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Democracy in Colonial Wethersfield

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With the birth of the New World, governments began to take shape and ideas began to form. Democracy was soon to come, but just how soon?

Religion was a major predicament in the late-1700s. A Separatist minister was sent to jail in 1745 because he was preaching in Wethersfield without permission. This is saying that Separatism is inferior to that of other religions. And the town’s requirement of its people to support Protestant ministers in 1775 only pushes the idea that Protestants are superior to others. Because freedom of religion was granted to only those who attended a church of their choice, atheists were a bit out of luck. And all the while, ministers were granted tax breaks. Although the tolerance level for religious diversities grew by 1780, there was still much to be done in ways of democracy.

On the flip side, politics seemed to resemble democracy more and more as the time passed. Elections were more frequent, there was more local control over local matters, and the idea of “no taxation without representation” was brought up; all of this occurred in 1775. Between 1771 and 1776, more adult white males began registering and voting. Men of lower social status also had more of a chance to hold major town offices. The militia also chose their own officers. There seemed to be a secure growth of interest and participation in local politics. Democracy, however, was not yet in full swing — the rich were still in charge, for the most part, and a mob had even forced a tax collector to resign — but it was just over the horizon.

Seeing as how the majority of the men who migrated to the New World were farmers, land and its value was of dire importance to the people of the late-1700s. With the numbers reading that the richest 40% of the population held at least 90% of the land in 1773, it seems as if democracy was short on this end of the stick. Between 1756 and 1773, the number of landless people nearly doubled. And as time passed, there was less terrain to be claimed by the newcomers; the East was drastically running out of unclaimed land.

The social structure was also important in those days. More blacks were becoming free men than ever before, and a poem written by Timothy Dwight sated that he felt he was being judged by his personality and character than by his riches and land. Traditional deference to those of higher social status began to deteriorate as well. Many towns encouraged education, and the militia seemed to be more unwilling to give their blind obedience to any who ask. Nevertheless, the wealthy were still chosen for top leadership positions.

It is controversial as to how close to democracy the New World was during between the 1750s and the 1780s. In some areas, such as religion and property distribution, it seemed very far away. Yet in other areas, such as politics and social structure, things appeared to grow more fair and just. It really depends on how one looks at the situation and what they deem important.

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