George Carlin in his comic nature commented that the American dream is known so, because one has to be asleep in order to believe it. This comment, though it brings about comic relief, it pushes one to analyze the degree of truth that is attached to it. America has for long been known as the ‘land of dreams.’ People leave their native homes to go to America in pursuit of dreams for a better future. This trend has not started in the past century; it dates way before. In tracing the history of the peoples of America, it becomes clear that a substantial portion of its residents are immigrants who settled. Over time, they establish their communities, and become a part of the cosmopolitan society of America. These people had dreams that pushed them to leave their original homes, and settle in America. In trying to analyze the truth in George Carlin’s comment, it is imperative to consider facts from such groups. In the colonial era, slaves, Indians, and puritans all had dreams; and this paper intends to examine the interpretation of these groups of the American dream. This paper will also consider the obstacles they encountered in their mission, and whether or not they pursued their course.
In looking at American history, slaves were of African origin. They Africans could only be referred to as slaves, after they had been bough officially by a planter or an owner of a plantation. The first slaves arrived in America in the early 1500s. Slavery was oppressive, and colonies with produce specialization relied heavily on slaves. The slaves had no rights, were not allowed to accrue wages, and they were given only what was enough for their survival. Slaves came mainly from West, and Central Africa. By 1700, the number of slaves in America was about 20, 000. The slaves were forcibly brought to America. Between 1700 and 1750, an additional 250, 000 people had been involuntarily brought to British to serve as slaves.
At the time that Europeans arrived in America, there were between 10 and 90 million American Indians. This native population appreciated the resources that nature placed at their disposal. The respected it, and used it accordingly. When Europeans landed in America, the American Indians were accommodative of their visitors since they were fascinated by the tools they brought with them. As the number of Europeans grew, they wanted to conquer the land, and make it theirs. Though they tried to coexist with the Europeans, the American Indians were quickly overtaken by events. The Europeans took over the land, pushed them to the side, imposed their ideals on them, and became their rulers. The European governments laid claim on the land, and divided it amongst themselves. The American Indians were even enslaved by the Europeans.
The period between 1500 and 1776 is characterized, in American History, by the colonization of America by Europeans. Puritans were immigrants from England to America. The Puritans were established in America by 400 settlers. These settlers in 1629 began the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their numbers grew in leaps and bounds, and by 1640, their population had reached 1640. They extended their region of coverage to Connecticut, Saybrook, and New Haven.
As time went by, the African population grew to outnumber that of the whites. The African slaves bore children who were born into slavery. These children knew no other home other that the fields in which they worked. To them, slavery was their destined way of life, and some of them did nothing to go against this. But as time passed, some slaves were able to earn enough to buy their freedom. They turned around to become advocates against slavery. They convinced their fellow Africans who were still bound in slavery that there was a better way of life. Though brought in captivity, the slaves dreamt of freedom in America.
The American Indians, being a people who had respect for nature, found themselves in the midst of a people who believed in using the resources to their advantage. The visitors came in large numbers, and soon the Native Americans became the minority in the newly formed community. They were forced to abandon their ways, and adopt the impositions of the visitors. The only thing that the American Indians wanted was for nature to be respected, and this pitted them against the new growing population.
The Puritans hoped they would be able to reform the Church of England. The world was changing, and as such, they deemed that that the new world needed a new, pure church. Puritans fled from England, and they hoped to find in America, an environment conducive for their endeavours. They hoped to come up with a “nation of saints.” They had a desire for creating a community that was religious, and righteous that would serve as an example for the rest of Europe.
The first obstacle that the slaves faced was the American Revolution. During this time that the population of slaves had soared, America was still a colony of Europe. American Revolution, which was apparently based on freedom and equality ideals, alienated the African-Americans. These people, though slaves, had become established in America, and this had become their home. By the time of the American Revolution, the population of slaves was made of people who had been born into slavery. America was the first, and only home they knew. The ideals advanced by this revolution, however, did not cover them. Instead, they were regarded in legislative purposes, as three-fifths of a person.
The first obstacle that the first Americans were faced with was new diseases. Having lived in isolation, the arrival of Columbus brought with it unfamiliar illnesses. This first contact with Europeans in 1492 brought the major factor of their downfall. The population of the American Indians was greatly reduced by disease. Another obstacle that the Native Americans faced was the trickery of their visitors. The Europeans would pretend to develop a close relationship with the natives, then torment and massacre the American Indians. The laws that the government formed also presented an obstacle to this population.
Though the Puritan population in Massachusetts Bay Colony grew remarkably, a large number of them died upon arrival. The reason for their deaths was attributed to climatic changes, and lack of enough food supply. The Puritan group also suffered internal tensions that slowed the realisation of their dreams. Amongst their group, there were those people who advocated for religious tolerance, and that the Church and State be separate entities. They were banished from the community, and moved on to found their own colony in Rhode Island.
Pursuit and Achievements
Since there were no laws that were in favour of the slave, slaves in pursuit of freedom would often escape from their plantations. Their dreams of freedom, however, started showing hope of being fulfilled in later centuries. By 1800, the northern states had passed abolition laws, though the practice became more rooted in the southern region. Abolitionist leaders, both white and black brought to Congress the morality of slavery issue. As resistance to slavery increased, the slaves who did not manage to escape also revolted in their own way. They slowed the production process in the farms by calling in sick, or breaking their tools intentionally. The Civil war that started in April 1861, culminated in the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. Slaves were declared forever free, and though the implementation of this proclamation was slow, the slaves had attained their dream of freedom.
The Native Americans were outnumbered by the population of their visitors, and they were left with no voice in matters that were pertinent to them. An Act of government was passed in 1830, the Indian Removal Act. They were subsequently relocated, speaking of their native language was forbidden, and they were stripped of their customs. Eventually, their children were taken away, and put in schools so as to ‘civilize’ them. While in school, however, they were compelled to abandon their heritage. American Indians were also forced to live on reservations, and to date a majority of them still do. Their dreams were not realized, and instead of freeing themselves from the invaders, they became enslaved.
Considering the dream that the Puritans had when they moved to America, it is safe to say that their dream was realized. The Puritans managed to create a tightly-knit society with a deep religious, and a culture that was politically innovative. The desire of the Puritans to create a community that the rest of Europe would want to emulate was accomplished. This was, however, not in a religious, but economic aspect. The Puritans became a society that traded only in goods that they themselves could produce. By trading in fishing, agriculture, and logging, the Puritans became a people of high economic standing. The goals of their founders had, therefore, been met.
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