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United States: a narrative history

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A politic and social history of United States from the beginings to the 90-es.

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W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. • www.NortonEbooks.com
NINTH EDITION
AMERICA
George Brown Tindall and David Emory Shi
A NARRATIVE HISTORY

AMERICA
DETAI L OF ENGRAVI NG BAS ED ON
THE CHAS M OF THE COLORADO
BY THOMAS MORAN
AMERICA
A N A R R A T I V E H I S T O R Y
Ninth Edition
GEORGE BROWN TI NDALL
DAVI D EMORY SHI
W
.
W
.
NORTON & COMPANY
.
NEW YORK
.
LONDON
W. W. Norton & Company has been independent since its founding in 1923,
when William Warder Norton and Mary D. Herter Norton first published
lectures delivered at the People’s Institute, the adult education division of
New York City’s Cooper Union. The firm soon expanded its program beyond
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and abroad. By mid-century, the two major pillars of Norton’s publishing
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the Norton family transferred control of the company to its employees, and
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Copyright © 2013, 2010, 2007, 2004, 1999, 1992, 1988, 1984 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
Editor: Jon Durbin
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Tindall, George Brown.
America : a narrative history / George Brown Tindall,
David Emory Shi.—9th ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-393-91262-3 (hardcover)
1. United States—History—Textbooks. I. Shi, David E. II. Title.
E178.1.T55 2013 2012034504
973—dc23
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
wwnorton.com
W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., Castle House, 75/76 Wells Street, London W1T 3QT
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
FOR BRUCE AND SUSAN
AND FOR BLAIR
FOR
JASON AND JESSICA
GEORGE B. TINDALL recently of the University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, was an award-winning historian
of the South with a number of major books to his credit,
including The Emergence of the New South, 1913–1945 and
The Disruption of the Solid South.
DAVID E. SHI is a professor of history and the president
emeritus of Furman University. He is the author of several
books on American cultural history, including the award-
winning The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in
American Culture and Facing Facts: Realism in American
Thought and Culture, 1850–1920.

CONTENTS
List of Maps • xvii
Preface • xxi
Acknowledgments • xxv
Part One / A N O T - S O - “ N E W” WO R L D
1 | THE COLLISION OF CULTURES 5
PRE-COLUMBIAN INDIAN CIVILIZATIONS 6 • EUROPEAN VISIONS OF
AMERICA 15 • THE EXPANSION OF EUROPE 17 • THE VOYAGES OF
COLUMBUS 19 • THE GREAT BIOLOGICAL EXCHANGE 23 • PROFESSIONAL
EXPLORERS 25 • THE SPANISH EMPIRE 26 • THE PROTESTANT
REFORMATION 40 • CHALLENGES TO THE SPANISH EMPIRE 44
2 | BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES 52
THE ENGLISH BACKGROUND 52 • SETTLING THE CHESAPEAKE 56
• SETTLING NEW ENGLAND 67 • INDIANS IN NEW ENGLAND 78
• THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA 83 • SETTLING THE
CAROLINAS 84 • SETTLING THE MIDDLE COLONIES AND GEORGIA 89
• THRIVING COLONIES 102
ix
3 | COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE 106
THE SHAPE OF EARLY AMERICA 107 • SOCIETY AND ECONOMY IN THE
SOUTHERN COLONIES 114 • SOCIETY AND ECONOMY IN NEW
ENGLAND 127 • SOCIETY AND ECONOMY IN THE MIDDLE COLONIES 139
• COLONIAL CITIES 143 • THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN AMERICA 146
• THE GREAT AWAKENING 150
4 | FROM COLONIES TO STATES 158
ENGLISH ADMINISTRATION OF THE COLONIES 159 • THE HABIT OF
SELF-GOVERNMENT 164 • TROUBLED NEIGHBORS 165 • THE COLONIAL
WARS 169 • REGULATING THE COLONIES 180 • FANNING THE
FLAMES 185 • A WORSENING CRISIS 190 • SHIFTING AUTHORITY 194
• INDEPENDENCE 200
Part Two / B U I L D I N G A N A T I O N
5 | THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 213
1776: WASHINGTON’S NARROW ESCAPE 214 • AMERICAN SOCIETY AT
WAR 218 • 1777: SETBACKS FOR THE BRITISH 221 • 1778: BOTH
SIDES REGROUP 225 • THE WAR IN THE SOUTH 229 • THE TREATY
OF PARIS 235 • THE POLITICAL REVOLUTION 238 • THE SOCIAL
REVOLUTION 240 • THE EMERGENCE OF AN AMERICAN CULTURE 249
6 | SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION 254
THE CONFEDERATION GOVERNMENT 255 • CREATING THE CONSTITUTION 267
7 | THE FEDERALIST ERA 284
A NEWNATION 285 • HAMILTON’S FINANCIAL VISION 290 • THE REPUBLICAN
ALTERNATIVE 298 • CRISES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC 300 • SETTLEMENT
OF NEW LAND 309 • TRANSFER OF POWER 312 • THE ADAMS
ADMINISTRATION 314
x

