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But it certainly was a crucial step in he legitimation of free labor" (141).
Religion in general and revivals especially eased the pains of capitalist expansion in the early 19th century U.S. After Finney was gone, the converted reformers evangelized the working class; they supported poor churches and built new ones in working class neighborhoods. Finney's revival was effective since it dissected all class boundaries and united middle and working class individuals in churches. The middle class went to church, because of the moral obligation to do so; the working classes went, because they were concerned about losing their. Workers who did not become members of churches had more difficulty keeping their jobs. To succeed in Rochester, it was astute for the employees to become active churchgoers.
In 1791, not much before the Native Americans began their trek across the country and Rochester, New York, was changing its employee/merchant system, a man named Abraham Russ lived about 22 miles from Pittsburgh on the banks of the Allegheny River. His family was preparing for dinner when seven Indians walked into his cabin, left their rifles at the door as a token of friendship and asked to dine with the white frontiersmen. The family welcomed them out from fear rather than generosity, and the 13-year-old John Dary fled the house and hid in the woods. After dinner, one of the natives stood by the door to keep anyone from leaving and then butchered and scalped the family members. Seventeen got away and ran to the river. Levi Johnson heard the screams and shuttled the runaways across the river in his canoe. The news traveled fast, and families packed their belongings and went to a safe location (61).
Most people who lived on the frontier had seen or heard something like this taking place, since both the Native Americans and whites were fighting for their land and future heritage. In the Whisky Rebellion, Slaughter continues more of the frontier life in order to set the stage for the social and economic conditions at the time of the so-called Whisky rebellion. He writes (64), "And then there was the filth, not just of the mind and soul, but of the persons, homes, blankets, and clothing of frontier people. Many times, twenty or thirty people slept on the dirty floors. Inhabitants looked like "a parcel of abandoned wretches," who lived "like so many pigs in a sty" or "the scum of nature." They were also very violent because of the whiskey drunk. Despite such conditions, however, land speculation continued and increased the division between those who owned land and those who did not.
The statistics on land-ownership and population growth, noted by Slaughter, shows that society was undergoing a major socio-economic challenge. Poverty was the standard in 1780, and continually got worse. The percentage of rural landowners fell by nearly 60% over 15 years. Only a few wealthy men in the West held all the wealth, and much of the other land was owned by absentee-owners from the East.
Slaughter's book, the Whiskey Rebellion, traces this event with a very broad perspective from the 17th century English riots over taxation and the American Stamp Act Rebellion. The controversy revolves around the revenue provisions in the U.S. Constitution. George Washington used force against these frontier farmers, because of the threat against the land he held in some of the involved counties. George Washington observed with alarm, "the Western Settlers...stand, as it were on a pivet -the touch of a feather would almost incline them any way" (p. 86).Meanwhile, John Hamilton was defending his financial program, and the tax collector, John Neville, would not relinquish his title and give into the rebels, which at one point numbered 13,000, who were angered by the impact these taxes would have on their already difficult conditions. They argued that the large distillers had the advantage and would drive the smaller operators out of business. Slaughter writes that this event was a continuation of the American Revolution, which had moved into the new western frontier, because it was nearly a "deja vu" of what occurred in the East. Understanding "their collective decline in standard of living," the frontiersmen railed against the wealthy few "as self-interested lackeys of eastern elites" (p. 67). Slaughter concludes, "By the 1790s the western counties faced the potentially explosive combination of a disgruntled rural proletariat ruled by a very small number of comparatively wealthy overlords" (p. 67).
The settlers, from Tennessee to Maine, like the early colonists, believed themselves a separate group. Similar to the Atlantic states and their concerns with England, the agitated settlers pushed to form additional states and become part of the new Union. Some of these "outlaws," even dared to think of developing a secession and aligning themselves with a foreign power such as Spain or England. In 1794, in Pennsylvania. when the federal marshal1 arrived with writs for resisting distillers to be tried in Philiadelphia courts, hundreds attacked and destroyed Neville's mansion.. Then some of the rebellious crowd raised their own flags, talked of secession, and called for "liberty, equality, fraternity, and no excise" (p. 188). Washington and Hamilton saw how this threatened the commercial expansion along the seaboard. Federalists argued that once the people could elect their own government they should no longer fear the corrupt administration of internal taxes. Many rural Americans dissented. "The perspective of these pioneers was different from those who wrote and voted to ratify the Constitution, but similar to that of colonists who had opposed the Stamp Act," Slaughter explains (p. 72). They called in 15,000 soldiers. The rebels, knowing that the troops were on the way, realized that they could not fight such force. Eventually, only 150 were arrested, 24 sent to trial and 2 convicted and later pardoned. Yet the federal excise tax was nearly unenforceable in the wild areas of the west, and in 1800 President Thomas Jefferson repealed the tax. This event continues to clarify federal authority of local counties till this day.
The individuals who came to the New World and participated in the American Revolution did not do so without their own personal agendas as well as for the country as a whole. Many came to escape the inequalities in Europe, but also because they saw America as a place where they could better themselves socially and, especially, economically. In all three of these historical events, the displacement of the Native Americans, the transition of merchants in Rochester and the Whiskey rebellion, economics were at the root of the actions. Yet the move toward capitalism in a country such as Anti-Bellum America, which was land rich and labor poor, depended on the combined organization of groups. In the frontier, settlers joined together to push out the original native landholders and to fight against the federal government due to an excess of taxation, and in Rochester, New York, the merchants and their employers joined together in a religious movement to reestablish commonality. Each of these situations had secondary motivators -- the aspiration for a new homestead, the concern about social inequality between the distillers and the farmers, and the break down of a traditional class structure. Yet uniting into groups of shared interests was the best way to overcome major challenges and more effectively control the future.
Gilje, Paul a., ed. The Wages of Independence: Capitalism in the Early American Republic. Madison, WI: Madison House, 1997
Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, New York: Hill and Wang, 2004.
McCusker, J.J. And Menard, R.R., the Economy of British America, 1607-1789, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.
Slaughter, Thomas. R. Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution, New York, Oxford Press, 1986.
Wallace, Anthony F.C. Long Bitter Trail New…[continue]
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