The ancestors of George Washington and many others who did inestimable service to the nation were among this class. It was long the fashion for this aristocracy to send their children to England to be educated, while the Puritans trained theirs at home. New England started a printing press, and was printing books by In Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, wrote, "I thank God there are no free schools, nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has developed them.
Producers of literature need the stimulus of town life. The South was chiefly agricultural. The plantations were large, and the people lived in far greater isolation than in New England, where not only the town, but more especially the church, developed a close social unit. One other reason served to make it difficult for a poet of the plowman type, like Robert Burns, or for an author from the general working class, like Benjamin Franklin, to arise in the South. Labor was thought degrading, and the laborer did not find the same chance as at the North to learn from close association with the intelligent class.
The reason for this is given by Colonel William Byrd, from whom we have quoted in the preceding section. He wrote in of the leading men of the South:.
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William Bradford was born in in the Pilgrim district of England, in the Yorkshire village of Austerfield, two miles north of Scrooby. While a child, he attended the religious meetings of the Puritans.
At the age of eighteen he gave up a good position in the post service of England, and crossed to Holland to escape religious persecution. His History of Plymouth Plantation is not a record of the Puritans as a whole, but only of that branch known as the Pilgrims, who left England for Holland in and , and who, after remaining there for nearly twelve years, had the initiative to be the first of their band to come to the New World, and to settle at Plymouth in For more than thirty years he was governor of the Plymouth colony, and he managed its affairs with the discretion of a Washington and the zeal of a Cromwell.
His History tells the story of the Pilgrim Fathers from the time of the formation of their two congregations in England, until In the United States for the first time came into possession of the manuscript of this famous History of Plymouth Plantation , which had in some mysterious manner been taken from Boston in colonial times and had found its way into the library of the Lord Bishop of London. Few of the English seem to have read it. Even its custodian miscalled it The Log of the Mayflower, although after the ship finally cleared from England, only five incidents of the voyage are briefly mentioned: the death of a young seaman who cursed the Pilgrims on the voyage and made sport of their misery; the cracking of one of the main beams of the ship; the washing overboard in a storm of a good young man who was providentially saved; the death of a servant; and the sight of Cape Cod.
On petition, the Lord Bishop of London generously gave this manuscript of pages to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In a speech at the time of its formal reception, Senator Hoar eloquently summed up the subject matter of the volume as follows:.
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In addition to giving matter of unique historical importance, Bradford entertains his readers with an account of Squanto, the Pilgrims' tame Indian, of Miles Standish capturing the "lord of misrule" at Merrymount, and of the failure of an experiment in tilling the soil in common. Bradford says that there was immediate improvement when each family received the full returns from working its own individual plot of ground.
He thus philosophizes about this social experiment of the Pilgrims:. Both the subject matter of the early colonial prose in this manuscript compare favirably with that produced in England at the same time. This Journal was to continue until a few months before his death in , and was in after times to receive the dignified name of History of New England , although it might more properly still be called his Journal , as its latest editor does indeed style. He was a wealthy, well-educated Puritan, the owner of broad estates. As he paced the deck of the Arbella , the night before he sailed for Massachusetts, he knew that he was leaving comfort, home, friends, position, all for liberty of conscience.
Few men have ever voluntarily abandoned more than Winthrop, or clung more tenaciously to their ideals. After a voyage lasting more than two months, he settled with a large number of Puritans on the site of modern Boston. For the principal part of the time from his arrival in until his death in , he served as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Not many civil leaders of any age have shown more sagacity, patriotism, and tireless devotion to duty than John Winthrop.
His Journal is a record of contemporaneous events from to The early part of this work might with some justice have been called the Log of the Arbella. The following entry for June 5, , reflects an interesting side light on the government of Harvard, our first American college:. Another entry for tells of one William Franklin, condemned for causing the death of his apprentice:.
Winthrop relates how Franklin appealed the case when he was found guilty, and how the Puritans inflicted the death penalty on him after searching the Bible for a rule on which to base their decision. The most noticeable qualities of this terrible story are its simplicity, its repression, its lack of striving after effect. Winthrop, Bradford, and Bunyan had learned from the version of the Bible to be content to present any situation as simply as possible and to rely on the facts themselves to secure the effect. Winthrop's finest piece of prose, Concerning Liberty , appears in an entry for the year He defines liberty as the power "to do that which is good, just, and honest.
This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard, not only of your goods, but of your lives, if need be. Winthrop's Journal records almost anything which seemed important to the colonists. Thus, he tells about storms, fires, peculiar deaths of animals, crimes, trials, Indians, labor troubles, arrival of ships, trading expeditions, troubles with England about the charter, politics, church matters, events that would point a moral, like the selfish refusal of the authorities to loan a quantity of gunpowder to the Plymouth colony and the subsequent destruction of that same powder by an explosion, or the drowning of a child in the well while the parents were visiting on Sunday.
