HIS 103, Fall 2012
First Midterm Question
In-class essay to be written during your recitation (53 minutes)
Week 6, Oct. 1-5
Choose three groups and answer all three parts of this question. Base your answer on Foner, lectures, and Taking Sides:
What did “liberty” mean to Indians (pre-contact), European Christians, Englishmen, and African slaves in seventeenth and eighteenth century America? On what did each group base their liberty? How did each group’s lived experience of “liberty” impinge on the “liberties” of others?
To Englishmen liberty meant personal independence to own land. To Native Americans liberty was commitment to family, group, and community autonomy and self-determination over individual freedom, the ability to be an active participant in society. To European Christians liberty was not a single idea but a collection of distinct rights and privileges, enjoyed by only a small part of the population. Freedom meant abandoning the life of sin to embrace the teachings of Christ. To African slaves liberty a desire for freedom from the bonds of slavery, something worth risking their life for. All the different groups in the colonies were looking to gain, retain, or expand their liberties by any means whether it meant running away or impinging on other groups’ freedoms.
English freedom was based upon personal independence to own their own land. The Magna Carta outlined the basic rights: the king was subject to the rule of law, all people enjoy security of persons and property, and habeas corpus. All Englishmen also enjoyed all the English liberties such as the power to choose members of the elected assembly and protection of the common law. The British colonist come from a tradition of liberty and the British empire are the guardians of liberty. The British constitution stated that liberty is the birthright of all Englishmen and outlined the rule of law, trial by jury, and other rights of Englishmen. After the Zenger trial freedom of speech had a precedent in the colonies. Patrick Henry the great orator said that colonist enjoy the same liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities as residents of the mother country. Finally the declaration of independence a culmination of all the colonist ideas of liberty and freedom, which boiled down to the natural rights which all men are create equal and have right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
To Native Americans liberty was right to do what one wants while keeping the good of the tribe in mind. This liberty was based upon the fact that their identity was centered around the group or tribe. Individuals were expected to think for themselves and did not always have to go along with the collective decision making. Families owned the right to land but not the land itself; saw it as a common resource not an economic commodity keeping the tribe at the forefront over their own personal needs. The liberty was based on their belief in Manitou that everything had spiritual potency: people, animals, objects, and land everything is important to the universe. In Indian society there was no superiority over one another.
European Christian’s idea of liberty was that Freedom was not a single idea but a collection of distinct rights and privileges, enjoyed by only a small part of the population. True liberty was meant abandoning the life of sin to embrace the teachings of Christ. These beliefs were based upon gender roles such as male dominance and female submission and the hierarchy of the family. Christian’s ideas of freedom come from the bible’s new testament “where the spirit of the lord is, there is liberty”. In Christian society those who accept the teachings of god became free from sin and servants to god.
To African slaves liberty a desire for freedom from the bonds of slavery, something worth risking their life for. There was a widespread fear of enslavement leading slave and free blacks alike argued their liberty in court