US History/English Colonies

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Types of Colonies[edit]

In America, there were three different types of colonies. First, corporate colonies were established by corporations known as "joint stock companies". A joint stock company was a project in which people would invest shares of stock into building a new colony. Depending on the success of the colony, each investor would receive profit based on the shares he bought. This method of investing proved to be less risky than starting a colony from scratch, and in the process each investor could have some influence on how the colony was run. For example, these investors often elected their own public officials.

Meanwhile, proprietary colonies were owned by a person or family, who could make laws and appoint officials as he or they pleased. Finally, royal colonies were under the direct control of the King, who usually appointed a Royal Governor.

Massachusetts Bay Colony[edit]

Meanwhile, the English had their own problems with religious tension. The Pilgrims, a radical group of Protestants faced persecution because they disagreed with the official Church of England. In 1620, forty-one Pilgrims sailed for the new world. Based on numerous contemporary accounts, it is quite clear that the Pilgrims originally intended to settle the Hudson River region near present day Long Island, New York. Once Cape Cod was sighted, they turned south to head for the Hudson River, but encountered treacherous seas and nearly shipwrecked. They then decided to return to Cape Cod rather than risk another attempt to head south. After weeks of scouting for a suitable settlement area, the Mayflower's passengers finally landed at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts on December 26, 1620.

Passengers of the Mayflower signing the "Mayflower Compact"

They agreed to govern themselves in the manner set forth in the Mayflower Compact, which was named for the Pilgrims' ship, The Mayflower. After two years they abandoned the communal form of partnership begun under the Mayflower Compact and in 1623 assigned individual plots of land to each family to work. William Bradford, who was selected as a governor after the death of John Carver, wrote a journal that helps us to better understand the hardships colonists endured, encounters with the Native Americans, and ultimately, the success of the colony.

Ten years later, the Massachusetts Bay Company, a joint stock company, acquired a charter from King Charles of England. The colony of Plymouth was eventually absorbed by Massachusetts Bay, but it did remain separate until 1691.

A large group of Puritans migrated to the new colony of Massachusetts Bay. The colony, ironically, did not provide religious freedom. It only permitted male Puritans to vote and established Puritan ideas as part of the official religion of the colony (The Act of Toleration).

New Netherland[edit]

New Netherland (Dutch: Nieuw-Nederland), was the territory on the eastern coast of North America in the 17th century which stretched from latitude 38 to 45 degrees north as originally discovered by the Dutch East India Company with the yacht Halve Maen, or "Half Moon" under the command of Henry Hudson in 1609 and explored by Adriaen Block and Hendrick Christiaensz from 1611 until 1614. In March of 1614 the States General, the governing body of the Seven United Netherlands, proclaimed it would grant an exclusive patent for trade in the New World. This monopoly would be valid for 4 voyages, all of which had to be undertaken within 3 years after the patent was awarded. The States General issued patents for the development of New Netherland as a private commercial venture. Soon after traders built Ft. Nassau in the area of present day Albany. The fort was built to defend the river traffic against interlopers and to conduct trading operations with Natives. New Netherland became a province of the Dutch Republic in 1624. At that time the northern border was reduced to 42 degrees north in acknowledgment of the inevitable intrusion of the English north of Cape Cod.

According to the Law of Nations, a claim on a territory required not only discovery and charting, but also settlement. In May 1624 the Dutch completed their claim by landing 30 Dutch families on Noten Eylant, modern Governors Island.

Over the next few decades New Netherland was run by less than adequate directors-general. Wars with the Native Americans erupted, and conflicts with the English seemed destined to destroy the colony. All of that changed when Peter Stuyvesant was appointed Director-General in 1647. As he arrived he said "I shall govern you as a father his children". He expanded the colonies borders, conquering New Sweden in 1655 and resolved the border dispute with New England in 1650. He improved defenses to protect the colonists against Native American raids, and the population of the colony went from 500 in 1640, to 9,000 by 1664. In August of 1664, four English warships arrived in New York Harbor demanding the surrender of the colony. At first, Stuyvesant vowed to fight for the colony, but he received little support from the colonists due to lack of ammunition and gunpowder, thus, he was forced to surrender. This event would spark the Second Anglo-Dutch War in which, the Dutch captured Suriname. Both sides kept the territory they had captured following the treaty.