In short, this Journal gives valuable information about the civil, religious, and domestic life of the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The art of modern prose writing was known neither in England nor in America in Winthrop's time. The wonder is that he told the story of this colony in such good form and that he still holds the interest of the reader so well. William Bradford and John Winthrop were governors of two religious commonwealths. We must not forget that the Puritans came to America to secure a higher form of spiritual life.
In the reign of Elizabeth, it was thought that the Revival of Learning would cure all ills and unlock the gates of happiness. This hope had met with disappointment. Then Puritanism came, and ushered in a new era of spiritual aspiration for something better, nobler, and more satisfying than mere intellectual attainments or wealth or earthly power had been able to secure.
The Puritans chose the Bible as the guidebook to their Promised Land. The long sermons to which they listened were chiefly biblical expositions. The Puritans considered the saving of the soul the most important matter, and they neglected whatever form of culture did not directly tend toward that result. They thought that entertaining reading and other forms of amusement were contrivances of the devil to turn the soul's attention away from the Bible.
Even beauty and art were considered handmaids of the Evil One. The Bible was read, reread, and constantly studied, and it took the place of secular poetry and prose. His creed, known as Calvinism, emphasized the importance of the individual, of life's continuous moral struggle, which would land each soul in heaven or hell for all eternity. In the New England Primer , the children were taught the first article of belief, as they learned the letter A:. Calvinism stressed the doctrine of foreordination, that certain ones, "the elect," had been foreordained to be saved.
Thomas Shephard — , one of the great Puritan clergy, fixed the mathematical ratio of the damned to the elect as "a thousand to one. The "fittest" are the "elect"; those who perish in the contest, the "damned. In spite of the apparent contradiction between free will and foreordination, each individual felt himself fully responsible for the saving of his soul.
A firm belief in this tremendous responsibility made each one rise the stronger to meet the other responsibilities of life. Civil responsibility seemed easier to one reared in this school. The initiative bequeathed by Elizabethan times was increased by the Puritans' religion. Although there were probably as many university men in proportion to the population in early colonial Massachusetts as in England, the strength and direction of their religious ideals helped to turn their energy into activities outside the field of pure literature.
In course of time, however, Nathaniel Hawthorne appeared to give lasting literary expression to this life. The clergy occupied a leading place in both the civil and religious life of New England. They were men of energy and ability, who could lead their congregations to Holland or to the wilds of New England. For the purpose in hand the world has never seen superior leaders.
Many of them were graduates of Cambridge University, England. Their great authority was based on character, education, and natural ability. A contemporary historian said of John Cotton, who came as pastor from the old to the new Boston in , that whatever he "delivered in the pulpit was soon put into an order of court The sermons, from two to four hours long, took the place of magazines, newspapers, and modern musical and theatrical entertainments. The church members were accustomed to hard thinking and they enjoyed it as a mental exercise. Their minds had not been rendered flabby by such a diet of miscellaneous trash or sensational matter as confronts modern readers.
Many of the congregation went with notebooks to record the different heads and the most striking thoughts in the sermon, such, for instance, as the following on the dangers of idleness:. The sermons were often doctrinal, metaphysical, and extremely dry, but it is a mistake to conclude that the clergy did not speak on topics of current interest. Winthrop in his Journal for relates how the Rev.
John Cotton discussed whether a certain shopkeeper, who had been arraigned before the court for extortion, for having taken "in some small things, above two for one," was guilty of sin and should be excommunicated from the church, or only publicly admonished. Cotton prescribed admonition and he laid down a code of ethics for the guidance of sellers. With the exception of Roger Williams ? They said that they came to New England in order to worship God as they pleased. They never made the slightest pretense of establishing a commonwealth where another could worship as he pleased, because they feared that such a privilege might lead to a return of the persecution from which they had fled.
If those came who thought differently about religion, they were told that there was sufficient room elsewhere, in Rhode Island, for instance, whither Roger Williams went after he was banished from Salem. The history of the Puritan clergy would have been more pleasing had they been more tolerant, less narrow, more modern, like Roger Williams. Yet perhaps it is best not to complain overmuch of the strange and somewhat repellent architecture of the bridge which bore us over the stream dividing the desert of royal and ecclesiastical tyranny from the Promised Land of our Republic.
Let us not forget that the clergy insisted on popular education; that wherever there was a clergyman, there was almost certain to be a school, even if he had to teach it himself, and that the clergy generally spoke and acted as if they would rather be "free among the dead than slaves among the living. The trend of Puritan theology and the hard conditions of life did not encourage the production of poetry.
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The Puritans even wondered if singing in church was not an exercise which turned the mind from God. The Reverend John Cotton investigated the question carefully under four main heads and six subheads, and he cited scriptural authority to show that Paul and Silas Acts , xvi. Cotton therefore concluded that the Psalms might be sung in church. In their preface to this work, known as the Bay Psalm Book , the first book of verse printed in the British American colonies, they explained that they did not strive for a more poetic translation because "God's altar needs not our polishings.
