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Progress, Not Always A Good Thing

2345 words - 9 pages

One of the few things that Americans can agree on is progress, it moves us forward, fuels the economy, creates opportunity, and is always I good sign for the future. But not for everyone. There is a dark side to progress, one that is usually swept under the rug in the modern world, but in early America it was much harder to just ignore the exploited paying for the progress they would most likely not enjoy. As a concept progress brought people together in spirit, but in reality stratified the society so only a few could reap the rewards of others' sacrifice. Progress was intended to bring America greatness, but not everyone could agree on that, some thought the idea was to have land and be able to produce for yourself, while others saw business and industrialization as the future. It is the basic misperception in America that progress is always good and that it will help everyone, because there are always loser in the game of progress who don't get anything out of progress. If anything to have progress there must be something to exploit be it humans, nature, resources, or any combination of such, our nation was built as much on progress as it was exploitation.
Before one can look at the consequences of progress it is important to understand the concept of progress. As a concept progress is the changing of an aspect of society that would move the people forward to better technology, economic prosperity, faster motion of good, people, and ideas in a shorter amount of time. One example of this concept in action is the use of the idea of progress to justify the building of the Erie Canal. Practical republicans believed that good for the nation depended on three things, individual opportunity, prosperity, and the growth of both rural and urban areas (rural of course being the more important of the two) (Sheriff, 24). Dewitt Clinton, a major supporter of the canal, saw the canal as improvement (improvement meaning the taming of land for agriculture and a sense of accomplishment), this improvement would make proper use of land and extend the idea of the American agrarian society (Sheriff, 23-25). These concepts, which are all versions the concept of progress were able to bring about the building of the canal over those who saw that the canal would lead to a stratified society (Sheriff, 26). From looking at the reasons given for building the canal it seems like the negative is a minor trifle compared to the vast bounty of progress. Another example of progress as a concept in action can be found in the arguments of planters against any prohibition on slave trading in the Louisiana Purchase area. These planters argued that they could improve the land, increase their economic well being, that they were a family, of sorts, with their slaves, and that " the region's civilization would collapse without African slaves" (Rothman, 32). Though, there were many advocates against the expansion of slavery for moral reasons, this concept of progress was able to have...

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