School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 1. Examine and explain the role of religious, social and political institutions in America at the end of the American Revolution

Objective c. Describe how unresolved social, economic, and political issues impacted disenfranchised groups

Clarification

In many ways, the rhetorical ideals of the Revolution were at odds with the existing social, cultural, and economic norms of the young nation. The ideas of equality and liberty took hold of the imaginations of many who had previously accepted a subordinate position in American society. Many white males who had previously been excluded from the political process gained a voice as state legislatures decreased property qualifications for voting, and they eagerly participated in civic life. But the revolution failed to improve the political and social status of African Americans and women.

The American Revolution’s emphasis on liberty and equality had special resonance for enslaved African Americans. Many patriots protesting their “enslavement” by the British recognized the contradiction between this rhetoric and the institution of slavery, and many African Americans themselves were hopeful that the principles of the revolution might lead to improvements in their condition. In northern states, the recognition of this inconsistency, the rise of evangelical religion, and the lack of economic advantage in using slaves rather than free labor led to the gradual abolition of slavery. In deference to revolutionary principles, most Southern states outlawed the importation of Africans and loosened manumission laws, but slavery persisted and indeed thrived in the South following the Revolution. Slavery was the foundation for the South’s plantation economy and social order. In addition, in a region where African Americans comprised a large portion, if not a majority, of the population, Southerners feared the political consequences of abolition and the extension of citizenship to African Americans. Even where African Americans were free in both the North and South, they faced severe discrimination and were denied most of their civil rights, including the right to vote.

The Revolutionary era also did little for the political and social advancement of women. While the issue of slavery was at least discussed, the Founding Fathers virtually ignored the possibility of extending new rights to women. Women’s status in the new republic did rise, but only within the traditional female sphere of family. Women, believed to embody the republican principles of self-sacrifice and interest in the common good, were charged with imparting to new generations the morality, ideals, and education necessary for a republic to thrive. To help women accomplish this important task, new educational opportunities were opened to them. But, like African Americans, women remained deprived of even basic political and legal rights.

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