Resonances Historical Essays On Continuity And Change

Resonances Historical Essays On Continuity And Change-87
Although attitudes towards slavery certainly changed in the North, the very marginal nature of slavery meant that no major economic or social revolution accompanied these changing attitudes.In the South, where slavery formed the foundation of the economy, hardly any progress was made in the post-Revolutionary period with regards to the rights of slaves, and there was no revolutionary change in social and economic structures.

Although attitudes towards slavery certainly changed in the North, the very marginal nature of slavery meant that no major economic or social revolution accompanied these changing attitudes.In the South, where slavery formed the foundation of the economy, hardly any progress was made in the post-Revolutionary period with regards to the rights of slaves, and there was no revolutionary change in social and economic structures.This realization can be seen in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, one of the pivotal publications leading up to the American Declaration of Independence, where Paine characterizes America as a child of “Europe” as a whole rather than of Britain in particular, thus laying the foundation for a new American self-conception that diverges from the old conception of America being a mere derivative of Britain.

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However, it is important to keep in mind that the number of slaves in the North were quite small to begin with when compared to the South, and nowhere in the North did slaves play an essential economic role comparable to their role in the Southern plantation economy.

This fundamental difference between North and South can be summarized as a difference between a “slave society” and a “society with slaves.” A region with a “slave society” (such as South Carolina, Jamaica, or Haiti) is a region where slavery is fundamental to the functioning of the economy, where the social and political elite are usually slaveholders, where a primary purpose of government is the control and regulation of slaves, and where slaves were viewed more as possessions or belongings than as people; in contrast, a “society with slaves” is one where slaves exist, but are marginal to the society as a whole, as was the case in Northern states.

However, the degree to which the American Revolution can truly be called “revolutionary” is debatable.

The American Revolution challenged the existing structure of society and promoted a then-radical sense of equality, but these benefits of equality were (in an almost oxymoronic sense) unequally distributed among the peoples of America, and the lofty ideal of equality was restricted and exclusive.

For instance, the number of slaves in Pennsylvania fell from about 10,000 in 1775 to just 795 in 1810; likewise, the number in Connecticut fell from about 5,000 to 310 over the same time period, and in Rhode Island the numbers fell from 4,373 to just 108.

[5] Overall, the total number of slaves in all states north of Maryland fell from 55,102 to 31,258 between 17.

Oftentimes, this official favoritism could lead to adherents of non-official churches being persecuted; one striking example of this can be seen in 1771 when a Baptist preacher was physically assaulted and whipped by Anglicans in Virginia, a state with an official Anglican establishment.

[2] The most effective means of preventing such instances of sectarian violence from occurring was to withdraw the state from the business of religion altogether, which had the effect of making all religions and their adherents (or at least all Christians) equal in the sense that none of them were more or less privileged than any other.

Indeed, the newly-proclaimed virtue of equality allowed American elites to occupy the moral high ground, and transform their sense of inferiority into one of superiority.

In due course, the desire for “equality” became intrinsically connected with the American desire for “liberty,” for a man could not have true liberty unless he was on an equal social and political footing with other men, including those men whom he previously deferred to as his superiors.

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