Us history midterm stono rebellion wnoah webster declaration of independence

History 11
History 11 Midterm
Document I: The Stono Rebellion
1. Who was James Oglethorpe? What does our textbook say about him?
James Oglethorpe, at the time of writing this document, was governor of Georgia. He was one of
the founders of the colony, as Foner explains, and “a wealthy reformer whose causes included
improved conditions for imprisoned debtors and the abolition of slavery” (Foner 139). At first he
helped outlaw slavery (as well as alcohol), but after he and the other proprietors surrendered the
colony to the crown, the new elected assembly quickly repealed both bans (139).
Georgia was created to help protect South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida, but the Spanish
had said that they would give protection to any slaves to escaped to Florida. Though Oglethorpe
was in favor of abolishing slavery, he also had to contend with the Spanish threat to the south,
and if he wasn’t careful to deal with more uprisings like these, the escaped slaves could bolster
the numbers of Spanish forces at St. Augustine.
2. What nation controls Florida in 1739? How did Spain come to control it?
Spain controlled Florida in 1739, and they had held onto it for some time. The fort at St. Augustine
was established in 1565 during the time of the Spanish conquest of Latin America under the orders
of Philip II. The idea here was to set up defensive outposts to protect treasure fleets against
pirates, and so the fort at St. Augustine was established, as well as some forts in St. Simons Island
(Foner 29).
3. Why are the Spanish and English hostile towards each other in 1739? That is, why is the Spanish
king giving protection to ‘negroes’ who work in the Carolinas? To answer this question, consult
your textbook to learn more about the power relations between Spain and England at this time.
During this time, the European powers of France, Spain and England were constantly at war or in
competition with one another for land and resources. The colonies were an expansion of these
wars because they helped fund the wars back home and also laid claim to slave labor and native
populations. There were a tiny number of colonists compared to the sheer amount of land each
country had claimed, but this was necessary for the expansion of empire – the classic “my
empire’s bigger than your empire” sort of thing. Or maybe “my empire can beat up your empire.”
But the Spanish, though they had lots of land all along the Pacific coast and the southeast, they
didn’t actually have very many settlers there despite efforts to bring more people over. They knew
that if they wanted to defend their territory from the English, they would need more men. In
particular, Florida’s outpost wasn’t doing so hot. As Foner explains, “Around 1770, [Florida’s
outpost’s] populated consisted of about 2,000 Spanish, 1,000 black slaves, and a few hundred
Indians, survivors of many decades of war and disease” (Foner 161). So on top of promising
escaped slaves freedom and protection, the Spanish also made an effort to stabilize its
relationships with the Indians in the area, desperate as they were for support (160).
This wasn’t to say that the Spanish and English were on equal footing when it came to populations.
Though the English didn’t have many to start, settlers and slaves very quickly populated the area,
outnumbering even the French by great numbers. “Nonetheless, the population of French North
American continued to be dwarfed by the British colonies. Around 1750, the 1.5 million British
colonists (including slaves) greatly outnumbered the 65,000 French in North America (163).
4. Who are the Jesuits? What are they doing in Florida?
Jesuits are members of the Catholic church – in this context, missionaries who traveled to the new
world to convert Indians and slaves to Catholicism. It was from the work of these missionaries,
and the Jesuit mission and school, that “many Thousands of the Negroes there profess the Roman
Catholic Religion.” The Jesuits in Florida were there as part of Spain’s efforts to increase the
population of their colonies; along with trying to make friendly with the Indians, they set up
multiple missions “at Los Adaes, La Bahia and San Antonio” (161). They were no conquistadores,
but spreading Catholicism was still important to them, especially if they were to continue to fight
against the English, which was largely Protestant.
5. How specifically does this document link to the Foner textbook and its main themes? List three
ways and discuss each link that you find. (This question is essential: work hard on it.)
a. To start is the issue of liberty. The idea of liberty was a key issue in the revolution, but
even decades before during the time of the Stono rebellion, liberty was a concept that
was being argued over, albeit for different reasons. For example, the governor of South
Carolina said that slaves had “no notion of liberty,” but the repeated escapes and
uprisings seemed to disprove that (145). I talk about South Carolina below, as well as its
buddy Georgia. Seriously, what’s wrong with these two?
But the reason why liberty was so important is because slaves had been fighting for their
rights and freedoms even as the slave trade was going on, but liberty wasn’t being
considered for slaves. Yet, many slaves were enticed by offers from the Spanish, who said
that escaped slaves would be given freedom if they could make it to Florida and fight for
Spain. This is part of what started the Stono rebellion, as roughly 20 slaves escaped to
Florida. The slaves clearly had an idea of liberty, as did the Spanish, just one that differed
from the English colonies, especially some in the south. As the Creek Indians said of the
Spanish, “[They] enslave no one as the English do” (138).
