The Democratic and Undemocratic Features of Colonial America | Teen Ink

The Democratic and Undemocratic Features of Colonial America

July 6, 2014
By BestWritingByBrit GOLD, Livingston, New Jersey
BestWritingByBrit GOLD, Livingston, New Jersey
14 articles 1 photo 42 comments

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People came to America for freedom and better opportunities. Starting in 1630, during the Great Migration era, England had 13 colonies in America. There were three different regions in Colonial America: the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern Colonies. The colonial era impacted the evolution of democracy in the United States to some extent.

Many documents in Colonial America influenced our government to become more democratic. Documents that lead America towards becoming a democracy include “The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” and the “Virginia House of Burgesses”. According to Document 3, The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the governor was chosen “by all those who are eligible to vote.” Also, if the governor did not call the Connecticut General Court into session, the voters were able to do so. This suggests that “The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” were made to have a representative government and voting rights in the colonies. The first governor of Connecticut was Thomas Hooker. He wanted to have strict limits on government so it was fair for the people. As stated in Document 6, Virginia House of Burgesses, there was “the first meeting of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619.” In addition, “the legislature was made up of representatives chosen by the people.” Each colony had a legislature. This means that the “Virginia House of Burgesses” was very democratic because it allowed colonists to vote for representatives, who made laws for their colony. This marked the beginning of a representative government. This all shows that certain documents in Colonial America, like the “Virginia House of Burgesses” and “The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut”, definitely made our government more democratic and eventually made America develop into a democracy.

In addition, many other features in Colonial America influenced a democratic government. Documents that influenced this were the “Maryland Act of Toleration” and the “Voting Requirements.” As stated in Document 1, the Maryland Act of Toleration, “This assembly ordered and enacted that no person or persons within Maryland professing to believe in any type of Christianity shall from now on be in anyway troubled.” In other words, anyone who believed in Christianity in Maryland could not be harassed or embarrassed. This also says that the assembly of Maryland, which was made up of representatives chosen by the people, made this law. Having people choose who made the laws gave colonists a part in the government. Another document that influenced a democracy was the Voting Requirements for the colonies. According to Document 2, the Voting Requirements, men who were Christian and white could vote. This means that even though the Voting Requirements only gave some men a chance to vote, it did give these men a chance to have a voice in the government. Another requirement mentioned in Document 2 was that they had to meet a requirement special for the colony that had to do with the colonist’s property. As an example, Massachusetts’s voters had to have land rented at $2 a year. Therefore, even some poor men could vote in places like Massachusetts. If we didn’t have these documents, we may not have had our democratic government today.

Aside from Colonial America being democratic, evidence shows that it was also undemocratic. “The Slave Ships” and “Maryland’s Act of Toleration” prove this. The slave ship was a cruel place where slaves were forced into and under shelves and taken to America through the Middle Passage. The Middle Passage was a route for slave ships to get from Africa to America. As stated in Document 5, Slaves Ship, “120 being stowed under the shelves”. In other words, slaves had no rights. They were chained to each other from hand to foot. Slaves were only allowed above the lower deck of the ship once or twice a day to exercise and eat. 10% of the slaves died because of the bad conditions. 292 slaves were forced into the lower deck of the boat together with the storage! An observer noted that the slaves were like fish in a barrel. The Maryland’s Act of Toleration was also undemocratic. According to Document 1, Maryland’s Act of Toleration, “Christianity shall from now on be in any way troubled, interfered with or embarrassed in respect to his/her religion". This suggests that only Christianity was protected, not any other religions including Muslims, Jews, etc. The government was very undemocratic in Colonial America.

Many parts of Colonial America were also undemocratic because many people couldn’t vote, and women were not treated fair. “The Voting Qualifications” and the “Lady’s Law Document” demonstrated this. As stated in Document 2, the Voting Qualifications chart, a voter had to be a male that was white, Christian, and owned a specific amount of land. In other words, all 13 colonies had most of the same voting requirements. This suggests that many groups of people, such as women and Jews, could not vote. Even worse, in Massachusetts, you had to be a Puritan to vote! In addition, according to Document 4, the title page from The Lady’s Law, “Once married, colonial women could not own property or collect wages”. Therefore, women were treated very unequally compared to men. Married women couldn’t hold office, vote, or earn money. What’s more, men took possession of the women’s belongings, and took custody of the children in case of divorce! Husbands had the right to hit their wife, as long as there was no serious injury! Even though Colonial America was beginning to develop some democratic features, many aspects of colonial life were very undemocratic.

In conclusion, Colonial America was democratic when they had a representative government and gave some people the right to vote. It as well was undemocratic when there was slavery and women had no rights. The 13 colonies did many actions that impacted how our government is today. It is believed that colonial America had both democratic and undemocratic qualities.

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This article has 7 comments.

on Oct. 23 2018 at 6:44 pm
jordanedwards600392, Bloomfied, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
saved my life and grade

Homework said...
on Sep. 24 2017 at 4:23 pm
This was very useful for my homework, thanks.

YoWuzzup said...
on Oct. 17 2016 at 9:04 am
I needed this for an essay. Thank you so much!

Samatha said...
on Sep. 16 2015 at 1:01 am

Rodger said...
on Sep. 16 2015 at 1:00 am
This made me cry, amazing job

Mrs.Remark said...
on Sep. 16 2015 at 12:58 am
WOW, it has been quite a while since I read a writing as pure as this. Yes, some small grammar mistakes, but it seems, at least with this piece it is coming from a young writer so it is okay. But in terms of the writing, me being an English teacher, it was amazing. Straight from the heart, difficult to find stuff like this out there. Remarkable, job well done
-Mrs. R

Usha said...
on Sep. 1 2015 at 12:38 am
Excellent very useful