Essays for The American Pageant, 14th ed

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Essays for The American Pageant, 14th ed.

Part One

1. From the perspective of Native Americans, the Spanish and English empires in America had more similarities than differences. Assess the validity of this generalization.

Response Strategy

It is important to develop a clear thesis on the validity of the statement at the outset of the essay. A good essay could be developed on either side of the issue or in support of a middle-of –the-road position. Supporting paragraphs should be developed to build the position chosen. Both the Spanish and the English treated the Native Americans as inferiors, thought it important to bring them Christianity, sought to profit economically from relations with the Native Americans, and forced some Native Americans into slavery. Both brought terrible diseases to the New World, though the Spanish impact was more devastating because of earlier arrival. The Spanish attempted to integrate Native Americans into their colonial societies through intermarriage and through the establishment of agricultural communities with Native American workers. The English separated themselves from Native American life to a greater extent and relied mostly on trade for economic gain.

2. Evaluate the extent of settlement and influence of three of these groups of non-English settlers in North America before 1775.



Scots Irish



Response Strategy

It is important to point out that English settlers were a definite majority of those in North America during the entire eighteenth century. However, the proportion declined from about twenty to one in 1700 to only about three to one by 1775. So a good essay should point out that the significance of non-English groups was increasing. The next task is to select three groups from the list and describe the influence of each. Of the non-English settlers, the largest group consisted of Africans, most of whom were enslaved and forced to immigrate. The laws and social customs that enabled the institution of slavery to exist were firmly in place by the 1700s. There were enslaved Africans in all of the colonies, though the practice was most prevalent in the South, due to the labor-intensive export crops common there. The French had relatively small settlements in the St. Lawrence River valley, but exerted economic influence over vast expanses of the interior through trade and missionary activities. Because French economic power rivaled that of England, the English feared the French settlers more than those from the other countries, until the French colonies came under English rule in 1763. The Dutch originally controlled the Hudson River valley as a separate colony, but this had been absorbed by New York by the 1700s. Dutch names remained important there and Dutch social customs were influential. The relative poverty and the independent spirit of many of the Scots Irish settlers is demonstrated by their tendency to settle along the western frontiers on both sides of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania southward. They maintained their Presbyterian religion, and a history of struggles with the Church of England meant that they were unlikely to respect the English colonial governments. German settlers located themselves mostly in Pennsylvania where they were called “Pennsylvania Dutch.” They maintained relatively prosperous farming communities and tried to remain culturally separate from the English.

3. Explain the theory of mercantilism and the role in played in prompting Americans to rebel in 1776.
Essay A (Strong)

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the set of economic ideas that prevailed in the governments of several leading European nations came to be called mercantilism. Based on these ideas, English leaders made decisions that were more advantageous to the mother country than they were to the colonies. While this resulted in some discontent among the colonists, mercantilism by itself was not responsible for the acts of rebellion in 1776. Mercantilism played a role in American independence, but it was only one of a number of ideas and events that were important.

Mercantilist ideas emphasized that nations should strive toward economic self-sufficiency and that the power of a nation should be measured by the amount of its gold and silver reserves. Ultimately, a nation should arrange to produce everything it needed for its own citizens and sell surpluses to for hard currency. This metal reserve, in turn, could be used in emergency situations to pay for wars or solve shortages. Colonies, like those England had in North America, played an important part in this economic equation. They could help England become self-sufficient by producing things that could not be made or grown there such as tobacco, sugar, and tall masts for ships. Colonists could also provide a market for British goods, particularly manufactured products, such as woolen cloth or beaver hats. This meant that the home economy in England could become more fully developed, while the colonial economies were relegated to a role of supplying raw materials.

To insure that the American colonies would contribute to this overall sense of British wealth, various Navigation Acts were passed beginning in 1650 to regulate trade between the colonies, England, and the rest of the world. In many cases, ships carrying American products to other European countries had to stop in England first to pay duties before continuing onward. Also, goods traveling to and from America had to be carried in English or American ships, not Dutch or French, regardless of the source or destination of the cargoes. Furthermore, the requirement that gold and silver be spent to purchase English goods meant that there was a great shortage of money in the colonies. They could only obtain these precious metals by illicit trade with the French and the Spanish colonies. The British right to nullify colonial laws that conflicted with the mother country’s objectives meant that efforts of colonies to issue paper money were sometimes halted because of concerns by English banks and merchants. The colonists often resented these intrusions by British authorities and the resulting limitations on economic opportunities.

Despite the existence of the mercantilist policies, relations between Britain and its North American colonies were relatively good through most of the 1600s and 1700s. Partly this was because the Navigation Acts were not well enforced during the period of “salutary neglect” and the colonial economies grew. Also the Americans gained some advantages from the system such as the tobacco monopoly. Relations became strained to the point of rebellion only after 1763. The royal government began to impose taxes on the colonists, such as Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts. While these new taxes bore some relationship to the mercantilist control of the colonial economies, they were primarily motivated by England’s need to pay the expenses of an ongoing struggle with France. There was also a growing awareness among the colonists of the radical Whig ideas that liberties and economic livelihood could be lost to a corrupt government unless actively protected, so colonists were primed to rebel when England tried to increase its colonial revenue stream.

Mercantilist ideas set up a situation in which the economic interests of the American colonists were subordinated to those of England. However, this alone was not sufficient to cause the colonists to rebel. The situation tipped toward rebellion after 1763 because of England’s war-related expenses and because the colonists were becoming more aware of their rights and the need to defend them.

Essay B

Mercantilism was an economic policy that emphasized that, to be successful, a nation had to make money. This meant that it had to sell more than it bought and build up gold and silver reserves. The British strongly believed in this policy. This led the colonists to rebel in 1776 for three reasons—trade restrictions, economic shortages, and a lack of respect for colonial rights.

The Navigation Acts required that the colonists could trade certain enumerated products only with England. This meant that tobacco growers and others had to sell to England, even when better prices could be obtained elsewhere. Also, items shipped to and from the American colonies had to travel in English or American ships, even when other nations might be the customers or might be able to ship things more cheaply.

Sometimes exports being send from the colonies to other countries had to land in England first to pay duties to the English.

These trade restrictions limited economic opportunities for the colonists, but there were other grievances as well. Manufacturing was discouraged in the colonies since England want to earn money by sending products such as woolen cloth to America to be sold for hard currency. This in turn caused American to be short of gold and silver. Then they could not buy and sell things to each other except through barter.

After the French and Indian War, England wanted more money to pay for the expenses incurred in fighting France. Since England had been used to considering the colonists as subordinates under mercantilist policies, they did not hesitate about passing additional taxes such as the hated Stamp Act. The colonists really started to feel threatened and began to talk rebellion.

The economic situation and the lack of respect for colonial rights caused by mercantilism were responsible for prompting the colonists to rebel in 1776.

Essay C (Weak)

Mercantilism was a system set up by England to regulate merchants. It said what each could sell and how much taxes each would have to pay. The merchants in the colonies resented this more than the merchants in England because they had more regulations. There laws like the Navigation Acts to regulate shipping and there were taxes like the tax on tea, which led to the Boston Tea Party.

The colonists became rebellious. When British soldiers were sent to enforce the taxes, the colonists did not want to have to pay them or let them live in their houses like was required in the Quartering Act. Eventually the British shot at the colonists in Lexington and Concord where the shot heard round the world was fired. The British were put on notice that there was a rebellion when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. It was written by Thomas Jefferson. He was a farmer, not a merchant, and had an estate in Virginia called Monticello.

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