New American Mindset

New American Mindset

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     Long-term social, economic, and political policies fostered by Britain before 1750 thoroughly impacted the developing American mindset. These fundamentals, such as legislative assemblies, commerce laws, and religious events, provided the basis for what was to become an independent American nation. This sovereign and unique culture, which developed slowly inside the thirteen colonies, can be greatly attributed to the continuous policy, protection, and influence that Britain provided.
     The lack of unity inside the thirteen colonies led to a little political basis for a national consciousness of any sort. But, the three thousand miles that separated England, also created a huge lapse of royal governmental influence. Therefore, for the most part, the colonies were independent from one another and loosely affiliated with their mother country. Although each colony had a governor (who was appointed by the king,) the legislative houses ran by the colonists possessed the most significant amounts of power. Not much could be done about this abundance of American freedom however. As John Garraty states, it was nearly impossible for British representatives to have any sort of influence because they were “prisoners of their own surroundings.” Even the Privy Council, (which was set up to advise the king about colonial matters,) could not formulate a policy for the colonists as a whole. Therefore, as the American society progressed and developed, these well-functioning representative institutions played an important role. Dating as far back as the Plymouth settlers, the colonies generally conducted themselves; without much outside interference. In this way, they developed individually, and established the right of self-government. These fundamentals, which were created due to the absence of a British governmental policy, changed the path of the American colonial society, and still lie at the center of the democratic framework that exists today.
     The prerequisite to the formation of the American colonies was the recognition that their sole purpose was to satisfy the needs of their mother country: Britain. This idea of mercantilism had a profound effect on the economic growth of the thirteen colonies. The colonies were generally “dumping grounds” for surpluses, as well as a place to find raw materials, which would ultimately lead to an income of gold. In order to achieve these goals, Britain passed a series of Navigation Acts, beginning in 1650. They called for British ships to control all trade, and for goods going to the colonies to stop in London first.

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Certain products, “the innumerated crops,” such as indigo and cotton were prohibited outside the British Empire. Although these laws were designed to maximize colonial wealth, the strict and complicated guidelines were nearly impossible for British officials to successfully enforce. Again, the colonial isolation was a huge factor in this matter, but the policy of salutary neglect played an even greater role. Britain had already achieved a favorable balance of trade, and was thriving so intensely, that the Navigation acts were simply not necessary and therefore often ignored. But, the emphasize that these acts placed on trading, and the development of raw materials created an industry based upon trade, that was essential throughout the growth of the American nation.
     The revival of religion, during the Great Awaking of the 1740’s, along with the legacy and values that the Puritans left behind, greatly effected the “new American mindset,” and the growth of colonial society. The Puritans knew that “the eyes of all people” were upon them when they first stepped foot upon the American continent, and left values behind that helped to shape America. Their work and industrial ethic was mirrored throughout each colony, as well as their belief and support for education. More importantly however, were the “trouble makers” of the Puritan religion, like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. It was their disappointment with forced religious attendance that set the seed for a separation between the church and state. The Age of Enlightenment in Europe, and the coming of the Great Awaking also planted many seeds in the American society. The conflict between the message of John Edwards, and the ideals of the philosophers like John Locke and Voltaire set the stage for new and numerous denominations. This in turn fostered religious diversity, and made it impossible for the establishment of any sort of American religion. The religious believes and ideals of the British bloodline Puritans, as well as the European Enlightenment and its clash with the Great Awakening, greatly influenced the development of the American society and social customs.
     When the colonists stepped upon the battlefield to defend their freedom during the Revolutionary War, they were fighting to maintain a society and culture they had developed for over one hundred years. It is the fundamentals of mercantilism, religious tolerance, and self-government that shaped the American nation, but it was the British policies found throughout legislative assemblies, commerce, and religion, that brought these ideals about.
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