To what extent was Colonial America a land of: opportunity, liberty, and/or oppression?
The social and democratic values which are now established in the USA have been rooted in society even before its independence. America as a colonial state of the United Kingdom, on one hand, observed a lot of development and progress on many levels but on the other hand, it was a place of oppression, injustice, and inequality. In this regard, the following essay critically analyses the colonial practices in the USA before its independence to investigate the extent to what it was a land of opportunity, liberty, and oppression.
Critical Analysis of Colonial America
The new world of America was established by the United Kingdom when it created thirteen colonies named New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, South Caroline, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. These colonies were collectively called as New England (Reich, 2011). However, people living in these colonies developed an entirely new culture based on democratic values which were considerably different from the royal culture of England. Therefore, the US has been a symbol of freedom and diversity since its colonial period. However, the concept of freedom is linked with mixed beliefs of religiousness and ethnicity.
The emerging unifying culture of America also played an effective role in their struggle for independence to get rid of the tyranny of England and establish a system that provides equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their race, color, or religion (Roeber & Hoffer, 1993). Their main call was to formulate a government that is responsible for the rights of all the people, while the established system of government was contradictory. An important example of the growing sense of liberty and freedom among Americans is the Mayflower Compact which was originally titled Agreement between the Settlers of New Plymouth and provided religious freedom to both the Pilgrims and non-Pilgrims (Hendershot & Marsh, 2020).
However, historically, colonial America has been the place only for white Americans, who enjoyed all the opportunities while people from other races were considered inferiors and were far away from any kind of benefits available to white Americans. For example, by considering the situation of power balance in colonial America, it can be observed that the people who were financially strong were also serving at the top positions in the administration. As a matter of fact, about 80% of public offices were being managed by those who owned the top 20% of assessed property in the US. In this way, the society was divided into two parts, one enjoying all the benefits of having more wealth and as result more power, and the second, even deprived of basic rights (Joanna Dee Das & Tendler, 2017). In this regard, colonial America was a land of oppression where white men forcefully took lands from native Indians and subjected them to terrible conditions, especially during and after the Indian wars of the 1800s.
But, if one would narrow down this perspective and focus only on one section of the society i.e. while males, it can be observed that they were enjoying the most opportunities and freedom in the society. They have access to different resources, employment opportunities, freedom to express their opinion, and were able to dominate the ideas in the society. Even many people found this new world as a land of opportunities due to cheap land, labor, and religious freedom. Therefore, the US is now called a place of immigrants as millions of people left their own countries to find better opportunities and freedom in colonial America.
Colonial America was not a land of opportunity, liberty, and freedom in a true sense as native Indians were oppressed by their fellow Americans. However, many people who migrated to the USA in pursuit of religious freedom, and social and economic opportunities settled down in this new world successfully.
Hendershot, R. M., & Marsh, S. (2020). Celebrating the Mayflower: 400 years of Anglo-American relations. Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 18(4), 405–414. https://doi.org/10.1057/s42738-020-00058-7
Joanna Dee Das, & Tendler, J. (2017). The significance of the frontier in American history. Taylor And Francis.
Reich, J. R. (2011). Colonial America. Prentice Hall.
Roeber, A. G., & Hoffer, P. C. (1993). Law and People in Colonial America. The American Historical Review, 98(3), 937. https://doi.org/10.2307/2167692