The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1500-1733
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 2.
Heading into the 1600s, North America was like that gauche kid that no one likes. But suddenly, three jocks– Stevie Spain, Freddy France, and Eddie England decided to take North America under their wing and make it cool.
Eddie and Stevie were originally great friends. They had been allies for the first 500 years of the millennium, but when King Henry VIII left Catholicism and started the Protestant Reformation, they refused to talk with each other. Ireland was being oppressed by England and looked to fellow Catholic Spanish to help. But Spain’s efforts of aid were halfass and England quickly crushed an uprising in the 1570s and 80s. The English soldiers held much contempt for the natives and would later take that anger over to the New World.
Queen Elizabeth, head of England, was not to be messed with. She encouraged English buccaneers to plunder and rape the Spanish, though they were at peace. One such scoundrel, Francis Drake, traveled around the world, stealing Spanish goods. When he returned, he was knighted by Lizzie herself. The English soon moved their sights to a North American colony.
Their first attempt in Newfoundland in 1583 ended quickly when Humphrey Gilbert got horribly lost. The quest for colonization quickly turned into an episode of a soap opera when Gilbert’s half-brother, Walter, tried again in a warmer climate. The first English settlement was on Roanoke Island in 1587, off the coast of Virginia, named for the virgin Queen Elizabeth. Alas, the settlement vanished mysteriously as the inhabitants likely resorted to cannibalism, sodomy, and/or just ran off to join the Native Americans.
Compared to the Spanish colonies, the English sucked. Spain got tried of the English Protestant movement and mounted an armada in 1588 to invade. On their way, a massive storm obliterated them and soon after, the Spanish lost control of Holland and the Caribbean. The English had gained a new-found nationalist spirit and were in the right place at the right time to make an empire.
England was amongst the most populous nations in the late 1500s. A crippling economic depression hit the woolen markets and with an English law that stated only elder sons could inherit their father’s lands, younger sons were forced to go west. England secured peace with Spain in 1604, which gave them free rein for colonization, and high unemployment meant loads of workers. Companies were then set up in order to fund the adventures to the New World.
Like the Spanish before them, the first stable English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 was driven by aspirations of gold and wealth. The Virginia Company, which set up the settlement, had hoped that the colonists would be able to find a way directly from Jamestown to the Indies. The first colonists were guaranteed English citizens’ rights, which, at the time, was totally rad. However, 150 years later, these rights went un-granted and it left us with no choice but to form our own country.
Jamestown went pretty badly. Many died on the ship ride over and once on land, many others died from diseases like malaria or just plain starvation. Instead of fishing in the plentiful rivers or hunting game, most colonists spent time lookin’ for gold! Thankfully, Mr. Badass himself, Captain John Smith, took over in 1608 and turned the settlement around.
Smith had had relations with Pocahontas, a powerful chief’s daughter, who would later act as a medium for peace between the Powhatan tribe and the Virginians. Even with the BAMF in town, the colonists refused to stop dying. Out of 400 original colonists, only 60 survived to see 1610. And wouldn’t ya know it, just when they were about to leave that godforsaken place in the spring of 1610, their new governor, Lord De La Warr, and the long awaited relief party comes to town and orders them to stay put.
The Powhatans were extremely powerful. They pretty much ruled over every other tribe in the area. The Virginians stupidly thought that all Native Americans were Powhatans. At first, they had wanted to join arms with the English to fight Indian enemies. However, after the starving colonists stole bunches of Powhatan food, the time for peace was over.
De La Warr quickly launched an offensive against the Indians, using Irish tactics, with which he led his men to destroy everything in sight and torch every piece of Indian farm land. Peace was finally attained in 1614, which was sealed by Pocahontas’ marriage to John Rolfe, who would start the massive tobacco industry.
The Indians struck back in 1622 and after a series of attacks, nearly 350 settlers were left dead including that guy we just met, John Rolfe. The English decided that they didn’t want a peace or a truce. They just wanted the Native Americans to all be slaughtered. After a string of raids, another war commenced in 1644, in which the Native Americans made one last futile attempt to kill off the English.
A peace treaty was made after all in 1646 and the Native Americans were forever banished from the Chesapeake area. Their numbers continued to dwindle after falling victim to disease, disorganization, and disposability (they weren’t good for anything).
While the Native Americans would all eventually suffer the same fate as the Powhatans, in the meantime, things were great. Escaped Spanish horses and firearms led many tribes, namely the Sioux, to move into the Great Plains and develop a new life as nomadic hunters. Yet, the diseases that the Europeans brought over wiped out entire histories of tribes. They also struggled to stay afloat in the vast new Atlantic economy.
