American Revolution on the Horizon?

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Chapter 5

American Revolution on the Horizon?

1754: The American Revolution seems to be the most unlikely occurrence to take place. To us it is hard to imagine the difficult road traveled to get to the point of seeking a united independence from the mother country because it has been stamped into our brains. But in 1754 you could not have convinced a handful of people that this would be happening in twenty years.

Reasons for this improbable event stemmed from the diversity of the social and political systems of the colonies.

  • Regional: Seaport urban centers to the backcountry and the plantation slave community
    1. Seaport: a variety of styles in the construction of the cities. Some focused on modern styles with three story buildings. Others were similar to the medieval styles of Europe, but all had the same economy that was based around commerce…trading activities. They had a trading network that stretched from Boston to the Caribbean and on to West Africa, Charleston to southern Europe, and Philadelphia to the West Indies. Along with this trading activity came a wealthy class that was able to import luxury goods from England. There was a skilled middle class of artisans as well. The seaport cities had a very stratified social hierarchy in place by 1750. Women of the cities especially enjoyed a life of leisure as compared to women a generation before them, or of other regions. There was the opportunity to enjoy the arts and culture amongst the wealthy and some of the middle class that was not shared with the citizens of the other regions. With the good of course came the bad. Because of the close quarters there was always the risk of fires as well as the drawbacks of having an economy that was subject to outside events out of their control….sinking ships and wars.

    2. Backcountry: Who was migrating to these western frontiers? Primarily those who were being pushed out due to lack of land around the established seaport communities. Many of the new immigrants who coming were German, and Scots-Irish. With this move to the west came a great change in the social and political system. With the distance came the isolation. With isolation out went many of the traditional ways and a new culture began to arise. Life was hard and for many it required the work of the whole family to survive. No longer were people working a specific trade they needed to be a jack-of-all-trades for their family. Found themselves often in conflict with colonial governments…..either felt they did not provide enough protections regarding issues with the Native Americans or they felt they were corrupt and unjust. These grievances had violent consequences. One in Pennsylvania resulted in 1763 with a group of Scots-Irish farmers who were frustrated with the insufficient support they were receiving from the government when dealing with the Native Americans. To make their point this group known as the Paxton Boys killed a number of natives and then marched their way to Philadelphia. Here we see Benjamin Franklin intervening to preserve the peace within Pennsylvania. Only provided a band-aid. North and South Carolina did not fair as well…there was no mediator to relieve the tensions….and the result was a bloody mess. The Regulators as both were known, expressed their frustrations regarding unfair representation by a form of vigilantism. The crimes that were being committed in the backcountry of South Carolina were not being addressed accordingly, so the Regulators took the law into their own hands, and some chaos followed. These Regulators of South Carolina threatened to march into Charleston if they did not receive an adequate court system, their prior actions and style of force created enough fear to force the powers that be to reevaluate the situation. North Carolina Regulators were fed up with the corruption of the local government and the money that was moving into the frontier and imposing high taxes and charging ridiculous fees for business transactions. The Regulator response here was one of revolt and took on the militia. They did not fare well, but the events made an indelible mark on the relations between the backcountry and the seaboard. Ethnic diversity also came into play with the regional division. The concentration of immigrants began finding more opportunities inland; those of English descent populated the coastal areas.

    3. Slave Societies in the South: larger concern with the maintaining of greater numbers of slaves. Most land in the hands of a few very wealthy families. Primary conflicts arose between black and white. As the slave community began to grow families began to appear. Relationships and a community were emerging. This African American culture that was created had a great impact on the plantation world. Plantation owners were beginning to see an indirect and subtle form of resistance. On occasion, such as the Stono Rebellion of 1739, it manifested in a violent form. A slave named Jemmy led over 100 others in a rebellion. They were able to get their hands on weapons and killed several whites before the militia killed them. This revolt and other smaller ones led the southern plantation owners to live in a state of fear and allowed for them to create stricter and more inhumane restrictions regarding their slaves.

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