CONTENTS
8 | THE EARLY REPUBLIC 326
THE NEW AMERICAN NATION 327 • JEFFERSONIAN SIMPLICITY 329
• DIVISIONS IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY 340 • WAR IN EUROPE 342
• THE WAR OF 1812 347
Part Three / A N E X P A N S I V E N A T I O N
9 | THE DYNAMICS OF GROWTH 369
TRANSPORTATION AND THE MARKET REVOLUTION 370 • A COMMUNICATIONS
REVOLUTION 379 • AGRICULTURE AND THE NATIONAL ECONOMY 380
• THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION 384 • THE POPULAR CULTURE 392
• IMMIGRATION 395 • ORGANIZED LABOR 402 • THE RISE OF THE
PROFESSIONS 405 • JACKSONIAN INEQUALITY 407
10 | NATIONALISM AND SECTIONALISM 410
ECONOMIC NATIONALISM 410 • “AN ERA OF GOOD FEELINGS” 415 • CRISES
AND COMPROMISES 420 • JUDICIAL NATIONALISM 424 • NATIONALIST
DIPLOMACY 428 • ONE-PARTY POLITICS 429
11 | THE JACKSONIAN ERA 440
SETTING THE STAGE 442 • NULLIFICATION 447 • JACKSON’S INDIAN
POLICY 455 • THE BANK CONTROVERSY 459 • CONTENTIOUS
POLITICS 462 • VAN BUREN AND THE NEW PARTY SYSTEM 468 • ASSESSING
THE JACKSON YEARS 474
12 | THE OLD SOUTH 478
THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF THE OLD SOUTH 480 • WHITE SOCIETY IN
THE SOUTH 487 • BLACK SOCIETY IN THE SOUTH 492 • THE CULTURE
OF THE SOUTHERN FRONTIER 505
Contents

xi
13 | RELIGION, ROMANTICISM, AND REFORM 510
RATIONAL RELIGION 511 • THE SECOND GREAT AWAKENING 513
• ROMANTICISM IN AMERICA 522 • THE FLOWERING OF AMERICAN
LITERATURE 527 • EDUCATION 531 • THE REFORM IMPULSE 535
• ANTI-SLAVERY MOVEMENTS 542
Part Four / A H O U S E D I V I D E D
A N D R E B U I L T
14 | AN EMPIRE IN THE WEST 559
THE TYLER PRESIDENCY 560 • THE WESTERN FRONTIER 563 • MOVING
WEST 571 • ANNEXING TEXAS 579 • THE MEXICAN WAR 589
15 | THE GATHERING STORM 600
SLAVERY IN THE TERRITORIES 601 • THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 609
• THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA CRISIS 617 • THE DEEPENING SECTIONAL CRISIS 628
• THE CENTER COMES APART 637
16 | THE WAR OF THE UNION 648
THE END OF THE WAITING GAME 648 • THE BALANCE OF FORCE 654
• THE WAR’S EARLY COURSE 656 • EMANCIPATION 672 • THE WAR
BEHIND THE LINES 676 • GOVERNMENT DURING THE WAR 679 • THE
FALTERING CONFEDERACY 685 • THE CONFEDERACY’S DEFEAT 690
• A MODERN WAR 700
17 | RECONSTRUCTION: NORTH AND SOUTH 704
THE WAR’S AFTERMATH 705 • THE BATTLE OVER POLITICAL
RECONSTRUCTION 711 • THE ASSASSINATION OF LINCOLN 713
• RECONSTRUCTING THE SOUTH 720 • THE RECONSTRUCTED
SOUTH 724 • THE GRANT YEARS 732
xii

CONTENTS
Part Five / G R O WI N G P A I N S
18 | BIG BUSINESS AND ORGANIZED LABOR 751
THE RISE OF BIG BUSINESS 751 • ENTREPRENEURS 761 • THE WORKING
CLASS 768
19 | THE SOUTH AND THE WEST TRANSFORMED 790
THE MYTH OF THE NEW SOUTH 791 • THE NEW WEST 797
20 | THE EMERGENCE OF URBAN AMERICA 820
AMERICA’S MOVE TO TOWN 821 • THE NEW IMMIGRATION 826
• POPULAR CULTURE 832 • EDUCATION AND SOCIAL THOUGHT 839
21 | GILDED AGE POLITICS AND AGRARIAN REVOLT 848
PARADOXICAL POLITICS 849 • CORRUPTION AND REFORM: HAYES TO
HARRISON 853 • THE FARM PROBLEM AND AGRARIAN PROTEST
MOVEMENTS 864 • THE ECONOMY AND THE SILVER SOLUTION 872
• RACE RELATIONS DURING THE 1890S 878
Part Six / M O D E R N A M E R I C A
22 | SEIZING AN AMERICAN EMPIRE 897
TOWARD THE NEW IMPERIALISM 898 • EXPANSION IN THE PACIFIC 900
• THE WAR OF 1898 903 • IMPERIAL RIVALRIES IN EAST ASIA 920
• BIG-STICK DIPLOMACY 922
23 | “MAKING THE WORLD OVER”: THE PROGRESSIVE ERA 932
ELEMENTS OF REFORM 934 • THE SOCIAL GOSPEL 935 • EARLY EFFORTS AT
URBAN REFORM 937 • FEATURES OF PROGRESSIVISM 944 • ROOSEVELT’S
Contents

xiii
PROGRESSIVISM 950 • ROOSEVELT’S SECOND TERM 953 • FROM
ROOSEVELT TO TAFT 958 • WOODROW WILSON’S PROGRESSIVISM 962
• LIMITS OF PROGRESSIVISM 977
24 | AMERICA AND THE GREAT WAR 980
WILSON AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS 980 • AN UNEASY NEUTRALITY 983
• AMERICA’S ENTRY INTO THE WAR 995 • AMERICA AT WAR 1001
• THE FIGHT FOR THE PEACE 1007 • LURCHING FROM WAR TO PEACE 1015
25 | THE MODERN TEMPER 1022
THE REACTIONARY TWENTIES 1024 • THE “JAZZ AGE” DURING THE
“ROARING TWENTIES” 1034 • MASS CULTURE 1044 • THE MODERNIST
REVOLT 1050
26 | REPUBLICAN RESURGENCE AND DECLINE 1060
“NORMALCY” 1061 • ISOLATIONISM IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS 1065
• THE HARDING SCANDALS 1069 • THE NEW ERA 1074 • PRESIDENT
HOOVER, THE ENGINEER 1078 • GLOBAL CONCERNS 1086 • FROM
HOOVERISM TO THE NEW DEAL 1092
27 | NEW DEAL AMERICA 1100
REGULATORY EFFORTS 1105 • THE SOCIAL COST OF THE DEPRESSION 1110
• CULTURE IN THE THIRTIES 1117 • THE NEW DEAL MATURES 1120
• ROOSEVELT’S SECOND TERM 1129 • THE LEGACY OF THE NEW DEAL 1136
28 | THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1142
FROM ISOLATIONISM TO INTERVENTION 1142 • FOREIGN CRISES 1143
• WAR CLOUDS 1150 • THE STORM IN EUROPE 1152 • THE STORM IN
THE PACIFIC 1159 • A WORLD WAR 1163 • MOBILIZATION AT HOME 1165
• SOCIAL EFFECTS OF THE WAR 1167 • THE ALLIED DRIVE TOWARD BERLIN 1175
• LEAPFROGGING TO TOKYO 1185 • A NEW AGE IS BORN 1188 • THE
FINAL LEDGER 1200
xiv