The Remaining Colonies[edit]

In an attempt to gain supremacy over trade, and in following mercantilist ideas, the English waged war against the Dutch in 1664. The English took control over the Dutch harbor of New Amsterdam on the Atlantic coast of America. James, the brother of King Charles II, received the charter for New Amsterdam and the surrounding Dutch territory. James granted a portion of the territory, present-day New Jersey, to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Cartaret. James retained present-day New York for himself as a proprietary colony.

In 1634, Lord Baltimore appointed George Calvert of England to settle Maryland, a narrow strip of land north of Virginia and south of Pennsylvania, as a Catholic colony via a royal charter. Fifteen years later, in 1649, he signed the Act of Toleration, which proclaimed religious freedom for its colonists, among whom Protestants would become the majority despite the original charter. After Lord Baltimore's death several years later, Margaret Brent, the wife of an esteemed landowner in Maryland, executed his will as governor of the colony. She defied gender roles in the colonies by being the first woman of non-royal heritage to govern an English colony.

In 1673 the Dutch, lead by Michiel de Ruyter, briefly reoccupied New Netherland again, this time naming it New Orange. After peace was made, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War, they agreed to return it back to the English.

At the other end of the Eastern Seaboard, the territory of Carolina was granted as a proprietary colony to eight different nobles. The proprietors divided Carolina into two separate colonies- North and South Carolina.

Charles II also granted William Penn the territory now known as Pennsylvania. Penn granted refuge to Quakers, a group of millenialist Protestants who opposed the Church of England, in his new colony. Penn was an outspoken Quaker and had written many pamphlets defending the Quaker faith. But the people of Delaware, who were mostly non-Quakers, separated from Pennsylvania in 1704.

The charter for Georgia, the last of the thirteen original colonies, was granted to James Oglethorpe and others in 1732. Georgia was first established as a "buffer" colony to protect the other colonies from attacks from the Spanish in Florida, as well as the French in Louisiana. Many of its original settlers were convicts. Because of this, Georgia was the only colony to receive funds from England at the outset. Oglethorpe's goal was to provide Georgia as a place where debtors from England could regain financial standing.

Differences between the colonies[edit]

The Colonies are often grouped into three groups: New England (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut), The Southern Colonies (Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia), and the Middle Colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware). Sometimes the Carolinas and Georgia are separated from the Chesapeake Colonies.

There were differences in the the colonies' economy. New England had small farms and focused on fishing, forestry, shipping, and small industry to make money. Since New England did not have good soil, their agricultural opportunities were limited.[1]

The South had large plantation farms that grew tobacco and later cotton. Farms in the Carolinas also farmed sugar, rice and indigo. In the 17th century, these were farmed by indentured servants, people who would work for a period of years in return for passage to America and land. Many of these servants would die before their indentures ended. In 1676, their was a rebellion of indentured servants known as Bacon's Rebellion. After Bacon's Rebellion, plantations began using African slaves instead. By the American Revolution, one in five colonists was an African slave.

The Middle Colonies had medium-sized farms. These colonies also had people from many different cultures with many different beliefs. This is often known as "the middle way in the middle colonies".[2]

Another difference between the three regions was religious practices. New England was mostly Congregationalist, the South was mostly Anglican, and the Middle Colonies had people from all different types of religions.

All three regions were tied to the Atlantic economy. Atlantic merchants used ships to trade slaves, tobacco, rum, sugar, gold, silver, spices, fish, lumber, and manufactured goods between America, the West Indies, Europe and Africa.[3] New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston were the largest cities and main ports at that time.[4]

Revolution in England[edit]

Ever since the "Magna Carta" England had an unusual form of government where the power of Parliament was balanced against that of the king (Parliament was originally just the major noblemen in England). In the mid seventeenth century this division of powers resulted in the English Civil War. The Civil War was also fought because of disagreements in England (and the rest of Britain) over religion between Anglicans (people who belonged to the Church of England), Congregationalists (also known as Puritans), Presbyterians, and Catholics.

In 1637, King Charles I attempted to expand the influence of the Church of England to Scotland. The Scots, who were mostly Presbyterian, did not take this action kindly, and attacked the north of England. The King, in order to raise funds, summoned Parliament. Parliament, on the basis of many unresolved grievances regarding personal rights while also favoring a non-military solution, opposed the King and tried to increase its own power. Charles's unsuccessful attempt to bypass parliament, by using an Irish Catholic army on Scottish Protestants, further incensed the Parliamentarians. Many of the people in Parliament who opposed Charles were Puritans known as Roundheads.

