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 • 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
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
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
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
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
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
Important Things to Remember about Colonial Economy • Pre-industrial • Pre-factory
V. Slavery • Which colonies practiced slavery? • Why slavery rather than wage labor?
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
Next Time • Labor in the American Revolution • The Post-Revolutionary Period and Democracy
The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods Lecture 2
Administration • Reading Reminder • Essay Reminder
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
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
I. Occupations of Free Labor • Sailors • Journeymen artisans • Women in domestic service • Women in the production of clothing • Common labor
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
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?
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
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
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?
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
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
IV. Early Political Alignments • What were the early political parties? • Federalists and Democratic-Republicans • What interests did they represent?
IV. Worker Political Support • Which parties did workers tend to support in the early United States? • Why, if neither really represented their interests?
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
VI. Middle Passage • What were conditions like on the ships? • In what ways did the slaves resist? • Examples • Refusing to eat • Throwing themselves overboard
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
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
Next Time • Early development of the factory system • Divisions by class, gender and race