American History – The Colonial Period

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The colonial period


Most of the settlers who came to America in the 17th century were English, but there were also Dutch, Swedish and German people in the middle region, several French Huguenots in South Carolina and elsewhere, slaves from Africa, primarily in the South, and the dispersal of Spaniards , Italians and Portuguese throughout the colonies.

After 1680, England ceased to be the main source of immigration. Thousands of refugees fled continental Europe to escape the war. Many have left their homes to escape the poverty caused by government oppression and absence-farming.

By 1690, the American population had grown to a quarter of a million. It has since doubled every 25 years, until it numbered more than 2.5 million in 1775.

Although the family could move from Massachusetts to Virginia or from South Carolina to Pennsylvania, without major adjustment, differences between individual colonies were noted. They were even more among the three regional groups of the colonies


New England in the northeast has mostly thin rock soil, relatively little flat land, and long winters, which makes it difficult to make money from farming. Starting from other pursuits, the New English exploited the water and set up mills and sawmills of grain. Good timber stands encouraged shipbuilding. Excellent ports promoted trade, and the sea became a source of great wealth. In Massachusetts, the cod industry itself quickly laid the foundation for prosperity.

Many Englishmen lived in the villages and towns around the ports, and some carried on some sort of trade or business. Common pasture and forests served the needs of citizens who worked near small farms. The compactness allowed for a village school, a village church, and a village or town hall, where citizens met to discuss matters of common interest.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony continued to expand trade. From the mid-17th century onwards, it flourished and Boston became one of America's largest ports.

Oak made of wood for ships; hulls, tall pines for spars and masts and pitch of ships extended from the northeast forests. By building their own vessels and shipping them to ports around the world, Massachusetts Bay Masters have laid the foundation for a commerce that will grow steadily. By the end of the colonial period, one-third of all British-flagged vessels had been built in New England. Fish, boat shops and wooden goods made it difficult to export.

New England carriers also soon discovered that rum and slaves were profitable commodities. One of the most enterprising – if harmless – trading practices of the time was the so-called "triangle trade." Traders and suppliers would buy slaves off the coast of Africa for rum from New England and then sell them in the West Indies, where they would buy molasses to bring home for sale to local rum producers.


Society in the middle colonies was far more diverse, more cosmopolitan and more tolerant than in New England. In many ways, Pennsylvania and Delaware owe their initial success to William Penn.

Under his leadership, Pennsylvania functioned smoothly and grew rapidly. By 1685 there were nearly 9,000 inhabitants. The heart of the colony was Philadelphia, a city that would soon be known for its wide streets overgrown with trees, large brick and stone walls, and busy docks. At the end of the colonial period, almost a century later, 30,000 people lived there, representing many languages, beliefs and trades. Their talent for a successful business enterprise has made the city one of the successful centers of colonial America.

Although the Quakers dominated Philadelphia, elsewhere in Pennsylvania others were well represented. The Germans became the most skilled farmers of the colony. Home industries such as weaving, footwear, wardrobe and other crafts were also important.

Pennsylvania was also the main gateway to the New World for the Scots-Irish, who immigrated to the colony in the early 18th century. "Wooden and arrogant foreigners," as one Pennsylvania official called them, hated the English and were suspicious of the entire government. The Scotch-Irish tended to settle in a backward country, where they cleared the land and lived by hunting and keeping.

As much as people are in Pennsylvania, New York best exemplifies the polyglot nature of America. By 1646, the population along the Hudson River included the Dutch, French, Dance, Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohe, Portuguese and Italians – the forerunners of the millions to come.

The Dutch continued to exert significant social and economic influence on the New York region long after the fall of New Holland and their integration into the British colonial system. Their gabled roofs of sharp grade have become a permanent part of city architecture, and their merchants have given Manhattan much of the original bustling, commercial atmosphere.


Opposite New England and the Middle Colonies were predominantly rural southern settlements: Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

By the late 17th century, the economic and social structure of Virginia and Maryland rested on large plantations and Jomean farmers. The tidal area seedlings, supported by slave labor, held most political power and the best land. They built great houses, adopted an aristocratic way of life and kept in touch as best they could with the world of culture abroad.

At the same time, Yomani farmers, who worked in smaller areas of the country, sat in national assemblies and found their way into political office. Their open independence was a constant warning to the plantation oligarchy not to give too much credit to the rights of free men.