CONTENTS
Part Seven / T H E A M E R I C A N A G E
29 | THE FAIR DEAL AND CONTAINMENT 1209
DEMOBILIZATION UNDER TRUMAN 1210 • THE COLD WAR 1215
• CIVIL RIGHTS DURING THE 1940S 1225 • THE COLD WAR HEATS UP 1232
30 | THE 1950S: AFFLUENCE AND ANXIETY IN AN ATOMIC AGE 1246
A PEOPLE OF PLENTY 1248 • A CONFORMIST CULTURE 1258 • CRACKS
IN THE PICTURE WINDOW 1261 • ALIENATION AND LIBERATION 1263
• MODERATE REPUBLICANISM—THE EISENHOWER YEARS 1268 • THE EARLY
YEARS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT 1273 • FOREIGN POLICY IN
THE 1950S 1282 • FOREIGN INTERVENTIONS 1285 • REFLECTION
AND FOREIGN CRISES 1290 • FESTERING PROBLEMS ABROAD 1294
• ASSESSING THE EISENHOWER PRESIDENCY 1296
31 | NEW FRONTIERS: POLITICS AND SOCIAL CHANGE IN THE 1960S 1300
THE NEW FRONTIER 1300 • EXPANSION OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT 1306
• FOREIGN FRONTIERS 1314 • LYNDON B. JOHNSON AND THE GREAT
SOCIETY 1322 • FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO BLACK POWER 1331 • THE TRAGEDY
OF VIETNAM 1338 • SIXTIES CRESCENDO 1344
32 | REBELLION AND REACTION: THE 1960S AND 1970S 1350
THE ROOTS OF REBELLION 1351 • NIXON AND MIDDLE AMERICA 1367
• NIXON AND VIETNAM 1376 • NIXON TRIUMPHANT 1381
• WATERGATE 1387 • AN UNELECTED PRESIDENT 1392
33 | A CONSERVATIVE REALIGNMENT: 1977–1990 1400
THE CARTER PRESIDENCY 1401 • THE REAGAN REVOLUTION 1412 • REAGAN’S
FIRST TERM 1417 • REAGAN’S SECOND TERM 1425 • THE CHANGING
SOCIAL LANDSCAPE 1429 • THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION 1438 • CULTURAL
CONSERVATISM 1446
Contents

xv
34 | AMERICA IN A NEW MILLENNIUM 1450
AMERICA’S CHANGING MOSAIC 1451 • BUSH TO CLINTON 1452
• DOMESTIC POLICY IN CLINTON’S FIRST TERM 1456 • REPUBLICAN
INSURGENCY 1458 • THE CLINTON YEARS AT HOME 1462 • FOREIGN-POLICY
CHALLENGES 1466 • THE ELECTION OF 2000 1469 • COMPASSIONATE
CONSERVATISM 1472 • GLOBAL TERRORISM 1473 • SECOND-TERM
BLUES 1482 • A HISTORIC ELECTION 1487 • OBAMA’S FIRST TERM 1491
GLOSSARY A1
APPENDIX A59
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE A61 • ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION A66
• THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES A74 • AMENDMENTS TO THE
CONSTITUTION A86 • PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS A96 • ADMISSION OF
STATES A104 • POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES A105 • IMMIGRATION
TO THE UNITED STATES, FISCAL YEARS 1820–2011 A106 • IMMIGRATION BY
REGION AND SELECTED COUNTRY OF LAST RESIDENCE, FISCAL YEARS 1820–2011 A108
• PRESIDENTS, VICE PRESIDENTS, AND SECRETARIES OF STATE A117
FURTHER READINGS A123
CREDITS A149
INDEX A155
xvi

CONTENTS

MAPS
The First Migration 7
Pre-Columbian Civilizations in Middle and South America 10
Pre-Columbian Civilizations in North America 11
Norse Discoveries 16
Columbus’s Voyages 22
Spanish and Portuguese Explorations 26
Spanish Explorations of the Mainland 35
English, French, and Dutch Explorations 45
Land Grants to the Virginia Company 59
Early Virginia and Maryland 66
Early New England Settlements 70
The West Indies, 1600–1800 73
Early Settlements in the South 85
The Middle Colonies 96
European Settlements and Indian Tribes in Early America 100–101
The African Slave Trade, 1500–1800 120
Atlantic Trade Routes 133
Major Immigrant Groups in Colonial America 142
The French in North America 168
Major Campaigns of the French and Indian War 172
North America, 1713 176
North America, 1763 177
Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775 195
Major Campaigns in New York and New Jersey, 1776–1777 217
xvii
Major Campaigns in New York and Pennsylvania, 1777 222
Western Campaigns, 1776–1779 228
Major Campaigns in the South, 1778–1781 232
Yorktown, 1781 232
North America, 1783 236
Western Land Cessions, 1781–1802 258
The Old Northwest, 1785 260
The Vote on the Constitution, 1787–1790 280
Treaty of Greenville, 1795 305
Pinckney’s Treaty, 1795 308
The Election of 1800 322
Explorations of the Louisiana Purchase, 1804–1807 339
Major Northern Campaigns of the War of 1812 353
Major Southern Campaigns of the War of 1812 355
Transportation West, about 1840 372–373
The Growth of Railroads, 1850 376
The Growth of Railroads, 1860 377
Population Density, 1820 384
Population Density, 1860 385
The Growth of Industry in the 1840s 389
The Growth of Cities, 1820 392
The Growth of Cities, 1860 393
The National Road, 1811–1838 414
Boundary Treaties, 1818–1819 418
The Missouri Compromise, 1820 423
The Election of 1828 436
Indian Removal, 1820–1840 456
The Election of 1840 472
Cotton Production, 1821 482
Population Growth and Cotton Production, 1821–1859 483
The Slave Population, 1820 494
The Slave Population, 1860 495
The Mormon Trek, 1830–1851 522
The Webster-Ashburton Treaty, 1842 563
Wagon Trails West 573
The Election of 1844 584
The Oregon Dispute, 1818–1846 588
Major Campaigns of the Mexican War 594
xviii