b. Foner and Oglethorpe both talk about the means by which the English tried to stop future
rebellions and quell the Stono rebellion. There was no talk of granting the slaves more
rights or listening to their demands; as Foner writes, this rebellion “led to a severe
tightening of the South Carolina slave code and the temporary imposition of a prohibitive
tax on imported slaves” (144). And Oglethorpe spoke so highly of the militia for not
torturing the wrongdoers and for not killing the innocents. He wasn’t exactly setting very
high standards, but he believed that by showing this form of mercy to the slaves (by not
outright torturing and killing unnecessarily) they were actually helping prevent future
rebellions by this show of humanity. “And this sudden Courage in the field, & the
Humanity afterwards hath had so good an Effect that there hath been no farther Attempt,
and the very Spirit of Revolt seems over.” Oh yes, a wonderful show of humanity. You
didn’t torture the people who were slightly upset at being enslaved, well done! (Yes, this
was centuries ago, but I reserve the right to be sincerely judgmental of racism.)
Also, it was interesting to note that their biggest priority seemed to be preventing any
more escapees from getting to Florida, rather than, ya’know, maybe looking into the
reasons why they might want to escape in the first place. But again, I talk more about the
lovely South Carolina below.
c. The Stono rebellion was written about by James Oglethorpe almost in horror upon
hearing about what the slaves did. Indeed, the slaves set fire to many houses “and killed
all the white People they found in them,” including women and children. While this likely
helped other slaves realize that they were not powerless, it likely did not do much good
in the eyes of white people, who as Olaudah Equiano stated, viewed Africans as inferior
to Europeans, and that they “deserved to be slaves” (130). It’s hard to make your case
heard when the people in power have that opinion of you; a similar idea was given of the
Native Americans, who were called “savages” with both positive and negative
connotations.
But the slaves were anything but savages, and they hardly lacked the concept of freedom.
As Foner writes, the African slaves in the colonies eventually started to undergo a process
of “re-Africanization” as slaves who hardly saw white people eventually started to form
common bonds and even start families (141). Much of this development was new,
however, adapted from their current conditions. Foner writes, “In music, art, folklore,
language, and religion, their cultural expressions emerged as a synthesis of African
traditions, European elements, and new conditions in America” (141).
In short, there was a massive disparity between the view that whites had of blacks and
how blacks actually were culturally, and this attitude, combined with rebellions like Stono,
helped keep their antiquated views intact for longer than many of their fellow colonists.
Document II: Women in the Household Economy
1. Using a good dictionary, define the following terms: distemper, industry, travail, choleric,
withal, ague, emetic, and alacrity.
Distemper: An infectious disease chiefly of young dogs, caused by an unidentified virus and
characterized by lethargy, fever, catarrh, photophobia, and vomiting.
Industry: Energetic, devoted activity at any work or task; diligence.
Travail: Painful or laborious effort.
Choleric: Bad-tempered or irritable.
Withal: In addition; as a further factor or consideration.
Ague: A fever (as malaria) marked by paroxysms of chills, fever, and sweating that recur at
regular intervals.
Emetic: A medicine or other substance that causes vomiting.
Alacrity: Brisk and cheerful readiness.
2. What are the most important kinds of work done by Carolina women, according to Lawson?
The women of Carolina area predominately praised for taking care of their families and being
handy, so that they might both help their husbands and save money by making clothes. Lawson
says that the women keep their families supplied with linens and woolens so that families don’t
need to go into debt or spend money on clothes at the store.
Lawson also explains that the women are brought up to perform a variety of tasks, from using the
wheel and sewing to “the Dairy and Affairs of the House,” and so they are able to “manage their
business” happily and efficiently. Further, he points out that educated women who can write well
and know mathematics can take up positions like accountants, which is a heavily needed job.
Finally, he points out that the women are capable of taking over their husband’s farming duties
when the men need to go exploring away from home during certain seasons.
3. Why might Lawson be more inclined to praise women’s “industry” (hard work) than men’s?
My first impression is that he would be more likely to praise the hard work of women because it’s
somewhat outside of their gender roles; hard work from men is expected, but when women do
it, that’s an unusual thing because women have specific, simple household roles and rarely deviate
from them (though this is often due to lack of choice than lack of desire). He points out that both
sexes are generally happy, but is quick to put praise on the women for knowing how to do more
than just work the wheel and sew.
Lawson doesn’t seem so condescending that he might have thought women were incapable until
he was proven wrong, but he also talks about how most women marry very young and how a
woman single at 20 “is reckon’d a stale Maid.” He talks about how single women come from other
areas to become mothers there, and how most families have plenty of children, so it seems like
his mentality is still that women are primarily for providing children and that it’s remarkable when
they do things to step outside those bounds.
4. How strict do gender roles appear to have been in early Carolina, circa 1709? Give evidence to
back your conclusion, evidence drawn from the document.
Gender roles didn’t seem quite as strict in Carolina given that women were allowed to be
educated, to read and write, to manage money, and to manage “affairs of the house.” It isn’t clear
exactly what these affairs entail, but many women had no say in what happened in the house –
the husband’s word was law. So to say that women were brought up to be able to manage some
of these affairs says a lot already.
