The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1700-1775.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 5.
Contrary to popular belief, there were more than thirteen British colonies in North America. There were 32, actually. But just the thirteen we know and love had the American spirit and wouldn’t take any more of Great Britain’s hogwash.
America’s population had exploded. Birth rates were almost as high as the immigration rate. We were youthful, too. Sixteen was the average age in 1775. English subjects just barely outnumbered Americans. Among the Americans were English, Germans (mostly in Pennsylvania), and Scots-Irish. They weren’t really Irish, but instead had been forced to move to Northern Ireland by the Brits. Northern Ireland was overwhelming Catholic and the Protestant Scots had a very poor reception. After the Brits put restrictions on their production of linens, they up and left for America.
The Germans and Quakers took all of the good land, so the Scots-Irish had to settle into the back-country and line the Appalachian Mountains. The Scots were a rowdy bunch and would start the Paxton Boys march in Philadelphia to protest the pro-Indian policy and the Regulator movement in North Carolina. Among them was Andrew Jackson. As was evidenced by the Scots, most of the immigrants felt no loyalty towards the British crown.
America was quickly becoming the most diverse place in the world. Europeans intermingled and soon a breed was born: the European-American. The slave trade had mixed many different tribes together and produced a wholly new creation of the African American. The tribes of Indians also got mixed up and the lines of tribal identity blurred.
Most Americans were modest, small farmers or artisans, having slowly climbed up the ladder. Even a former indentured servant could make it big in America. But as battlefields heated up, a new elite class of military suppliers sprung up. In such places as Boston and Philly, the top 10% would own two-thirds of the city’s wealth. War also widowed women and orphaned children, both of whom who come to depend on charity.
In New England, farms shrank as they were divided and divided again. The sons of the original settlers wanted land to farm, but it was no where to be found. Most became laborers or sought land in the Ohio Valley. In the South, just a few rich landowners owned the majority of the slaves, while the rest of the white farmers suffered greatly. Coming over from England were crowds of criminals, most of whom were unjustly punished but found great prosperity in the New World.
Blacks, of course, had no chance of redemption. In most places, like South Carolina in 1760, laws were passed and vetoed which would’ve stopped the slave importation and the chance of a slave revolt. Slave traders continued to benefit from the British vetoes.
Most ministers were well-respected and well-trained. Many of today’s current Ivy League colleges were set up in order to train preachers. The physicians of this age, however, were not. Most believed that bleeding via leaches would solve everything. Smallpox and diphtheria were extremely contagious in America. Lawyers had absolutely no respect and most believed them to be losers. Not much different than today.
Most people made money off of agriculture, tobacco still being the biggest seller in Maryland and Virginia. Wheat production was stepped in the Bay area as tobacco left the soil ravaged without much else to grow. Up in New England, fishing was huge as European Catholic countries gobbled it up. Food and forest products were also shipped down to the West Indies for a huge profit. From the West Indies, gold, sugar, and oranges traveled to Europe, who would sent industrial goods to be sold in America. The textbook then says some bullshit about the triangular trade. OK.
There was very little manufacturing besides household goods. Skilled laborers and craftsmen were in high demand. Lumbering was the biggest manufacturing activity. Very high trees were restricted for use as masts on British naval ships. Colonial stores selling tar and rosin were also vital to the Navy. But soon, American goods were going unsold in Britain. The only answer was to look into foreign markets.
The Americans tried their damndest to sell to foreign markets, but it couldn’t be done. At least, not while the British were still ruling over them. Most of the tobacco sent to Britain would find its way all around Europe, Britain being the supplier and making major profit. GB them passed the Molasses Act in 1733, which prohibited merchants from selling to the French West Indies. Bribery and smuggling was commonplace as many disregarded the new laws.
Traveling from one place to another was a problem in colonial America. Roads, made in America during the 1700s, were a pathetic excuse and most people relied on waterways. Cities surrounded rivers and taverns became popular for political discussion. The postal service, in its infancy, was wretched and to pass the time, most carriers read the letters they were supposed to deliver.