This Harvard graduate and Puritan preacher published in a poem setting forth some of the tenets of Calvinistic theology. The following lines represent a throng of infants at the left hand of the final Judge, pleading against the sentence of infant damnation:. When we read verse like this, we realize how fortunate the Puritanism of Old England was to have one great poet schooled in the love of both morality and beauty. John Milton's poetry shows not only his sublimity and high ideals, but also his admiration for beauty, music, and art.
Wigglesworth's verse is inferior to much of the ballad doggerel, but it has a swing and a directness fitted to catch the popular ear and to lodge in the memory. While some of his work seems humorous to us, it would not have made that impression on the early Puritans. At the same time, we must not rely on verse like this for our understanding of their outlook on life and death.
Beside Wigglesworth's lines we should place the epitaph, "Reserved for a Glorious Resurrection," composed by the great orthodox Puritan clergyman, Cotton Mather p. It is well to remember that both the Puritans and their clergy had a quiet way of believing that God had reserved to himself the final interpretation of his own word.
Colonial New England's best poet, or "The Tenth Muse," as she was called by her friends, was a daughter of the Puritan governor, Thomas Dudley, and became the wife of another Puritan governor, Simon Bradstreet, with whom she came to New England in Although she was born before the death of Shakespeare, she seems never to have studied the works of that great dramatist. Her models were what Milton called the "fantastics," a school of poets who mistook for manifestations of poetic power, far-fetched and strained metaphors, oddities of expression, remote comparisons, conceits, and strange groupings of thought.
She had especially studied Sylvester's paraphrase of The Divine Weeks and Works of the French poet Du Bartas, and probably also the works of poets like George Herbert — , of the English fantastic school. This paraphrase of Du Bartas was published in a folio of pages, a few years before Mrs.
Bradstreet came to America. This book shows the taste which prevailed in England in the latter part of the first third of the seventeenth century, before Milton came into the ascendancy. The fantastic comparison between the "Spirit Eternal," brooding upon chaos, and a hen, is shown in these lines from Du Bartas:.
A contemporary critic thought that he was giving her early work high praise when he called her "a right Du Bartas girl. Such a debate could never be decided, but the subject was well suited to he fantastic school of poets because it afforded an opportunity for much ingenuity of argument and for far-fetched comparisons, which led nowhere. Late in life, in her poem, Contemplations , she wrote some genuine poetry, little marred by imitation of the fantastic school.
Spenser seems to have become her master in later years. No one without genuine poetic ability could have written such lines as:. The comparative excellence of her work in such an atmosphere and amid the domestic cares incident to rearing eight children is remarkable. In , Nathaniel Ward, who had been educated for the law, but who afterward became a clergyman, published a strange work known as The Simple Cobbler of Agawam, in America "willing," as the sub-title continues, "to help mend his native country, lamentably tattered, both in the upper leather and sole, with all the honest stitches he can take.
He then busied himself in compiling a code of laws and in other writing before he returned to England in The following two sentences from his unique book show two points of the religious faith of the Puritans: 1 the belief in a personal devil always actively seeking the destruction of mankind, and 2 the assumption that the vitals of the "elect" are safe from the mortal sting of sin.
He does not hesitate to coin a word. The preceding short selection introduces us to "nugiperous" and "nudiustertian. The spirit of a reformer always sees work to be done, and Ward emphasized three remedies for mid-seventeenth-century ills: 1 Stop toleration of departure from religious truth; 2 banish the frivolities of women and men; and 3 bring the civil war in England to a just end.
In proportion to the population, his Simple Cobbler , designed to mend human ways, was probably as widely read as Carlyle's Sartor Resartus in later days. There was born in at Bishopstoke, Hampshire, England, a boy who sailed for New England when he was nine years old, and who became our greatest colonial diarist.
This was Samuel Sewall, who graduated from Harvard in and finally became chief justice of Massachusetts. His Diary runs with some breaks from to , the year before his death. Good diaries are scarce in any literature. Those who keep them seldom commit to writing many of the most interesting events and secrets of their lives. This failing makes the majority of diaries and memoirs very dry, but this fault cannot be found with Samuel Sewall. His Diary will more and more prove a mine of wealth to the future writers of our literature, to our dramatists, novelists, poets, as well as to our historians.
The early chronicles and stories on which Shakespeare founded many of his plays were no more serviceable to him than this Diary may prove to a coming American writer with a genius like Hawthorne's. In Sewall's Diary we at once feel that we are close to life. The following entry brings us face to face with the children in a Puritan household:. Sewall was one of the seven judges who sentenced nineteen persons to be put to death for witchcraft at Salem.
