The English Colonies England’s Settlement of North America, 1607 – 1756 – from Jamestown to the Origins of the French and Indian War
Early English Settlements – Roanoke Island The first attempt at colonization in North American executed by the English was at Roanoke Island, on the present day Outer Banks of North Carolina. Sir Walter Raleigh established the settlement, but conflict with Spain prevented the colonists from being resupplied. What happened of the colony remains a mystery. A tree with the word “C-R-O-A-T-A-N” etched in the bark was the only hint as to where the colonist may have gone. Whether they were massacred or assimilated into the tribe is an open question.
The Lost Colony • There were several lessons to be drawn from the Roanoke experiment. First, the funding for these expeditions could not come from individuals alone – there was simply too much to be lost. Sir Walter Raleigh was economically devastated by the failed mission. • Secondly, the colony was a too fragile in its constitution. Right away, unfriendly Indians had attacked the settlement. Hostile neighbors and the ever-present threat of Spanish trawlers along the coast left the colonist vulnerable throughout the mission. War with Spain had undermined the chances for success. • Finally the enormous chances taken in order to resupply the settlement illustrated the need for self sufficiency in the colonies.
Jamestown Jamestown was settled in 1607 thanks to the efforts of the Virginia Company - a joint stock enterprise attempting to profit from exploring the eastern seaboard of North America. Despite typhus, malaria, dysentery, starvation, and the threat of attack from Powhatans under the leadership of Wahunsunacock, the settlement managed to survive under the bellicose guidance of John Smith.
The Survival of Jamestown Jamestown survived because the Powhatan allowed Jamestown to survive. The newcomers had many worthwhile trade items, and the tribe viewed the English as a formidable ally – at least potentially. John Smith was able to secure food and peace through his negotiations with Wahunsunacock, but he completely misinterpreted the chief’s ceremonial adoption of the tribe into his kingdom. When John Rolfe introduced tobacco to the colony – a West Indies blend which English consumers preferred – making the settlement economically viable. It was Rolfe who married the princess Pocahontas – not Smith. This bond, however, was not a permanent one. Pocahontas died on a visit to England; hostile relations between the settlement at Jamestown and the Indians continued for decades before the colony grew in size and strength thanks to indentured servants emigrating from England.
Disease at Jamestown • English settlers would later refer to first arrival of new servants or slaves at Jamestown at the “seasoning” period. Due to the high instances of yellow fever and malaria, many newcomers died of disease. For landowners seeking laborers, the head right system was put into place. Land was granted to anyone who paid the passage of servants to the colony. • Generally, indentured servants were asked to sign a seven year contract with their sponsor. At the end of seven years, they would receive 50 acres of land, tools, seed, and some assistance in establishing themselves as a freeholder. • By 1624 in Jamestown, only 1275 of the over 8500 settlers who had embarked on the journey to the New World were still alive. Few indentured servants lived seven years to claim their inheritance. • Those who survived did manage to create the first representative assembly in the New World – The House of Burgesses, in 1619.
Maryland – Catholic Haven? • During the mid 1600s, the English Monarch struggled with an identity crisis. Since Henry VIII had established the Anglican Church, persecution of Catholics had steadily progressed in England. Charles I, rumored to be a Catholic sympathizer, granted land to the north of the Chesapeake Bay to George Calvert – Lord Baltimore, to establish the colony. • Although never a majority of the settlement, the colony was intended to be a feudal estate and haven for Catholic Englishmen. • Realizing by the 1640s that the Catholics were outnumbered and the Oliver Cromwell would be unlikely to sympathize with their interests, the Act of Toleration of 1649 was passed – ironically – to protect Catholics from persecution. • Like Virginia, tobacco – “brown gold” – was the economic staple of the colony.
