Midcourse 1: Slavery Essay Sample

Midcourse 1: Slavery

Question 1

Slavery is one of the most devastating effects of exploration into the new world by Europeans. Before the American Civil War, most of Black Americans were enslaved, and their children were also born into slavery. Many factors led to the development of this form of labor in spite of the fact that many questioned it morally. This essay seeks to analyze the process of enslavement, differences between slavery in the Caribbean and the British mainland colonies, the factors that contributed to the flourishing of the slavery system and the challenges the slaves faced.

The enslavement process began on the West African coast. Some kings and chiefs in Africa sold criminals as slaves, but most of the times, slaves were captured through kidnapping and slave raids (Da Silva 42). Then, the slaves were put in chains and had a long voyage. After the arrival in the Americas or the Caribbean, they were taken to slave markets, where their potential owners bought them (Da Silva 42). A journey to sugar, cotton or other plantations, where the newly acquired slaves had to work, then followed.

Life in the British mainland and the Caribbean colonies was different for slaves. First, the plantations in the Caribbean were much larger and had a much bigger population of slaves than those in the mainland (McFarlane 178). Second, in the Caribbean, death rates were also higher than in the mainland colonies (McFarlane 179). What is more, in the mainland colonies, the slaves were apparently better dressed than in the Caribbean as in the Caribbean, the slaves most often did not have anything more than loincloth wrapped round the hips (McFarlane 179). Thus, it is possible to state that slaves might have lived better in the mainland colonies than in the Caribbean ones.

There are several reasons why the institution of slavery as a labor system thrived. First, the immigrants from Europe found endless land that was either unoccupied or occupied by Native Americans, who then were quickly displaced, which led to the development of the plantation system (McFarlane 175). Second, the market for such raw materials as cotton, tobacco and sugar in both Europe and America also fueled this practice (McFarlane 175).

Slavery was very challenging to the slaves. They were at their owner’s mercy and could sometimes be whipped and even killed at his/her behest (McFarlane 180). Most of the slaves learned to accommodate to slavery by adopting Christianity, though many of them also tried to resist bondage by escaping and organizing slave rebellions (McFarlane 180). However, in most cases, they were caught and punished severely for that.

The enslavement process was a long and harrowing journey for the slaves. The New World's unique opportunities, such as land for the immigrants, provoked the development of this labor system. Most people tried to cope with slavery by accepting it and agreeing to being converted to Christianity. Others tried to escape or joined slave rebellions, which the slave owners crushed with overwhelming force.

Choice 4

Most people that took part in the exploration, settlement and eventual colonization of America were religious. One of the main reasons why some of the settlers left Great Britain and other European countries for the Americas was the lack of tolerance for their spiritual practice in those countries. An analysis of that period reveals that religion was an important part of the lives of colonists, and the impact of such religious upheavals as the Great Awakening proves this.

During the exploration and settlement period, religion was a central factor. Some colonies, such as Pennsylvania, were founded by religious dissidents from Europe, for example the Quakers (Corrigan and Hudson 7). Quakerism as a denomination had a culture of egalitarianism, with women playing a large part in the religion. Consequently, in Pennsylvania, there was a culture of tolerance in the society. This led to the creation of a government that was tolerant, and unlike in other colonies, with freedom of religion. The tolerance in the society brought by the Quakers of Pennsylvania led to more egalitarian households than in New England.

In New England, most of the people were Puritans, but there were some also other denominations. Dissenters in New England were persecuted. Puritanism, while differing from Anglicanism in the organization of the church, led to a culture that emphasized order and hierarchy. This was the same in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, where the Church of England was the authorized church in some colonies (Corrigan and Hudson 49-50). In this area, the society was organized around elected leaders who were held to have authority from God. The families were intensely patriarchal, with recourse to the father and husband in almost every issue.

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Religious revival in the colonies, especially among Protestants, started in the 1740s in the form of the Great Awakening. Religious teachings during the Great Awaking emphasized the individual transformation of each person, rather than masses (Corrigan and Hudson 78). The open-air mass meetings formed the basis of collective political activity that led to the revolution (Corrigan and Hudson 80). The Great Awakening resulted in the increase in the organization capacity of the Americas, the growth in the questioning of civil and clerical authority in contentious matters, including following one’s beliefs even if they led to the break with the church (Corrigan and Hudson 83-85). This formed the basis of the revolution.

In conclusion, the religion was one of the most important facets during the exploration and colonization periods. It influenced the way the early governments were formed and was the basis for intolerance in society in most of the settlements. The family was mostly nuclear one informed by the religious teachings. The Great Awakening led to a political and social reorganization in the colonies and primary political organization that had a notable bearing on the revolution.

