John Murrin’s Beneficiaries Of Catastrophe: Colonial America By John Murrin is currently a history teacher who specializes in the field of Colonial American History, Revolutionary America, War and Society in the Modern World. He wrote an article entitled “Beneficiaries of Catastrophe: The English Colonies in America. ” In this article Murrin reveals his belief that “losers far outnumber winners”. American history is a history of struggle and in the midst there have been more losers than winners.
What Murrin tries to demonstrate is that the founding of our glorious nation is the cause of its destruction. I agree with Murrin’s belief that the main idea of America is that our nation was established on and our social life is molded by a progression of attacks, scourges and the slave trade. In history we learn the many failed attempts at colonization yet we lack the understanding of destruction caused by conquering the New World. Jamestown being the first permanent settlement by the British Empire was the start of exploration in the Americas.
Due to the colonists not being agriculturally inclined it created hardships for survival. Fortunately for the colonists these Native American people in Virginia known as the Powhatan helped aid them with labor skills. However, after Powhatan’s death in 1618, conflicts with the English settlers raised hostility resulting in the elimination of the tribe altogether. The Powhatan’s suffered high rates of death due to new infectious diseases by Europeans, such as measles and smallpox . Since the Native Americans did not have any medical treatments Europeans demolished the Native American society.
American settlers were freedom fighters who strategized in the findings to build their own nation or empire. This New World attracted people and offered them the opportunity at a new life to provide for themselves and their family. Europeans seek not only freedom but religious freedom. Murrin recognized the different immigration patterns that developed in different regions of North America and how those differing immigration cultures interacted with the Native Americans and the slave trade.
These colonists survived the many tragedies such as starvation, diseases/infections and attacks by the Native Americans. During the harsh winter months a historic event called ‘The Starvation Time,’ caused the American settlers to do what we see as the unthinkable, which is consume dogs, cats and horses. A very common disease during this time was malaria, a deadly disease. Smallpox was a extremely contagious recurrent disease that affected both adults and children.
Another disease new settlers faced was yellow fever that gets its name from the third day symptom of a high fever and the discoloration of the skin turning yellow. The few who survived these diseases without the treatments helped flourish the land resulting in a thriving economy. The colonists developed political practices and social beliefs that influences history today. In addition to these tragedies in the Americas, the slave trade brought in many Africans and before then enslaved many Native Americans. This was a gruesome American society during this time.
Besides Native Americans, another group of people victimized by English colonization were African Americans. African Americans were brought from West Africa to North America as slaves to work on plantations in the American South. These enslaved Africans were transported to the English colonies because of the high demand in labor. Since labor was in such demand, these enslaved workers began to rebel. One of the most famous slave rebellions was ‘The Legacy of Nat Turner which occurred in 1831. This revolt took place in Virginia which began to spread throughout the South.
The slave owners felt threatened by slaves in fear of future rebellions. Nat Turner’s followers were engaged in dozens of killings of slave owners. However, these rebellious outbreaks had a cause which was to no longer be enslaved and to live as equals. Besides what we all know about slavery, slaves also faced discrimination such as the Southern States passing slave laws that prohibited slaves how to learn to read and write. Thus, these are the reasons why I believe in John Murrin’s belief that their are far more losers than winners.
As described the American settlers were the winners who took over the Native American land and the Africans were also the losers by being subjected to slavery. As a result, these are the ways of the establishment of the English colonies being considered a tragic victory because it had a negative effect on Native Americans and Africans. All in all, what is now known as ‘The United States of America’ wasn’t brought up as a positive development. American History is built off of a myth that free enterprise ruled the land.
America wasn’t the land of the free it was the land of the wealthy and the enslaved. Those who could step on another mans shoulders did so, so that they can reach the top of the pedestal. America is America because of the tragedies that has occurred in the ruthless process of overthrowing the people who had the rightful ownership on the land. Although, America has went through many downfalls in history to become the land of “liberty and prosperity,” it also has lost more of its definement then winning its victory.