history Essay

Conflict first originated in America during early civilizations. European settlers introduced conflict through racial discrimination as they began colonizing America. This conflict resulted in Native American and African American slavery. Stemming from racial and cultural conflicts, class-conflict emerged under the control of the upper-class elites. Class-conflict happens when power, positions, and socioeconomic interests are unevenly distributed between individuals and societies. Wealth, power, and property ownership divided America into categories of lower-class, middle/working-class, and upper/elite class. The upper elite class influenced and controlled the economy through monopolizing the trading of goods, buying up all the property and land, and paying low wages to lower-class and working-class laborers.

Mass productions of goods, and the advancement in transportations during the market revolution also enhanced class-conflict, further widening the wealth gap between the rich and the poor.

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Segregation between the rich and the poor created a clear distinction between the upper-class and lower-class. The rich owned plantations and lived off white servants and black slave labor.

Property and land ownership gave the rich voting rights. The elites held high positions in society. Howard Zinn states in chapter three of A People’s History of the United States, “Virginia’s elite sat on the governor’s council and served as magistrates.” Zinn also claims at the very start of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, John Winthrop declared the philosophy of the rulers: “in all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminenet in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjection.” Winthrop’s quote directly reflects class-conflict, implying that “those in power are preserving the social arrangements of the Mother Country giving reason to why the rich bought up and monopolized all the land.”

Unlike the upper-class, the poor had no voting rights, lived in poverty, rented rooms, and struggled to find food and warmth. They worked long hours with low wages.

Class-conflict influenced Bacon’s Rebellion against the rule of Virginia’s Governor William Berkeley. Bacon led a revolt against Berkeley with a group of frontiersman and indentured servants because Berkeley didn’t believe there was enough protection from the Indians. Berkeley was chased out of town, Indians were killed, and Jamestown was burned. Bacon’s motive behind the rebellion was to equalize the wealth that was creating class conflict. Zinn supports this in his argument in chapter three of A People’s History of the United States. He states that “Bacon’s “Declaration of the People” portrayed the buildup of hatred against the rich by claiming that the Berkeley administration imposed unjust taxes, put favorites in high positions, monopolized the beaver trade, and Berkeley failed to protect the western formers from the Indians.”

Leadership in the 1760s brought more class-conflict. Zinn states in chapter four, titled, “Tyranny is Tyranny,” “America has a long history of politics, with mobilization of lower-class energy by upper-class politicians, for their own purposes.” Zinn explains this by saying, “it was not purely deception; it involved, in part, a genuine recognition of lower-class grievances.” Zinn’s argument claims that the American leaders and politics helped shape class-conflict by tightening their control over the colonies through taxation. Overwhelming resistance led to the Stamp Act crisis and taxation being repealed.

Loss of jobs added to class-conflict. Boycotts against British goods affected income for

the working-class. Quartering of the troops during this era resulted in loss of work for the sailors and working class.

By the 1830s, advancements in the mass productions of goods led to America’s industrial and market revolution. The rapidly growing economy benefited the elites by increasing their wealth. They formed close ties as a way to expand and protect their interests by creating networking organizations that allowed them to stay current on economic activities.

The growing economy also had an effect on the poor. “Immigrants, day laborers, and

low-wage workers crowded the population creating diversity, widespread poverty, crime, and disease that caused precarious living conditions. The lower-class population couldn’t afford consumer goods. Working-class children received little education and worked in factories while took in laundry and piecework inside the home to supplement the family income.

The division of classes created tension among people. The poor were treated with inequality and had few rights. The elite used their power to keep the lower-class poor in their efforts to keep their elite status. Riots, rebellions, strikes, segregation, unfair labor, and low wages were a result of the wealth gap that created class-conflict in America.

Conflict has always been a part of America. It started as racial-conflict during early civilization and expanded to class-conflict with unfair labor and property ownership, along with the advancements in productions and transportation. “Class-conflict emerged solidifying the economic and social landscape that transformed class-conflict in America.”

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