The Chesapeake Colonies In both Virginia and Maryland – and to a lesser extent Delaware and parts of North Carolina – tobacco was the key to life in the Chesapeake region. Exporting the crop allowed colonies to survive. The region relied upon indentured servants, and a heavy reliance on male laborers made the area a demographic peculiarity. Disease, malnutrition, and “seasoning” led to horrifying mortality rates, and the crop itself – tobacco – was not sustainable. By the late 1600s, enslaved Africans were brought to the region to ensure a workforce, and strict laws defining free and slave were adopted.
Plymouth Colony Led by William Bradford, members of the Pilgrims – a zealous group of Puritans seeking to practice their faith in the most austere and committed manner possible – established their colony at Plymouth in 1619. Thanks to assistance from Squanto in brokering a deal with the nearby Wampanoag Indians and learning to grow corn, squash, and pumpkins, the colony survived. Eventually, farming, fishing, and lumber would energize the economy.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop sought to create “A City Upon a Hill” in Massachusetts – an example for all humanity of God’s blessings for those who were pure in nature and devoted to God. Ironically, this colony which was established by men and women seeking religious toleration offered no tolerance for others. It was, however, very different from colonies in the Chesapeake. Women were present here, and healthy families quickly grew.
“Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God, for this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must delight in eache other, make others Condicions our ownerejoyce together, mourne together, labour, and suffer together, allwayeshaveing before our eyes our Commission and Community in the worke, our Community as members of the same body, soe shall wee keepe the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as his owne people and will commaund a blessing upon us in all our wayes, soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome power goodnes and truthe then formerly wee have beene acquainted with, wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when tenn of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when hee shall make us a prayse and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantacions: the lord make it like that of New England!” John Winthrop: “A City Upon a Hill” NOTE: Although there are a handful of punctuation marks which have been changed, this is the original spelling of the document Winthrop authored. What does the spelling indicate?
For wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speakeevill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going: And to shuttupp this discourse with that exhortacion of Moses that faithfull servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israell Deut. 30. Beloved there is now sett before us life, and good, deathe and evill in that wee are Commaunded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walke in his wayes and to keepe his Commaundements and his Ordinance, and his lawes, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that wee may live and be multiplyed, and that the Lord our God may blesse us in the land whether wee goe to possesse it: But if our heartes shall turne away soe that wee will not obey, but shall be seduced and worshipp other Gods our pleasures, and proffitts, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, wee shall surely perishe out of the good Land whether wee passe over this vast Sea to possesseit. John Winthrop: “A City Upon a Hill” QUESTION: What are the implications of being “A City Upon a Hill” for the people of Massachusetts Bay Colony?
Therefore lett us choose life, that wee, and our Seede, may live; by obeyeing his voyce, and cleaveing to him, for hee is our life, and our prosperity. John Winthrop: “A City Upon a Hill”
Rhode Island and Dissent Roger Williams advocated for the property rights of Native America communities, and protested against mandatory attendance laws for churchgoers. His basic principle, the separation of Church and State, would lead to the establishment of Rhode Island – a colony known for its dissenters. Joining Williams in Rhode Island would be Anne Hutchinson, who was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for questioning the merit of minister’s efforts towards salvation – and articulating her own beliefs.
Thomas Hooker establishes Connecticut - 1644 Thomas Hooker led his congregation to the Connecticut River Valley seeking greater democratic participation for Church members. He was not the author of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, but supported the tenets of the document, which granted greater democratic participation to individuals and is considered by some to be the first written constitution in the United States.
The New England Colonies • Founded by religious zealots, this region was the most English in social structure and townships. • Brutal force was used against Native American tribes who attempted to challenge these settlers for their land. The Pequot War of the 1630s and King Philips War in the 1670s were both brutal conflicts, in the later, Metacomet was beheaded and them impaled. • Although they established colonies seeking religious freedom for themselves, they did not extent religious toleration to others. Quakers were punished through banishment, then hanging. Dissenters were quickly removed from the community. • Many of the communities established here had a palpable fear of God , and considered the threats in their environment like the wilderness, Indians, and farther north the French Catholics to be manifestations of the devil.
