Social Class in the Us and Britain

Topics: Social class, Middle class, Working class Pages: 5 (1613 words) Published: June 15, 2008
Social Class in the US and Britain

Although the United States was a British Colony in the early 1700s, the differences between the two were definitely noticeable, especially in the socioeconomic fields, mostly due to the fact that slavery played a much larger role in the United States. At least from the moment in 1620 when the Mayflower anchored off Cape Cod, there has been an American Dream. Though hard to define, it usually entails the concept of freedom, justice and equality. Despite variations in the content of the dream there is one constant, the American Dream is a dream of the future and as such implies the idea of progress, change and equality. Our dreams may differ from those of the men who wrote the Mayflower Compact because they expressed a dream more by implication than by statement, yet the men who subscribed to it clearly felt that they were engaged in an effort to establish a better order of society than their fathers had known.

In the US, Colonial Society was composed of several social classes. These in turn determined political rights, legal rights, personal attire, and many other trivial aspects of society. (1727: Colonial America) For example, in church and in college, people were seated according to their social status. The differences among the social classes were very noticeable, and birth and pedigree counted for more than they do today. (Population and Social Rank) The ruling class consisted of the gentry, whose definition varied from North to South. Generally, they owned farms or plantations and were merchants, doctors, lawyers, or ministers. (1727: Colonial America) In the North, this also included clergymen, college professors, and great landowners in New York. In the South, the gentry were usually the owners of great plantations, but could also include professional men. (Population and Social Rank) They were usually seen as community leaders, and had great political influence over the country. (1727: Colonial America) This class provided leading statesmen and great generals, many of whom had a vital role in the American Revolution. (Population and Social Rank)

The following class, which was by far the largest, was the middle class. (Population and Social Rank) This included owners of small stores and businesses, small farmers, and craftsmen. (1727: Colonial America) They were mostly educated, and lived successful lives. They also had very high moral standards and some were deeply religious. (Population and Social Rank) Most middle class men could vote, but few held public office, as the gentry used their wealth and influence for political control. Middle class women ran self-sufficient households, and made their own clothes, candles, cheese and soap. Few were educated. (1727: Colonial America)

Finally, there was the Lower Class, which consisted of day laborers, apprentices, sailors, servants, and slaves. (1727: Colonial America) Out of all of these, the lowest level was that of slaves, who at the time existed in all 13 colonies. However, more than 4/5 of them were in the South, due to the fact that the large plantations in the area required a greater number of slaves. Overall, slaves had hardly any rights, but more specifically, their quality of life varied on which of region of the country they lived in. In New England and the Middle Colonies, slaves were domestic servants, received mild and humane treatment, were instructed in religion and morals, and were sometimes even admitted to the family circle. In Virginia and Maryland, all life centered around the owner of the plantation. Slaves were either servants to the owner and his family, or labored on the plantation. They usually lived a life of ignorance, but at least had family life. Several lucky ones were even taught to be mechanics or artists. In the Deep South, everything was completely different. Slaves were usually treated badly and punishments were very severe, with the slaves constantly fearing the lash of their...

Cited: Deary, Terry. The Gorgeous Georgians. London, England: Scholastic Children 's Books, 1998.
Gordon, Edward J.. American Literature. 4th Edition. Boston, MA: Ginn & Co. Publishers, 1975.
Several Authors. "1727: Colonial America." 2001-2007. 16 Apr 2008 .
Sommerville, J.P.. "Social Structure." University of Wisconsin-Madison History Department. 20 Apr 2008 .
Whitten, Chris. "Population and Social Rank." History of the USA. 2001-2007. 09 Apr 2008 .
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