MAPS
The Compromise of 1850 613
The Gadsden Purchase, 1853 619
The Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854 620
The Election of 1856 627
The Election of 1860 643
Secession, 1860–1861 652
The First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861 657
Campaigns in the West, February–April 1862 664
The Peninsular Campaign, 1862 667
Campaigns in Virginia and Maryland, 1862 672
The Vicksburg Campaign, 1863 686
Campaigns in the East, 1863 688
Grant in Virginia, 1864–1865 693
Sherman’s Campaigns, 1864–1865 696
Reconstruction, 1865–1877 730
The Election of 1876 742
Transcontinental Railroad Lines, 1880s 758
Sharecropping and Tenancy, 1880–1900 793
The New West 802–803
Indian Wars 806
The Emergence of Cities, 1880 822
The Emergence of Cities, 1920 823
The Election of 1896 877
The War of 1898 in the Pacific 909
The War of 1898 in the Caribbean 911
U.S. Interests in the Pacific 917
U.S. Interests in the Caribbean 926
Women’s Suffrage, 1869–1914 941
The Election of 1912 966
World War I in Europe, 1914 989
World War I, the Western Front, 1918 1003
Europe after the Treaty of Versailles, 1918 1013
The Election of 1932 1095
The Tennessee Valley Authority 1110
Aggression in Europe, 1935–1939 1146
Japanese Expansion before Pearl Harbor 1160
World War II Military Alliances, 1942 1176
World War II in Europe and Africa, 1942–1945 1178–1179
Maps

xix
World War II in the Pacific, 1942–1945 1186–1187
The Occupation of Germany and Austria 1224
The Election of 1948 1231
The Korean War, 1950 1235
The Korean War, 1950–1953 1235
The Election of 1952 1270
Postwar Alliances: The Far East 1289
Postwar Alliances: Europe, North Africa, the Middle East 1292
The Election of 1960 1304
Vietnam, 1966 1340
The Election of 1968 1347
The Election of 1980 1411
The Election of 1988 1438
The Election of 2000 1470
The Election of 2004 1482
The Election of 2008 1491
xx

MAPS

PREFACE
This edition of America: A Narrative History includes the most substantial
changes since I partnered with George Tindall in 1984, but I have been dili-
gent to sustain his steadfast commitment to a textbook grounded in a com-
pelling narrative history of the American experience. From the start of our
collaboration, we strove to write a book animated by colorful characters,
informed by balanced analysis and social texture, and guided by the unfold-
ing of key events. Those classic principles, combined with a handy format
and low price, have helped make America: A Narrative History one of the
most popular and well-respected American history textbooks.
This Ninth Edition of America features a number of important
changes designed to make the text more teachable and classroom-friendly.
Chief among them are major structural changes, including the joining of
several chapters to reduce the overall number from thirty-seven to thirty-
four, as well as the re-sequencing of several chapters to make the narrative
flow more smoothly for students. Major organizational changes include:
• New Chapter 4, From Colonies to States, combines The Imperial Perspec-
tive and From Empire to Independence from previous editions to better
integrate the events leading up to the American Revolution.
• New Chapter 9, The Dynamics of Growth, now leads off Part III, An
Expansive Nation, to first introduce the industrial revolution and the
growth of the market economy before turning to major political, social,
and cultural developments.
• New Chapter 12, The Old South, has been moved up, now appearing
between the chapters on the Jacksonian era and the American Renais-
sance, in order to foreground the importance of slavery as a major issue
during this period.
xxi
• From Isolation to Global War, a chapter from previous editions, has been
broken up, and its parts redistributed to new Chapter 26, Republican
Resurgence and Decline, and new Chapter 28, The Second World War, in
order to better integrate the coverage of domestic politics and interna-
tional relations during this period.
• New Chapter 30, The 1950s: Affluence and Anxiety in an Atomic Age,
combines Through the Picture Window and Conflict and Deadlock: The Eisen-
hower Years from the previous editions to better show the relationship
between political, social, and cultural developments during the 1950s.
In terms of content changes, the overarching theme of the new edition is the
importance of African-American history. While African-American history
has always been a central part of the book’s narrative, this Ninth Edition fea-
tures enhanced and fully up-to-date treatment based on the best recent
scholarship in African-American history, including African slavery, slavery
in America during the colonial era and revolutionary war, the slave trade in
the South, slave rebellions, the practical challenges faced by slaves liberated
during the Civil War, the Wilmington Riot of 1898, in which an elected city
government made up of blacks was ousted by armed violence, President
Woodrow Wilson’s segregationist views and policies, the Harlem Renais-
sance, the Double V Campaign during World War II, and the Freedom Sum-
mer of 1964.
Of course, as in every new edition, there is new material related to con-
temporary America—the first term of the Barack Obama administration,
the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and the emergence of the
Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements—as well as the stagnant
economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession. In addition, I have incor-
porated fresh insights from important new scholarly works dealing with
many significant topics throughout this new edition.
America’s New Student Resources are designed to make students better
readers. New, carefully crafted pedagogical features have been added to the
Ninth Edition to further guide students through the narrative.
• Focus questions, chapter summaries, and new bold-face key terms work
together seamlessly to highlight core content. The chapters are enhanced
with easy-to-read full-color maps and chapter chronologies.
• New Author Videos feature David Shi explaining major developments in
American history. Each of the 42 video segments includes additional
media, such as illustrations and maps, to enhance the learning experience.
xxii