It also says something that, while Lawson still seems to write with the idea that a successful
woman is one who marries and provides children, he doesn’t begrudge women who want to be
educated and learn to perform a variety of tasks. In fact, he seems to view this all as a good thing.
He talks about how the men are negligent because they have an easy life and how things could
be better off, then turns to talking about how the women “are the most industrious Sex in that
Place.” To say that the women are better than the men at work men are expected to be able to
do is high praise for a time like this.
However, the women still seemed to primarily play the role of housewife, whatever other tasks
and knowledge they had. Most women married very early – “some at Thirteen or Fourteen” – and
that most families have plenty of children. Lawson does point out that the women seem happy in
this role, and thus suffer few miscarriages, but I would take that with a grain of salt as this is a
man writing this interpretation.
Maybe he should have gotten one of these educated women who “[wrote] good hands” to write
this document for him because all these Randomly Capitalized words are Really annoying to my
Inner Grammarian.
5. How specifically does this document link to the Foner textbook and its main themes? List three
ways and discuss each link that you find.
a. The rights of women clearly varied between the colonies. While Lawson writes about the
industrious women of Carolina who could read and write, other colonies were not so kind.
One example is New York, which actually took away rights from women after it was taken
over from Dutch rule; they could no longer conduct business in their own name or inherit
any property by marriage (91). This was, of course, if women were around at all;
Jamestown had very few women, and its population suffered as a result. The Virginia
company soon realized that they had to switch from business to a society, and so imposed
the headright system (58). However, Foner writes, “men in the Chesapeake outnumbered
women for most of the seventeenth century by four or five to one” (61). The English
system that many colonies used was more oppressive than those of other countries
towards women, whereas the women of Carolina could become educated and hold highly
sought-after jobs.
b. Population was a large issue for many of the colonies, and those with harsher rules against
women’s rights also tended to have lower populations. Jamestown is one such example,
but Virginia is another. The men already outnumbered the women drastically, and most
women who came over did so as indentured servants, which meant that they couldn’t
start a family or do much of anything until their service was up. Because many indentured
servants died before their service was complete, the population stagnated and the
imbalanced ratio of men to women remained that way for quite some time (64).
Meanwhile, Lawson writes that the women of Carolina married young and had many
children, and that they were rarely sick.
c. Another interesting note is the role that religion played, or perhaps the lack thereof. Many
colonies used the systems of Britain, their mother country, which was very oppressive
against women, believing in the absolute authority of the man of the house. But this type
of attitude could be found in many different aisles. The mother country was largely
Protestant, and so many Puritans, dissatisfied with this system, came to set up new
colonies that would set an example for the world, such as Pennsylvania (95). But while
the Puritans largely considered women the spiritual equals of men, the absolute authority
held by men remained here as well.
But Carolina was in a bit of a different situation. Carolina was established to prevent the
Spanish from expanding north, and so the proprietors of Carolina realized they needed to
attract a great number of settlers quickly. To do this, not only did they instate a headright
system, but they also “provided for an elected assembly and religious toleration—by now
recognized as essential to enticing migrants to North America” (94). This different system
is what allowed women the freedoms they had; Carolina was focused on population and
expansion, not business and exports immediately, so having women in the colonies that
married early and had plenty of children was a great benefit.
Document III: Noah Webster on Equality
1. What does “palladia” mean? (Please look up the term in ‘Webster’s’.) What for Webster is “the
palladia of freedom”?
Palladia/Palladium: a measure taken to preclude loss or injury.
The palladia of freedom for Webster are “liberty of the press, trial by jury, the Habeas Corpus writ,
even Magna Carta itself,” but he mentions that property ownership – or perhaps the distribution
thereof – to all classes of people is more important than any of the other things. The reason he
says this is because in order to have all of those aforementioned things, you must first have this
general distribution of land. Without this land the people have no power, and without that power,
those liberties and rights cannot be defended.
2. Paraphrase Noah Webster’s statement above — that is, the entire document. Put it entirely in
your own words. Be sure that you lose none of his meaning, not even a crumb. Do him justice.
All right, time to do justice to one of the most influential people in history. No pressure.
From property comes power, but the ownership of that property must be such that it does not
keep that power within the same families and owners without end. But there is plenty of new
land for the taking here in America, and so unlike in England where this can never be
accomplished, we can end the acquisition of property based solely on the right of the first born.
Ensuring that people of all classes have access to land is essential to making sure the people retain
the power necessary to defend their freedoms, for without property none of the rights and
liberties we view as the cornerstones of freedom may exist. This is an agricultural country, and so
land, not patriotism or jingoism or virtue, is what is truly necessary. But this land must be
distributed, not saved for use among the powerful only, with their great stretches of land.
We value many things, such as freedom of the press and trial by jury, and these things are
rightfully called very important, but these must all be defended. And how can they be defended?
Property ownership, but not amongst the elites. Keeping land within the hands of the elite is
extremely dangerous to the idea of democracy. So in order to defend these things we hold so
dear, the foundation for these principles must be property. That is the framework from which the
rest may be derived; and as we hold on to this power, we can further defend ourselves from any
attempts at restrictions by being vigilant, and this vigilance comes from education and
information. The people must know the principles of our government and understand for what
we are fighting to defend, and in this way, we will not lose them.