After this terrible delusion had passed, he had the manliness to rise in church before all the members, and after acknowledging "the blame and shame of his decision," call for "prayers that God who has an unlimited authority would pardon that sin. Sewall's Diary is best known for its faithful chronicle of his courtship of Mrs. Catharine Winthrop. Both had been married twice before, and both had grown children. He was sixty-nine and she fifty-six. No record of any other Puritan courtship so unique as this has been given to the world.
He began his formal courtship of Mrs. Winthrop, October 1, His Diary contains records of each visit, of what they said to each other, of the Sermons, cake, and gingerbread that he gave her, of the healths that he drank to her, the lump of sugar that she gave him, of how they "went into the best room, and clos'd the shutters.
Acute men have written essays to account for the aristocratic Mrs. Winthrop's refusal of Chief-Justice Sewall. Some have said that it was due to his aversion to slavery and to his refusal to allow her to keep her slaves. This episode is only a small part of a rich storehouse. The greater part of the Diary contains only the raw materials of literature, yet some of it is real literature, and it ranks among the great diaries of the world. Cotton Mather, grandson of the Reverend John Cotton p.
He entered Harvard at the age of eleven, and took the bachelor's degree at fifteen. His life shows such an overemphasis of certain Puritan traits as almost to presage the coming decline of clerical influence. He says that at the age of only seven or eight he not only composed forms of prayer for his schoolmates, but also obliged them to pray, although some of them cuffed him for his pains.
At fourteen he began a series of fasts to crucify the flesh, increase his holiness, and bring him nearer to God. He endeavored never to waste a minute. The amount of writing which he did almost baffles belief. His published works, numbering about four hundred, include sermons, essays, and books. During all of his adult life, he also preached in the North Church of Boston. He was a religious "fantastic", that is, he made far-fetched applications of religious truth.
A tall man suggested to him high attainments in Christianity; washing his hands, the desirability of a clean heart. Although Cotton Mather became the most famous clergyman of colonial New England, he was disappointed in two of his life's ambitions. He failed to become president of Harvard and to bring New England back in religious matters to the first halcyon days of the colony. On the contrary, he lived to see Puritan theocracy suffer a great decline.
His fantastic and strained application of religious truth, his overemphasis of many things, and especially his conduct in zealously aiding and abetting the Salem witchcraft murders, were no mean factors in causing that decline. The colony was captured by the Dutch in and merged into New Netherland , with most of the colonists remaining.
Years later, the entire New Netherland colony was incorporated into England's colonial holdings. The colony of New Sweden introduced Lutheranism to America in the form of some of the continent's oldest European churches. It remains the oldest European-built house in New Jersey and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving log houses in the United States. Russia explored the area that became Alaska, starting with the Second Kamchatka expedition in the s and early s.
Their first settlement was founded in by Grigory Shelikhov. In , the U. England made its first successful efforts at the start of the 17th century for several reasons. During this era, English proto-nationalism and national assertiveness blossomed under the threat of Spanish invasion, assisted by a degree of Protestant militarism and the energy of Queen Elizabeth.
At this time, however, there was no official attempt by the English government to create a colonial empire. Rather the motivation behind the founding of colonies was piecemeal and variable. Practical considerations played their parts, such as commercial enterprise , over-crowding, and the desire for freedom of religion. The main waves of settlement came in the 17th century. After , most immigrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants , young unmarried men and women seeking a new life in a much richer environment.
Alexander Hamilton — was a Scottish-born doctor and writer who lived and worked in Annapolis, Maryland. Alexander Hamilton is "the best single portrait of men and manners, of rural and urban life, of the wide range of society and scenery in colonial America. Biographer Elaine Breslaw says that he encountered:. The business venture was financed and coordinated by the London Virginia Company , a joint stock company looking for gold.
Its first years were extremely difficult, with very high death rates from disease and starvation, wars with local Indians, and little gold. The colony survived and flourished by turning to tobacco as a cash crop. By the late 17th century, Virginia's export economy was largely based on tobacco, and new, richer settlers came in to take up large portions of land, build large plantations and import indentured servants and slaves. In , Bacon's Rebellion occurred, but was suppressed by royal officials.
After Bacon's Rebellion, African slaves rapidly replaced indentured servants as Virginia's main labor force. The colonial assembly shared power with a royally appointed governor.
Settling New England | Boundless US History
On a more local level, governmental power was invested in county courts, which were self-perpetuating the incumbents filled any vacancies and there never were popular elections. As cash crop producers, Chesapeake plantations were heavily dependent on trade with England. With easy navigation by river, there were few towns and no cities; planters shipped directly to Britain.
High death rates and a very young population profile characterized the colony during its first years. Randall Miller points out that "America had no titled aristocracy Historian Arthur Schlesinger says that he "was unique among the permanent comers in bearing so high a rank as baron. The Pilgrims were a small group of Puritan separatists who felt that they needed to physically distance themselves from the Church of England.