PREFACE
• New “Critical Reading Exercises,” tied directly to the Ninth Edition, help
students learn how to read the textbook. Students are guided through a
series of exercises to identify the most important information from select
passages in each chapter.
• New Cross-Chapter Quizzes in the Norton Coursepacks are designed to
help students prepare for midterm and final examinations by challenging
them to think across periods, to trace longer-term developments, and to
make connections and comparisons.
• A new edition of For the Record: A Documentary History of America, by
David E. Shi and Holly A. Mayer (Duquesne University), is the perfect
companion reader for America: A Narrative History. The new Fifth Edi-
tion has been brought into closer alignment with the main text. For the
Record now has 250 primary-source readings from diaries, journals,
newspaper articles, speeches, government documents, and novels, includ-
ing a number of readings that highlight the substantially updated theme
of African-American history in this new edition of America. If you
haven’t looked at For the Record in a while, now would be a good time to
take a look.
• New Norton Mix: American History enables instructors to build their
own custom reader from a database of nearly 300 primary and secondary
source selections. The custom readings can be packaged as a standalone
reader or integrated with chapters from America into a custom textbook.
• America: A Narrative History StudySpace (wwnorton.com/web
/america9) provides a proven assignment-driven plan for each chapter. In
addition to the new “Critical Reading Exercises” and new “Author
Videos,” highlights include focus questions, learning objectives, chapter
outlines, quizzes, iMaps and new iMap quizzes, map worksheets, flash-
cards, interactive timelines, and “U.S. History Tours” powered by Google
Earth map technology. There are also several hundred multimedia primary-
source selections—including documents, images, and audio and video
clips—grouped by topic to aid research and writing.
America’s New Instructor Resources are designed to provide addi-
tional resources that will enable more dynamic classroom lectures:
• New Norton American History Digital Archive disks on African-American
history are the eighth and ninth disks in this extraordinary collection of
digital resources for classroom lecture. The 2 new disks come with nearly
Preface

xxiii
400 selections from African-American history, including illustrations, pho-
tographs and audio and video clips.
• New PowerPoint Lectures with dynamic Author Videos. Replete with
every image and map from the textbook, the America Ninth Edition
PowerPoints now also feature the new Author Videos. These classroom-
ready presentations can be used as lecture launchers or as video sum-
maries of major issues and developments in American history.
• New enhanced Coursepack integrates all StudySpace content with these
handy features and materials: 1) Forum Questions designed for online and
hybrid courses; 2) Critical Reading Exercises that report to your LMS
Gradebook; 3) Cross-Chapter Quizzes for each half of the survey course.
• The Instructor’s Manual and Test Bank, by Mark Goldman (Tallahassee
Community College), Michael Krysko (Kansas State University), and
Brian McKnight (UVA, Wise), includes a test bank of multiple-choice,
short-answer, and essay questions, as well as detailed chapter outlines,
lecture suggestions, and bibliographies.
It’s clear why America continues to set the standard when it comes to provid-
ing a low-cost book with high-value content. Your students will buy it because
it’s so affordable, and they’ll read it because the narrative is so engaging!
xxiv

PREFACE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
In preparing the Ninth Edition, I have benefited from the insights and sug-
gestions of many people. Some of those insights have come from student
readers of the text, and I encourage such feedback. I’d particularly like to
thank Eirlys Barker, who has worked on much of the new StudySpace con-
tent, Laura Farkas (Wake Technical College), who has created the wonderful
new “Critical Reading Exercises,” and I’d like to give special thanks to Bran-
don Franke (Blinn College, Bryan) for his work on the new PowerPoint lec-
tures. Finally, many thanks to Mark Goldman, Michael Krysko, and Brian
McKnight for their efforts on the Instructor’s Manual and Test Bank.
Numerous scholars and survey instructors advised me on the new edi-
tion: Eirlys Barker (Thomas Nelson Community College), Blanche Bricke
(Blinn College), Michael Collins (Midwestern State University), Scott Cook
(Motlow State Community College), Carl Creasman, Jr. (Valencia College),
Stephen Davis (Lone Star College), Susan Dollar (Northwestern State Uni-
versity of Louisiana), Alicia Duffy (University of Central Florida), Laura
Farkas (Wake Technical Community College), Jane Flaherty (Texas A&M
University), Brandon Franke (Blinn College), Mark Goldman (Tallahassee
Community College), James Good (Lone Star College), Barbara Green
(Wright State University), D. Harland Hagler (University of North Texas),
Michael Harkins (Harper College), Carolyn Hoffman (Prince George’s
Community College), Marc Horger (Ohio State University), Michael Krivdo
(Texas A&M University), Margaret Lambert (Lone Star College), Pat Ledbet-
ter (North Central Texas College), Stephen Lopez (San Jacinto College),
Barry Malone (Wake Technical Community College), Dee Mckinney (East
Georgia College), Lisa Morales (North Central Texas College), Robert Out-
land III (Louisiana State University), Catherine Parzynski (Montgomery
County Community College), Robert Lynn Rainard (Tidewater Community
College), Edward Duke Richey (University of North Texas), Stuart Smith III
xxv
(Germanna Community College), Roger Tate (Somerset Community Col-
lege), Kyle Volk (University of Montana), Vernon Volpe (University of
Nebraska), Heidi Weber (SUNY Orange), Cecil Edward Weller, Jr. (San Jac-
into College), and Margarita Youngo (Pima Community College).
Once again, I thank my friends at W. W. Norton for their consummate
professionalism and good cheer, especially Jon Durbin, Justin Cahill, Steve
Hoge, Melissa Atkin, Kate Feighery, Lorraine Klimowich, Stephanie Romeo,
Debra Morton-Hoyt, Ashley Horna, Heather Arteaga, Julie Sindel, and
Tamara McNeill.
xxvi

