Analyze the ways democratic ideals(ideas) developed in the 13 colonies. Democratic ideals were developed in our country long before individuals clearly understood what they signified. Colonists through out the 13 colonies are the makers of the America we live in today. They began to practice democratic ideals not present in their colony, such as: freedom of religion, voting, and equality. The sense of freedom these colonies had led them to corporate these democratic ideals into their lives. Their way of thinking was not perfect, but it was the beginning, or foundation, of the rights and laws we live by today.
Religion was the main reason why individuals argued and fought against one another. New religious beliefs began to arise and slowly began to break away from the Catholic church. Such people who did this were often sent, or left, to the “New World”. Most of them were labeled as Protestants, Puritans, Pilgrims, Quakers, etc. With different religious groups living in the same area, tensions formed and laws had to be made. In Maryland, for example, the “Act of Toleration” had to be passed in 1649. This new religious law guaranteed toleration to all Christians.
It was less liberal, but it decreased the death penalty for those, like Jews and Atheists, who denied the divinity of Jesus. Quakers were another religious group that refused to support the church. They were against having to pay taxes. They built simple meeting houses and “spoke up”. They refused military service and they where the first ones to start an organization against slavery. They were a simple, devoted, democratic people, who had their own religious thoughts and wanted civic freedoms. They were led by William Penn, who wanted to build a refuge for his people and experiment with liberal ideas.
He formed Pennsylvania, which became very popular during those times for its interesting laws. There were many religious groups that wanted a “get away” and to live by their own ideas. Most of them fled to Rhode Island. There, they paid no taxes and they found it to be the most magnanimous and free loving colony. However, every religious group helped shape the way we handle and understand religious groups today. These laws and the struggles the people went through aided the formation of religious laws we currently follow. Our system of voting and making laws was not that different from how the olonist began their democracy. Even though they were not aware of the fact that they began a small democracy, they practiced governing themselves, despite having a king. In Virginia, besides the growth of tobacco, came the birth of representative self-government. Established in 1619, the settlers summoned this assembly as “The House of Burgesses”. This was the first of many miniature parliaments to sprout in America. The king called this assembly the “seminary of sedition”, because in his eyes the people were going against their true government.
The House of Burgesses was made up of mostly wealthy settlers that had land. They controlled finances, militia, etc. By the end of the 17th century, the House of Burgesses was powerful enough to initiate legislation. It included a council appointed by the royal governor. Today, this can be compared to our Congress. It was seen as a threat because to the king they were doing whatever they wanted, when in reality they were practicing the idea of governing themselves. Democratic ideas were being shown years before we shaped them to how we currently follow them.
For instance, when Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth Bay, the 41 males that came along that trip signed a document called “The Mayflower Compact”. It was written and signed on November 11, 1620. It was not a constitution, but an agreement to form a crude government and submit to majority rule. This document was a promising step toward genuine self-government and an invaluable model for later written constitutions. This agreement led to town hall meetings. These meetings, in which adult males met together and each man voted , was a showcase for democracy.
They gathered regularly in their meeting houses to elect their officials, appoint school masters, and discuss small matters. As Thomas Jefferson once stated, “the town meeting was the best school of political liberty the world ever saw”. So, their system in voting can be compared to the patterns we take to vote and self govern ourselves in America. Looking back into history, you may believe that they didn’t care for equality based on the fact that women had slim to none rights, and that there was slavery. Yet, the democratic idea of equality was actually being thought of during those generations.
Wars and blood can support the evidence that these individuals wanted fairness. Bacon’s rebellion, for instance, was a cry for help. Led by Nathaniel Bacon in 1676, one thousand Virginians went against governor Berkeley. Rebels attacked Indians whether they were good or bad. They drove the governor away from Jamestown, and they burned the capital. The results of this rebellion showed that the poor people didn’t like the rich people and that socio-economic class differences would continue to clash. Resentment toward the upper class ended up with many uprisings and fighting for equality in America.
Based on these facts, it’s evident that the colonists thought about democratic ideals and even practiced them throughout the 13 colonies. They exercised self-governing beliefs about religion, voting, and equality. The ideas they formed and followed served as blue prints towards shaping our country today. They pursued many other factors of democracy, but these were the ones most greatly discussed. Thus, the colonists didn’t fully give individuals these rights, but they built how we currently follow similar rights.