They initially moved to the Netherlands, then decided to re-establish themselves in America. The initial Pilgrim settlers sailed to North America in on the Mayflower. Upon their arrival, they drew up the Mayflower Compact , by which they bound themselves together as a united community, thus establishing the small Plymouth Colony. William Bradford was their main leader. After its founding, other settlers traveled from England to join the colony. The non-separatist Puritans constituted a much larger group than the Pilgrims, and they established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in with settlers.
They sought to reform the Church of England by creating a new, pure church in the New World. By , 20, had arrived ; many died soon after arrival, but the others found a healthy climate and an ample food supply. During the 17th century, the New Haven and Saybrook colonies were absorbed by Connecticut.
The Puritans created a deeply religious, socially tight-knit, and politically innovative culture that still influences the modern United States. They fled England and attempted to create a "nation of saints" or a " City upon a Hill " in America: an intensely religious, thoroughly righteous community designed to be an example for all of Europe. Economically, Puritan New England fulfilled the expectations of its founders. The Puritan economy was based on the efforts of self-supporting farmsteads that traded only for goods which they could not produce themselves, unlike the cash crop-oriented plantations of the Chesapeake region.
New England became an important mercantile and shipbuilding center, along with agriculture, fishing, and logging, serving as the hub for trading between the southern colonies and Europe. Providence Plantation was founded in by Roger Williams on land provided by Narragansett sachem Canonicus. Williams was a Puritan who preached religious tolerance, separation of Church and State , and a complete break with the Church of England. He was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony over theological disagreements, and he and other settlers founded Providence Plantation based on an egalitarian constitution providing for majority rule "in civil things" and "liberty of conscience" in religious matters.
Other colonists settled to the north, mingling with adventurers and profit-oriented settlers to establish more religiously diverse colonies in New Hampshire and Maine. These small settlements were absorbed by Massachusetts when it made significant land claims in the s and s, but New Hampshire was eventually given a separate charter in Maine remained a part of Massachusetts until achieving statehood in The administration was eventually led by Governor Sir Edmund Andros and seized colonial charters, revoked land titles, and ruled without local assemblies, causing anger among the population.
Andros was jailed for several months, then returned to England. The Dominion of New England was dissolved and governments resumed under their earlier charters. However, the Massachusetts charter had been revoked in , and a new one was issued in that combined Massachusetts and Plymouth into the Province of Massachusetts Bay. However, these attempts failed at unified control.
The Middle Colonies consisted of the present-day states of New York , New Jersey , Pennsylvania , and Delaware and were characterized by a large degree of diversity—religious, political, economic, and ethnic. However, large numbers of Dutch remained in the colony, dominating the rural areas between New York City and Albany. Meanwhile, Yankees from New England started moving in, as did immigrants from Germany.
New York City attracted a large polyglot population, including a large black slave population. New Jersey began as a division of New York, and was divided into the proprietary colonies of East and West Jersey for a time. Pennsylvania was founded in as a proprietary colony of Quaker William Penn. The main population elements included Quaker population based in Philadelphia, a Scotch Irish population on the Western frontier, and numerous German colonies in between.
By the midth century, Pennsylvania was basically a middle-class colony with limited deference to the small upper-class. A writer in the Pennsylvania Journal summed it up in The predominant culture of the South was rooted in the settlement of the region by British colonists. In the seventeenth century, most voluntary colonists were of English origins who settled chiefly along the coastal regions of the Eastern seaboard.
The majority of early British settlers were indentured servants , who gained freedom after enough work to pay off their passage. The wealthier men who paid their way received land grants known as headrights, to encourage settlement. The Spanish colonized Florida in the 16th century, with their communities reaching a peak in the late 17th century. In the British and French colonies, most colonists arrived after They cleared land, built houses and outbuildings, and worked on the large plantations that dominated export agriculture.
Many were involved in the labor-intensive cultivation of tobacco, the first cash crop of Virginia. With a decrease in the number of British willing to go to the colonies in the eighteenth century, planters began importing more enslaved Africans, who became the predominant labor force on the plantations. Tobacco exhausted the soil quickly, requiring new fields to be cleared on a regular basis.
Old fields were used as pasture and for crops such as corn and wheat, or allowed to grow into woodlots. Rice cultivation in South Carolina became another major commodity crop. Some historians have argued that slaves from the lowlands of western Africa, where rice was a basic crop, provided key skills, knowledge and technology for irrigation and construction of earthworks to support rice cultivation.
The early methods and tools used in South Carolina were congruent with those in Africa. British colonists would have had little or no familiarity with the complex process of growing rice in fields flooded by irrigation works. In the mid- to lateth century, large groups of Scots and Ulster-Scots later called the Scots-Irish immigrated and settled in the back country of Appalachia and the Piedmont. They were the largest group of colonists from the British Isles before the American Revolution.