New Amsterdam – New York The capitalistic, multicultural, and tolerant society which emerged in the 1620s was Dutch in origins, but the English would be just fine as colonial rulers. Nationalism was not a big concern for most of the merchants on the island.
New Amsterdam-New York The English took over New Amsterdam on a dare – Charles I offered the area to James – at the time the Duke of York – if he could only wrest it from the Dutch. Not only did James take the area, but also, he worked out a system of patronage and taxation which made the colony pay off. The population of the colony grew rapidly, even if he was unable to merge the population with settlements in New England.
Jacob Leisler’s Rebellion Not satisfied with the fickle, commerce before country style of business in the colony, William & Mary of the Glorious Revolution sent a replacement governor to the colony. When Jacob Leisler – a pro-business and reform minded governor attempted to defy the King & Queen, he was arrested, hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and finally quartered.
Penn’s Forest King Charles II found himself much in debt to William Penn’s father, and offered him the land to the west of New Jersey as payment. William Penn, who was not at all like his father – a military hero – accepted the bequest, and founded a colony he intended as a haven for Quaker dissenters. He was a firm believer in the equality of all men, and intended on founding a colony which would promote this concept- where all men were equal and able to participate politically in the governance of the realm. He also insisted Indians be justly treated.
Pennsylvania – Quakers, Tolerance, and the Backcountry William Penn sought an egalitarian society – he despised the idea of large landholders using their property to make small farmers economically dependent. He believed in peacefully sharing the land with Indians, and was a pacifist. He also valued religious toleration and recruited the German-speaking Pietistic sects which would later become known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.” Deutsch, really, meaning German. Although he remained committed to a peaceful relationship with Indian communities, many of the immigrants did not share his views. He went along with their assembly, despite personally disagreeing with their decisions frequently.
New Jersey Purchased by Quaker Proprietors in the 1670s, the colony was transformed from fledgling Puritan initiative to a Quaker colony valuing toleration and political rights for all. Although many of the coastal regions of the colony were swamplands, the western portion of the state was more suitable for agriculture. The colony is the last of the “Middle Colonies” and probably the least prosperous of the three. Like Delaware, New Jersey doesn’t neatly fit into any of the categories for Colonial England.
The Middle Colonies • New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are the Middle Colonies. Each colony has a story of foundation which includes peaceful transfers of power, and each colony remained committed to social harmony and some version of economic justice. • The influence of the Quaker faith – which is a pacifist sect that celebrates the equality of every man and woman in its worship – had a profound influence on the development of Pennsylvania and undoubtedly encouraged cooperation in the region. • The planning of major cities was critical to the commercial success of the region. • As settlers began moving west, as in all the colonies, major schisms took place between the Eastern elites and western settlers in the backcountry.
The Caribbean Islands St. Kitts, Barbados, Nevis, Montserrat, and Jamaica were all British colonies devoted to the cultivation of sugar cane. Owned by absentee landowners and run almost exclusively by slave labor, the islands were dependent upon the mainland colonies for food. The Middle colonies in particular were able to trade their grain crops and fish to these islands profitably. During the colonial period, these sugar islands were considered the “jewels” of the English Empire.
The Carolinas The Carolinas were settled by proprietors – wealthy purchasers of the land, who hoped to establish a feudal estate in the area. The first settlers were failed plantation owners from the Barbados, and cattle was their first successful enterprise. Very quickly, however, the suitability of the land to plantation agriculture encouraged these settlers to import slave labor and begin cultivating rice. Soon, rice and indigo were being exported from the Carolinas, and Charles Town – Charleston, today – was a major cosmopolitan city.
South Carolina – Rice, Indigo South Carolina was originally a cattle ranching expedition, but the introduction of rice and indigo – along with the importation of slave labor from Africa – transformed the region. Although not absentee landowners like the plantation farmers of the Caribbean, South Carolina’s aristocratic elite frequently lived in Charleston and left the administration of their plantations to others. South Carolina was one of the few states where enslaved African-American laborers outnumbered whites by the middle of the 18th Century. Slave revolts, like the Stono Rebellion, were feared, and strict black codes came into practice.
