The colonial era in America began with the founding of the first enduring settlement at Jamestown and ended dramatically with the declaration of independence. Even after the declaration of independence, the nation still underwent a period of war occasioned by the American Revolution as other colonialists opposed the desire of the British to impose broader control over them. The period envisaging the colonial and revolutionary era was characterized by endemic conflicts that overlapped between colonialists, original inhabitants, and imperialists. The nation and colonialists encountered challenges during the colonial and revolutionary era which defined interactions relating to governance and conflicts.
Problems Encountered by the Colonialists
Colonialists encountered language barriers. Consequently, they relied on the natives to speak for them because they lacked a clear reference to the various languages spoken in America. The colonialists also faced challenges navigating the American lands, especially due to the problems arising from constant hurricanes in the region. Per Greene, the European nations had no previous experience with hurricanes because their housing architecture was not structured with hurricanes in mind (237). In addition, the colonialists had significant problems with the crop and agricultural activities they intended to transfer to America. The climate, as well as crops, they found in America was not what they were accustomed to in their mother countries. They thus settled for local crops planted by the native communities because the land was either too dry or flooded, and as such, not suited for the colonialists’ crops (Greene 246). The agricultural activities challenge initiated conflicts between the north and south colonies. The south’s economy was devoted to the production of staple crops while the north produced raw materials for manufacturing industries in their mother countries.
The Plight of Native and African-Americans
The European colonialists encountered significant problems with the Native Americans considering that they were forcefully claiming their ancestral lands. The Spanish and English, for example, wiped out, reduced, or civilized most of the native tribes they encountered in their quest to conquer the Americas (Armitage 252). Notably, the Spanish wiped out most of the aboriginal people in the Caribbean islands. The Native Americans had suffered because of lengthy spells of isolation from the rest of the world. Spear acknowledges that Europeans, Africans, and Asians had been exchanging knowledge and technologies for centuries prior to the exploration of America (582). As a result, Africans, Europeans, and Asians had learned how to use iron, as well as the art of domesticating animals. The Europeans, for instance, had acquired gunpowder, papers, and navigational equipment from the Chinese, yet the Native Americans lacked advanced weaponry. Thus, the aboriginal Americans often encountered immense challenges in attempting to match and fight the colonialists that had superior weapons.
The lands that the colonialists acquired were utilized to mine precious raw materials like metal in addition to turning them into farming plantations. Spear claims that both mining and agricultural activities presented unprecedented challenges to the colonialist as there was need for more laborers, which equally demanded close monitoring (585). The previous attempt to enslave the Native Americans had failed, and the desire to lure them into bound labor worked for sometime but later failed as the workers died of various diseases (Spear 586). Although the Native Americans were stronger and healthier than the Europeans, they struggled against diseases like smallpox, measles, and flu that killed millions of people. The Europeans later turned to African slave trade to acquire sources of labor for the plantations and manufacturing economies. The slave trade generated more revenue for the colonialists and African traders while the African American communities were robbed of their young men. Thus, the deaths of many Native Americans as well as the enslavement of Africans expose the negative consequences of America’s colonization.
Struggle between States
The inability of the federal government to regulate and levy taxes after the revolution was one of its most significant weaknesses. In most cases, the states refused to provide the government with the money it needed and constantly engaged in tariff wars with each other. Pekka avers that the government failed to service the loans and debts they had sustained during the revolution war (328). The expenses that the government could not pay included remunerating the soldiers as well as the supplies used during the war. The states slowly became dissatisfied with the present systems and struggle for the regulation and protection of the American industry and commerce. Pekka further contends that the Congress was equally unable to handle domestic problems, and thus, it was anticipated that states could take such powers from it (337). States such as Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston that were actively involved in industry, commerce, and shipping advocated for the formation of a new government. The petition submitted by the state of Baltimore, for example, claimed that domestic industry and commerce deteriorated when states began to function independently. The state of New York pointed out that the prosperity of the nation could not be realized if states continued with their restrictive tariffs.