The population with some Scots and Scots-Irish ancestry may number 47 million, as most people have multiple heritages, some of which they may not know. The early colonists, especially the Scots-Irish in the back-country, engaged in warfare , trade , and cultural exchanges. Those living in the backcountry were more likely to join with Creek Indians , Cherokee , and Choctaws and other regional native groups. Presidents Jefferson , Monroe and Tyler , all from Virginia.
Indeed, the entire region dominated politics in the First Party System era: for example, four of the first five Presidents — Washington , Jefferson , Madison , and Monroe — were from Virginia. The two oldest public universities are also in the South: the University of North Carolina and the University of Georgia The colonial South included the plantation colonies of the Chesapeake region Virginia, Maryland, and, by some classifications, Delaware and the lower South Carolina, which eventually split into North and South Carolina; and Georgia.
The top five percent or so of the white population of Virginia and Maryland in the midth century were planters who possessed growing wealth and increasing political power and social prestige. They controlled the local Anglican church, choosing ministers and handling church property and disbursing local charity. They sought election to the house of purchases or appointment as justice of the peace. About 60 percent of white Virginians were part of a broad middle class that owned substantial farms. By the second generation, death rates from malaria and other local diseases had declined so much that a stable family structure was possible.
The bottom third owned no land and verged on poverty. Many were recent arrivals, recently released from indentured servitude. Large numbers of Irish and German Protestants had settled in the frontier districts, often moving down from Pennsylvania. Tobacco was not important here; farmers focused on hemp, grain, cattle, and horses. Entrepreneurs had begun to mine and smelt the local iron ores. Sports occupied a great deal of attention at every social level, starting at the top.
In England, hunting was sharply restricted to landowners and enforced by armed gameskeepers. In America, game was more than plentiful. Everyone could and did hunt, including servants and slaves. Poor men with good rifle skills won praise; rich gentlemen who were off target won ridicule. Horse racing was the main event. The typical farmer did not own a horse in the first place, and racing was a matter for gentlemen only, but ordinary farmers were spectators and gamblers. Selected slaves often became skilled horse trainers. Horse racing was especially important for knitting together the gentry.
The race was a major public event designed to demonstrate to the world the superior social status of the gentry through expensive breeding, training, boasting, and gambling, and especially winning the races themselves.
The Time of the Pilgrims and Early Settlers 1600-1700
When they publicly bet a large sum on their favorite horse, it told the world that competitiveness, individualism, and materialism where the core elements of gentry values. Historian Edmund Morgan argues that Virginians in the s and for the next two centuries turned to slavery and a racial divide as an alternative to class conflict. By , the Virginia population reached 70, and continued to grow rapidly from a high birth rate, low death rate, importation of slaves from the Caribbean, and immigration from Britain, Germany, and Pennsylvania.
The climate was mild; the farm lands were cheap and fertile. The Province of Carolina was the first attempted English settlement south of Virginia. It was a private venture, financed by a group of English Lords Proprietors who obtained a Royal Charter to the Carolinas in , hoping that a new colony in the south would become profitable like Jamestown.
Carolina was not settled until , and even then the first attempt failed because there was no incentive for emigration to that area. Eventually, however, the Lords combined their remaining capital and financed a settlement mission to the area led by Sir John Colleton. The original settlers in South Carolina established a lucrative trade in food for the slave plantations in the Caribbean.
The settlers came mainly from the English colony of Barbados and brought African slaves with them. Barbados was a wealthy sugarcane plantation island, one of the early English colonies to use large numbers of Africans in plantation-style agriculture.
The cultivation of rice was introduced during the s and became an important export crop. At first, South Carolina was politically divided. Its ethnic makeup included the original settlers a group of rich, slave-owning English settlers from the island of Barbados and Huguenots , a French-speaking community of Protestants. Nearly continuous frontier warfare during the era of King William's War and Queen Anne's War drove economic and political wedges between merchants and planters.
The disaster of the Yamasee War threatened the colony's viability and set off a decade of political turmoil. By , the proprietary government had collapsed, and the Proprietors sold both colonies back to the British crown. North Carolina had the smallest upper-class. The richest 10 percent owned about 40 percent of all land, compared to 50 to 60 percent in neighboring Virginia and South Carolina.
There were no cities of any size and very few towns, so there was scarcely an urban middle class at all. Heavily rural North Carolina was dominated by subsistence farmers with small operations. In addition, one fourth of the whites had no land at all.
Oglethorpe decided to establish a colony in the contested border region of Georgia and to populate it with debtors who would otherwise have been imprisoned according to standard British practice. This plan would both rid Great Britain of its undesirable elements and provide her with a base from which to attack Florida. The first colonists arrived in Georgia was established on strict moralistic principles. Slavery was officially forbidden, as were alcohol and other forms of immorality. However, the reality of the colony was far different.
The colonists rejected a moralistic lifestyle and complained that their colony could not compete economically with the Carolina rice plantations. Georgia initially failed to prosper, but eventually the restrictions were lifted, slavery was allowed, and it became as prosperous as the Carolinas. The colony of Georgia never had an established religion; it consisted of people of various faiths.