North Carolina North Carolina developed in a more deliberate manner than its neighbor to the South. Due to the barrier islands which made accessing the coastal region of the east difficult, no major ports were established. Instead, Virginia tobacco farmers immigrated into the region, and naval supply lines were established. Many of the inhabitants of North Carolina were Scots-Irish settlers who established settlements in the “backcountry” – the region of the state where the Appalachians influenced the landscape, and immigrants could squat on the land. As much as any other state, a divide between elite society members and poor, backcountry farmers emerged here.
Georgia – a Debtor’s Colony Established as a colony for minor debtors who had been imprisoned, Georgia was strictly governed by it’s colonial ruler, James Oglethorpe. He did not extend any voting rights to his colonists, and slavery was forbidden, as well. The colony was viewed by the English as a buffer colony – it would protect the wealth, elite plantations of South Carolina from attack at the hands of the Spanish in nearby Florida. Military service was mandatory in Georgia when it was established; however, discipline was soon undermined in the colony, as settlers would demand greater individual rights and political participation.
The Lower South As a region, this area was committed to slave labor, the plantation system, and the development of cash crops for sale to England. The economic differences and social structure was a rigid hierarchy: plantation owners, small backcountry landholders and squatters, enslaved laborers. Skilled tradesmen were replace by slaves frequently. The region lived in fear of Spanish intrigues and threats in the West from hostile Native Americans, who resented encroachments upon their land.
“I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I recovered a little I found some black people about me, who I believe were some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay; they talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces, and loose hair.” - OlaudahEquiano 1. What makes this account of the Middle Passage so unique – and perhaps suspicious – as a source? Very few enslaved men and women could write. Equiano was literate because he had been trained to read and write as a youth; now he pursued abolitionism. Advocates of the slave system mistrusted the source – believing that abolitionists had put words in his mouth, embellished, and exaggerated.
2. OlaudahEquiano purchased his own freedom and worked in the shipping industry in the American colonies before immigrating to England. Why would he choose to live in England? The choice to live in England was one of self-preservation more than anything else. Having been raised in an English culture, Equiano was assuredly more comfortable in England than in his native Nigeria. Staying in the Americas, where he had grown up and come of age, was a dangerous prospect due to the threat of being captured, kidnapped, and re-enslaved. Although he had purchased his freedom, Equiano knew that the arbitrary manner in which laws defining bondage and freedom for African-Americans were enforced and applied, he would be better off in England – where no slavery existed at all!
3. Was Equiano’s experience representative of other enslaved men and women? Why or why not? While the vast majority of enslaved Africans would take work as agricultural laborers, skilled tradesmen were not unheard of. Particularly in urban areas, slaves were likely to have specific trades – cart wrights, butchers, or blacksmiths, for example – and some even made profits enough to purchase their freedom.
The Great Awakening An evangelical movement emphasizing man’s personal relationship with God and the centrality of individual’s salvation through religious experience. During this period, notions of predestination or strict Church membership requirements were rejected by Christians, and youthful, exciting preachers rose to prominence: George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and George Tennant, among others. The movement validated dissent, a critical factor which allowed Americans colonists to rebel against English rulers later in history. The divide between “Old Lights” and “New Lights” – would persist.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – Jonathan Edwards “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell!”
Conflicts between Eastern Elites and the Backcountry Bacon’s Rebellion is instructive in this regard. Nathaniel Bacon was able to garner support from his followers because they felt threatened by Indians on the frontier. Aristocratic planters, secure in the East and unwilling to pay the cost of raising an army to confront their Indian rivals, were angered by the aggressive posturing and complaints of backcountry farmers. The elite expected deference from their backcountry neighbors; however, the egalitarianism permeated the backcountry – they would not simple demur.
