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The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods

The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods. Development of the Labor Force Lecture 1. Administrative. Reading for next time Make sure you check out the web page Make sure you read the expectations section of the syllabus carefully. Review. Reasons we study history

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The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods

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  1. The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods Development of the Labor Force Lecture 1

  2. Administrative • Reading for next time • Make sure you check out the web page • Make sure you read the expectations section of the syllabus carefully

  3. Review • Reasons we study history • Labor history as the study of work, workers and their lives and communities • Importance of themes rather than bits of information • “Working Poor Blues” – Poverty and abusive working conditions are not just facts of the past

  4. Today • Primitive v. Modern Economies • Sources of Labor in the Colonies • Labor Market in the New World v. Labor Market in Europe • Working Conditions • Slavery in the Colonial Era • Resistance by slaves and indentured servants

  5. I. Primitive v. Modern Economies • Level of living • Excess over subsistence • Possibility of idle groups or classes • Division of labor • Much Greater Extent • Implies commerce – exchange • These imply not everyone will work or can do the required work – need a labor force

  6. II. Sources of labor in the colonies • Why did people come to the New World? • Slaves • About 300,000 imported during the colonial period • Also used indigenous population • Indentured servants • Voluntary and involuntary – e.g. debtors • Especially important in Chesapeake and Delaware River Regions • Transported convicts • Free labor • First three are the large majority – servants and convicts perhaps half of all white immigrants

  7. III. Labor Market in New World v. Labor Market in Europe • Abundant Land: How would this affect the labor market? • Ability to leave paid employment and become independent farmer • Effect on wages? • Seems clear in colonial period wages higher in North America than in Europe • Periodic attempts to legislate maximum wages in 17th century provide evidence of labor shortages, even for ordinary laborers

  8. IV. Working Conditions • Despite relatively high wages, what were conditions of work like for free labor? • Strong evidence of class structure • Managerial authority? • Physical abuse of employees • Evidence is that so many paid workers sought to escape paid labor by becoming farmers or independent craftsmen

  9. Important Things to Remember about Colonial Economy • Pre-industrial • Pre-factory

  10. V. Slavery • Which colonies practiced slavery? • Why slavery rather than wage labor?

  11. VI. Bonded labor resistance • Did slaves and/or indentured servants often resist their employers? • What was the most common form of resistance among involuntary labor? • Other forms included feigning illness or other reasons not to work, stealing or damaging the employer’s property, all the way up to armed resistance

  12. Next Time • Labor in the American Revolution • The Post-Revolutionary Period and Democracy

  13. The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods Lecture 2

  14. Administration • Reading Reminder • Essay Reminder

  15. Review • Primitive v. Modern Economies – What are the primary differences? • Principal sources of labor in the colonial economy • Impact of abundant land on the colonial labor market • Poor working conditions for free labor • Slavery in the colonial period • Resistance by slaves and indentured servants

  16. Today • Free Labor • Role of labor in the Revolution • Post-revolutionary politics • The U.S. Constitution and democracy • Federalist legal system • Middle Passage • Distinct labor systems in the New World

  17. I. Occupations of Free Labor • Sailors • Journeymen artisans • Women in domestic service • Women in the production of clothing • Common labor

  18. I. Resistance by free labor • Strikes and turnouts – where did term “strike” come from? • 1636 fishermen mutinied off the coast of Maine against their employers • Work stoppages by NY carters 1677 and 1684 • Turnout by NY tailors in 1768 may be the first “modern” strike

  19. II. Workers in the revolution • Did workers share the anti-British revolutionary ideals of the time? • Were workers represented among the “founding fathers”? • What was the ideology of those founding fathers and how did it relate to workers and their aspirations?

  20. II. Worker Interests • British soldiers often injured workers by moonlighting. What is moonlighting? • Boston Massacre of 1770 fundamentally a labor dispute brought about by opposition from the colonists to soldiers moonlighting

  21. II. Interests of slaves • Attempted to support whichever side promised freedom • When allowed to join continental army or militias, did so with understanding that afterward there would be manumission • In practice, owners often sent slaves to serve in their place

  22. III. Post-revolutionary Politics • Did the former colonies promote democracy? • They did not. Most limited democracy with strict property qualifications for voters, no female voters, unelected and unrepresentative upper houses, etc. • How about the US constitution? Did that serve the interests of workers?

  23. IV. US Constitution and Democracy • Unelected and unrepresentative senate • Unelected president, how was electoral college chosen? • In most states not based on ballot of voters • Powerful executive who can thwart the will of Congress • Protection of contracts, including those imposed by the privileged

  24. IV. Constitution and Democracy • Continued to permit and protect slavery • Continued to permit and protect second-class status for women • These posed major contradictions with the expressed ideologies of the founders

  25. IV. Early Political Alignments • What were the early political parties? • Federalists and Democratic-Republicans • What interests did they represent?

  26. IV. Worker Political Support • Which parties did workers tend to support in the early United States? • Why, if neither really represented their interests?

  27. V. Federalist Legal System • Federalists created legal system based on British traditions of “common law.” What was “common law?” • Tended to be hostile to workers and their interests • Examples • Punished workers for leaving their work unfinished • Treated worker organizations as illegal

  28. VI. Middle Passage • What were conditions like on the ships? • In what ways did the slaves resist? • Examples • Refusing to eat • Throwing themselves overboard

  29. VII. Differences in Colonial Labor Systems • How many clearly distinct labor systems does Dunn, “Servants and Slaves in the East,” find in the colonies? • Four • Caribbean • Southern Mainland • Mid-Atlantic • New England

  30. VII. Describe the different labor systems • Caribbean – large sugar plantations, absentee owners, incredible cruelty • South – patriarchal owners, somewhat better conditions, varied by crop • Mid-Atlantic – largely white imported labor, relatively few slaves but many indentured servants • New England – reliance on native-born whites

  31. Next Time • Early development of the factory system • Divisions by class, gender and race

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