Alterations of American Society after the American Revolution: Analytical Essay

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American society was altered after the American Revolution because this fight paved the way for many changes. Since the Articles of Confederation had some flaws, the Constitution was written to replace it. However, diverse groups like women, slaves, immigrants, and Native Americans were left out and were not given the same rights as white rich men after the Constitution was signed at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. This diverse group of people tried to implement ideas and ideals like freedom, natural rights, and equality from the American Revolution to develop their own. This un-representation urged them to work towards securing their own rights and equality.

The role of women during the 1790’s to the 1860’s consisted of staying at home and caring for her husband, children, and the household. Nevertheless, the life of attending to a man's every need became insignificant to women, and they started to desire more for themselves. Women all over the country realized that they did not have access to basic rights like owning property or voting just like slaves. Slaves were not equal because they were not seen as people therefore they did not deserve rights just like women did not deserve rights because they were inferior to white men. The American Revolution became a guide for women to utilize in order to create and acquire a different role in society. Females were only allowed to go to school to learn domestic skills like how to cook and be ladylike. The top priority for all females was tending to chores around the house even above receiving an education. In the article “The Creation of the American Eve: The Cultural Dialogue on the Nature and Role of Women in Late-Eighteenth-Century America” it says “Since wives and daughters were generally excluded from such petitions, they turned now, in their new leisure and affluence to conduct books to learn how to become ladies” (253). Women wanted men to encourage females to care about their education. Males also had to be willing to give up some of their luxuries like a well-prepared meal in order for the women to have time for their studies. Women were kept incompetent and submissive, so that they would not question their role and keep relying on men. White men did not want women to start questioning why they weren’t able to serve on juries and make a will without their husbands being present. Women also wanted their time, effort, and labor to be valued as much as a man. A woman would work just as hard as a man to prove herself equal just for her efforts to continue going unnoticed. Two women that advocated for women’s rights called for a convention that is known as the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. These two women, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady, wanted to analyze all the different rights women were entitled to and women’s condition in society. Women followed the examples in the American Revolution and began to rebel and started demanding equal political rights. Women also created the Declaration of Sentiments during the Seneca Falls Convention. In fact they used the Declaration of Independence as a guideline to make a version for women and state all the inequalities they faced. The Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal” and in the Declaration of Sentiments it states, “all men and women are created equal”. In the Declaration of Sentiments, women state all the rights they are deprived of and try to get other women to realize men are in control of every aspect of their lives. Although most delegates did not sign it, this event was significant in the women’s movement and women continued to use their voice and eventually became successful.

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Furthermore, women and slaves had some common restrictions like not being able to vote or being able to own land. Slaves were seen as property and thus had no legal rights. Slave codes were enforced so everyone is knowledgeable on how to treat slaves and to decrease the likelihood of them trying to escape. These slave codes deprived them of their freedom by not allowing them to leave their owner’s land without permission or communicating with other slaves without a white person being present. Typically, it was a crime for slaves to be educated and know how to read and write because the owners did not want them to pass notes and plot against them. This fear is the same reason slaves had to practice their religion in secret. Slaves were whipped, tortured, and abused without any legal action taken against their owner. They were treated like animals, and they could not fight back. For instance in the book “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans” it states, “ The basic laws defined blacks as slaves for life, ruled that a person’s legal status (free or slave) followed that of one’s mother, and categorized slaves as either movable or immovable property” (2). Even African Americans who were not slaves could not vote in most states nor testify against whites in court; this was shown in the Dred Scott. Vs. John Sandford case. Dred Scott was unable to make a lawsuit and the court denied his freedom because he had no rights as a slave from Missouri. The American Revolution was dedicated to freedom and equality, yet slaves did not have these rights. In the 1790’s, some Congregationalists started to acknowledge and spread how sinful slavery was thus making emancipation a fundamental requirement of church members. However, they wanted to free slaves and then send them to Liberia, and African Americans wanted to stay because it was their native land. William Lloyd Garrison was the first person in the country to voice an opinion on civil rights and he was supported by many free African Americans. Later, he was joined by Quaker reformers and Evangelicals in which they formed the American Anti-Slavery Society. The anti-slavery act grew and more slaves became free. The anti-slavery movement followed in the steps of the American Revolution by creating petitions. Angry mobs consisting of slaveholders began to form and an abolitionist, Lovejoy, was killed by these angry mobs. Slaves were encouraged to revolt and take violent action against their masters by people like David Walker who was a free African American. But other abolitionists did not agree with this method causing the split of the abolitionist movement. This event would later prove to minimize the abolition movement’s affect.