There were only two established, tax-supported churches: Anglican (the Church of England) and Congregational. Most people didn’t belong to either. The Anglican Church was mostly just a puppet for the English crown, but also was full of corruption. The College of William and Mary was set up to change that, though ministers still had to travel to England to be ordained. The Congregation Church sprang from the Puritans and was popular in every New England colony ‘cept Rogue Island. From their pulpit, most Congregational ministers denounced the British crown and set the foundation for a rally for revolution.
Religious toleration was also pretty popular, except for Roman Catholics. But, for the most part, you could do what you pleased.
But still, colonial Christianity was faltering in the early 1700s due to the complex doctrines and church memberships that made people jump through hoops. The first opposition to the idea of predestination came with the Dutch Reform idea of freewill. The Great Awakening began in the 1730s and 1740s with help from Johnathan Edwards, who insisted that good deeds were the key to salvation, but unbaptized kids still went to hell. Up next came George Whitefield, a great orator whose PR team was top-notch. He went on a religious revival tour of the colonies and was imitated long afterwards.
The Great Awakening had revitalized American religion and led to many conversions of the remaining Indians and many of the black slaves. It also had the significant effect of knocking down barriers and bringing people together. This would be key in the fight for independence.
With colleges sprouting up all over the place, education became a big deal. Back over in England, it was reserved for an elite few. Puritans emphasized that worshipers to read the Bible on their own, something unheard of before. Primary and secondary schools became very popular, though farm labor limited the time in class. In the South, most wealthy families opted for private tutors as a conventional school system was impossible. Schools focused on religion and dead languages like Latin and Greek. Colleges were reserved for men going into the ministry.
No one quite knows How Ben Franklin ended up on the $100 bill
The art and culture of the colonies was chiefly British. But as America changed, so did its tastes. Most portrait artists were out of work and had to go abroad to find customers. The log cabin actually originated in Sweden. Literature was also important as Wheatley impressed with her poems and Benjamin Franklin, with his Poor Richard’s Almanack. Franklin also invented the titular stove and the lightning rod.
Most Americans were too poor or too busy to read books. Pamphlets and newspapers, on the other hand, were pure gold. Columns varied from overseas news delivered weeks after the facts to rallying opposition to the British. In 1734, John Peter Zanger, a prominent printer, got in trouble with the law after writing a nasty editorial about the royal governor of New York. Defended by Andrew Hamilton, Zanger was acquitted and a great victory for freedom of speech and liberty was won. As a result, newspapers began to print more and more criticisms.
Most colonies had a bicameral (two-house) legislative body: the upper-house and the lower-house. The upper-house was either appointed by the crown, or if it was in a self-governing colony, voted in by the people. The lower-house was also elected. Governors appointed by the king were usually unfit for the job, namely Lord Cornbury, yet another New York governor who dressed in women’s clothing. The colonial assemblies held great power over the governors. They would hold back his salary until he gave into their wishes. Back in London, no one really cared what happened.
In the South, county-style government ruled supreme while in New England, town-meeting government was all the rage with its direct democracy. But to vote, you still had to be of a certain religion or own land. It wasn’t a true democracy, but it was a helluva lot better than Europe at that time.
While the lives of the colonists might seem glamorous, they weren’t. Most houses didn’t have running water and garbage disposals were horrid. Horse racing was popular in the South and –goddamnit, we almost made through an entire chapter without mention of him– “George Washington, not surprisingly, was a superb rider.” Hop off for once, textbook! And I love that ‘not surprisingly’ was thrown in there too. Oh of course Washington could ride a horse well, just like he could undo a bra one-handed. Come on!
Lotteries were popular ways to raise money for churches and colleges. Plays were admired by many in the South, but forbidden in the North. Christmas was never celebrated in New England as Thanksgiving was the big hoopla. But even with all these differences, the colonies were mostly the same. They were all self-governing and had made it in the New World on their own. This would bind them together in their fight for independence.