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Early America was unique due to the wide variety of social classes who participated in its political systems.
Describe the more egalitarian structure of representation in the colonies
American political culture was open to those of different ethnic, economic, and social backgrounds.
Elected representatives were forced to closely listen to the opinions of their constituents because 90 percent of representatives in the lower house lived in the same district as their constituents—unlike England where members of Parliament often lived out of their own districts.
Americans held strong republican ideals that helped define a culture of equality and personal liberty, contributing to tensions with Britain before the American Revolution.
An ideal of government that prioritizes political participation, commitment to the common good, and individual virtue. Based on both ancient Greek and Renaissance European thought, republicanism has been a central part of American political culture and was a major influence on the Founding Fathers.
The American colonies were unique due to the representation of many different interest groups in political decision-making. Unlike Europe, where aristocratic families and the established church were in control, the American political culture was open to economic, social, religious, ethnic, and geographical interests, with merchants, landlords, petty farmers, artisans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Germans, Scotch Irish, Yankees, Yorkers, and many other identifiable groups taking part. Elected representatives learned to listen to these interests because 90 percent of the men in the lower houses lived in their districts—unlike England where it was common to have a member of Parliament and absentee member of Parliament.
The class system of the plantation South included the plantation masters and their families and the plantation elite. The southern region had very few urban places apart from Charleston, where a merchant elite maintained close connections with nearby plantation society. Merchants, lawyers, and doctors in Charleston often desired to buy lands and retire as country gentlemen. Charleston supported diverse ethnic groups, including Germans and French, as well as a free black population. Beyond the plantations, yeoman farmers operated small holdings, sometimes a few slaves. The plantation areas of Virginia were integrated into the vestry system of the established Anglican church. By the 1760s, a strong tendency to emulate British society was apparent in the plantation regions. However the growing strength of republicanism created a political ethos that resisted imperial taxation without local consent. Led by Virginia, the Southern Colonies resisted the British policy of taxation without representation, and they supported the American Revolution, sending wealthy planters like George Washington—to lead the armies—and Thomas Jefferson—to declare the principles of independence, as well as thousands of ordinary people to form armies.
Americans were increasingly fascinated by and increasingly adopted the political values of republicanism—which stressed equal rights, the need for virtuous citizens, and the evils of corruption, luxury, and aristocracy. Republicanism provided the framework for colonial resistance to British schemes of taxation after 1763, which escalated into the American Revolution.
“Social Classes in the Colonies.”
The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History Of The American People Volume 1
Boundless, 26 May. 2016.
Retrieved 28 Feb. 2017 from