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Part One

A
NOT- SO- “ NEW”
WORLD
H
istory is filled with ironies. Luck and accidents often shape
events more than actions do. Long before Christopher Columbus hap-
pened upon the Caribbean Sea in his effort to find a westward passage to
Asia, the indigenous people he mislabeled Indians had occupied and
transformed the lands of the Western Hemisphere for thousands of
years. The first residents in what Europeans came to call the “New
World” had migrated from northeastern Asia during the last glacial
advance of the Ice Age, nearly 20,000 years ago. By the end of the fif-
teenth century, when Columbus began his voyage west, there were mil-
lions of Indians living in the Western Hemisphere. Over the centuries,
they had developed diverse and often highly sophisticated societies,
some rooted in agriculture, others in trade or imperial conquest. So, the
New World was “new” only to the Europeans who began exploring, con-
quering, and exploiting the region at the end of the late fifteenth century.
The Indian cultures were, of course, profoundly affected by the arrival
of peoples from Europe and Africa. The Indians experienced cata-
strophic cultural change: they were exploited, infected, enslaved, dis-
placed, and exterminated. Millions of acres of tribal lands were taken or
bought for a pittance. Yet this conventional tale of tragic conquest over-
simplifies the complex process by which the Indians, Europeans, and
Africans interacted in the Western Hemisphere. The Indians were more
than passive victims of European power; they were also trading partners
and often allies as well as rivals of the transatlantic newcomers. They
became neighbors and advisers, converts and spouses. As such, they par-
ticipated creatively and powerfully in the creation of the new society
known as America.
The Europeans who risked their lives to settle in the Western Hemi-
sphere were a diverse lot. Young and old, men and women, they came
from Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, the Netherlands, Scandi-
navia, Italy, and the German states (Germany would not become a
united nation until the mid–nineteenth century). A variety of motives
inspired them to undertake the often-harrowing transatlantic voyage.
Some were adventurers and fortune seekers eager to gain glory and find
gold, silver, and spices. Others were fervent Christians eager to create
kingdoms of God in the “New World.” Still others were convicts,
debtors, indentured servants, or political or religious exiles. Many were
simply seeking a piece of land, higher wages, and greater economic
opportunity. A settler in Pennsylvania noted that “poor people (both
men and women) of all kinds can here get three times the wages for
their labour than they can in England.”
Yet such enticements were not sufficient to attract enough workers to
keep up with the rapidly expanding colonial economies, so the Euro-
peans forced the Indians to work for them. But there were never enough
laborers to meet the unceasing demand. Moreover, captive Indians often
escaped or were so rebellious that their use as slaves was banned in sev-
eral colonies. The Massachusetts legislature outlawed forced labor
because the Indians displayed “a malicious, surly and revengeful spirit;
rude and insolent in their behavior, and very ungovernable.”
Beginning early in the seventeenth century, colonists turned to Africa
for their labor needs. European nations—especially Portugal and
Spain—had long been transporting captive Africans to the Western
Hemisphere, from Chile to Canada. In 1619 a Dutch warship brought
twenty captured Africans to Jamestown, near the coast of Virginia. The
Dutch captain exchanged the slaves for food and supplies. This first of
many transactions involving enslaved people in British America would
transform American society in complex, multilayered ways that no
one at the time envisioned. Few Europeans during the colonial era
saw the contradiction between the promise of freedom in America
for themselves and the expanding
institution of race-based slavery.
Nor did they reckon with the
problems associated with intro-
ducing into the colonies people
deemed alien and inferior. Thus
began the two great social injus-
tices that have come to haunt
American history: the conquest
and displacement of the Indians
and the enslavement of Africans.
The intermingling of people,
cultures, and ecosystems from the
continents of Africa, Europe, and
the Western Hemisphere gave
colonial American society its
distinctive vitality and variety. In turn, the diversity of the environment
and the varying climate spawned quite different economies and patterns
of living in the various regions of North America. As the original settle-
ments grew into prosperous and populous colonies, the transplanted
Europeans had to fashion social institutions and political systems to
manage dynamic growth and control rising tensions.
At the same time, imperial rivalries among the Spanish, French, Eng-
lish, and Dutch triggered costly wars fought in Europe and around the
world. The monarchs of Europe struggled to manage often-unruly
colonies, which, they discovered, played crucial roles in their frequent
European wars. Many of the colonists had brought with them to Amer-
ica a feisty independence, which led them to resent government interfer-
ence in their affairs. A British official in North Carolina reported that
the residents of the Piedmont region were “without any Law or Order.
Impudence is so very high, as to be past bearing.” As long as the reins of
imperial control were loosely held, the colonists and their British rulers
maintained an uneasy partnership. But as the royal authorities tightened
their control during the mid–eighteenth century, they met resistance
from colonists, which became revolt and culminated in revolution.