The Puritan Oliver Cromwell overthrew the King and ruled England as "Lord Protector" in the 1650s.

Eventually, by 1642, hostilities between some members of Parliament and the King were so great that armed conflict became unavoidable. The Parliament, supported by the Scots, won the Civil War in 1646, when King Charles surrendered. Parliament gained assurances of royal restraint, but the Army remained unsatisfied. War broke out again in 1648, the Army being led by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell.

Charles settled his disputes with Scotland and allied himself with them. But Cromwell defeated the Scottish Army, and had Charles beheaded in 1649. Under a new written constitution called the "Instrument of Government" Cromwell was appointed as head of state for life or "Lord Protector" in 1653. England was governed by a mixture of parliaments and military councils until Cromwell's death in 1658. He was succeeded as head of state by his son, Richard who was removed by the army after seven months. Immediately afterwards there was an attempted military coup but General George Monck's English army in Scotland marched to London to save Parliament. Parliament re-established the monarchy under Charles II in 1660 but after the civil war, Parliament had become the true power in England.

Friction continued between the monarchy and Parliament throughout the seventeenth century and the overthrow of the Catholic James II in England in the "Glorious Revolution" cemented Parliament's power and was accompanied by the "English Bill of Rights" in 1689 which is in some respects a forerunner of the US Constitution. Freeborn Englishmen had ceased to be subject to the absolute power of a monarch but the colonies did not always share this privilege. The balance of power between the government and freeborn citizens, known as a social contract, was summed up by John Locke in an essay he wrote called the Second Treatise on Civil Government (1689).

Large numbers of the more extreme elements found their way to the Colonies both before and after the Civil War. The colonies were settled by Congregationalists in New England, Anglicans in New York and Virginia, Catholics in Maryland, and Presbyterians on the frontier. Even small, more millennialist religions such as the Quakers found their way to the colonies.

Though the American Revolution was still more than a century away, these and other consequences of the English Civil War caused the build-up in revolutionary sentiments.

Early Technology[edit]

In the latter part of the 1700s went from mainly using draft animals to machine based manufacturing. Textile industries and mechanization were the first forms of this new technology. Different techniques of iron making were also invented and the burning of coal made this possible.

Mercantilism, Salutary Neglect and British Interference[edit]

The colonists sincerely believed that they had the right to govern themselves, being separated from Britain by an ocean and having founded an entirely new society. Such ideas were encouraged by the Glorious Revolution and 1689 Bill of Rights, which established that Parliament and not the King had the ultimate authority in government. Slowly, as interference from the Crown increased, the colonists felt more and more resentful about British control over the colonies.


The reason that Parliament placed controls on colonial trade was due to a belief in a policy called mercantilism. Mercantilism was an economic idea that a nation's power depended on the value of its exports. Under the idea of mercantilism, a nation could establish colonies to help produce more goods which were then exported, increasing the strength of the nation. Essentially, mercantilists believed that colonies should have been established not for the benefit of settlers, but for the benefit of the home country. This policy was put forth by a Frenchman named Jean-Baptiste Colbert and was adopted by many colonial powers.

The Parliament of England passed the Navigation Acts to increase the benefit the English derived from its colonies. Firstly, the Acts required that any colonial imports or exports travel only on ships registered in England. Also, the colonies were forbidden to export tobacco and sugar to any nation other than England. Furthermore, the colonies could not import anything manufactured outside England unless the goods were first taken to England, where taxes were paid, and then to the colonies.

Of course, many colonists resented the Navigation Acts because it regulated them more and reduced opportunities for profit. The English, they felt, profited, while the hard-working colonists lost potential wealth!

The Lords of Trade[edit]

In an attempt to enforce mercantilist policies, King Charles II created the Lords of Trade as a new committee on the Privy Council. The Lords of Trade attempted to affect the government of the colonies in a manner beneficial to the English, rather than to the colonists.

The Lords of Trade, in an attempt to gain more power, attempted to convert all American colonies to royal ones. Under King James II, the successor to Charles II, New York, New Jersey, and the Puritan colonies were combined into the Dominion of New England in 1687.