They were returned to Spain in in exchange for the Bahamas , at which time most of the British left. The Spanish then neglected the Floridas; few Spaniards lived there when the US bought the area in Efforts began as early as the s toward a common defense of the colonies, principally against shared threats from Indians, the French, and the Dutch. The Puritan colonies of New England formed a confederation to coordinate military and judicial matters.
From the s, several royal governors attempted to find means of coordinating defensive and offensive military matters, notably Sir Edmund Andros who governed New York, New England, and Virginia at various times and Francis Nicholson governed Maryland, Virginia, Nova Scotia, and Carolina. After King Phillips War , Andros successfully negotiated the Covenant Chain , a series of Indian treaties that brought relative calm to the frontiers of the middle colonies for many years. One event that reminded colonists of their shared identity as British subjects was the War of the Austrian Succession — in Europe.
This conflict spilled over into the colonies, where it was known as " King George's War ". At the Albany Congress of , Benjamin Franklin proposed that the colonies be united by a Grand Council overseeing a common policy for defense, expansion, and Indian affairs. The plan was thwarted by colonial legislatures and King George II , but it was an early indication that the British colonies of North America were headed towards unification. Previous colonial wars in North America had started in Europe and then spread to the colonies, but the French and Indian War is notable for having started in North America and spread to Europe.
One of the primary causes of the war was increasing competition between Britain and France, especially in the Great Lakes and Ohio valley. The French and Indian War took on a new significance for the British North American colonists when William Pitt the Elder decided that major military resources needed to be devoted to North America in order to win the war against France.
For the first time, the continent became one of the main theaters of what could be termed a " world war ". During the war, the position of the British colonies as part of the British Empire was made truly apparent, as British military and civilian officials took on an increased presence in the lives of Americans. The war also increased a sense of American unity in other ways. It caused men to travel across the continent who might otherwise have never left their own colony, fighting alongside men from decidedly different backgrounds who were nonetheless still "American". Throughout the course of the war, British officers trained American ones for battle, most notably George Washington , which benefitted the American cause during the Revolution.
Also, colonial legislatures and officials had to cooperate intensively, for the first time, in pursuit of the continent-wide military effort. In the Treaty of Paris , France formally ceded to Britain the eastern part of its vast North American empire, having secretly given to Spain the territory of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River the previous year.
Before the war, Britain held the thirteen American colonies, most of present-day Nova Scotia , and most of the Hudson Bay watershed. In removing a major foreign threat to the thirteen colonies, the war also largely removed the colonists' need of colonial protection. The British and colonists triumphed jointly over a common foe. The colonists' loyalty to the mother country was stronger than ever before.
However, disunity was beginning to form. British Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder had decided to wage the war in the colonies with the use of troops from the colonies and tax funds from Britain itself. This was a successful wartime strategy but, after the war was over, each side believed that it had borne a greater burden than the other.
The British elite, the most heavily taxed of any in Europe, pointed out angrily that the colonists paid little to the royal coffers. The colonists replied that their sons had fought and died in a war that served European interests more than their own. This dispute was a link in the chain of events that soon brought about the American Revolution.
The colonies were very different from one another but they were still a part of the British Empire in more than just name. Demographically, the majority of the colonists traced their roots to the British Isles and many of them still had family ties with Great Britain. Many had never lived in Britain in over a few generations, yet they imitated British styles of dress, dance, and etiquette.
This social upper echelon built its mansions in the Georgian style , copied the furniture designs of Thomas Chippendale , and participated in the intellectual currents of Europe, such as the Enlightenment. The seaport cities of colonial America were truly British cities in the eyes of many inhabitants. Many of the political structures of the colonies drew upon the republicanism expressed by opposition leaders in Britain, most notably the Commonwealth men and the Whig traditions. Many Americans at the time saw the colonies' systems of governance as modeled after the British constitution of the time, with the king corresponding to the governor, the House of Commons to the colonial assembly , and the House of Lords to the governor's council.
The codes of law of the colonies were often drawn directly from English law ; indeed, English common law survives not only in Canada, but also throughout the United States. Eventually, it was a dispute over the meaning of some of these political ideals especially political representation and republicanism that led to the American Revolution.
Another point on which the colonies found themselves more similar than different was the booming import of British goods. The British economy had begun to grow rapidly at the end of the 17th century and, by the midth century, small factories in Britain were producing much more than the nation could consume. British merchants offered credit to their customers;  this allowed Americans to buy a large amount of British goods.
In recent years, historians have enlarged their perspective to cover the entire Atlantic world in a subfield now known as Atlantic history. It was the Age of the Enlightenment , and ideas flowed back and forth across the Atlantic, with Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin playing a major role. Francois Furstenberg offers a different perspective on the historical period. He suggests that warfare was critical among the major imperial players: Britain, the American colonies, Spain, France, and the First Nations Indians.