3. Webster uses the term ‘national freedom.’ What does it mean? Is it different from ‘personal
freedom’ or ‘religious freedom’ or ‘liberty of conscience’? Explain for your answer.
National freedom, at least from what I can glean here, is referring to the system of the country
itself. Personal freedom and religious freedom talk about a person’s ability to live and choose for
themselves, but in order for those freedoms to be exercised, there must first be an overreaching
foundation, a framework, or some kind of system that allows for those freedoms to exist in the
first place. For Webster, this national freedom comes from the distribution of property to people
of all classes, which in turn gives people the power to defend their freedoms and liberties against
any who try to restrict them.
Without this power granted by property ownership, those other individual freedoms cannot exist,
and he says that the absence thereof threatens to turn their commonwealth into something else.
“An equality of property, with a necessity of alienation, constantly operating to destroy
combinations of powerful families, is the very soul of a republic–While this continues, the people
will inevitably possess both power and freedom; when this is lost, power departs, liberty expires,
and a commonwealth will inevitably assume some other form.”
4. Why does Webster consider an equal distribution of landed property more important to
freedom than liberty of the press, trial by jury, and other rights?
Webster says that “a general and tolerably equal distribution of landed property is the whole basis
of national freedom,” and explains that the unequal distribution thereof, and the imbalance of
power it creates, is more dangerous to liberty than anything else. He does believe that the others
are important, but that they’re more about maintaining liberty whereas property ownership is
integral to making sure that said liberty can exist in the first place. An equal distribution of
property creates a balance of power where the power should be: “in the body of the people.”
5. How might a craftsman who owns only his tools and workplace respond to Webster’s
statement? How might a ship-owner or fisherman respond? A slave? The merchant who, though
rich in stocks and bonds, owns only his townhouse in Manhattan — will he agree with Webster?
How would these four figures respond to his statement? Transcribe what they might tell him -in their own words.
Craftsman: I don’t own land, but I have my tools, my trade and my workplace. I’m a contributor
to society and enjoy the freedoms we’ve fought for through the hard work of others. Am I to
believe that my trade is somehow inferior or lacking? I’ve no need for land; I’ve made my living
this way, and agriculture isn’t my business. Yet I don’t feel powerless. Agriculture is but one means
of commerce. Besides, who has decided that power comes from land ownership? If this is a land
of liberty, power should come from our mere existence and our representation. I should have a
voice just as much as any landowner. By all means, employ this distribution of land as you see fit
and tear down the idea that land is only for certain lineages or those of such wealth, but you’re
leaving out a great many skilled free men who should not be guilted into thinking they play less
of a part in this country’s freedom than people who put plants in the ground.
Fisherman: I don’t own land either, but I also have a trade, and this trade is vital to the economy
of our free country. In fact, owning land would not do well for me. Do you know what happens
when you put a fish on land? They die, that’s what happens. And I can’t sell dead fish. So I need
to work the water. I’ve made my own way, I’m a hard worker and I too contribute to society. An
imbalance of power is a problem, but presuming that land is the basis of national freedom is very
narrow minded. I could just as easily suppose that shoes are the basis of national freedom, or
bacon, or feather pens, or hats. These liberties you mention, they are indeed the palladia of
freedom, and they are fought for and won by those who love their country and believe in freedom
regardless of where they came from, what their trade is or who their parents were. There are
threats to liberty, but we must look in the right place to find them and not in the process diminish
the efforts of those who happen not to own land.
Slave: Liberty is already much of a foreign concept to me in this country, and it’s difficult for me
to wrap my head around the idea of freedoms of any sort, much less the differences between
personal, religious and national. If land is the basis of national freedom, then why do I not benefit
from any of it when I work the land harder than many free men? This balance of wealth and power
that resides in the body of the people seems to have skipped over me and those like me, so it
seems as though while you have made this impassioned defense of a certain battle for liberty, it
is a fight that excludes many, just as we are excluded from the benefits of this battle.
Wealthy Merchant: As a wealthy man I have never felt wanting for freedoms or privileges, and I
disagree with the notion that land is the basis of national freedom. Defending national freedom
does require power, but does that power come from the land? I have power and yet have no land,
so that must not be so. Could it be wealth? Certain positions require certain wealth, and wealth
is the gate that shuts many off from certain opportunities. Would it not, then, be more
appropriate to posit that a more equal distribution of wealth would afford greater power in the
hands of the people? Certainly land affords opportunity, but it is not the only thing to do so. But
in order to take advantage of opportunity, wealth can either help or hinder, depending on how
much you have. Or further, perhaps, equal distribution of food and housing so that all may feel
comfortable and safe? What use is freedom of the press to one dying of starvation or left in the
rain?
6. Can you think of any group, philosopher, or political party today that believes in the ‘equal
distribution of landed property”? Think hard. Explain your answer.