The Powers of the Federal Government
The Articles of Confederation provided a platform for a new form of governance after the American Revolution against Britain. Most of the fledgling nation’s political leaders concurred on the need to create a central government essential for the development of the nation (Pekka 345). However, as per the Articles of Confederation, the federal government lacked the power to control taxes as well as the authority to regulate the industry and commerce sectors. It could also not end conflicts that arose between states. The national government soon broke down and was afterwards replaced by the federal government supported by the Constitution of the United States. Through the Enlightenment principle, the federal government was able to stand against the states that defied its authority. Pekka reveals that the principle was guided by separation of powers in which the presidency exercised overall control over states (353). Although the Congress and the Supreme Court equally retained their responsibilities, they could restrain other branches of government. Expressly, the federal government could force separate states to take unified steps towards economic recovery and infrastructural development. Notably, economic and political powers could be exercised against state actors that defied the federal government’s authority even if they acted on official capacity.
Comparison of the American Revolution to French Revolution and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680
Similarities and differences exist between the American and French revolutions. The causes of the revolutions are similar in that they resulted from economic struggles. The Americans and French believed that the taxation systems they dealt with were discriminating as well as unfair. In addition, the active involvement of France in the American Revolution left the country on the verge of bankruptcy thus prompting a revolution. Furthermore, rising against poor leaders was also another cause for the revolutions. According to McDonnell, the Americans revolted against the royal powers of King George III while the French rebelled against Louis XVI (310). On the other hand, several notable differences exist between the revolutions. While the American Revolution began with a document titled the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the French Revolution started with an action, the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 (McDonnell 344). Moreover, while the American Revolution resulted in the creation and establishment of an independent United States, the French Revolution led to the collapse of its government.
The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 mirrors the American and French Revolutions with regard to rising up against authoritarian rule. However, the revolt is unique because its quest was primarily to revolt against religious persecution, violence, and drought. The uprising was intended to reclaim the ancient Pueblo religious practices, as well as culture and land that had been disintegrated by the Spanish conquerors (Liebmann 365). Unlike the American Revolution that was successful in achieving its goal of independent governance, the Pueblo revolt failed in reclaiming Santa Fe from the Spanish colonialists. However, the Pueblo revolt achieved a lasting impression of the dominant culture in the southwest similar to how French Revolution had a lasting impact on the country’s governance as it was able to implement enlightenment ideas on the new political system.
Challenges in Expanding the Right to Vote
The challenge of expanding the Americas to allow the ordinary people to vote in a political system dominated by mercantile elites intensified discrimination based on race and gender. With the implementation of suffrage, that is, right to vote, states revised their constitutions to expand suffrage to white men and added restriction to prevent women and African Americans from voting. The northern states that had allowed people to vote in the early 1800s added property demands that barred the African American from voting (Pekka 341). The democratic movement was termed as disappointing as it retreated from a broader sense of political rights that had been included in early state constitutions. Thus, the idea of complete democracy remained a mirage.
The interaction between diverse people during the colonial and revolution era in America was a complex one. The colonialists, Native Americans, and African Americans faced various challenges brought about by such interactions. The colonialists encountered language barriers, difficulties in navigating through the new lands, as well as found the climate and soils not suitable for crops they were accustomed to. On the other hand, the Native Americans lost massive parcels of land which were grabbed by the colonialists. They also suffered deaths caused by smallpox, measles, and influenza. African Americans also suffered significantly as they were enslaved by the colonialists, and subsequently, they used as the primary source of labor. Indeed, the American Revolution is significant in the American history because it marked a new beginning for the nation. Consequently, America was able to establish a new federal government that guided the nation towards economy recovery and infrastructure development, as well as unified the previously struggling states. This also led to the enactment of suffrage, which allowed for the people to vote. Even though the American Revolution succeeded in establishing a new government, the French Revolution overthrew its government, while the Pueblo revolt failed to reclaim Santa Fe from Spanish colonialists.
Armitage, David. “From Colonial History to Postcolonial History: A Turn Too Far?” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2 (2007): 251-254.
Greene, Jack. “Colonial History and National History: Reflections on a Continuing Problem”. The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2 (2007): 235-250.
Liebmann, Matthew. “The Innovative Materiality of Revitalization Movements: Lessons from the Pueblo Revolt of 1680”. American Anthropologist, Vol. 110, No. 3 (2008): 360-372.
McDonnell, Michael. “Class War? Class Struggles during the American Revolution in Virginia”. The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 2 (2006): 305-344.
Pekka, Pohjankoski. “Federal Coercion and National Constitutional Identity in the United States 1776-1861”. American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 56, No. 3 (2016): 326–358.
Spear, Jennifer. “Race Matters in the Colonial South”. The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 73, No. 3 (2007): 579-588.