lunes, 4 de abril de 2011


Colonial America


Viewed today, the process of colonization and settlement of North America was an invasion of territory that had been controlled and settled for centuries by the indigenous population. The arrival of the Europeans constituted an intrusion, which, in the long term, the American Indians were unable to resist.

Main Reasons of Colonization and Settlement:

Ø      The Europeans were initially drawn to America to acquire wealth and to establish new homes. European sovereigns rushed to claim as much territory as possible in order to found settlements on the territory.
Ø      English colonial policy promoted domestic industry, foreign trade, fisheries, and shipping by establishing colonial settlements in the New World and exploiting its resources through commercial companies
Ø      The growing urge to colonize was due to a number of factors, which included international rivalry and the propagation of religion - a desire to convert the indigenous inhabitants of America to Christianity. There were also increasing numbers of religious and political dissenters who were seeking refuge, and individuals looking for adventure and new opportunities, and who wanted to own land. The main impulse behind colonization, however, was to make profit in the New World.


Ø      European countries engaged in the system of mercantilism. This meant state control and intervention, and the regulation of economic activities in the colonies. The aim was to accumulate wealth for the European powers at the colonies' expense. The colonies supplied food for themselves (auto supply) and their role was to produce raw materials and food for the metropolis, and to provide a market for it. Industrial activities were forbidden in the colonies in order to make them dependable on the exports of the metropolis.
Ø      The degree of colonial control exerted depended on the nation and on the period. In the initial settlements, English control over the colonies was minimal. However, as the colonies grew and became more prosperous, the British realized that the colonies could provide increased trade and, therefore, they tightened the economic control by implementing regulatory policies, thereby changing the balance of the relationship.


Virginia became the first of the royal colonies under a system of government that included a governor appointed by the king and a colonial assembly.
Three types of colonial government emerged: royal, corporate, and proprietary.
The king directed colonial policy until the outbreak of the first English civil war, when the Long Parliament assumed control. Between 1645 and 1651, the Parliament enforced regulations to control colonial commerce and restrict colonial trade to the British, thereby favouring its shipping and manufacturers.
From 1651 onwards, England instituted the Navigation Acts. All trade between the colonists and the British was to be conducted either on English vessels or on colonial-built vessels. In addition, there were certain products that could be traded only with Britain, such as tobacco, sugar and cotton. As time went on, the list of specified goods grew continually decreasing the kinds of merchandise that the colonists could sell to other nations.
As Britain was too far away to control the colonists directly, representative governments were established in the colonies The English king appointed colonial governors who had to rule in cooperation with an elected assembly. Voting was restricted to white males who owned lands.
England encouraged the colonists to specialize in the production of raw materials. English factories converted raw goods into products, which were then shipped back to the colonies. This provided the British with a profitable market, free from competition.
The Seven Years' War, also called the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 until 1763, was a conflict that had enormous repercussions for Great Britain. In spite of her victory over France in 1763, a royal proclamation denied the English the right to establish settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains, in order to avoid conflict with the American Indians. Moreover, with Britain's acquisition of Canada from France, the prospects of peaceful relations with the Native tribes were not good. In consequence, the British decided to keep a standing army in America. The war had also left Great Britain with a considerable national debt. The American colonists were evading trade and navigation regulations and had been trading with the French during the Seven Years’ War, so the British decided it was necessary to tighten their control and began to reform the system. The colonists, however, were creating a prosperous economy based on agriculture and trade, and no longer needed British protection.
Tensions between Britain and the colonies started when they began to charge taxes and punish smugglers. Colonial policy in the eighteenth century tried to reduce the corporate and proprietary colonies to royal colonies, which largely succeeded. In addition, the policy increased restrictions on colonial enterprise by means of laws such as the Wool Act of 1699, the White Pine Acts, the Hat Act of 1732, the Sugar Acts of 1733 and 1764, and the Iron Act of 1750.