I thought hard, and I can’t really think of anyone or any group that might believe this way these
days, and I think that’s because things have changed so drastically. Land is no longer the most
valuable commodity, at least not in this way. Owning property is still a freeing thing, such as
owning a house or even renting an apartment, because it’s something that’s distinctly yours. But
land ownership is no longer required to vote or to make money or to run for office. Things have
shifted, and the things that people are fighting to have equally distributed are more along the
lines of basic necessities – like food and homes and medical care – to help the poor, not to give
land for the sake of power. (This is also because our idea of where this power is derived from is
not the same as Mr. Webster’s idea.)
Even when you consider people like some progressives who want to provide foreclosed homes to
the homeless, that’s less about the distribution of property for power than it is to solve the
problem of poverty and homelessness. Still more, that’s not landed property, that’s just property
to give a roof over people’s heads. There is the concept of eminent domain, which I could possibly
argue is redistributing land for the benefit of the public, but even then it’s not quite the same.
Landed property just isn’t as important as it used to be if you aren’t already in the business, and
we don’t exactly consider farmers with lots of land to be at the top of our political system
anymore. There are people at the top who have lots of land, but they have that land because they
have power, not the other way around.
7. Imagine that Noah Webster is seated before you. (Yes, right now, in your home. He’s a tall man,
well-dressed, with an impressive vocabulary and a dry regard. You’re intimidated by him at first,
but you recover.) Having turned over in your mind his statement above, having paraphrased it
and questioned it, you answer him thus: “The whole basis of my own national freedom, today,
in 2016, is ____________.” Finish that sentence with a phrase or sentence. Then expand on
what you mean, preferably in a paragraph. Spend yourself here and clarify how you would
respond to Mr. Webster.
Good grief Mr. Webster, it’s four in the morning and I’m hardly dressed for company. You travel
through time and this is where you end up? Well, given what I’ve just read, this wasn’t your only
strange idea. Anyway, I’m currently suffering from insomnia, so I want nothing more than to talk
about national freedom with you. Was sarcasm around in your time? Nothing, never mind.
The whole basis of my own national freedom, today, in 2016, is the united exercise of the
freedoms given to us by past generations, because if we do not exercise these liberties, and in
doing so defend them, we risk losing them.
These days, freedom is granted to all, and this power is given to everyone by virtue of their
existence. If you are a citizen of this country, you are given all the rights and freedoms afforded
to every person. It is true that there are still limitations based on wealth – not every person can
go to the best schools and live in the best areas – but we may all speak with relative impunity. We
are connected as never before, and much of our power comes from the ability to hold people
accountable for their actions and to resist the push of those who would try to restrict us. Votes
can be cast by people of any race or gender, so land is no longer necessary.
It’s true that in many cases you need a physical address in order to be able to vote, but in this
time, having a physical address is something many people enjoy, even if they are renting and not
buying. One thing that prevents this is poverty, and that’s a whole different ball game. Ball game?
Like baseball, America’s pastime, it… never mind, you’re hopeless.
You should understand that this is a groundbreaking time. The entire world is connected as never
before and we have an immensely new flow of wealth and technology. Some of this technology
is used to attempt to suppress some of our freedoms, but in truth, we enjoy many of our freedoms
to an extent never before experienced in America. Because of this, we as individual people also
have power like never before. It is this power that seems to frighten many at the top, whether
corporate or government, and so that is why the basis of our national freedom now is making use
of what we have already been given. My generation has taken part in a few important civil rights
battles, but the biggest ones were fought by those before us. If we don’t continue to push forward,
we’ll be taken back. The essence of our national liberty is the preservation of what we have and
the exploration of what might be, in spite of the forces that pull ever backwards.
There will always be those men, Mr. Webster – always those who view power as a limited
commodity and whose idea of freedom and security means taking both from others. Always the
men who think that they must be on top and push others down to get their way. National liberty
is not a gift, it is a reward, and one which must be guarded at all costs. In this era our defenders
of liberty come from everywhere, from all classes and races and genders and countries of origins,
and that is the basis of our power. Our unity is the basis for our freedom. We are connected and
united as never before. Now please, go home.
8. Why does Webster believe the republican institutions of the United States will survive
indefinitely?
Webster believes that these institutions will survive forever because of how educated the people
are. He explains that because the people are so informed about the rights of man and the ideas
of how government should work, they will be able to properly defend it against any attempted
subversions. That is, an educated people will be able to see when someone is trying to pull the
wool over their eyes, as it were.
9. Cast your mind back to John Winthrop, the Puritan leader, and his definition of freedom. He
defined two types: what were they again? Which did he prefer? And how does his preferred
conception of freedom differ from Webster’s? Be specific. What has changed?
John Winthrop was that weird fella who believed in natural liberty and moral (also civil or federal)
liberty. His preference was very much for moral liberty; he was a religious man and probably
believed in an objective morality, but he was also a man of authority and law, and this liberty was
the one that he requested people be willing to lay down their lives to defend. “This liberty you
are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be.” In his
view, moral liberty was all about authority and subjection to it, and it was this subjection to
authority that kept humans from becoming evil.
