Historians have for a long time strived to challenge early assertions that nations like the United States were established on the fundamental basis of individual rights and freedoms. Though the fore fathers of the United States enshrined individual rights and freedoms in both the articles of Confederation and the US constitution, the fact remains that the original notion of freedom was Paradox. Edmund Morgan in his article, Slavery and freedom: The American Paradox alludes to the lifestyles that were led by American forefathers. In specific, Morgan explains that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are regarded as being American heroes who played a pivotal role in the attainment of independence in the United States, and also the draftsmanship of the US constitution.
However, narrowing down to the micro-level both Washington and Madison enjoyed slave labor all their lives (Morgan, 1972, p.6). It is worrying to note that the state of Virginia where Madison hailed from had the highest number of slaves. According to Edmund Morgan, The state of Virginia accounted for 40 percent of the entire slave population in the United States in 1790. (Morgan, 1972, p.7). Considering that American immigrants such as Washington had come from England in order to escape theharsh rule of the monarchy, it is a satire that the administration of freedom and justice was only extended to peoples of lighter skin and not minorities such as African slaves that were also in the colonies. This paper seeks to explain why later Africans lost their freedom and how the earlier problems in England contributed to racism and selective freedom in the United States.
First of all freedom was the driving force that led many people to flee England and come to the Americas. The British monarchy did not provide the monks with the freedom of religion. Many people had been prosecuted in England for their effort to attain religious freedoms. After the Mayflower successfully reached the shores of the Americas, the early immigrants want to establish a non-classist that had no elements of feudalism that characterized the British monarchy. However, upon the arrival of these immigrants into the America’s their theme of freedom was selective. It was only the white populations in the colonies that were awarded individual rights and freedom. The European immigrants continued to enjoy slave labor to build their economies. For example, the state of Virginia was known for its mass production of tobacco.
However, slavery was the fundamental means through which large profits from tobacco exports was attained. This means that the notion of freedom which the fore fathers of America advocated for was a mere satire. This is because the freedom did not have a trickle-down effect. It was only the white people who had the benefit of enjoying their freedom. Edmund explains that many immigrants in the United States enjoyed higher levels of freedom in the colonies compared to many of their countrymen in England. The fact that these immigrants could not extend the same freedom to other minorities in the America’s is a satire which brings out the idea that collective freedom was not their goal. They were driven by a sense of exceptional which they did not want to extend to other non-European races in the United States.
Africans lost their freedom as a result of a perpetual inclination by European to promote freedoms from Englishmen and not for only the people who occupied the Americas. One thing that is worth noting is that the forefathers did not take into considering the fact that their economies which were mostly agrarian in the 1790s as was the case with tobacco farming were highly dependent on slave populations. The planning of the economy, land reform, and city planning was vital because of the economic stratification that was brought about by the selective administration of rights and freedoms. African populations that were able to be free from the south did not have any possessions or capital with which they would start a living. The population of slaves also skyrocketed over time. This created a United States that had large numbers of poor landless people living among rich land owners who controlled the economy. This social stratification is hitherto prevalent in modern day America. Many minorities such as African Americans still face low standards of living. The can be attributed to the mere reason that the individual rights and freedoms that were awarded to people of lighter skin colors at the time of independence were not extended to these minority groups (Breen and Innes, 1980, p. 11) The economic gap that exists between the upper class of today and many minority groups indicates that many minorities whose forefathers were slaves in early America have not been able to adequately catch up with the European populations in the United States.
Race was a fundamental basis of segregation that was used in the United States after independence. Minorities such as African Americans were not involved in the political lives of their countries. According to Edmund Morgan, many African Americans were not allowed to participate in democratic processes such as voting (Morgan, 1972, p.26).One thing that is worth noting is the fact that democratic processes such as voting are important in any democratic polity. It is through democratic participation and processes that the electorate is able to voice their grievances and their wishes in government. This means that the inability of the minority especially African Americans to vote contributed greatly to problems that faced future generations of these minority groups.
In the United States the role of voting and participating in government was left to white male. This means that Africans in the United States had to rely on others to have their grievances voiced in government. Considering that slaves were considered as being the property of their owners in the United States, the grievances that were voiced in government represented the wishes of slave masters and not to the African populations in the United States. This segregation in terms of the administering of rights and freedom was also extending to the land and property ownership. It was only light skinned people who were allowed to own property. This means that even freed Africans would not purchase their own land and own property which would help them to propel their socio-economic welfare.
In conclusion, historian have sought to challenge the idea that the wholesome freedom and rights was the driving force on which the United States was founded. This is because the forefathers of the United States did not extend these freedom and rights to African who served for many years as slaves. It is clear that the social-economic challenges facing many African populations was contributed to the lack of equal rights and protection of minority groups before the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Breen, T. H., & Innes, S. (1980). "Myne owne ground": race and freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640-1676. New York: Oxford University Press.
Morgan, E. (1972). Slavery and freedom: The American Paradox. Journal of American History, 59(1), 5-29.