Friday, February 19, 2010

US History Essay 1.5

Here is the 2nd essay I wrote for my US History class. This essay was actually the second part of the first exam, (the first part being the preceding post) and although it could have been better, I wrote it in a couple hours and only reviewed it once before turning it in.

If any of you United Kingdomites read this, let me know what your opinion of this debacle is.

Parliament vs. Colonials

A complete essay by Josiah Teal

The Colonists and the English Parliament had some very harsh conflicts leading up to the Revolutionary War. Disagreement on such issues as taxation and tributary fines had slowly been creating a rift between the mother country and her colonies in the North American continent.

After the 7 years war (French and Indian War), Parliament decided it was fair to compensate for the expenses of the war by putting a small tax on colonial goods, everything from court documents to playing cards. Why not let the colonists shoulder some of the burden? In the mind of the Parliament, this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, for the colonists had been protected by England and had not financed the war themselves. The colonists however, had a very different opinion of this tax and were very irritated by the idea that England could impose such a tax on them without first confronting them about it and letting them decide for themselves; the colonists felt like they were being treated like children by Parliament.

Being treated like a second class citizen by your country merely because you do not live on the mainland must have been an extremely irritating notion. By England’s reasoning, the colonists should have been more than willing to shoulder some of the weight of the war, considering it was their farms and villages that had been protected. This was less than true; however, Parliament and George Grenville in particular told the colonists that this was why England had fought for them. In truth, it had more to do with settling a score with the French than anything else.

Following the Stamp Act, Parliament issued another tax on the colonists by way of tea. Tea was a very important commodity in colonial life and everybody who was anybody sipped tea nearly every afternoon, so this tax was an insult to nearly every colonist. Traditionally, colonists had been getting their tea through smugglers who were importing the tea illegally from other countries, making it rather expensive for colonists to purchase. The tea from the East India Trading Company that England was taxing was rather cheap in comparison, even with the tax. Colonists however, were not pleased with this additional taxation and promptly donned Iroquois outfits, went aboard the tea laden ships, and tossed it all into Boston harbor.

The Boston Tea Party outraged Parliament. These colonials were taking things too far. In their mind, the colonists were becoming like ungrateful children who needed to be punished for their insolence. England began to send British Redcoats to the colonies to help quell the uprising that was beginning to take place.

At this point, I believe that armed conflict was inevitable. A number of colonists had set their mind against England and its tyrannical hold on the affairs of the colonies. England wanted the colonies to respect her authority. The colonists wanted England to respect their ability to take care of themselves. Neither was likely to happen now that England was set on crushing the small rebellion and the colonists were set on governing their own affairs without the assistance of Parliament.

My way of think is that both sides acted in ways they should not have; however, if the colonists didn’t act the way they did, I might live in an English colony today… I don’t want to live in an English colony. Parliament should have respected the colonists and trusted their ability to take care of themselves like grown men do. I know I do not like it when people always assume I can’t take care of myself and keep interfering with my life and, although I wouldn’t declare war on them, I do understand the frustration to some degree.

The colonists should probably have… actually; I think they probably did what they could. Maybe those men shouldn’t have burned the Gaspee, maybe that crowd shouldn’t have thrown rocky snowballs at the lobsterbacks, but if they didn’t, how would life be for me today? To say the least, if the colonials and Parliament had not acted the way they did I think we would be living in a very different world right now (not that we would know the difference).

Understanding why is very important; we broke the bond of English colonial status for those of governing ourselves. Why did we do this? For the largest part, I believe that this was our destiny if you believe such things, but also, this was the result of the oppression of one group of people by another group of people thousands of miles away (I also find it interesting that England did not realize that she was oppressing the colonials, but rather thought that she was enforcing English law).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

US History Essay 1

My professor never officially graded this when it was turned in, but at the end of the year he said I deserved an A for my writing during his class.

The Colonization of North America

A complete essay by Josiah Teal

The colonization of America began with the coming of three different nations to its unfamiliar shores, the Spanish, the French, and the English. What prompted these men, both entrepreneurs and traders, both warriors and religious purists, to leave their familiar countries and the people they knew for the untamed wilderness of the Americas?

In the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadors began pouring into Central America by the boatload. Prompted by the promise of wealth and the fables of golden cities and wells that endowed youth upon whomever drank from their waters, Spanish soldiers and leaders were arriving on the unfamiliar shores in vast numbers. Many were also drawn by religious convictions to “persuade” the native inhabitants to convert to Christianity.

I have never before considered how the average Spanish soldier would have thought of his adventure. I imagine myself being both excited and scared about what I would encounter on my escapade to the strange new land. Struggling with my own civility after witnessing my own “civilized” leaders exact near extermination on the tribes they deemed “barbaric.” Would I be proud or embarrassed in the end, to have been part of the “taming” of Central America?

The French traders found North America to be tremendously profitable for their fur trading endeavors. The “brown gold” (not molasses) was valued very highly back in Europe and French coureurs de bois or “runners of the woods” worked very diligently to keep up with high demands. The high value in the furs flowing from North American lands prompted many French citizens to pack up and move to America, hoping to cash in on the fur trade profits.

To join a French trader might have been a very appealing undertaking for a young man like myself. As a very avid woodsman, I would probably jump at an opportunity to explore the wooded realms of the north all while making a hefty profit, although profit wasn’t always a guarantee. I imagine cold winters, wet springs, and humid summers. Befriending Indian maidens J and living in the untamed wilderness might have been too much of a temptation to refuse.

The English didn’t begin colonization of the new world as soon as the Spanish or the French, but the reasons that they came would make them more of a permanent resident than both the Spaniards and the Frenchmen. Most of the English came to America for religious reasons; they were experiencing a wave of harsh persecution and ridicule in their native land and for many, a journey to a new land was the only means of escape. For others, a new land presented a chance to make a profit as the French had done with the fur trade. Companies would send a group of settlers to the New World with the task of establishing a reliable source of income for themselves. The settlers would harvest crops and trap and trade with the natives, sending back portions of their loot to the company financing the settlement.

I imagine this to be the least enticing adventure of the three discussed, although it may have had its benefits. Colonial life would have been a challenge and I imagine one would need to work from dawn till dusk to make life tolerable for the first few months. It would have been cold at times, very uncomfortable, sickness would likely fall upon many, and the food wouldn’t be anything to be proud of either. I may not have fared too well in this case; my comfortable and relatively easy 21st century life may have made me too unlikely to work 12-14 grueling hours a day 6 days a week. I suppose if my life depended on it, I could find the spirit to do what needed to be done.

Whether desperately trying to make a name for themselves, just doing business, or escaping persecution, the first colonists of North America must have had terrific courage to step out into an unknown world and start anew. Without knowing what lie ahead as we now do, these brave men and women dared to risk all for what they wanted or believed. That inspires me.