He stated that “The exercise and maintaining of this [natural] liberty makes men grow more evil
and in time to be worse than brute beasts … This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild
beast, which all of the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it.” He believes
that natural liberty let people do whatever they please simply because they could, and that
without any direction, people would let this freedom get to their head and stray from peace and
civility, because it is the liberty “common to man with beasts and other creatures.”
Winthrop’s conception of freedom was vastly different from Webster’s. Winthrop’s idea of
freedom relied on following authority, but to the point where it was almost a bad thing to
question it. He said, “…but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as
Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over
you, in all the administrations of it, for your good.” Authority is a good thing, and if you want to
enjoy your freedoms, you will listen and obey. He does say that everyone’s liberties will be
preserved by the fact that authority will listen to “good advice from any of you,” but he views
subjection and obedience as liberating, the source of people’s power.
On the other hand, Webster thought that liberty came from the ownership of land, and that this
ownership gave people the power to defend their liberties. In this case, the people are the
authority themselves, they need only have the appropriate land in order to hold power. He says,
“We have not to struggle against a monarch or an aristocracy–power is lodged in the mass of the
people.” The people themselves are the guardians of liberty and the rights they have fought for;
there is no subjection to some higher authority, because the people are that authority in that their
government is simply a representation of the masses, not a force that presses down upon them.
139 years passed between the time the two documents were written, and given the events that
occurred in the colonies and the fight for liberty (and the events which pushed the colonists to it),
it’s easy to see how a definition could change so drastically in that period of time.
Document IV: Declaration of Independence
1. The colonists had been fighting British soldiers for over a year before the Declaration was
written and the formal declaration of war against Britain was announced. Take that fact in. Why
do you feel it took so long for the colonists to formally announce a declaration of war against
the British?
There were a number of reasons why the colonies didn’t officially declare their separation from
Britain for quite some time, even as they actively fought the British soldiers.
First, even though the colonists were currently fighting the British soldiers, there were many who
were uneasy at the prospect of splitting completely. The southern colonies were not as supportive
of independence as the northern colonies were – due in part to not being as affected by the taxes
as the northerners were – and some even actively supported the British. These were called the
Loyalists. But even in the north there was talk of reconciliation rather than independence. Thomas
Paine’s Common Sense was a fiery rebuttal against this idea, but as Foner explains, “As 1776
dawned, America presented the unusual spectacle of colonists at war against the British empire,
but still pleading for their rights within it. Even as fighting raged, Congress in July 1775 had
addressed the Olive Branch Petition to George III, reaffirming Americas’ loyalty to the crown and
hoping for a ‘permanent reconciliation’” (Foner 192).
Second, independence from Britain meant losing a very valuable economic partner. Britain both
bought raw materials from the colonies and supplied them with completed goods; refusing to
reconcile meant losing that business, which could mean financial disaster for people who worked
in exports.
Third, the pursuit of independence was hardly a unanimous goal. As we learned in lecture, some
two-thirds of colonists didn’t want to go to war with Britain to seek independence. The colonists
were fighting the British because of the empire’s repeated attempts at taxation and the
Intolerable Acts without fair representation, but the colonists didn’t know what ends they wanted
to reach. Deciding to write such a declaration in spite of the wide range of uncertainties and
loyalties was a decision that took quite some time to arrive at.
Fourth, even outside the Loyalists, there was still a strong sense of British pride amongst many of
the colonists. What’s more, “…many political leaders … feared that a complete break with the
mother country might unleash further conflict” (192).
2. Quoting from the document itself, determine who the audience for this document was. Whom
was it meant to be read by? How do we know?
This declaration was meant to be read by the peoples and governments of the world. The writers
of the declaration wanted other countries to be aware of their plight and make clear that they
were not affiliated with Britain. In this way, their issues would be made known around the world,
and this would let any enemies of Britain know that they could help the colonists.
The writers appeal to “the Supreme Judge of the world” and explain that they “are Absolved from
all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State
of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.” This told everyone that they were now free
to engage in war, peace and trade as their own country, not as any entity connected with Britain.
So this ended up performing a variety of purposes: widespread publication of the declaration
would not allow Britain to cover up what was happening, it served as an appeal for assistance
against the British, and it helped calm any potential fears of other nations that the colonies might
act in the interests of the empire.
3. Why does Jefferson explain the need for a formal declaration of independence? Why do you
think it was necessary for Jefferson to state the “causes which impel them [the English colonies
in North America] to the separation”?
A formal declaration made the colonies seem more united and made it seem as though the
decision had already been made and agreed upon by all. This would have more of an impact than
a minority group of people writing protest pamphlets and airing their grievances through
whatever meager means they could find, like small printing houses. Explaining the causes for this
declaration was also important because it could help appeal to those who had already been
harmed by the British, which in that time were many (other British colonies or any country Britain
was at war with). Any country looking for an excuse to come to the aid of the colonists with the
purpose of hurting the British could point to this declaration as proof to explain why it was
necessary.
