Did democracy exist in the colonies during the eighteenth century before the American Revolution? Democracy is rule by the people, simply put. This on a large scale is nearly impossible. How could all the people of America, then or now, or even of a decent size town today all come together to vote on issues.
We today have a representative Democracy, which in itself is a logistical compromise on a true democracy. In analyzing the government they had in the colonies and comparing it to the Democracy that we have today there are enough similarities that I would have to call the form of colonial government Democratic.In the colonies, not everyone was allowed to vote this was certainly not democratic, but the criteria to be able to vote werent very extensive. The only real requirement was the owning of land.
This today we might see as a hard thing to obtain. In those days land was very cheap. To make it even easier to obtain, laborers were paid well. This gave immigrants the ability to earn enough money to buy land in a short time, and farm it on their own. This also is the reason labor was in high demand, so many of the labors bought their own land and moved off to it. Labor was in short supply for this reason, and thus laborers were paid well. More than ninety percent of the people were farmers, most of who owned their own land.
All these people would be able to vote.If you were to compare the percentage of those who had the right to vote in the colonies with the percentage of those who do actually vote today, you would see an interesting correlation. Today about a third of those who can vote do vote, or at most say forty percent.
In the colonial times eighty percent of the population had the right to vote. Id have to think it would be reasonable to think that in those days a greater percentage of the population voted than today. So in that mathematical respect, they were almost more democratic than we are today. There was not a great divide between the haves and have-nots in colonial society. All the land and possessions werent held by a few aristocrats in society.
There werent any large manufacturers employing many putting their will upon their many employees. People were independent, and free to vote as they pleased. It was easy to procure land, and therefore most people farmed that land for a living. No level of economic control existed over the people from lords and factory owners that existed in England and Europe. In this way the colonies were more democratic than the governments of Europe. The common man had no one to answer to.
He was independent on his own land, growing his own crops.In our democratic society today our elected officials in many cases come from elite families. The Bush family, the Kennedy family, there are many examples of this.
There is a measure of aristocracy in our governmental system today. This was also true of the colonial system. In the colonies the gentry were the ones elected to office, but as we do today, the people in a representative democracy elected them.
The aristocracy of the colonial time, relatively, didnt have any more power than the aristocracy we have in our government today. They still had to answer to the people. In the Democratic system the power rested with the people.It is true that technically the colonies are under the control of the English Monarch.
However the power of the crown had little effect on the colonies. The king was really not more than a symbol of the political ritual, and was a ceremonial person. The king was the wealthiest, largest landowner, the head of the church and just the one at the top of the pyramid. He was the celebrated one. His death was mourned and birthday celebrated.
Although he was the top man, he didnt have all that much power, and his influence wasnt felt much a couple thousand miles away in the colonies.The colonies had only one easily filled requirement to fill to gain the right to vote. The ownership of land was easily gained by well paid laboring immigrants. Most of the men owned land. Over eighty percent have the ability to vote, over double the percentage of the population today that exercise that right in this country every November.
There wasnt great division in the power structure within the society with those at the top influencing the voting of those they employ or have some measure of control over. The average man was very independent, the way we are free to vote today. It is true that most of those elected came from the elite gentry of the society, but this is true still today, and they still owe their election to their constituents.
The king of England had little influence on the coming as goings of the colonies. It is with the people that the power rests. This was true of the colonial days as it is today in our Democracy. That is the meaning of democracy. If we can call our system of government a Democracy, we would have to call the colonial system Democratic as well.