1
THE COLLISION
OF CULTURES
T
he history of the United States of America begins long before
1776. The supposed “New World” discovered by intrepid
European explorers was in fact a very “old world” to civiliza-
tions thousands of years in the making. Debate continues about when and
how the first humans arrived in North America. Until recently, archaeolo-
gists had assumed that ancient Siberians some 12,000 to 15,000 years ago
had journeyed 600 miles across the frigid Bering Strait near the Arctic Circle
on what was then a treeless land connecting northeastern Siberia with
Alaska (by about 7000 B.C., the land bridge had been submerged by rising sea
levels). These nomadic, spear-wielding hunters and their descendants, called
Paleo-Indians (“old” Indians) by archaeologists, drifted south in pursuit of
large game animals. Over the next 500 years, as the climate warmed and the
glaciers receded, a steady stream of small groups fanned out across the entire
Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America.
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What civilizations existed in America before the arrival of
Europeans?
• Why were European countries, such as Spain and Portugal, pre-
pared to embark on voyages of discovery by the sixteenth century?
• How did contact between the Western Hemisphere and Europe
change through the exchange of plants, animals, and pathogens?
• What were the Europeans’ reasons for establishing colonies in
America?
• What is the legacy of the Spanish presence in North America?
• What effect did the Protestant Reformation have on the coloniza-
tion of the “New World”?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
6

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
Recent archaeological discoveries in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Chile sug-
gest a more complex story of human settlement. The new evidence reveals
that prehistoric humans may have arrived much earlier (perhaps 18,000 to
40,000 years ago) from various parts of Asia—and some may even have
crossed the Atlantic Ocean from southwestern Europe.
Regardless of when humans first set foot on the North American conti-
nent, the region and its indigenous peoples eventually became a crossroads
for immigrants from around the globe: Europeans, Africans, Asians, and
others—all of whom brought with them as immigrants distinctive back-
grounds, cultures, technologies, and motivations. This immigrant experience—
past and present—has become one of the major themes of American
life. Before and after 1776, what became the United States of America has
taken in more people, and more different kinds of people, than any other
nation in world history. Christopher Columbus’s pathbreaking voyage in 1492
unleashed an unrelenting wave of exploration, conquest, exploitation, and
settlement that transformed the Americas, Europe, and Africa in ways no one
imagined possible.
PRE- COLUMBI AN I NDI AN CI VI LI ZATI ONS
The first peoples in North America discovered an immense continent
with extraordinary climatic and environmental diversity. Coastal plains,
broad grasslands, harsh deserts, and soaring mountain ranges generated dis-
tinct habitats, social structures, and cultural patterns. By the time Columbus
happened upon the Western Hemisphere, the hundreds of tribes living in
North America may together have numbered over 10 million people. They
had developed a diverse array of communities in which more than 400 lan-
guages were spoken. Yet despite the distances and dialects separating them,
the Indian societies created extensive trading networks, which helped spread
ideas and innovations. Contrary to the romantic myth of early Indian civi-
lizations living in perfect harmony with nature and one another, the indige-
nous societies often engaged in warfare and exploited the environment by
burning vast areas, planting fields, and gathering seeds, berries, and roots
while harvesting vast numbers of game animals, fish, and shellfish.
EARLY CULTURES After centuries of subsistence nomadic life centered
on hunting game animals and gathering edible wild plants, the ancient Indi-
ans settled in more permanent villages. Thousands of years after people first
appeared in North America, climatic changes and extensive hunting had
Pre-Columbian Indian Civilizations

7
When did people first cross the Bering Sea? What evidence have archaeologists and
anthropologists found from the lives of the first people in America? Why did those
people travel to North America?
8

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
killed off the largest mammals. Global warming diminished grasslands and
stimulated forest growth, which provided plants and small animals for
human consumption. The ancient Indians adapted to the new environments
by developing nature-centered religions, mastering the use of fire, improving
technology such as spear points, inventing fiber snares and basketry, as well as
mills for grinding nuts, and domesticating the dog and the turkey. A new cul-
tural stage arrived with the introduction of farming, fishing, and pottery
making. Hunters focused on faster, more elusive mammals: deer, antelope,
elk, moose, and caribou. Already by about 5000 B.C., Indians of Mexico were
generating an “agricultural revolution” by growing the plant foods that would
become the staples of the hemisphere: chiefly maize (corn), beans, and
squash but also chili peppers, avocados, and pumpkins. The annual cultiva-
tion of such crops enabled Indian societies to grow larger and more complex,
with their own distinctive social, economic, and political institutions.
THE MAYAS , AZTECS , CHI BCHAS , AND I NCAS Between about
2000 and 1500 B.C., permanent farming towns and cities appeared in Mexico
and northern Guatemala. The more settled life in turn provided time for the
cultivation of religion, crafts, art, science, administration—and frequent
warfare. The Indians in the Western Hemisphere harbored the usual human
grievances against their neighbors, and wars were common. From about A.D.
300 to 900, Middle America (Mesoamerica, what is now Mexico and Central
America) developed densely populated cities complete with gigantic pyra-
mids, temples, and palaces, all supported by surrounding peasant villages.
Moreover, the Mayas used mathematics and astronomy to devise a sophisti-
cated calendar more accurate than the one the Europeans were using at the
time of Christopher Columbus in the late fifteenth century. Mayan civiliza-
tion was highly developed, featuring sprawling cities, hierarchical govern-
ment, terraced farms, spectacular pyramids, and a cohesive ideology.
In about A.D. 900 the complex Mayan culture collapsed. The Mayas had
overexploited the rain forest, upon whose fragile ecosystem they depended. As
an archaeologist has explained, “Too many farmers grew too many crops on
too much of the landscape.” Widespread deforestation led to hillside erosion
and a catastrophic loss of nutrient-rich farmland. Overpopulation added to
the strain on Mayan society, prompting civil wars. Mayan war parties
destroyed each other’s cities and took prisoners, who were then sacrificed to
the gods in theatrical rituals. Whatever the reasons for the weakening of
Mayan society, it succumbed to the Toltecs, a warlike people who conquered
most of the region in the tenth century. But around A.D. 1200 the Toltecs
mysteriously withdrew after a series of droughts, fires, and invasions.
Pre-Columbian Indian Civilizations