There were clear differences in the English colonies, which became "British" with the union of England and Scotland in 1707, because they were founded for different purposes, but there were also a number of common features. For instance, in every colony, political jurisdiction and issues fell within one of the three levels of government: the king and Parliament, the Colonial government, or the local government.
There were three types of British colony in North America. The first were plantation colonies. These included Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The second group were the Middle Colonies of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. The third group consisted of the New England colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. The economy of the New England colonies was based on trade in rum and slaves and on shipbuilding; the plantation colonies produced sugar, tobacco, rice, and indigo; and the Middle Colonies produced wheat and timber.

3.1. The Plantation Colonies
In the southern colonies, there was the system of slavery and black people worked on large plantations. Indentured servants were the main source of labour in the colonies. These were poor farmers who came from England and worked for a fixed period of time, from three to seven years, in exchange for their transportation, food, clothing, lodging, etc. Unlike slaves, an indentured servant was required to work only for a limited term, which was specified in a signed contract. The British tried to enslave the Indians but were unsuccessful.  The first Negro slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619.

3.1.1. Virginia

Ø      The first English colony in America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The settlement was directed by the London Company, which renamed itself as the Virginia Company, was granted the authority to govern its colony.
Ø      The settlement suffered from various difficulties at first and did not prosper until the colonists received their own land and the tobacco industry began to flourish. The colony survived and, in 1614, started to ship tobacco, its main export, to England.

3.1.2. North Carolina and South Carolina
Ø      Carolina was founded with a commercial and a political purpose. The main port was Charles Town (Charleston).
Ø      The Carolina proprietors were planning to organize Carolina along the lines of a feudal state.
Ø      The colony quickly developed following the model of plantation colonies. The territory was divided up into separate plantations. The main planters had both a plantation and a second house in Charleston, where government was centralized and where they used to spend the summer months.
Ø      People of French origin soon became the elite of the new colony. They quickly adopted the English language and joined the established Church of England, but they retained an aristocratic tone that would become a distinctive feature of the colony.
Ø      In 1719, the colonists overthrew the last proprietary government, and in 1729, the king created separate royal governments in North and South Carolina. There were differences between them. South Carolina was richer, with more plantations, and was more densely populated, while North Carolina was poorer, with fewer plantations and slaves, but slightly more democratic. South Carolina’s main exports were naval supplies and rice. North Carolina’s main exports were wood, naval supplies and tobacco and

3.1.3. Georgia

Ø      In the 1730s, Georgia was the last of the colonial English settlements. It was founded with the purpose of discouraging Spanish expansion.
Ø      At first, there were few emigrants because of the restrictions that the trustees imposed, such as the restriction on the size of individual land holdings to benefit the poor. Eventually, all those restrictions disappeared and by 1751, Georgia was a slave plantation and was returned to the king.
Ø      The major exports of the colony were silk, rice, wood, and naval supplies.
Ø      One controversial issue was the fact that the trustees did not trust the colonists to make their own laws. They did not establish a representative assembly. The trustees made all laws for the colony. The trustees prohibited the import and manufacture of rum, for rum would lead to idleness. Finally, the trustees prohibited Negro slavery, for they believed that this ban would encourage the settlement of “English and Christian” people.
Ø      In Georgia's first year, 1733, all went well enough as settlers began to clear the land, build houses, and construct fortifications. Later, however,they disliked the fact that they were deprived both of any self-government and of their rights as Englishmen.

3.2. The Middle Colonies

3.2.1. New York

Ø      It was a Dutch settlement. The purpose of this foundation was commercial and its major exports were furs and grain.

3.2.2 New Jersey

Ø      New Jersey was founded with the purpose of consolidating new English territory.
Ø      They provided liberal grants of land and freedom of religion.
Ø      The major export of the colony was grain with a notable ethnic and religious diversity.

3.2.3. Pennsylvania and Delaware

Ø      In 1681, Pennsylvania (literally, “Penn’s woods) was founded with the purpose of being a refuge for English Quakers and the principal founder was William Penn.
Ø      Penn wanted to create a Holy Society and thought that both rich and poor should participate in political affairs. He guaranteed liberty of conscience and religious freedom from persecution, that a great number of peoples of different nationalities and religions poured into Philadelphia and its surroundings. The colony became ethnically very diversified with immigrants from Germany, Wales and England. The major export of the colony was grain.
Ø      The Quakers were pacifists and believed all persons possessed the spirit of God, a powerful “Inner Light” and that all persons were equal in the sight of God and everyone could be saved. They were very humble and wore very austere clothes.
Ø      The Swedes had founded the colony of Delaware in 1638, for commercial reasons. This area became part of Pennsylvania and remained so until 1703, when it created its own legislature.

