The Views Of Liberty And Equality In Early America
Immediately after the 13 colonies that made the first states of the United States of America received freedom from Great Britain, the political rhetoric of the new nation was liberty and freedom. A lot of Americans fought the British colonizers to attain freedom. However, after freedom was achieved, different groups saw the opportunity to self-benefit. There were few groups of people who certainly enjoyed the new found freedom and liberty. But many American citizens still faced oppression similar to what they had fought very hard under the British rule. It is necessary to reconcile the idea that not all people enjoyed the freedom that they fought for with the rhetoric of the American Revolution and founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. It is important to understand that America was still very young and still struggled to understand what equality fully meant. Americans believed that equality was being able to govern themselves in their own ways using their ideas.
After gaining independence from colonization, Americans thought that equality meant that they had self-rule. They expected that once they became independent and attained self-rule themselves would lead to the achievement of equality. “The French Imperialist, abusing our standard of liberty, equality, and fraternity have violated our fatherland and oppressed fellow citizens. ” From the detailed information in the Declaration of Independence document, the Americans believed that freedom meant getting away from the oppression that they had suffered at the hands of their masters. Therefore, equality for them meant that breaking the shackles of oppression by the British was the key to freedom. The people believed that once they were left to rule themselves, then they would have acquired liberty from the oppression that they had suffered. Since the country was so young, the citizens of the colonies were only happy to attain their freedom.
Additionally, Americans saw equality as having democracy installed as compared to the dictatorship that was used by the colonizers. The young United States of America leadership wanted to be different from British colonial. To further show the fact that the United States was still new to self-rule, there were issues on how to regulate democracy. The people wanted to have a democratic government in which democracy was embraced in all spheres of governance. Capitalism and Freedom document, says that “the country is a collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. ” There were calls for the government not to regulate the economy or individual behavior. The Americans wanted the government to allow free trade. There were to be no big corporations taking controlling the government. What the people understood equality to mean was that everybody was to be accorded the right to express themselves and also do business with whomever they wanted. The appropriate approach to implementing democracy was still a challenge.
Many compromises that were made to keep the thirteen states together saw continued oppression of different facets of the American society at that time. The most impacted group was the African slaves. The articles of Confederation had created a week union of the thirteen states, and each state did what it pleased with its populations. A meeting convened in Philadelphia in May 1787 sought to change this by writing a new document, the constitution. The issue of representing emerged to be a hot issue, especially since the population was to play a major role in the representation. Some states had a large population of slaves, and it was not clear whether the slavers would be counted among the populations of the states, or whether only the free citizens would be counted. Most states had stopped importing white slaves, but Massachusetts had stopped slavery in its boundaries. Slavery was a challenging issue since most prominent people, who had also participate in the fight for freedom from colonization and also supported human freedoms such as George Washington and James Madison owned slaves. No one was ready to insult them. Slavery also affected taxes. However, the roots for the continued oppression of blacks were set since some of those present stated that slaves were property and could not be counted as people. Some acknowledged that slavery was would cause impoverishment of the affected populations. While British colonialist had barred freeing of slavers, the founding fathers were also barring any freedom of the slaver, thus keeping the institution alive for economic reasons. Regardless, all of them new that they had to write a constitution that condoned slavery if they were to keep the states united. The word slavery was never included in the constitution, but they were referred to all other persons. The constitution allowed oppression, economic exploitation to continue for the sake of unity.
With such a constitution, equality for all Americans would remain a dream for over two centuries. The group that seemed to enjoy equality, liberties, and rights was the white people. When America received its independence, the white people assumed that they were superior in comparison to the black people and the natives and were charged with forming the government. The two centuries that followed independence of the United States, racial segregation was still a common practice in the whole of United States of America. Slavery still took place, and the white man still ruled over the black person. The white people had all the best facilities, including schools, social amenities, and housing. The white people seemed to have had equality skewed in their favor, which stemmed from them holding powerful positions in government as compared to the black people. In fact, the fact that slavery was still ongoing meant that there was no equality. The black people were far from enjoying an equal footing with their white counterparts. Lyndon B. Johnson at the Howard University Commencement in 1965 urged that “Blacks should not just have legal equity but human ability. Black poverty is different from white poverty because of the past oppression and injustice. ” The statement points out that white people enjoyed much more freedom in the newly found United States of America.
The groups that did not enjoy liberty and equality were the black people and the marginalized communities. During the first two centuries, America was dominated by white people. The white people were advancing different ideas on equality amongst themselves, such as human rights and public policy. In most cases, the ideas seemed to favor the white people while looking down upon the black people and other marginalized groups. The people that suffered the most were the black people. Apart from slavery, the persisted after independence; the African Americans also faced many forms of injustice. The people of color did not have much of a say on issues of development and equality. The black people lived like they did not have their rights to be upheld. Slavery allowed the trade of black people to continue as families got separated when their members were sold off as sheep in the markets. The slaves were meant to only serve their masters and were not accorded the rights that were enjoyed by their white masters. The new American nation still upheld some of the values that had made the citizens revolt against the British colonizers. The slavers that persisted in the nation enriched the white slaver owners and farmers. These white people fought hard so that slavery would not be abolished. The slave owners and farmers saw slavery as a venture to make money and thus disregarded their rights. Many laws were passed by the whites that favored their version of equality, leaving behind the blacks and other marginalized groups such as the red Indians.
In conclusion, when America gained independence, Americans had great ideas. The founding fathers wanted to mainstream equality in a way that would extend rights and freedom in all Americans. Free trade and freedom of the people was advocated for. However, most of the equality ended up being enjoyed by the white leaders who were in charge of legislation. African Americans ended up suffering while the white majority advanced their agendas. The fact that slavery was still ongoing even after independence showed that the people did not have equality. The white majority enjoyed while the blacks and marginalized ethnic groups continued to suffer. There have been many changes, but present America still does not enjoy freedom as envisioned by the freedom fighters.
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