They fought a series of conflicts from to that Furstenberg calls a "Long War for the West" over control of the region. Women played a role in the emergence of the capitalist economy in the Atlantic world. The types of local commercial exchange in which they participated independently were well integrated with the trade networks between colonial merchants throughout the Atlantic region, especially markets in dairy and produce commodities.
For example, local women merchants were important suppliers of foodstuffs to transatlantic shipping concerns.
James Lincoln Collier
In the colonial era, Americans insisted on their rights as Englishmen to have their own legislature raise all taxes. The British Parliament, however, asserted in that it held supreme authority to lay taxes, and a series of American protests began that led directly to the American Revolution. The first wave of protests attacked the Stamp Act of , and marked the first time that Americans met together from each of the 13 colonies and planned a common front against British taxation.
The British responded by trying to crush traditional liberties in Massachusetts, leading to the American revolution starting in The idea of independence steadily became more widespread, after being first proposed and advocated by a number of public figures and commentators throughout the Colonies. One of the most prominent voices on behalf of independence was Thomas Paine in his pamphlet Common Sense published in Another group which called for independence was the Sons of Liberty , which had been founded in in Boston by Samuel Adams and which was now becoming even more strident and numerous.
By this point, the 13 colonies had organized themselves into the Continental Congress and begun setting up independent governments and drilling their militia in preparation for war. In the British colonies, the three forms of government were provincial royal colony , proprietary, and charter. These governments were all subordinate to the King of England, with no explicit relationship with the British Parliament. Beginning late in the 17th century, the administration of all British colonies was overseen by the Board of Trade in London.
Each colony had a paid colonial agent in London to represent its interests. The provincial colony was governed by commissions created at pleasure of the king. A governor and in some provinces his council were appointed by the crown. The governor was invested with general executive powers and authorized to call a locally elected assembly.
The governor's council would sit as an upper house when the assembly was in session, in addition to its role in advising the governor. Assemblies were made up of representatives elected by the freeholders and planters landowners of the province. The governor had the power of absolute veto and could prorogue i. The assembly's role was to make all local laws and ordinances, ensuring that they were not inconsistent with the laws of England. In practice, this did not always occur, since many of the provincial assemblies sought to expand their powers and limit those of the governor and crown.
Laws could be examined by the British Privy Council or Board of Trade, which also held veto power of legislation. Pennsylvania which included Delaware , New Jersey, and Maryland were proprietary colonies. They were governed much as royal colonies except that lord proprietors, rather than the king, appointed the governor. They were set up after the Restoration of and typically enjoyed greater civil and religious liberty. The Massachusetts charter was revoked in and was replaced by a provincial charter that was issued in Charter governments were political corporations created by letters patent , giving the grantees control of the land and the powers of legislative government.
The charters provided a fundamental constitution and divided powers among legislative, executive, and judicial functions, with those powers being vested in officials. The primary political cultures of the United States had their origins in the colonial period. Most theories of political culture identify New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South as having formed separate and distinct political cultures. As Bonomi shows, the most distinctive feature of colonial society was the vibrant political culture, which attracted the most talented and ambitious young men into politics.
The roots of democracy were present,  although deference was typically shown to social elites in colonial elections. Second, a very wide range of public and private business was decided by elected bodies in the colonies, especially the assemblies and county governments in each colony. This promoted the rapid expansion of the legal profession, so that the intense involvement of lawyers in politics became an American characteristic by the s. Third, the American colonies were exceptional in the world because of the representation of many different interest groups in political decision-making.
The American political culture was open to economic, social, religious, ethnic, and geographical interests, with merchants, landlords, petty farmers, artisans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Germans, Scotch Irish , Yankees, Yorkers, and many other identifiable groups taking part.
Finally and most dramatically, the Americans were fascinated by and increasingly adopted the political values of Republicanism which stressed equal rights, the need for virtuous citizens, and the evils of corruption, luxury, and aristocracy. None of the colonies had stable political parties of the sort that formed in the s, but each had shifting factions that vied for power, especially in the perennial battles between the appointed governor and the elected assembly.
Massachusetts had particularly low requirements for voting eligibility and strong rural representation in its assembly from its charter; consequently, it also had a strong populist faction that represented the province's lower classes. Up and down the colonies, non-English ethnic groups had clusters of settlements. The most numerous were the Scotch Irish  and the Germans. They tended to vote in blocs, and politicians negotiated with group leaders for votes. They generally retained their historic languages and cultural traditions, even as they merged into the developing American culture.
Ethnocultural factors were most visible in Pennsylvania. Please review the types of cookies we use below. These cookies allow you to explore OverDrive services and use our core features. Without these cookies, we can't provide services to you. These cookies allow us to monitor OverDrive's performance and reliability. They alert us when OverDrive services are not working as expected. Without these cookies, we won't know if you have any performance-related issues that we may be able to address.