3.2.4. Maryland

Ø      In 1634, Maryland was founded and established as a proprietary colony, by George Calvert, known as Lord Baltimore. He was a royalist and a Catholic who thought of this colony as a refuge for English Catholics persecuted elsewhere.
Ø      This colony was characterized by religious acceptance. The Maryland Toleration Act, also known as the Act Concerning Religion, was signed in 1649, thereby institutionalising toleration and providing impermanent protection for Catholics.
Ø      The major export of the colony was tobacco.

3.3. The New England Colonies

3.3.1. Massachusetts

Ø      English Puritans escaping religious persecution in their homeland settled in New England and founded a colony with their own religious ideals, seeking to purify the Church of England. One group of these Puritans, the so called “Pilgrims” crossed the Atlantic in the ship called the Mayflower and settled at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Before landing, they established their own government, the basis of which was the Mayflower Compact (See Document nº 1 in the Appendix. American Documents). The principal founder was William Bradford.
Ø      The original purpose of this foundation to be a refuge for English Separatists but it was also a joint-stock venture.
Ø      Landing in Cape Cod, the Pilgrims disembarked outside the authorized jurisdiction of any other English colony. They feared the rule of those who did not belong to their group, and so they drew up the Mayflower Compact. It was an agreement based on the approval of the people. It is the earliest known case in American history of people establishing a government for themselves by mutual agreement.
Ø      The first year was very hard and the colonists would not have survived the winter without help from the local Indians, the Wampanoag and the Pequamid, who shared corn with them and showed them where to fish. Later, they showed the English how to plant crops that would grow well in that soil. In 1621, the Pilgrims invited them to a feast to celebrate their survival in the harsh American wilderness, and the generosity of the Indians. That harvest feast was the first Thanksgiving.
Ø      The economy of the colony in the first years was a subsistence economy, but later it developed trade, with grain becoming the major export.
Ø      The Puritans themselves did not tolerate religious dissent in Massachusetts. They strictly punished drunks, adulterers, violators of the Sabbath and heretics. The right to vote was restricted to church members, and the salaries of ministers were paid out of tax revenues.
Ø      The economy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was based on exporting grain and wood.

A piece of Advise (for 4ESO and"BACHILLERATO" STUDENTS): if you can, download these films:
The Crucible, 1996. Actors: Wynona Ryder, Daniel Day Lewis. (It’ about Salem witch trials).
The Scarlet Letter, 1995, Actors: Robert Duvall, Gary Oldman, Demi Moore.
Both films show how hard was to live in a Puritan environment.

3.3.2. Connecticut

Ø      A group of Puritans from Plymouth established a settlement. The first permanent settlement made in the valley of the Connecticut River was created by Puritans from Massachusetts circa 1635.
Ø      The major export of the colony was grain.

3.3.3. Rhode Island

Ø      Rhode Island was founded by squatters. Puritans who protested that the state should not interfere with religion, were forced to leave Massachusetts Bay.
Ø      Here they advocated freedom of religion and clear separation of church and state, They also recognized Indian land rights and negotiated with the Indians. As a result, Rhode Island became a refuge for dissenters from Massachusetts.

3.3.4. New Hampshire

In 1622, the Plymouth Company granted land in northern New England between the Merrimac Kennebec, and St. Lawrence Rivers to John Mason and to Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Mason eventually founded New Hampshire and Gorges’ land led to Maine. Massachusetts controlled both until New Hampshire was given a royal charter in 1679 and Maine was made its own state in 1820.

The 13 Colonies in 1775
This map shows the 13 British colonies in North America as they existed on the eve of the American Revolution (1775-1783). After winning independence from Britain, the colonies made up the first 13 states of the newly formed United States of America.

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