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Posted on September 4th, 2012, by

The English colonies in North America were settled by immigrants from different European countries, which had absolutely different cultural background. As a result, the local society was very cosmopolitan and multicultural and it was characterized by huge cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. In such a situation, the USA developed in a new kind of nation based on principles of tolerance and respect to representatives of different cultures. The principle of tolerance was legally defined by the US Constitution, which guaranteed the rights of minorities against the possible tyranny of the majority. Thus, representatives of different cultures felt secure due to the legal protection of their rights as minorities. However, as the nation could use “E Pluribus Unum”ť as the national motto, these basic constitutional protections were not fully applied to two large and significant groups, Native Americans and Africans, which turned out to be in a disadvantageous position and subjects to discrimination and oppression from the part of the white majority.

On analyzing causes of such a selective application of the principle of E Pluribus Unum, it is possible two distinguish two major factors which determined the disadvantageous position of Native Americans and Africans. First of all, in spite of significant cultural differences European colonists arrived from the continent where they lived together for centuries and, thus, they were representatives of European civilization. This means that Europeans had certain similarities which made them feel being members of one and the same community. For instance, European civilization was consistently influenced by Christianity. Therefore, even though Europeans could have different religious views and be adept of different churches, they were still predominantly Christians, either Catholics, or Presbyterians, or adepts of other branches of Christianity. In such a way, it is possible to speak about the similar foundation of European civilization which became the uniting factor for European colonists in America. Another factor that led to the exclusion of Native Americans and Africans from the American society and that prevented them from the application of the principles E Pluribus Unum was their difference from Europeans, both physical and cultural, which prevented Europeans from perception of Native Americans and Africans as equal[1]. At this point, it is also worth mentioning the fact that Native Americans and Africans had been treated as second-class people since the beginning of the colonization of North America that originally put them in a disadvantageous position compared to European colonists.

The unity of European colonists was based on the concept of European civilization which they probably did not really perceive because of existing linguistic or religious differences but which made them united since it laid the foundation to each European culture. What is meant here is the fact that the difference of European cultures was not as significant as it may seem to be and the basis of each European culture is similar. In this respect, Christianity is only one of the important, fundamental elements which united Europeans. In fact, it was a paradoxical situation since, on the one hand, European colonists had different religious beliefs since the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterians, Orthodox, and representatives of other European religious movements had substantially differences in their religious views, while, on the other hand, all of them were grounded on Christianity and the teaching developed by Christ and his followers. As a result, they had differences in rituals, in some religious concepts, but the principal ideas which comprised the essence of their religious views remained unchanged and similar since the epoch of the Early Christianity, such as the belief in God, as the only God, observation of basic rules and Christian norms. At this point, it should be said that all significant religious movement used the Bible as their sacred book which defined rules and norms of their life[2]. Consequently, they could interpret the book in a different way, but they could not develop concepts which would be absolutely hostile for them. For instance, a murder was a crime for all Europeans regardless of the church they were adept of, or else, all of them were monotheistic and did not accept the idea of existence of multiple deities. Thus the difference in religious views of European colonists was not as significant as it might seem to be because their religious views had identical roots.

At the same time, religion was not the only factor that determined the unity of European colonists in America. It is important to take into consideration the similar background of Europeans in regard to the history of the colonization of America. To put it more precisely, all of them arrived from Europe and they started the life in a totally new country. In such a situation, they understood that they originated from Europe and they were representatives of European civilization which was consistently more advanced than the local civilization of Native Americans in regard to the level of development of technologies, science, political and socioeconomic life[3]. In fact, differences between Europeans were not so striking as differences between Europeans and the Native population of America or Africans.

However, what made Europeans really united was probably not certain similarities in their cultural background or their European identity, but it was their socioeconomic interests and goals which they pursuit during the colonization[4]. To put it more precisely, Europeans moved to America in search of a better life. They wanted to become rich and find a new, better life in the New World. This is why they had to unite their efforts to survive in the new environment, which was apparently hostile to them. The natural environment of America was very different from the natural environment of Europeans. Therefore, while adapting to the life in America Europeans faced similar problems and naturally they united their efforts in their struggle for survival in the New World.

In addition, this mutual struggle for survival was extrapolated on their struggle with the local population. In fact, a priori Native Americans represented a threat to socioeconomic interests of Europeans because colonists needed to settle in new territories, which were owned by Native Americans. Therefore, they had to struggle against the local population and pushed them out westward. Often this struggle was accompanied by the physical elimination of Native Americans[5]. As a result, both European colonists and Native Americans viewed each other not just as representatives of different cultures, but they viewed each other as enemies. This hostility was deep-rooted in the consciousness of white Americans and prevented them from the extrapolation of the principle of E Pluribus Unum on Native Americans.

At the same time, Native Americans themselves were unwilling to become a part of the Americans society and naturally slipped to the exclusion because they viewed white Americans as invaders, as people who occupied their lands and killed many of their countrymen.

Moreover, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that Europeans did not attempt to accept Native American culture or traditions. In stark contrast, they implemented the principle of E Pluribus Unum in their own way. In fact, they imposed European philosophy, religion, lifestyle and culture on the local population. For instance, since the beginning of European colonization, Europeans had been converting Native Americans to Christianity since they viewed local religious beliefs as erroneous[6]. Thus, Europeans demonstrated their disrespect to local cultural and religious traditions and imposed their own instead. However, cultural norms, traditions and lifestyle could not be introduced by violent methods, which Europeans frequently applied in relation to Native Americans, which they treated as second-class people inferior to Europeans.

The similar attitude ruled in regard to Africans. The position of Africans was even worse than that of Native Americans, because they were strangers in America and, what was more, they were driven to America by force. In fact, initially Africans were slaves in America and European colonists used them as a cheap labor force, while the development of slave trade contributed to the formation of an extremely biased view of white Americans on Africans as commodities[7]. As a result, they could not treat Africans as equal. They could not accept or include them in their society because Africans, similarly to Native Americans, were treated as inferior people. Remarkably, such inferiority was deep-rooted in the consciousness of Africans because they felt their inability to resist or rebel against white people, who controlled their life and who could take decisions whether they should live or die, because slaveholders had unlimited rights, while slaves, i.e. Africans, had no rights  at all.

In such a way, both Africans and Native Americans were excluded from the colonists society. Consequently, they could not be treated as equal members of the society, which they did not constitute a part of. In such a situation, it was quite logical that Europeans did not apply the principle E Pluribus Unum to Native Americans and Africans. At the same time, Native Americans were not willing to become a part of the US society because it was a hostile society. Instead, they wanted to preserve their independence. As for Africans, they could not be a part of the US society because they were deprived of basic human rights and they were unconscious of their human rights. They got used to their inferior position and could not change it.

Thus, taking into consideration all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Europeans were united in America due to their common socioeconomic interests, similarity of European philosophy and Christian roots of European civilization. In such a way, they felt their unity and, what is more, they needed such a unity in order to conduct a successful struggle against the native population of America and simply to survive. Instead, Native Americans and Africans were excluded because the former had historically hostile relations with European colonists while Africans were slaves and, thus, were deprived of any rights. In such a way, Native Americans and Africans could not be treated as equal because Europeans felt their own superiority and inferiority of Native Americans and Africans.



[1] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p.59

[2] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p.65

[3] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p. 73

[4] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p.62.

[5] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p.88.

[6] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p.94.

[7] Carnes, M.C. and J.A. Garraty. The American Nation. New York: Longman, 2007, p.148.

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