of the War for Independence?
The most significant social and political change was the shift from a Monarchy to a Democratic government (Bill of Rights). Even during the revolution, the Americans were ruled by a representative form of government – embodied in the Congress – drawn from the people to serve the people, in the manner of the Romans and Greeks. Although the republican form of government had flaws that needed ironing out, this system became the model by which other representative governments would later be devised. The revolution also abolished, at least in name, titles of nobility among the Americans.
But perhaps the most significant political revolution was the written Constitution the colonies eventually adopted and the federal government based on it. Economically, the Americans were devastated, at least initially. Before, the planters in the South were guaranteed a market for their goods. For example, Virginia could always count on England to buy its cotton and tobacco. Since independence caused a decided cooling of relations between the two nations, many planters were ruined. However, they soon found new markets among the other nations of the world.
America also suffered because it could no longer count on England for its manufactured goods. This sparked the new nation’s creativity since they had to learn to fabricate machinery and other products they had previously imported from England. What problems did the United States have after gaining independence? The so-called United States were not so united in the beginning nor were they so united after attaining independence (Feinberg 120). Each individual state had its own agenda and its own prerogatives. For example, Virginia demanded that they sign the peace treaty with England separately from the twelve others.
Many states also maintained independent armies and navies to enforce trade and other policies they felt were in their best interests. This lack of unity was alarming because the states became very vulnerable economically and politically. It also emphasized the lack of identity of the states as a coherent polity. Economic woes were made worse by this lack of unity. Different states imposed different tariff levels on each other which created trade imbalances and made the movement of goods between each state more difficult.
They were also hobbled by the lack of foreign trade partners who would buy their agricultural products and sell them the industrial goods which they could not manufacture on their own. Politically, the new nation also lacked friends overseas. The French Revolution caused the overthrow of Louis XVI and cost the Americans their only real ally in Europe. Considered a weak nation by the European powers and others, the new country also had an uncertain start in international relations. How did the national government under the Articles of Confederation seem incapable of addressing those problems.
First of all, under the Articles of Confederation there was no real national government (US Constitution. net). When the states had a dispute there was no national level arbitration committee like a Supreme Court to handle disputes. The states were essentially independent of each other and it was only when they had common agendas that they could be expected to work together. In fact, the Confederation as it existed was no more than a collection of practically independent states. One example of the national government’s weaknesses concerned revenue.
The government such as it was had no authority to levy taxes. It could do little more than beg its member states for money. As a result the country’s army and navy were under-funded and the national government had no money to fund its projects. Moreover, when it asked for money from the member states it was often rebuffed. Because the states were virtually independent of each other, America as a whole did not benefit from the vast diversity of the continent or the wide variety of goods and products that could be found in the country.
For example, articles of fur were an expensive luxury in New England even though beaver and other fur-bearing mammals were very numerous in the Mississippi region. What were the major debates during the Constitutional Convention. Two of the major debates were on the form of representative government the nation was to have and how representative slots were to be apportioned in light of slavery. The first debate was on what shape the government should take. A Federal system was agreed upon where the each state, regardless of population, would be represented by two Senators.
Another House of Representatives would be formed where there would be proportional representation depending on the population of a state. The compromise of a bicameral Congress protected the interests of both large and small states while at the same time respecting their points of view. In the Senate all states had equal representation while in Congress the larger states had more representatives due to their larger populations. At this time, slaves were a contentious issue as well (Constitutional Rights Foundation. The Constitution and Slavery).
The second major debate was about the legality of this practice. The northern states wanted to do away with slavery because it was morally wrong. However, the southern states depended on the slaves for their economic welfare and threatened not to join the union if their right to slavery was abridged. A compromise was reached where the southern states agreed to eventually do away with slavery. Although they never did. How did the Constitution address the failures of the Articles of Confederation? In lieu of the unwieldy Confederation, a new, stronger and more effective Federal system was put into place.
The government was stronger and had more authority to assert its will over the states. It also provided for a system of checks and balances to allow the government to operate with less danger of tyranny or mismanagement (US Constitution. net). For example, it was up to the two houses of the Legislative to pass laws but if the President feels that the laws are improper then he can veto them. However, if Congress feels the laws are urgent and the President is abusing his powers they can actually pass laws over his veto.
The representative government of America as seen today originated as an effort by the constitution to adhere to the ideal of giving equal representation without hampering smaller states who would be the minority in the face of states with large populations. At the same time the large states were still ensured greater representation. The constitution also provided for the formation of many of today’s Federal institutions to raise to the national level tasks previously the province of individual states.
Eventually the Constitution finally brought about the cohesive nation that the founding fathers had envisioned. Should the words, ‘All men are created equal,’ be read today? What do you think Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote those words in the Declaration of Independence? They should be read exactly as Jefferson meant them. All men are created free and fundamentally equal. We may vary in our talents and abilities. Our subjective faculties may be greater or less than our peers but at the end of the day, all men are fundamentally equal.
We should have equal civil and political rights. The color of our skin, our religion or our ethnicity, should never be grounds for discrimination. No one should come forth claiming to be superior, especially not to the point of denying the rights of others (Kennedy 15). We live in a world of strife and conflict where hate and fear are propagated against those who are seen as different. Unfortunately media outlets and the government tend to increase this fear. For example, many laws and government actions after the 9/11 attacks seem geared to discriminate against those of Arab origin.
Media also does our African, Asian and Latino countrymen a disservice by casting them in an unflattering light in movies and TV further deepening the discrimination against them A caveat, though, is that in those days blacks and other non-whites were viewed as lesser than whites. Indeed, even Jefferson owned Black slaves. However, this does not detract from the strength of the statement. In those days, as today, this ideal should be fought for until it is finally achieved
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