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America, whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that it has a significant influence on the world we live in today. The American Dream has always been about equal opportunity, no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you work hard, immense success can be achieved. In 2017, equality and fair treatment is at the forefront of American interest, and it’s only getting better. Although, it hasn’t always been this way. In the beginning stages of America’s birth, there were many bumps in the road with regards to the pursuit of equality. From the 1670s to the 1850s, America took steps towards and away from inequality, but often failed to fairly execute the same principles in which they held so highly. The founding fathers wanted America to be a place of equality, but early efforts were blinded by prejudice.
The American construct of fairly treating and addressing its peoples stemmed from the colonist’s severe distaste for the tyrannical ruler of Great Britain, King George III. The colonists believed the king’s laws were disgustingly unjust due to the fact that the colonists had no representation whatsoever in the British Parliament. This is where the famous American phrase “no taxation without representation” was born. This quote illustrates a monumental step towards equality because it asserts that citizens need an elected representative that has the people’s best interest to vote on proposed laws. Without a representative, equality can never be achieved. The cries of the unrepresented will be ignored, and in turn they will be neglected. This neglect inflicted upon the colonists by the king instilled in them an insatiable hunger for freedom and equality. This need for equality was the driving force behind the revolution and for the founding of the United States of America.
With an institution like slavery still alive and well, the United States was certainly far away from the equality that is experienced in modern times. Equality, at its essence, is fairness to all with regards to opportunity and treatment. Slavery is in direct opposition of these ideas. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 created a legal mechanism which guaranteed the recovery of slaves that fled their masters. The act also classified slave’s children to be enslaved as well, and were considered the master’s rightful property. Over fifty years later, this act was further fortified through the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which stated that even citizens and officials living in free states were required to cooperate by ensuring the recovery of runaway slaves. Law enforcement throughout the United States were ordered to arrest and return these slaves. If citizens or law-enforcement were to be caught turning a blind eye, they could be liable to pay up to twenty-nine thousand dollars (modern-day value). By enforcing these laws, the United States was further dividing its people and hindering its development into a place of greater equality.
A civilization cannot be a place of greater equality if it is intolerant of other cultures. The United States is especially guilty of this when it comes to its relationship with the American Indians. The indians were not treated as equals, but as if they were lesser. This prejudice of indians is extremely apparent based upon the passing of the Indian Removal Act. This authorized the president to force Indians out of state borders and to relocate them west of the Mississippi river. Most tribes peacefully agreed as to not cause any unwanted conflict which most certainly would not end in their favor. Although, the Cherokee tribe actively resisted the relocation efforts. The United States responded by conducting a forced march West, which resulted in the death of four-thousand indians. This tragic and inhumane march was later named “The Trail of Tears”. This forced removal of the Cherokee Indians was easily one of the darkest moments in American history. America’s failure to create a fair and equally benefitting compromise with the indians was an astronomical mistake. When it comes to pursuing equality, “The Trail of Tears” was an enormous leap backwards for the United States.
The time period between 1670 and 1850 was an interesting time in American history to say the least. Through the tyrannical abuse of its upbringing, the United States showed great promise when it came to upholding equality. They were fed up with their king failing to do so, and in turn they were dedicated to create a land of equality. Evidently, it’s much easier said than done, because the United States experienced immense trouble pushing these ideas into action, especially through their relationship to African Americans and the Indians. On the long and winding road to equality, America took a couple of wrong turns. But given the current state of equality in America today, it must have done something right. From 1670 and 1850, equality was often neglected by America and even though they had the right mindset going in, their prejudice ultimately blinded them from making morally just decisions.
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