Charleston of South Carolina became the leading port and trading center of the South. There, settlers quickly learned to combine agriculture and commerce, and the market became a major source of prosperity. Dense forests also produced revenue: wood, tar, and long-leaf pine resin provided some of the best boat-building materials in the world. It is not related to any crop, such as Virginia, North and South Carolina, which also produced and exported rice and indigo, a blue dye obtained from native plants, which was used to dye fabrics. By 1750, more than 100,000 people were living in the two colonies of North and South Carolina.

In most southern colonies, as elsewhere, population growth in the back country was of particular importance. German settlers and Scots-Irish, unwilling to live in the original tidal water settlements where English influence was strong, pushed inland. Those who could not secure fertile land along the coast, or who had exhausted the land they held, found abundant refuge in the west further west. Although their difficulties were enormous, restless settlers kept coming, and as early as the 1730s they poured out into the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Soon the interior was covered with farms.

Living on the outskirts of Indian country, frontier families built cabins, cleaned tractors in the desert and cultivated corn and wheat. The men wore leather made from the skin of deer or sheep, known as pumpkin skin; the women wore cloth dresses that swirled around the house. Their food consisted of game, wild turkey and fish. They had their own parties – great barbecues, dances, events for newly married couples, shooting matches and competitions in making quilts. Blankets still remain an American tradition today.


A significant factor deterring the emergence of a powerful aristocratic or aristocratic class in the colonies was the fact that anyone in the established colony could decide to find a new home on the border. Therefore, from time to time, dominant water levels, with the threat of mass evictions at the border, were required to liberalize political policies, land-grant requirements, and religious practices. This movement to the foothills was of great importance to the future of America.

Of equal importance to the future were the foundations of American education and culture established during the colonial period. Harvard College was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The William and Mary College was established in Virginia at the end of the century. A few years later, the Collegiate School of Connecticut was founded, which would later become Yale College. But even more remarkable is the growth of the school system maintained by the state government. The Puritan emphasis on Scripture reading emphasized the importance of literacy.

In 1647, a colony in Massachusetts Bay enacted a "Satanic Deception Satan" law, requiring each city to have more than 50 families to set up a gymnasium (a Latin school that would prepare students for college). Shortly thereafter, all other New England colonies except Rhode Island followed suit.

The first settlers to New England brought their own small libraries and continued to import books from London. And since the 1680s, bookstore stores in Boston have been successfully engaged in works of classical literature, history, politics, philosophy, science, theology and capital letters. In 1639, the first printing house in the English colonies and the second in North America were set up at Harvard College.

The first school in Pennsylvania began in 1683. She taught reading, writing, and account management. Subsequently, each Quaker community has somehow provided basic learning for their children. Advanced training – in Classical Languages, History, and Literature – is offered at the Friends of the Public School, which still operates as the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia today. School was free for the poor but parents who could be paid tuition.

In Philadelphia, many private, non-religious private schools taught languages, mathematics, and the natural sciences; there were also adult night schools. Women were not completely neglected, but their educational opportunities were limited to training in home-based activities. Private teachers taught the daughters of prosperous Philadelphia people French, music, dance, painting, singing, grammar, and sometimes bookkeeping.

In the 18th century, the intellectual and cultural development of Pennsylvania reflected largely the strong personalities of two men: James Logan and Benjamin Franklin. Logan was secretary of the colony, and it was young Franklin who found the latest scientific papers in his fine library. In 1745 Logan erected a building for his collection and gave the city a curtain and buildings and books.

Franklin contributed even more to the intellectual activity of Philadelphia. He formed a debate club that became a substitute for the American Philosophical Society. His efforts also led to the founding of a public academy that later evolved into the University of Pennsylvania. He was the main driver behind the founding of the subscription library, which he called "the mother of all North American subscription libraries."

In the southern colonies, wealthy planters and merchants imported private teachers from Ireland or Scotland to teach their children. The rest sent their children to school in England. With these other options, the upper levels in the drainage basin were not interested in supporting public education. In addition, the diffusion of farms and plantations made it difficult to form community colleges. There were several endowed free schools in Virginia; Syms School was founded in 1647 and Eaton School was founded in 1659.

