The social structure of Colonial America in the 18th century was multifaceted and diverse. Although the colonial society was divided into different social classes, these divisions were not similar in diverse geographic regions of the country. This was because of the difference in natural location and social strategies in the North, South and Mid-Atlantic geographic regions of Colonial America.
The social hierarchy here was a way of grading people based on their power, status and money. Many things were based on the social class of a person, such as legal and political rights, seating in the church and personal attire. Given below are the main social classes of Colonial America which depicts its social hierarchy:
The Gentry were the richest, most prominent and well educated group of people who owned the major chunk of plantations and farms of the country. This class was comprised of powerful professions like doctors, ministers, lawyers and merchants and major community positions were filled by people from the Gentry class. Most importantly, this class owned the privileged to vote and owned palatial mansions and carriages. They wore the most stylish clothes with a distinct style to proclaim their social class as well as owned wealthy libraries and elaborate furniture.
- Gentry in Different Parts
The colonial nobility in the south was filled up mainly by rice and tobacco planters, while in New England the social leaders were from merchants and office holders. The Gentry group was inclined towards education and art and despite being a small cluster, they controlled the courts and governments as well as the architecture and etiquettes of the society.
Most of the population in Colonial America belong to the group called middle class, which came right after the gentry. Although the middle class freemen owned land and property, they were not as wealthy as gentry.
- Middle Class Groups
This group comprised mainly of small merchants and farmers. Among the middle class, the self-sufficient farmer was considered as the most important citizen, and the renter farmers and salary earners were below them. The skilled professions like craftsmen and teachers also belonged to this class. The middle class people who owned property had the right to vote and also could held positions in public offices. Middle class women made their own soaps, clothes, candles, cheese and other stuff and excess produce was sold to enhance family income. This group always craved to own land so that they could achieve the right to vote.
The lower class came as lowest in the social classes and was inclusive of sailors, labourers, servants,apprentices, slaves and servants. They were mainly wanderers who were shifting from one place to another exploring various jobs. This group mainly comprised of slaves and servants from other parts of the world.
These were the people who had come as unauthorised servants to America, and had to work for several years without pay to compensate for their entry to America. Once they became freemen, they were given land and could vote as well.
The slaves were those people who were transported from Africa to the states of South without t their consent, to work as labourers in the large plantations.