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Wheeler, Discovering the American Past and Equiano, Narrative Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2020

Wheeler, Discovering the American Past, 35-56

Wheeler observed that a number factors forced individuals to migrate from their countries to the US. For instance, the Puritans were escaping from the Church of England, which claimed that each person had to exercise religion supported by the state.

Any person found exercising a contrary religion was subjected to pain and suffering in the form of torture. Some followers of Puritanism found out that in the US, an individual would exercise religion of his or her choice without being persecuted by the state. In England, the state was inseparable from the church.

This meant that it was mandatory for each individual to follow state laws because they were consistent with the laws of the church. The church had no power to prosecute an individual for exercising a different religion, but instead it used the state to punish its enemies. As Puritans settled in the US, they adopted a different culture, which was closely related to that of Calvinism. Calvinism was a religion that exercised protestant ethics.

It claimed that Catholicism was wicked, and the church had no right to pray for an individual. In this regard, an individual had to take the responsibility of ensuring that a prayer is made each morning. Moreover, Puritans who migrated to the US adopted the ideas of Marx Weber on division of labor and specialization. They believed that specialization would increase resources in society. However, they believed that efficiency was a prerequisite of specialization.

The author showed how cultural aspects change with time. He also showed how Protestantism developed through complex stages. From the above summary, it can be noted that people migrate not only because of economic, political, and social reasons, but also due to cultural reasons. Furthermore, it is noted from the summary that the American society has always tolerated various groups in society, irrespective of gender, religion, and country of origin.

Wheeler, Discovering the American Past, 57-81

The author observes that the US has always served as the land of opportunities to various settlers. In England, the author observes that parents sent their children to America to access opportunities that could not be accessed locally. The US served as the manufacturing zone for English factories and industries. All raw materials produced in the US were transported to England for processing.

The same products could be taken back to the US for marketing. In other words, the author notes that economic developments witnessed in England in the 17th century owed much to the American agricultural system. Settlers could produce raw materials in the US and take them home for processing.

This resulted to unfavorable balance of trade, which created tension between colonizers and natives. However, the colonial government in the US used the iron fist to maintain peace and stability in the country. The author notes that the British government came up with some economic policies aimed at increasing production of raw materials. For instance, the government noted that security was extremely valuable in any manufacturing process. It was therefore the role of each governor to ensure that peace prevailed in each state.

Form the above summary, colonialists used a number of ways to develop empires. The locals were subjected to unfair treatment only to benefit whites. Slavery was made legal in various parts of the country because slaves were expected to provide cheap labor. However, the author notes that Britons did not find it easy to settle in some parts of the country, such as Virginia due to environmental challenges.

Wheeler, Discovering the American Past, 82-102

During colonialism, government security forces used excessive force to restore peace and order even in situations that demanded negotiations. Those affected in the encounter with the security forces never received justice because the government moved in to defend soldiers. A case is given where members of the public attacked the soldier due to his unruly behavior.

The soldier was overpowered to an extent of calling for reinforcement from the neighboring military barracks. On arrival, soldiers were also overwhelmed since members of the public were not in good terms with the government. Therefore, they were forced to use force as the only available option. A number of people died, and others were seriously injured. The soldier who caused the problem was to be charged in the court of law, but his case was delayed deliberately.

The author observes that the judge made a ruling in time, but the communication was delayed for several hours because the government was reluctant to act. It is always claimed that justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, the people of Boston were denied their rights because the soldier could still walk free yet he had caused deaths.

From the above summary, it is noted that colonialists never cared about the plight of the natives. They could not put in place measures aimed at raising the standards of the poor. The people of Boston were angered by the government policy that allowed foreigners to own large tracts of land yet Bostonians were languishing in poverty. This was the main reason why people took the law into their hands.

The locals felt that the government served the interests of the colonialists. Therefore, they had to come up with their own administrative system, which employed mob justice as a form of punishment.

Equiano, Narrative, 15-247

The author explains the lives of slaves in the US and England. He starts by noting that people were often kidnapped, tortured, and ferried to new places. They could work as slaves without being provided with medication and enough food. In the first chapter, he describes the cultures and norms of his society. His society was a simple society that relied on subsistence agriculture for survival. Traditional aspects such as male chauvinism and respect for family values characterized life.

Those found proposing divorce were subjected to unfair treatment. They would easily be banished from the community. However, everything changed when immigrants settled in various parts of the village. The situation was worsened by the arrival of colonialists because people exchanged human beings with other commodities, such as money and farm produce.

In the second chapter, the author explains how society was corrupted to an extent of kidnapping people during the day. He was kidnapped together with his sister during the day. They were then taken to England to serve as slaves. The author explains that life was never normal because he was subjected to inhuman conditions, including being ferried in a container meant for goods.

In chapter three, he describes the nature of life in his new environment. He notes that life was so difficulty for foreigners yet foreigners enjoyed themselves in the US. This was an irony to him because Americans tolerated the existence of other people in their society.

In chapter four, he talks about his social life, including marriage and family life. However, he observes that marriage between different races was highly discouraged. Moreover, marriage ceremonies were conducted based on class and culture. Those with different cultures were not allowed to form any relationship that would lead to marriage.

In fact, marriage between slaves and the masters was considered an abomination. In the fifth chapter, the author talks about some of the injustices meted out to slaves in England. Slaves were treated in the same way as animals because they were expected to work for longer hours in farms. Any slave that complained would be treated brutally. In England, trespass was a serious crime that was punishable by death. It was believed that any slave who trespassed was trying to escape. Slaves could work even when it was raining.

A slave was somebody without a single right. At lunchtime, slaves could be given minimal time to eat poorly cooked food. This means that the health of slaves was never a concern to the masters. In other words, the food provided to slaves was meant to keep them alive, but not to sustain them. In the subsequent chapters, the author notes that natural calamities changed the attitudes of many masters.

For instance, the earthquake that took place in England transformed society. It weakened the economic capability of many producers. In fact, some masters lost their properties, forcing them to allow slaves to look for alternative sources of livelihood. For instance, the author was allowed to engage in trade.

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