The desire to learn, however, did not stop at the boundaries of established communities. The Scots-Irish, on the other hand, although living in primitive cabins, were staunch devotees of learning and made great efforts to attract learned ministers to their settlements.

Literary production in the colonies was largely confined to New England. The focus here was on religious topics. Sermons were the most common products of the press. The famous Puritan minister, Reverend Cotton Mather, has written about 400 works. His masterpiece, Magnalia Christi Americana, presented the theatrical history of New England. But the most popular single act of the day was Reverend Michael Wigglesworth's long song, "Day of Doom," which described the latest verdict as frightening.

1704 Cambridge, Massachusetts, started colonies & # 39; the first successful newspaper. By 1745, 22 newspapers were published in the colonies.

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An important step in the establishment of the principle of freedom of the press took place in New York with the case of Johann Peter Zenger, whose New York Weekly Journal began in 1733 to oppose the government. Two years after the announcement, the colonial governor could no longer tolerate Zenger's satirical daggers, so he was jailed for accusing him of vicious slander. During his nine-month trial, Zenger continued to edit prison papers, sparking intense interest throughout the colonies. Andrew Hamilton, a prominent lawyer who defended Zenger, argued that the allegations Zenger had written off were true and therefore rude. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Zenger went free.

The boom of cities, fueled by fears that the devil lured society in search of world profits, produced a religious reaction in the 1730s that became known as the Great Awakening. Her inspiration came from two sources: George Whitefield, a Wesleyan revivalist who arrived from England in 1739, and Jonathan Edwards, who originally served at the Church of Congress in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Whitefield started a religious revival in Philadelphia and then moved to New England. It captivated audiences with up to 20,000 people at a time with Istrian displays, gestures and emotional oratory. Religious turmoil echoed throughout New England and the Middle Colonies as ministers left established churches to preach revival.

Among those influenced by Whitefield was Edwards, and the great awakening reached its peak in 1741 with his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Edwards did not engage in theater but preached quietly, thoughtfully. He emphasized that established churches seek to deprive Christianity of its emotional content. His magnum opus, Freedom of Will (1754), sought to reconcile Calvinism with the Enlightenment.

The great awakening has led to evangelical denominations and a spirit of revival that continue to play a significant role in American religious and cultural life. This weakened the status of an established clergy and caused believers to rely on their own consciences. Perhaps most importantly, this led to the spread of sects and denominations, which in turn encouraged a general acceptance of the principle of religious tolerance.


At all stages of colonial development, a striking feature was the lack of controlling influence by the English government. All colonies except Georgia emerged as shareholder companies or as feudal landlords derived from charters granted by the Crown. The fact that the king transferred his immediate sovereignty over New World settlements to stock companies and owners does not, of course, mean that the colonists in America were not necessarily without external control. Under Virginia Company statutes, for example, all governmental authority was vested in the company itself. Still, the Crown expected the company to be domiciled in England. The people of Virginia, then, would have no more voice in their government than if the king himself had retained absolute rule.

For their part, the colonies never thought of themselves as being served. Instead, they generally considered themselves to be a community or a state, much like England itself, which only made little contact with the authorities in London. One way or another, the exclusive rule on the outside has disappeared. The colonists – the heirs to the tradition of the Englishman's long struggle for political freedom – incorporated the concepts of freedom into Virginia's first charter. Provided that the English colonists should have exercised all their freedoms, franchises and immunities "as if they had lived and been born within this our kingdom of England." They then enjoyed the benefits of Magna Carta and the common law. In 1618, the Virginia Company issued instructions to the appointed governor, stipulating that the free plantation residents would elect representatives to join the governor and the nominating council in passing ordinances for the benefit of the colony.

These measures proved to be some of the most selective throughout the colonial period. It has since been generally accepted that colonists have the right to participate in their own government. In most cases, the King, in giving future grants, provided in the charter that the free people of the colony should have a voice in the legislation relating to them. Thus, charters granted to the Calverts in Maryland, William Penn, Pennsylvania, owners in North and South Carolina and owners in New Jersey stipulated that legislation should be enacted with the "consent of the freemen."

In New England there was for many years even more complete self-government than in the other colonies. At Mayflower, the pilgrims adopted a government instrument called the "Mayflower Compact" to "merge into a political body of a civilian body for the sake of our better regulation and preservation … , decrees, acts, constitutions and offices … which will be considered most appropriate and appropriate for the common good of the colony …. "

Although there was no legal basis for the Pilgrims to establish a system of self-government, the action was not in dispute and, under the treaty, the Plymouth settlers were able for many years to conduct their own affairs without outside interference.