What’s more, as the declaration explains, war was not their first choice. It says, “In every stage of
these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated
Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked
by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” In other words,
though the British mistreated the colonists for years, the colonists in turn attempted repeatedly
to seek a peaceful resolution – the declaration implies that the British refused any peaceful
solution and instead cracked down harder with inhumane treatment, like destroying the colonists’
governments, destroying property and killing people.
Much like Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre, this declaration helped serve as a
motivational tool for any outsiders who wished to aid the colonists, and its formality helped
advertise to the world that the colonies were not separate, but were now united in a cause.
4. What does Jefferson suggest should happen whenever government becomes “destructive of
the ends for which it was created?” According to Jefferson, how do governments derive their
powers? That is, what gives them the authority to rule?
Jefferson says that a government’s power comes only from the consent of the governed – that is,
if the people no longer consent to be ruled by that government, the government has lost its
power. He explains that the people (the governed) have the right to overthrow the government
they no longer wish to be governed by and to put a new one in its place, one that will work towards
their “safety and happiness.”
In this way, Jefferson was absolutely a proponent of representative government. Government
officials held no more power than the average citizen, because (gender and property ownership
limitations aside), the government was made of these citizens. The role of people in government
was to represent the populace at large, not to be its own separate entity.
5. Jefferson noted that “all men are created equal,” suggesting that this was “self-evident.”
Speculate as to what he meant by that statement. If you were a Southerner whose family had
been massacred in the Stono Rebellion (1739), how would you interpret this statement? Would
you agree with it? Why or why not? If you were Jemmy, leader of the Stono rebellion, how
would he interpret the statement?
If I were someone who lost a loved one in the Stono Rebellion, I would probably think that this
statement was untrue. I would look at what happened as an example of utter barbarism; the
revolt saw the deaths of men, women and children, many of whom likely didn’t play any direct
role in the subjugation of slaves. Seeing homes burnt and loved ones killed would probably bring
the word “savages” to mind, and if any idea existed that some people were inferior, something
like this would likely reinforce those ideals.
However, if I were Jemmy, I’d probably agree with the statement and then wonder why it was not
being followed by the people in power. Not actually being Jemmy I don’t know if he ever thought
about how all humans were created equal – it’s possible that the rebellion came as a result of
being treated poorly rather than a demonstration of the ideals of civil rights – but he probably
would have agreed with the statement. As many minorities in history have done, he may have felt
this himself and then wondered why it was not so, since we are all humans after all. Even as he
and the other burned houses and killed people, I don’t think he was doing it because he thought
white people were inferior, he likely just thought that they were the source of a great injustice
upon his people and wanted it to stop.
6. In the Preamble to the Declaration, we read that “…when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under
absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to
provide new Guards for their future security.” Put the meaning of this sentence in your own
words, being sure to be true to the original meaning – in all its complexity. Along the way, define
the terms ‘train,’ ‘usurpations,’ ‘evince,’ and ‘despotism.’
Restated, this means: When a people are subjected to abuses from a government, abuses that
have the end goal in mind of suppressing the people to despotism, the people have a
responsibility to throw off this government and establish their own with people that have the
people’s interests in mind.
The quote refers to the long series of abuses as the taxes, suspension of habeas corpus, the
housing of soldiers in colonists’ homes, etc. and explains that all of these in succession brought to
light the British government’s desire to suppress the colonists under despotism, or the exercise
of absolute power. This was their object, but it was not out of sheer malice; Britain was loaded
with debt, and they were trying to find new methods of income to continue supporting their army
and growing empire. Usurpations was taking the colonists’ control away from them by
demolishing their governments, and evince just means “bring to light” or “reveal.”
7. Next, look at the grievances that Jefferson lists to prove that the King of Great Britain has
violated the natural rights of the colonists. List the three grievances that you feel are the worst
violations, the worst if you were a colonist at the time. Explain why you believe them to be
particularly bad.
If I were a colonist at the time rather than someone like Jefferson (a thinker, arguably part of the
elite), it would still somewhat depend on where I lived and how progressive my colony of
residence was. Let’s assume that I was a female colonist in the north (I’m trans, so let’s roll with
it) who is aware of the current battle but not yet directly impacted. My three worst grievances
would probably be these:
a. For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.
b. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.
c. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives
of our people.
To start, I don’t want any soldiers in my house, especially soldiers who represent that which my
fellow colonists are fighting against. I’ve already got enough on my hands taking care of the house.
What’s more, since Britain started cracking down, they’ve shut down ports and prevented trade,
which has been an economic disaster, which means I’m having even more trouble taking care of
the household. Some of these soldiers are not friendly, either.
Second, taxes impact us all whether we work or not, and this is not a good time for us to be given
even more bills to pay. They are taxes that can’t be avoided because they are placed on items of
necessity, and are enforced by the troops that the king has sent here. It is an unnecessary burden,
one which we are powerless to fight against because the word of the king is law. I suppose the
amount of money itself isn’t wholly terrible, at least not since my husband is lucky enough to keep
his job (for now), but if they can put these taxes on us, making us pay money with no say in the
matter, what’s next?