By far, the Native Americans by the Atlantic coast had it the worst. Indians that were more in-land had time to get used to the Europeans, while the Atlantic Natives were lost in translation. While the Europeans settlers were still in small numbers, they had to resort to more native ways if they wanted goods like pelts by taking an Indian wife, which created a middle ground. Once more settlers came, no one really cared about the natives anymore.
Virginia first became famous for tobacco. Rolfe jump started this industry in 1612. The plant was addicting (obviously), but it was murder to the soil when planted year-after-year and quickly became Virginia’s sole cash crop.
The first African slaves sold in the America came from a Dutch ship to Jamestown in 1619. At first, the black slaves were too expensive for most settlers to own, though by the end of the century, 14% of Virginia’s population were African slaves. Also in 1619, Virginia formed their representative government with an assembly called the House of Burgesses. King James I hated this rinky-dink operation and destroyed the charter of the Virginia Company, which turned Virginia into a royal colony.
Maryland, the second plantation colony, was founded in 1634 by Catholic Lord Baltimore. He set out to reclaim English Catholicism and make the big bucks. Baltimore encouraged colonists to come, saying that they would be offered the opportunity to gain land. Then ol’ Balty gave huge land grants to Catholic relatives and friends alike, while giving Protestants small backcountry areas. By using cheap labor, they were able to capitalize on the tobacco crop and with freedom of worship, everyone was wishing they were in Maryland.
But as the Protestant population rose in Maryland, tensions rose as well. The Act of Tolerance in 1649 guaranteed the freedom of worship to all Christians, conveniently leaving out Jews and atheists.
With the Atlantic coast all but taken care of, England moved down to the West Indies and began to colonize there. They quickly acquired Jamaica in 1655 and began to harvest sugar like nobody’s business. In contrast to tobacco, which could be planted easily and became marketable within a year, the planting of sugar was extensive and needed to be commercial in order to get returns.
Those who were able to plant sugar became rich and used the money to buy hoards of African slaves. By 1700, there were more slaves than white settlers. Many laws including the Barbados Slave Code of 1661, which gave complete control to the master over the slave, where made to keep down the rising number of black men. When a group of lowly sugar farmers moved to Carolina, the Barbados Slave Code traveled with them and soon became law everywhere in English North America.
Back home in England, civil war erupted in the 1640s. Oh wait, you say, I thought we were in the 1660s! Guess again, retorts our textbook. Anywho, King Charlie I got rid of Parliament in 1629 and then brought it back in 1640, only to be met with loads of anger. Oliver Cromwell beheaded Charlie in 1649, though Charles II, his son, was back in power by 1660.
Carolina was soon formed in the name of Charles II and became huge for producing foodstuffs, both for the West Indies and the homeland. As mentioned before, slaves were brought to Carolina, it being a northern post of the West Indies. Slave trade erupted as both Indian and African alike were working side-by-side. The Native Americans hoped to escape to Pennsylvania, where they could be granted asylum, but the Carolinians got to them first and killed most of them in 1710.
Above all else, rice was huge in Carolina. The African slaves could work the fields far better than the Indians, having immunity to malaria. Charleston quickly became the busiest port in North America. Although the slavery was ripe, Carolinians did enjoy religious freedom.
The Catholic Spaniards down in Florida didn’t like that. The Spanish teamed up with Native Americans in an attempt to kick out the English to no avail. The other Carolina, the North one, sprung up after poor, non-denominational farmers moved there in hopes of making it rich. They actually had no legal right to the soil, but it’s also good to know that they didn’t use slaves… at first.
But eventually, North Carolina began to open their doors to pirates and regular ol’ Carolina saw North Carolina as white trash. They separated in 1712 and each became a royal colony. Before their split, the South had helped the North fight off a band of Indians in 1711. The last Native American struggle on the Atlantic coast came in 1720. The Indians finally got the message and G(ot)TFO.
Georgia was Johnny-come-lately and was set up as a buffer to protect the important Carolinas from the Spaniards in Florida and the French in Louisiana (FAST!). Georgia was also set up as a haven for debtors and they were determined to keep slaves out. That last part didn’t last for too long. Everyone except for Catholics enjoyed religious tolerance. John ‘City Upon a Hill’ Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, actually got his start here. Good for him! Any more bagatelles, textbook?
To sum up the thirteen colonies: cash crops became a staple and determined the outcome of the colony. Tobacco and rice were huge. Slavery was found in every plantation colony, which included Maryland, Virginia, North & South Carolina, and Georgia. Finally, it was hard to set up churches and schools due to the immense scattering of farms and towns.