A similar situation developed at Massachusetts Bay, which was given the right to operate on its own. Thus, full authority rested in the hands of those residing in the colony. At first, a dozen or so original company members who came to America tried to rule autocratically. But other colonists soon sought a voice in public affairs and indicated that rejection would lead to mass migration.

Faced with this threat, company members relented and government control passed on to elected representatives. Subsequently, other New England colonies – such as Connecticut and Rhode Island – also succeeded in becoming self-governing, simply claiming to be outside any governmental authority and then setting up their own political system modeled on pilgrims in Plymouth.

In only two cases the provision of self-government was omitted. These were New York, which was assigned to Brother Charles II, Duke of York (later to become King James II); and Georgia, which has been assigned to a "guardians" group. In both cases, the governing provisions were short-lived, as the colonists demanded legislative representation so persistently that the authorities soon relented.

Eventually, most colonies became royal colonies, but in the mid-17th century the English were too distracted by the Civil War (1642-1649) and the Puritan community and the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell to begin effective colonial policy. After the restoration of Charles II and the Stuart Dynasty in 1660, England had more opportunities to attend colonial rule. However, even then it was inefficient and lacked a coherent plan, so the colonies were largely left to their own devices.

The distance afforded by the vast ocean also made it difficult to control the colonies. Added to this is the character of early American life itself. From land-constrained and populated cities, settlers came to a land of seemingly endless reach. On such a continent, natural conditions promoted tough individualism, because people were used to making their own decisions. Government penetrated deeply into the country, and conditions of anarchy were often prevalent at the border.

Nevertheless, the assumption of self-government in the colonies did not go completely unchallenged. In the 1670s, the Lords of Commerce and Plantation, a royal committee established to enforce the mercantile system in the colonies, moved to annul the Massachusetts Bay Charter because the colony resisted government economic policy. James II in 1685 approved a proposal to create New England domination and place colonies south of New Jersey under its jurisdiction, thereby tightening the control of the Crown over the entire region. The royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros, levied taxes by executive order, carried out a number of other harsh measures and imprisoned those who resisted.

When news of the Revolution of Famous (1688-1689) overthrowing James II reached Boston, the population rebelled and imprisoned Andros. Under the new charter, Massachusetts and Plymouth were first united in 1691 as the royal colony of Massachusetts Bay. Other colonies that came under New England domination quickly reestablished their previous governments.

The glorious revolution had other positive effects on the colonies. The Rights and Tolerance Act of 1689 affirmed freedom of worship for Christians and enforced restrictions on the crown. Equally important, the second Loktat on the government of John Locke (1690) presented a theory of government not based on divine right but on contract, and argued that people, endowed with natural rights to life, liberty and property, had the right to rebel when governments violated those natural rights.

Colonial politics in the early 18th century were reminiscent of English politics in the 17th. The glorious revolution claimed the supremacy of Parliament, but the colonial governors sought to exercise power in the colonies lost by the king in England. The colonial assemblies, aware of the events in England, tried to secure their "rights" and "freedoms". By the early 18th century, the colonial authorities had two significant powers similar to those of the English Parliament: the right to vote on taxes and expenditures and the right to initiate laws, not just at the suggestion of the governor.

Legislature used these rights to test the power of royal governors and to take other measures to expand their power and influence. Repeated clashes between the governor and the assembly have acted increasingly to awaken the colonists to a disagreement between American and English interests. In many cases the royal authorities did not understand the importance of what the colonial assemblies were doing and simply ignored them. However, these acts established precedent and principles and eventually became part of the "constitution" of the colonies.

In this way, the colonial authorities established the right to self-government. Over time, the center of colonial administration moved from London to the provincial capital.


France and the United Kingdom participated in several wars in Europe and the Caribbean in the 18th century. Although Britain provided them with certain advantages – especially in the Caribbean islands rich in sugar – the fighting was largely undecided, and France remained in a powerful position in North America at the beginning of the Seven Years War in 1754.