Module 2

Question 1 (Option 1)

Acculturation refers to the process through which cultures change over several generations following the confluence of several cultures. Americanization relates to the acculturation of people who live in the United States. Among the slave communities in America, there was a gradual loss of their African cultures and the adoption of the Euro-American culture that led to the emergence of the African-American culture. As John Blassingame wrote, the church had the most influence in the Americanization of the African-American.

After arrival in America, most of the slaves still held their traditional beliefs. At the plantations, there was a strict social hierarchy between the slave owners and the slaves. The slaves were part of the chattel property of the owner, and thus, the slave owner could trade the slaves as he/she pleased. Other than living at the same plantation, there were a few things that the slave owner and the slave held in common. However, the conversion of many slaves from their traditional African religious practices was something they could actually share and have some social equality. For instance, George Bentley was a preacher in a white church, although he was black and the congregation was white (Blassingame viii). Thus, this was the first time the Euro-American and African culture merged.

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Education among the slaves was a rarity. The slave owners were wary of literate slaves, which could have had a disastrous impact on the institution, but under the urging of the clergy, some began to provide basic literacy for their slaves (Blassingame 81). At the same time, most of the children of the slave owners, especially the male children, were relatively well educated. This fostered a system where the male whites were more educated that the female whites. Among the blacks, educational standards were usually the same.

Both the male and the female slaves had to work for their masters and mistresses. Thus, the slaves barely had time for their families to create the institution of the breadwinner husband/father and the home keeper mother, and thus, there was egalitarianism between the husband and the wife (Blassingame 76). As a result, a democratic family appeared, which was a rarity among the white Americans. In such a family, the man and the woman had the same responsibilities and authorities. Blassingame explains that while the family helped shape personality, this was not the slave personality (xii). This led to the emergence of the social institutions among the slaves that included the extended family, which was uncommon for the slave owners and other white Americans.

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Therefore, religion played a large part in the Americanization of the African-American. However, it was not the only important factor. The institution of slavery itself imposed the dominant Euro-American culture on the slaves. The rise in literacy among the Afro-Americans also facilitated their acculturation. The close interaction between the two groups led to the appearance and development of the modern American culture.

Question 2

The early post-independent American era included three periods: the Federalist, the Jeffersonian and the Jacksonian periods. In each of those periods, the politics of the nation differed and were influenced by different people. Each era had key figures, implemented different domestic and foreign policies, and each had a different way of getting and maintaining political support. This essay seeks to analyze the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian eras.

Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, after which the two epochs under consideration were named, were the dominant figures in the respective eras. Jeffersonian period also includes the period under the presidency of James Madison (Balkin 3). To come into power and maintain it, Jefferson used the Federalist's unpopularity for their own advantage (Balkin 3). Jackson, on the other hand, worked on populist policies, including the abolishing of the Bank of America and the displacement of Indians, which helped him assume power (Balkin 7). The displacement of Indians, in particular, made Andrew Jackson a controversial figure in history.

Domestic policies of these two presidents greatly varied. For instance, Jefferson believed that property was a requirement for voting as it was a test of character. However, during the Jacksonian era, the property requirements were abolished (Balkin 10). The two eras also had differences in the issue of the “chosen class”. In this regard, during the Jeffersonian period, the chosen class was the yeoman farmer, while during the Jacksonian period, the chosen class expanded to include the yeoman farmer, manual laborers, and mechanics (Balkin 11). Concerning economics, Jeffersonian period was dominated by politicians who were wary of industrialization, while the Jacksonians believed that industrialization was the essential element of the American agricultural economy (Balkin 17). While both had mistrust of the Bank of America, it was Jackson who went ahead and abolished it. Jeffersonian government bought Louisiana Territory from France, the Jacksonian one annexed Texas from Mexico and made a relentless effort to remove Indians from their lands (Balkin 23). Consequently, the two governments were similar in regard the territorial expansion of the US.

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While the domestic policies of the two presidents mostly differed, their international policies were more similar. For instance, during the Jeffersonian era, America decided to stay out of the Napoleon wars in Europe to maximize trade with both sides (Balkin 20). Jackson further placed the emphasis on international trade, encouraging mercantilism as a way of increasing American wealth (Balkin 20). The lasting legacies of both are the expansion of the American territory and the establishment of the representative form of administration in the US.

The analysis of the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian eras reveals that the periods under consideration had different key figures, advocated different policies and had different legacies in America. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Andrew Jackson were three of the most visible Americans during these eras. While their ways of assuming power and maintaining it, as well as their domestic policies, were different, their foreign policy revolved around the establishment of American foreign trade.

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