During the antebellum period, there was a great deal of new immigrants coming into America, who were mainly Irish and German. The Irish were going through a potato famine, which led to many trying to escape starvation, and coming to the United States. Germans wanted more freedom after the Revolutions of 1840 and came to the United States. The sudden arrival of immigrants created an Anti-Immigrant Sentiment because the Irish were Catholic and started to overpopulate the American Protestants. This made the Protestants fearful and led to Anti-Catholic riots organized to restrict immigration and oppose the influence of the Catholic Church because they had already parted from a form of tyranny in the American Revolution. Irish and German immigrants were also more willing to work for less money than Americans meaning they would be favored when it came to job opportunities. A continuing resentment in Americans grew towards immigrants, they became known as nativists, over time the Know-Nothing party was organized. According to the book “Give Me Liberty” it says “ The Know-Nothing party trumpeted its dedication to reserving political office to native-born Americans and to resisting the aggressions of the Catholic Church” (500). In other words they attempted to exclude immigrants and Roman Catholics from public office and have them wait 21 years to gain citizenship, however, this was not granted. The Irish were stigmatized as aliens as soon as they came to America with high hopes of equality and freedom. Many people thought an Irish immigrant killed William Poole, an English butcher who was known for fighting. This incident brought attention to the corruption Americans believed the Irish brought to the country. Nativists blamed immigrants for the crime and corruption in the cities. Later on, Chinese immigrants faced the same poor treatment. Americans did not want any Chinese immigrants going to California and partaking in the Gold Rush because they felt they were not contributing to anything. Americans claimed they opposed the Chinese migrating because they will not become permanent citizens but even when the Irish wanted to become permanent residents because their homes were no longer safe for them, they strongly opposed. Americans speak about the Chinese needing to be dependent on them like slaves, the Irish, and the Indian which is similar to Great Britain and how they perceived the 13 colonies.

Also, Indians were forced out of their homes by Andrew Jackson when he passed the Indian Removal Bill. The Indians had made roots in southern states, but whether they agreed to it or not, they would have to be removed and sent west of the Mississippi River. The Indians’ right to inheritance was being violated and they were helpless. Andrew Jackson followed those actions of Great Britain in the American Revolution and took it upon himself to sacrifice others for the best interest of whites for a rapid advance in wealth and power. There was some resistance to the Indian Removal Bill. Thus The Bad Axe Massacre was a result of the removal of Indians. However the Indians were wrongfully murdered by the militia. Later in Jackson’s presidency, he deprived the Cherokee nation of their rights like voting, owning property, or testifying against whites in court. The Cherokee Nation filed a suit as a foreign nation and they were able to keep their land. The Cherokee Nation stood up for their freedom the same way the 13 colonies did. However, Jackson neglected the court ruling and persuaded a small group of the Cherokee Nation that the only way they would survive is if they move west of the Mississippi River. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, in the Indian Removal Act “100,000 tribesmen were forced to march westward under U.S. military coercion in the 1830s; up to 25 percent of the Indians, many in manacles, perished en route”. When leading the Cherokee to the new territory 4,000 refugees unfortunately died along the way.

Ultimately, women, slaves, immigrants, and Native Americans faced hardships even after the American Revolution. However, they used ideas and ideals from the American Revolution when facing these challenges. For example, women used the Declaration of Independence when writing the Declaration of Sentiments which was significant in their movement. The slaves used the basis of the American Revolution which is freedom and equality to get people to realize that slavery was wrong and it should be abolished. Women fought for their equality, freedom and natural rights, as did slaves. Immigrants fought for jobs and opportunities. The Native Americans stood up for natural rights. All of these hardships demonstrate that being unrepresented does not mean people should give up rather it means people should prosper as one and be willing to fight for their cause under all circumstances.

Bibliography

  1. Cady Stanton, Elizabeth. Declaration of Sentiments, 1848. https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/stantonsent.html.
  2. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! : an American History. Seagull 5th ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.
  3. Ingersoll, Thomas. “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans, 1718-1807.” Law and and History Review, vol. 13, no. 1, 1995, p. 1-40.
  4. McAlexander, Patricia. “The Creation of the American Eve: The Cultural Dialogue on the Nature and Role of Women in Late-Eighteenth-Century America.” Early American Literature, vol. 9, no. 3, 1975, pp. 252–266.
  5. “Indian Removal Act.” Britannica Online Academic Edition, 2019, pp. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  6. “The Declaration of Independence: Full Text.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
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