At that time, France established a strong connection with numerous Native American tribes in Canada and along the Great Lakes, took ownership of the Mississippi River and established a large crescent-shaped empire from Quebec to New Orleans by establishing a line of forts and trading post. Thus the British were confined to the narrow belt east of the Appalachian Mountains. The French threatened not only the British Empire, but also the American colonists themselves, because, holding on to the Mississippi Valley, France could limit their spread to the west.

The armed conflict occurred in 1754 in Fort Duquesne, the site of what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between a group of French monks and Virginia soldiers under the command of 22-year-old George Washington, a planner and surveyor from Virginia.

In London, the Trade Committee tried to tackle the conflict by convening meetings in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New England colonies. From July 19 to 10, the Congress in Albany, as it is learned, met with the Iroquois in Albany, New York, to improve relations with them and ensure their loyalty to the British.

The envoys also declared the Union of the American Colonies "absolutely necessary for their preservation" and adopted the Albany Union Plan. Drafted by Benjamin Franklin, the plan provided for the president appointed by the king to act with a large council of delegates elected by the assemblies, with each colony being represented in proportion to its financial contributions to the general coffers. This body would be in charge of defense, relations in India, and trade and settlement of the west, as well as having the power to collect taxes. But none of the colonies accepted Franklin's plan, because none wanted to surrender neither the power of taxation nor control over the development of Western countries to central government.

England's superior strategic position and its competent leadership ultimately brought victory in seven years; War, just a modest part fought in the Western Hemisphere.

With the Peace of Paris, signed in 1763, France ceded all of Canada, the Great Lakes, and the upper Mississippi Valley to the British. The dream of the French Empire in North America was over. Having triumphed over France, Britain was now forced to face a problem it had so far neglected – the administration of its empire. It was crucial for London to organize its now enormous estate to facilitate defense, reconcile the differing interests of different territories and peoples, and more evenly distribute the costs of the imperial administration.

In North America alone did the British territories more than double. The vast expanse of Canada and the territory between the Mississippi River and Mount Alegni, an empire itself, was added to the narrow strip along the Atlantic coast. The population, mostly Protestant and English, now includes Quebec Catholics, and a large number of partially Christianized Indians. The defense and administration of the new territories, as well as the old ones, would require huge sums of money and increase staff. The old colonial system was clearly inappropriate for these tasks.


In 1692, a group of adolescents in Salem Village, Massachusetts, became subjected to unusual limbs after hearing stories told by a Western slave. When questioned, they accused several women of being witches who tortured them. Citizens were appalled, but not surprised: the belief in witchcraft was widespread in 17th-century America and Europe.

What happened next – albeit an isolated event in American history – provides a vivid window into the social and psychological world of Puritan New England. City officials convened the court to hear allegations of witchcraft and quickly condemned and executed the Bridget Bishop Tavern. Within a month, five more women were convicted and hanged.

However, the hysteria grew, in large part because the court allowed witnesses to testify that they saw the accused as ghosts or in sight. By their nature, such "spectral evidence" was particularly dangerous, since they could neither be verified nor subjected to objective examination. By the fall of 1692, more than 20 victims had been executed, including several men, and more than 100 others had been imprisoned – among them some of the city's most prominent citizens. But now the hysteria has threatened to extend beyond Salem, and ministers across the colony have called for an end to the trial. The governor of the colony agreed and dismissed the court. Those who are still in jail are later released or given a waiver.

The Salem witch trials have long fascinated Americans. On a psychological level, most historians agree that the village of Salem in 1692 was overpowered by a kind of public hysteria, fueled by a true belief in the existence of witchcraft. They point out that while some of the girls may have acted, many responsible adults have also gotten into a frenzy.

But a closer analysis of the identities of the accused and the accused is still revealed. Village Salem, like much of what was then colonial New England, was undergoing an economic and political transition from a largely agrarian community dominated by Puritans to a more commercial, secular society. Many of the accusers were representatives of the traditional agricultural and church-related lifestyle, while a number of accused witches belonged to a growing commercial class of small traders and merchants. Salem's obscure struggle for social and political power between older traditional groups and the more recent commercial class has been echoed in communities throughout American history. But it took a bizarre and deadly turn when citizens were swallowed by the belief that the devil was free in their homes.

The Salem Witch Trials also serve as a dramatic parable of the deadly consequences of making sensational but false accusations. Indeed, a frequent term in political debate for making false accusations against a large number of people is "witch hunt."

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