The Military An Impetus For Social Reform
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The Military: An Impetus For Social Reform Essay, Research Paper The Military: An Impetus for Social Reform Revolutionary War The military since the Colonial Era has been an impetus for social reform in the United States. The Revolutionary War afforded Black Americans an opportunity to escape from the toils of slavery and fight for freedom. Some Black Americans even earned their freedom by fighting for the Colonists, but still the freedom they fought for wasn’t their own. However, the military was responsible for the freedom of many slaves and some of these freed slaves became legendary soldiers like Salem Poor. His performance in battle gave credibility for future arguments about blacks being allowed to serve. In the colonial era slavery was permissible by law in every colony. Blacks were 20% of the overall population of the 13 colonies and only 8% of them were free blacks (www.history.org). Colonists commonly used African slave labor despite the question of whether slavery was morally right. Life for blacks in the revolutionary period was one of slavery and discrimination. Only 8 percent of blacks were free [Edgar A Toppin. “Blacks in the American Revolution” (published essay, Virginia State University, 1976), p 1] and this so-called freedom merely meant that they could own and defend property. They weren’t allowed to mingle with whites and were wholly segregated. Blacks during this time period worked predominantly in the fields planting and harvesting Tobacco. They worked long hours and were likely to be sold at some point in their lives. This separated families and kept morale very low. Plantation slaves were also subject to brutal punishments because they weren’t regarded as having high value. However, with the onset of the Revolutionary War, the British invited blacks to join the British Army and in return, they would receive their freedom. Thoughts of wholesale desertion of slaves to the British regiments created a fear that swept throughout the colonies and led colonists to allow blacks to fight for the local militias and even the army. Serving in the Revolutionary War enabled many slaves to earn their freedom, but to their dismay, not equality. Although blacks served in segregated units, the military gave them opportunity to gain respect through acts of courage and valor. Black soldiers like Salem Poor gained respect from white men. Lemuel Haynes used his military experience to fight for abolition of slavery by writing the essay “Liberty Further Extended.” This essay speaks about inalienable rights for blacks and a natural rights argument against slavery (Blacks in the American Army). The Revolutionary ideals also gave impetus to the abolition of slavery in the North, but slavery became more entrenched in the south. The military reverted to its policy disallowing blacks to serve once the war ended, with the navy being the only exception. The reason the navy remained open to blacks was simply due to necessity. The living conditions on the ships were so horrible that most white males chose not to serve. During times of peace when large military units weren’t necessary blacks were systematically disqualified from service. Civil War The life of a Black American in the Civil War Era was a continuation of hardship from the toils of slavery to the segregation of the free black man. The life of the slave during the Civil War Era worsened since the Revolutionary War. The war took most able-bodied white men away from the home, thus increasing the work for slaves. Male slaves were taken from the plantations to support the Southern Army’s war effort. Slaves were severely beaten and worked long hard hours in the cotton fields. They were treated as property rather than people and therefore very little medical attention was given to them. The onset of the American Civil War once again gave rise to the fear of wholesale rebellion of slaves in the South.