The American Colonies, in the eighteenth century, were just beginning to become a more democratic society. With immigrants coming from all over Europe seeking religious refuge and economic profits, the Great Awakening, and the Zenger case, the colonies were becoming more and more democratic with each passing year.
The population in the American Colonies had a tenfold increase between 1701 and 1775. More than one million people had come across the ocean to join the other colonists. Newcomers did not just come from Great Britain. They came from western and central Europe as well. Some came seeking economic opportunities in farming new land or becoming a merchant in a colonial town. Others came to escape wars and religious persecution. With all these newcomers, they brought their culture to the colonies. Some of these cultures were completely new to the colonists. These new cultures and religions and ways of life made the colonists begin to question their own culture that they had become so accustomed to. Without this push towards new ways the colonists may not have realized that they might be able to make their own political decisions.
Along with the new colonists came the Great Awakening. Jonathan Edwards initiated the great awakening with a series of sermons about his belief that each individual who expressed deep penitence could be saved by God’s grace, but the souls who paid no heed to god’s commandments would suffer eternal damnation. George Whitefield, who immigrated to the colonies in 1739, traveled from one end of colonial America to the other infighting the Great Awakening with his rousing sermons on the hellish torments of the damned. Thousands and thousands of people would come to hear his sermon. He stressed that god would only save those who expressed their belief in Jesus Christ openly. Whitefield also taught that regular people who had faith could understand the Christian gospels without needing a minister to lead them. This made the colonist change the way they viewed authority. They realized that if they could make their own religious decisions, they could also make their own political decisions.
The events that lead to the Revolutionary War clearly exhibit the evolution of the colonist's ideals regarding their rights and liberties. The English colonists had long held the utmost loyalty to the British crown, never distinguishing themselves from their British counterparts back in England; however, the colonists had gradually begun to embrace a new ideology in regard to their rights in ...
At this point in time though, challenging or degrading authority could still
get you arrested and put in jail or worse. John Peter Zenger was an editor and a publisher in New York and he was put on trial for just that. Zenger was tried for libel against the governor. Zenger’s attorney argued that what Zenger had printed was true about the governor. Although this didn’t seem to matter because injuring a governor’s reputation, even if the statement was fact or not, was still considered a criminal act at the time. The jury ignored the English law and voted to acquit Zenger. Freedom of press was not guaranteed because of this but it encouraged writers and publishers to take greater risks when it came to criticizing the government.
Without the immigrants joining the melting pot of different cultures and religions the great awakening would not have happened. Without the Zenger case newspaper would have continued to be terrified of the government. Although immigration, the Great Awakening, and the Zenger case did not directly cause the colonies to become fully democratic right away, they each had a great impact on the way the colonists thought and the way the colonist lived.