However, the Dominion would not last for much time. In England, King James II, a Catholic, was seen as a danger by Protestants. James was overthrown (he was technically held abdicated by Parliament) in the bloodless Glorious Revolution of 1688. In 1689, James' daughter Mary II and her husband William III took the throne as joint rulers. William and Mary dismantled the Dominion of New England, dissolved the Lords of Trade (which William replaced with a Board of Trade, which was an advisory body), and reestablished the various separate colonies.

Navigation Acts and the end of salutary neglect[edit]

In the 1730s, the Parliament began to pass laws regulating the Americas. The Sugar Act established a tax of six pence per gallon of sugar or molasses imported into the colonies. By 1750, Parliament had begun to ban, restrict, or tax several more products. It tried to curtail all manufacture in the the colonies. This provoked much anger among the colonists, despite the fact that their tax burdens were quite low, when compared to most subjects of European monarchies of the same period. Prior to the mid-1700s, the colonies had enjoyed a long period of "salutary neglect", where the British largely let the colonies govern themselves.

The Economy, Slavery, and Colonial Expansion[edit]

From the middle of the seventeenth century to the start of the Civil War, commercial agriculture was intimately associated with different types of servitude. During the colonial period, slaves grew much of the tobacco in Virginia and the Carolinas, rice in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia, and sugar on the Caribbean islands. During the same period, tens of thousands of British men and women were imported to the American colonies, especially to Virginia and the Carolinas, as indentured servants, or as punishment for lawbreaking. Even after release from indenture, many of these white people remained in the economic lower classes, though not subject to the slave codes, which became more harsh as time passed, denying almost all liberty to slaves in the southern colonies. Neither southerners, who used slaves as field laborers and servants, nor northerners, who supplied slaves and food to the southern and Caribbean plantations and consumed the products of slave labor, questioned the economic value of slavery.

Among the whites sent to the colonies by English authorities were many Scots-Irish people from Ulster. Known for hardiness, combativeness and harsh Calvinist religious beliefs, Scots-Irish settled in the frontier region of the Appalachian Mountains and eventually beyond in the Ohio and Mississippi country. Though the Scots-Irish had been at odds with England back home, in America their desire for land and freedom pushed the colonial boundary westward at little cost to the government, and provided an armed buffer between the eastern settlements and Native American tribes which had been driven away from the seaboard. Colonial frontiersmen endured a very harsh life, building their towns and farms by hand in a dense wilderness amid economic deprivation and native attack.

American Theater[edit]

Popularity of musical theater began to rise in the 1730's in America. Charleston, South Carolina and Williamsburg, Virginia were early hubs for the musical activity. Professional European performers started to travel to America to educate and perform. Theater performances were the most popular, but performances were also held in concert halls.

Indians in the 1700s[edit]

Indians of the Great Plains:

Today, the area where the Indians of the Great Plains lived is located from the Rocky mountains to the Mississippi River. During the 1700s, there were about 30 tribes that lived on the Great Plains. These tribes tended to rely on buffalo as their food source as well as other daily needs, such as clothing. Not only did Indians, specifically women, make their clothing out of buffalo, but also out of deer. Women would soak the deer or buffalo and scrape off the hair of the dead animal.[5]

Also, Indian tribes traded with one another. The amount of horses an individual owned was a sign of wealth; Indians would trade their horses for food, tools, weapons(such as guns), and hides. Since the tribes spoke many different languages from one another, they had to use sign language to be able to trade with each other.[5]

Philadelphia Election Riot[edit]

A riot broke out on election day in Philadelphia in 1742 as a result of the Anglican population disagreeing with the Quaker majority. The riot stemmed over a power struggle between the Anglican and Quaker population. The Quakers had a history of political dominance over Philadelphia. The German population backed the Quaker vote because of the Quaker Pacifism which would protect from higher taxes and ultimately the draft. On election day, the Anglicans and sailors fought with the Quakers and Germans. The Quakers were able to seek shelter in the courthouse and complete the election. The Anglican party lost the election and 54 sailors were jailed following the riot.


Schools in the 1600s were divided up into three types. There were Latin grammar schools for the those who were headed to leadership roles, a school for those who were going into a specific trade, and a school for those who were not college bound or going into politics.