Third, this one is almost self-explanatory because whether you’re a believer in objective or divine
morality or not, it’s generally agreed that plundering, ravaging, burning, destroying and other
awful synonyms are usually bad things. I know the men of the colonies have been working hard
to keep the peace, but it’s hard to imagine how such a “peace” can continue when our men are
also being massacred in the streets. The redcoats seem desperate to retain control of these
colonies by any means necessary, and seem quick to temper and violence. I’m afraid, but also
hopeful. My husband told me about Common Sense and how it is riling people to action, and he’s
going through great Paines to make sure we’re ready to defend ourselves. Get it? Paines? Sorry.
(No wait, here’s another one. I have A Modest Proposal, and I want you to read it Swift-ly. Like
Jonathan Swift? Okay I’m done for real now.)
8. Jefferson blames King George III in this list of grievances despite the fact that Parliament passed
the acts and approved the taxes that led to the colonists calling for independence. The King, on
the other hand, was a monarch with limited power who could not even formulate his own
foreign policy without approval from Parliament. Why would Jefferson blame the King
specifically and not the Parliament for the problems leading to the Declaration? Explain.
The king is a figurehead, a symbol of the type of government that the colonists are trying to get
rid of. Parliament was responsible for much of what happened to the colonists, but Parliament
wasn’t something the colonists hated – in fact, they were upset that they felt they didn’t get
proper representation in it. A monarchy, however, the absolute rule discussed above, was
something that was the antithesis to everything that Jefferson, at least, believed in. King George
was just one man, but his “occupation” was a symbol greater than him, and it was this which
Jefferson took issue with. Again, this quote is relevant: “A Prince whose character is thus marked
by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Parliament was representation, but a king was tyranny. A king was one man imposing his rule on
others. Plus, one man is an easier enemy to make than an entire institution, at least if you’re
looking to set specific goals for change. A modern example would be how displeasure with
government manifests primarily in desires to change the president, whereas electing new
representatives doesn’t get nearly as much attention even though there are three equal branches
of government.
9. How specifically does this document link to the Foner textbook and its main themes? List three
ways and discuss each link that you find.
a. The first interesting point here is the Declaration of Independence itself. As Foner writes,
“On July 2, 1776, the Congress formally declared the United States an independent
nation” (196). That’s all well and good, and the powerful language of both Foner and the
Declaration itself makes it sound like this was something that was agreed upon by
everyone, that the colonies and colonists within were unanimously in favor of separating
from Britain. But as we learned, that wasn’t the case; not even a majority were in favor
of separation. Some wanted to reconcile, some were loyal entirely to Britain, and others
still favored compromises, arguing that a definitive separation could lead to civil wars and
greater harm to the colonies. Foner mentions Joseph Galloway, who was essentially the
ideological opposite of Thomas Paine. Where Paine wanted total independence right
now, Galloway warned that the only way the colonies could enjoy “true liberty” was “by
remaining with the empire” (192).
b. The next interesting point is how hard the colonies fought for liberty while some
simultaneously fought to keep slavery and the slave trade alive and well. As Foner writes,
one grievance against King George was originally going to be how the king had prevented
the colonies from restricting the slave trade, but Georgia and South Carolina persuaded
that clause to be removed (196). The idea of the freedoms Jefferson and many others
sought discussed the right of the governed to fight back against arbitrary power, but while
the colonists were so intent on making one of the freest government systems of the time,
some also pushed to keep slavery intact.
The idea of “America exceptionalism” started almost immediately, talking about how free
America was, how it was an example to the rest of the world and a haven for those seeking
safety from tyranny, but black slaves were treated almost no differently. American hero
George Washington originally didn’t even want any blacks in his armies; it was only after
the British offered freedom to escaped slaves that fought for the crown that Washington
begrudgingly accepted (200). Even as the other colonies starting accepting black slaves
into their armies, South Carolina and Georgia outright refused. Must not draw modern
parallels, must not draw modern parallels…
c. Finally, as we remember, “no taxation without representation” is one of the most
infamous slogans of the revolution. The colonists didn’t like that the British were
attempting to impose so many new taxes on them when they felt like they had no place
in Parliament. It is true that the king stated that his word was law in the colonies, but this
did not come down to malice and spite on Britain’s part – the reality was a difference in
the idea of what “liberty” consisted of, and the colonists’ ideas clashed with Britain’s
ideas.
As Foner explains, the colonists thought that, as settlers from Britain, they deserved the
same representation and rights as mainlanders from the mother country. By contrast, the
British “saw the empire as a system of unequal parts in which different principles
governed different areas, and all were subject to the authority of Parliament” (180).
Britain was an empire, they thought, and to manage something that large you needed a
“supreme legislature to which all other powers must be subordinate” (180). So it wasn’t
that the king wanted to squash the colonies under his boot; the mother country just
assumed this was how it was supposed to work. Britain had representatives in the
colonies, and the colonies had every right to ask the king for permission to pass new laws,
but it was not the liberty the colonies wanted.
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