Patterns of Society
The rigid class system of England did not carry over into the New World, though sharp social divisions formed. Class was based on land ownership above all else, and they were fluid, leaving room for upward or downward mobility within the classes.

The South was made up of plantations, beginning with early tobacco farms in Maryland and Virginia. Though, in the seventeenth century these plantations still remained relatively small, and workers
external image tobaccofarm.jpglabored in harsh conditions. On smaller farms, the sharp distinction between African Americans and Whites was not as distinct as there were few slaves on these farms. However, in the early eighteenth century three fourths of all blacks lived on plantations, and in these larger groups they were able to maintain their own unique culture and society. Their religion was based on a mixture of African folklore and Christianity. However, they were often treated badly by their white owners. Women faced unwanted advances from their overlords, which led t the mulatto class, other slaves were physically abused. Of course these generalizations did not extend through all cases, and on some plantations the slaves were treated with kindness, and they coexisted peaceably.

Due to harsh treatment of African Americans, turmoil began to brew within that part of society. The most prominent example of this was the Stono Rebellionexternal image 41647436_fffad5f448.jpg (1739) in South Carolina. About 100 blacks rose up against whites in an attempt to flee to Florida, however their attempts were quickly crushed. Running away was not a true solution for them; there was nowhere to go. The majority of slaves worked in the fields, but some learned skilled crafts such as blacksmithing, that sometimes enabled them to eventually purchase their freedom.

New England society was much more community based than the isolated plantation system of the South; the New-Englanders lived in towns. Every new settlement in New England formed a “covenant” which bound the residents together socially and religiously. Towns were all organized similarly with a meetinghouse, and residences were laid out around a common pasture in the middle. The surrounding lands were often divided up between the colonists based on their wealth, numbers, and social position. These colonies held yearly town meetings where they chose a group of men to run their town affairs, though only white, church-going, property-owning men could attend such gatherings. In New England, church attendance was mandatory for all members in the community because of the strict Puritan religious practices. Instead of the practice of primogeniture in England, when a father died here he divided his land amongst his sons, giving the father enormous control within the family. Commercialization and population growth contributed to the gradual dissolving of this close knit society as people began moving farther from the church and community. The available land also became an issue, which drove many people away to find more land somewhere else.

Tensions within the Puritan society bred strange and terrible occurrences. In the late seventeenth century, there was a widespread hysteria over the idea that witches were present in New England; the most famous outbreak, The Salem Witch Trials, occurred in Salem, Massachusetts. (The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller, depits the tragic story in Salem) Hysteria ensued within the town and nineteen people were put to death, and a hundred were accused of witchery by the adolescent girls who started the whole ordeal. The girls later confessed that their story was false. This was not a unique external image salem-witch-trial.jpgoccurrence; fear of witches arose in many towns across New England. The accusations were generally placed on middle-aged women who were charged with previous crimes, or who had by some means acquired substantial property (If they were put to death the land would be sold, not passed on to children, which was to the benefit of others in the community). These tensions arose from the New England people’s fear of the power of Satan, and their belief in the practice of witchcraft. Religion was central to people in New England.

In the late eighteenth century, large port cities in America housed larger populations than most urban centers in England. At the time, Philadelphia had 28,000 residents while New York had 25,000(Smaller, but still noteworthy cities include Boston with 16,000 residents, Charleston with 12,000 and Newport with 11,000). These large cities served as marketplaces for good, farm produce, and international commerce. Social distinctions were as sharp as those between a master and his slave in these growing urban places. Urban areas were home to the best schools, the beginnings of industry, and trade posts for imported luxuries. Urban centers led to urban social problems that were not much of a threat in small villages, such as crime, vice, pollution, and traffic. These issues in cities led to the beginnings of public service jobs such as fire departments, and crime prevention offices, as well as systems for dealing with the growing number of urban poor. As well as other issues that arise within a large population, these large cities facilitated ease of circulation of new ideas. There were books, newspapers, and news from abroad to be discussed in the taverns and coffeehouses.

Social life in the North and South was vastly different. The New Englanders lived in tightly-knit religiously centered villages, while each plantation of the South was a unit of society on its own. African Americans made up the definitive lower class in the South, and were treated as such in many cases. This is why social unrest arose within the slave class, which would later become more and more fervent. The way new ideas could spread rapidly in the large cities of the time would later contribute to Revolutionary ideas, and eventually The American Revolution.


http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0073513237/429696/bri13237_ch03.pdf

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