The most preliminary form of public education was in existence in the 1600s in the New England colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. The only thing that would have them doubting educating the children would be religious reasons. The first public supported school in the United States was the Boston Latin School in 1635. Harvard was the first university at this time. Due to how hard the curriculum was in the Boston Latin School, attendance was very low. The Chesapeake families schooling was different. Their schooling was no plan at all. The Chesapeake-born children could only read and write if their parents could. In the small towns of New England, schools were established because they had a low population. Boys and girls were taught basic reading by their parents, and then boys could go on to learn writing and eventually arithmetic and Latin.Secondary schools were very rare outside of major towns, like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.[6]

The South had few schools, of any kind, until the Revolutionary era. Children who were brought up in wealthy families would study with private tutors, the middle class children would learn to read from their parents, and many poor children, as well as all black children, went unschooled. The literacy rates were quite lower in the south than the north. This remained true until about the 19th century.[7]

In 1701, the Collegiate College was founded. In 1718 it was renamed to Yale College. In 1861 they became the first school to award the Ph.D, in the Arts and Sciences.[8] In the 1700s, the English Grammar Schools were built. They demanded for a secondary education that would provide practical instruction in many subjects, from navigation to engineering to bookkeeping and foreign languages. In Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1774, there were a few schools, however many parents taught their children to read and write using the Bible and a hornbook, similar to our modern day clipboard. Men prided themselves based on their level of education and their intellectual connections to Europe. Many had been tutored by private tutors, hired by their families, or gone to school in Europe or America. (Harvard was the first colonial college, founded in 1636, then joined by William and Mary in 1693, Yale in 1701, and later by several others including Princeton in 1747.) Now because getting the opportunity to go to school was very thin, boys entered college as young as 14 or 15 years old. In the seventeenth century, only aspiring clergymen attended college, studying a curriculum based on ancient languages and theology. All of these colleges were for strictly white men. Some colleges experimented with admitting Native American students in the 18th century, but not African Americans. Colleges faculties were generally very small at this time. They would consist of the College president, one or two professors and several tutors (graduate students who earned their stay by teaching the underclassmen.) All students would go to school for about 3 to 4 years. In the 18th century, astronomy, physics, modern history and politics took a bigger place in the college curriculum. In the mid 18th century, a majority of American college graduates became Protestant clergymen. Now towards the end of the colonial period, law became another choice for graduates. At this time apprenticeships were also available. Apprenticeships are a part of Vocational Education. Apprentices usually taught trades to the boys and sewing to the girls, as well as reading and religious knowledge. But many children would learn the trades or sewing from their parents or employers.[9]

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, several states had their own constitutions and there were sections in them that had information pertaining to education. But Thomas Jefferson had the thought that education should be left up to the government. He believed that education should not have a religious bias in it and believed that it should be free to all people not matter what their social status was. It was still very hard to make the concept of public schools easy for people to accept because of the vast number of people who were immigrating, the many different political views, and the different levels of economic difficulties.

The number of students who went to high school during this time was very little because the material that was being taught was very skilled specific and hard. The need for skilled workers was high, so Benjamin Franklin found this to be the time to start a different type of high school. The American Academy was founded in Philadelphia in 1751. The American high school soon took over the Latin grammar school.

During this period colonists attempted to convert Native Americans to Christianity.[10]

A law was passed in 1657 in Massachusetts that stated that if more than 50 families lived in a community, a schoolteacher must be hired.

Education became mandatory in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642. Most of the schools opened in the colonial era were private.[11]

Review Questions[edit]

  1. Why did the British interfere with the colonies?


  1. Morison, Samuel Eliot (1972). The Oxford History of the American People. New York City: Mentor. pp. 199–200. ISBN 0451-62600-1. 
  2. Kennedy, David; Lizabeth Cohen and Thomas A. Bailey (2006). The American Pageant (13th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 061847906. 
  3. Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. New York: Walker. ISBN 0-8027-1326-2. 
  4. U.S. Census Bureau. "Earliest Population Figures for American Cities". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  5. a b Englar, Mary. The Great Plains Indians: Daily Life in the 1700s. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2006. Print.
  6. A People and a Nation Eighth Edition
  7. A People and a Nation, Eighth Edition
  8. A People and a Nation, Eighth Edition
  9. A People and a Nation, Eighth Edition

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