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Colonial America began as an offspring of the English patriarchal government. The first settlers could not imagine a society that could be both self sufficient and independent from English control. The colonists simply accepted its role on the bottom of the social and political hierarchy. They relied on their intense work ethic and their desire to practice their own religion without interference. Motivated by their Protestant ethic, the American colonies broke free from the grasp of the English patriarchy in order to form a self-sufficient Capitalist society that could better accommodate the needs of a growing America. Originally, the colonies represented an economic venture for the English public.
Those first colonists unknowingly planted the seeds that would grow into a capitalist society. This root of capitalism was a major break from the traditional patriarchy that had dominated Europe for centuries. At the time of the development of the American colonies the feudal system in England consisted of an intricate hierarchical structure that hampered social mobility. This system paralleled the structure of the Catholic church, which placed the pope at the top and the laypeople at the lowest rung. Like Catholicism, one ruler reigned over the English government.
The Protestant Reformation catalyzed the breakdown of the Catholic hierarchy along with the fall of the feudal ideology. In turn, the Reformation produced the eager and diligent Puritans, who would continue to practice their beliefs on American soil. The Puritans would bring their Protestant work ethic with them to the New World. There, they fully rejected the feudal system while supporting diligence, self-discipline, honesty, and a contempt for inactivity.
Their new society was bent on opposing servants and slaves. These values and traits that the Puritans advocated resulted in the recipe for the future Capitalist society. One example of a failed attempt to employ the Catholic hierarchy is the troubled development of the colony of Maryland. The settlement of Maryland by Lord Baltimore was one of the only original colonies that initially was to serve as a sanctuary for Catholics.
Baltimore tried to enforce an elaborate social hierarchy upon the new settlers. The people of Maryland refused to adhere to Baltimore s plan and revolted against the feudal system. Eventually, after a failed attempt to integrate Catholics and Protestants, the Puritans overtook the colony s government and kept it Protestant. This example reflects the views of the colonists and their desire to further the Reformation in America.
It showed the colonies disdain for the feudal system and foreshadowed its eventual uprising. The English government cast the American colonies into the role of a puppet. According to the political power in England, America s purpose was to purchase English exports, produce cheap exports, and to pay taxes to their king. America did not share the same desires, but still lacked a vision. During the mid 1700 s, America underwent a spiritual awakening with the arrival of the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment. The Great Awakening was a religious revival that countered the old beliefs rooted in patriarchy.
America began to reevaluate the relationship between the church, state and society. Leaders such as Jonathon Edwards and motivators such as George Whitefield gave colonists a renewed hope and vitality. They encouraged the population to take an active role in salvation, as opposed to the traditional silence in the presence of authority. The Great Awakening reached beyond a religious revival and emphasized the individual spirit.
The Enlightenment had a similar effect, but lacked the religious influence. The Enlightenment emphasized equality and the right to think. It placed truth in the hands of reason as opposed to looking to the church for ultimate guidance. Each movement placed influence on the individual and not on the church or the state. More importantly, it gave the colonies a reason to unify and allowed them to taste their destiny. By the time the 1760 s arrived in colonial America, the colonies had already embraced the Protestant work-ethic and began to survive with little foreign assistance.
The final obstacle separating America from forming a new Capitalist society was the convincing of the entire public that the colonies could thrive without England s patriarchal government that neglected to represent the colonies. In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote the highly influential Common Sense. This pamphlet would push the public opinion over the edge, and initiate the Revolution. Paine showed that the monarchy was not above suspicion of corruption. By equating the English patriarchy to the historically corrupt Catholic church, he convinced the public that the English monarchy was not only historically wrong, but also theologically unjust.
He convinced the colonies that they had the power to mold America into the land of the elect. His implementation of biblical references and opinions against feudalism allowed the colonists to easily relate to the cause of the Revolution. The colonists realized that the forceful writings of Paine were a reflection of the overall opinions and thoughts of the colonists. This significant pamphlet fully united the colonies against the archaic English government and proved to be the final ingredient for the Revolution. These events enabled America to create its own unique identity and helped recognize the differences in the goals and aspirations of America and England. The colonists felt the unjustness of being on the bottom of England s social and political hierarchy and used it to formulate a government that would better meet the needs of the public.
They found the importance of the individual s rights in society and that the violation of those led to anger and revolt. The Americans noted the flaws in the patriarchal system and used it as inspiration to build a society to suit the needs of the newly united people. They discovered that they had a separate identity than those countries of Europe and had more potential for success than other country in the world. 342
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