For the English, land was the basis of liberty. Explain the reasoning behind that concept, and how it was markedly different from the Native Americans' conception of land.

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Native Americans and the British had different views regarding land ownership. The British believed that people should be able to own land and develop it. In fact, owning land was viewed as so important that people who owned land had more rights than people who didn’t own land. For example, for a period of time, landowners were able to vote, unlike people who didn’t own land. This was a common practice in many of the British colonies in North America. Owning land gave people a degree of freedom and privilege.

The British believed it was acceptable to use the land. It was proper to take minerals from the land to further economic growth or allow for individual profit. It was acceptable for people to farm their own land and sell the crops. The land could be used for personal gain and profit.

The Native Americans believed that land was collectively owned. They didn’t believe in private ownership of the land. They felt that the land needed to be respected. It was acceptable to use the land for the good of all in the tribe. However, since the Native Americans tended to move from place to place, they believed it was very important to allow all Native American groups to benefit from the land. The Native Americans didn’t see people settling in one place and developing that place, as the Europeans were willing to do.

With these different viewpoints regarding land, there was bound to be conflicts between the Europeans and the Native Americans.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For the English, land was the basis of freedom and liberty because land allowed people to have control of their own labor.  A person who did not own land was not in control of their labor.  Since they owned no land they would have to work for someone else.  If they worked for someone else, they were essentially under that person’s control.  A person who was controlled by someone else could not truly be free.  This idea came with the English colonists and survived into the time when the United States was independent.  Thomas Jefferson based his economic and political philosophy on the idea that all Americans should own small farms so that they could all be independent and free.

The English concept of land was markedly different from the Indian conception of land.  To the English, land was something to be owned by individuals.  Those individuals were supposed to farm the land, tame it, and use it for their own purposes.  The Indians (historians say) did not see land in this way.  The Indians saw land as something that was not owned by individual people.  They thought that people should own the land collectively.  They were willing to alter the land, farming it or managing it to make it more hospitable for game animals.  However, they did not have the concept that an individual could exclusively own a piece of land in perpetuity.

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