The Atlantic World Bernard Bailyn is the author of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and he asks his readers to consider the English colonists not a future Americans, but as members of the English Empire – concerned over their Rights as Englishmen, and looking back to England for cultural, social, and economic leadership expectantly. Yet, they found this leadership lacking. The key to understanding this period of history is understanding that nothing about the American Revolution was inevitable. Events might have unfolded very differently. Colonists viewed themselves as Englishmen in “The Atlantic World” – with unique trade ties and foreign policy.
Race and Gender in the American Colonies Racial classifications and gender roles are social constructs. In other words, they are roles assigned by society. In the American colonies, women were forbidden to hold property, to have custody of their children, or to participate in politics. Women were frequently the family representatives in church parishes, though, since men rarely officially joined the church rolls. These roles were arbitrarily assigned. Similarly, racial classification are constructs. Physical characteristics are such as skin color are only one aspect of classification. A light-skinned person who was half enslaved African-American and half white was considered “black.” A person might have a darker skin complexion and still “pass” as a white person. In colonial Virginia, biracial individuals freedom or bondage would be assigned based on the condition of the mother. If they child’s mother was free, the child was free. If the child’s mother was enslaved, the child would be enslaves as well.
Spanish, French, and Indian Conflicts American colonists were frequently entangled in European conflicts – they were a part of the European world. The Crown, however, did not always take into consideration the dynamics of the conflicts in the New World when hostilities erupted. Frequently, the English sought Native American allies and partnerships for these conflicts; unfortunately, since the English were prone to encroachments on Indian territory, these alliances were very fickle, indeed. To some extent, animosity with Indian tribes was a product of racism; however, English sensibilities, like other Europeans, were more offended by the fact that these “savages” were non-Christian. Similarly, animosity towards the French and the Spanish was amplified by religious differences. Protestant English settlers – and particularly the Puritans of the New England colonies – were adamantly opposed to the Catholic empires in their region.
1. Why might a settler in Western Pennsylvania object to this account of the massacre which took place at the hands of the Paxton boys? Settlers in Western Pennsylvania, like settlers in all the backcountry, felt high anxiety over the role they played as frontier homesteaders. To a large extent, they felt entitled to military defense. Indeed, forcing Native Americans off the land made it possible to build communities and add value to the land. There was widespread resentment held by backcountry setters towards the elite in the East – settlers and trailblazers improved the land and fought off hostile Indians; then aristocratic landholders sold off their property for high profits, often forcing smaller tenants and squatters off the land. In Pennsylvania, anxiety was always higher because so many of the assembly members were Quakers – a Christian sect which was pledged to pacifism and non-violence. This didn’t match the disposition of the backcountry settlers.
2. Why might settlers in the backcountry of Pennsylvania feel jeopardized by the political inclinations of the Assembly, most of whose membership was from the merchant class and the Society of Friends? Members of the Pennsylvania assembly had three strikes against them from the perspective of backcountry settlers. First, they were from Philadelphia – which was about as far away from any agricultural lifestyles and frontier concerns as one could be. Secondly, many of the members of the assembly were merchants – who were unlikely to support the raising of funds for purposes of state defense unless they – or their particular trade – were threatened. Since most men were involved with imports and exports by see, Indians were rarely a threat. Finally, many of the members of the Assembly were Quakers – The Society of Friends. This meant they were Pacifists, and pre-disposed to stand in opposition to war.
3. Compare and contrast this bloodletting to Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, in 1676. What similar dynamics are at play? How is this situation very different? The Paxton Boys Bacon’s Rebellion Charismatic leader Attacked Indians with some provocation – colonist still very much encroaching on their land, though. Governor Berkeley raised an army against Bacon’s men. Social classes in conflict seeking political power. • Vigilante action. • Attacked Indians without provocation. • Pennsylvania Assembly condemned the attack, but did not punish the transgressors. • Social classes in conflict, but characters involved are registering dissent against the Assembly.