9
During the late thirteenth century the Aztecs—named after the legendary
Aztlán, from where they were supposed to have come—arrived from the
northwest to fill the vacuum in the Basin of Mexico. They founded the city
of Tenochtitlán in 1325 and gradually expanded their control over neighbor-
ing tribes in central Mexico. The Aztecs developed a thriving commerce in
gold, silver, copper, and pearls as well as agricultural products. When the
Spanish invaded Mexico in 1519, the sprawling Aztec Empire, connected by
a network of roads with rest stops every ten miles or so, encompassed per-
haps 5 million people.
Farther south, in what is now Colombia, the Chibchas built a similar
empire on a smaller scale. Still farther south the Quechuas (better known as
the Incas, from the name for their ruler) controlled a huge empire contain-
ing as many as 12 million people speaking at least twenty different languages.
The Incas had used a shrewd mixture of diplomacy, marriage alliances with
rival tribes, and military conquest to create a vast realm that by the fifteenth
century stretched 2,500 miles along the Andes Mountains from Ecuador to
Chile on the west coast of South America. The Incas were as sophisticated as
Mayan society
A fresco depicting the social divisions of Mayan society. A Mayan lord, at the center,
receives offerings.
10

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
the Aztecs in transforming their mountainous empire into a flowering civi-
lization with fertile farms, enduring buildings, and an interconnected net-
work of roads.
I NDI AN CULTURES OF NORTH AMERI CA The pre-Columbian
Indians of the present-day United States created several distinct civilizations,
the largest of which were the Pacific Northwest culture; the Hohokam-
Anasazi culture of the Southwest; the Adena-Hopewell culture of the Ohio
River valley; and the Mississippian culture east of the Mississippi River. None
of these developed as fully as the civilizations of the Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas
to the south, but like their Mesoamerican counterparts, the North American
Indians often warred with one another. They shared some fundamental
A T L A N T I C
O C E A N
P A C I F I C
O C E A N
SOUTH AMERICA
MIDDLE
AMERICA
Tenochtitlán
Monte Albán
Teotihuacán
CARI BBEAN SEA
GULF OF MEXI CO
0 250
0 500 Kilometers 250
500 Miles
CHIBCHAS
PRE-COLUMBIAN
CIVILIZATIONS
IN MIDDLE AND
SOUTH AMERICA
MEXICO
M
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TOLTECS
What were the major pre-Columbian civilizations? What factors caused the demise
of the Mayan civilization? When did the Aztecs build Tenochtitlán?
Pre-Columbian Indian Civilizations

11
myths and beliefs, especially concerning the sacredness of nature, the necessity
of communal living, and respect for elders, but they developed in different
ways at different times and in different places. In North America alone, there
were probably 240 different tribes speaking many different languages when
the Europeans arrived.
The Indians of the Pacific Northwest occupied a narrow strip of land
and offshore islands along the heavily forested coast, extending 2,000 miles
northward from California through what are now Oregon, Washington, and
British Columbia, to southern Alaska. They engaged in little farming since
the fish, whales, game (mostly deer and mountain sheep), and edible wild
plants were so plentiful. The coastal Indians were also talented woodwork-
ers; they built plank houses and large canoes out of cedar trees. Socially, the
PRE-COLUMBIAN
CIVILIZATIONS
IN NORTH AMERICA
P A C I F I C
O C E A N
A T L A N T I C
O C E A N
GULF OF MEXI CO
N O R T H
A M E R I C A
R
O
C
K
Y

M
O
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N
T
A
I
N
S

Mesa Verde
ANASAZI
PUEBLO-HOHOKAM
M
I
S
S
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S
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A
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V
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0
0 500 Kilometers
500 Miles
What were the three dominant pre-Columbian civilizations in North America?
Where was the Adena-Hopewell culture centered? How was the Mississippian civi-
lization similar to that of the Mayans or Aztecs? What made the Anasazi culture
different from the other North American cultures?
12

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
Indians along the Northwest coast were divided into chiefs, commoners, and
slaves; raids to gain slaves were the primary cause of tribal warfare.
The Adena-Hopewell culture in what is today the Midwest left behind enor-
mous earthworks and hundreds of elaborate burial mounds, some of them
shaped like great snakes, birds, and other animals. The Adena and, later,
the Hopewell peoples were gatherers and hunters who lived in small, isolated
communities. They used an intricate kinship network to form social and spir-
itual alliances. Evidence from the burial mounds suggests that they had a com-
plex social structure featuring a specialized division of labor. Moreover, the
Hopewells developed an elaborate trade network that spanned the continent.
The Mississippian culture, centered in the southern Mississippi River
valley, flourished between 900 and 1350. The Mississippians forged a
complex patchwork of chiefdoms. In river valleys they built substantial
towns around central plazas and temples. Like the Hopewells to the
north, the Mississippians developed a specialized labor system, an effec-
tive gov ernmental structure, and an expansive trading network. They
cleared vast tracts of land to grow maize, beans, squash, and sunflowers.
The dynamic Mississippian culture peaked in the fourteenth century, but
succumbed first to climate change and finally to diseases brought by
Europeans.
The Mississippian people con-
structed elaborate regional centers,
the largest of which was Cahokia,
in southwest Illinois, across the
Mississippi River from what is now
St. Louis. There the Indians con-
structed elaborate public struc-
tures and imposing shrines. At the
height of its influence, between
A.D. 1050 and 1250, the Cahokia
metropolis hosted thousands of
people on some 3,200 acres. Outly-
ing towns and farming settlements
ranged up to fifty miles in all direc-
tions. For some unknown reason,
the residents of Cahokia dispersed
after 1400.
The arid Southwest (in what is
now Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico,
and Utah) spawned irrigation-
Mississippian artifact
A ceramic human head effigy from the
Mississippian culture. The Mississippians
disappeared by 1500.
Pre-Columbian Indian Civilizations

13
based cultures, elements of which exist today and heirs to which (the Hopis,
Zunis, and others) still live in the adobe cliff dwellings (called pueblos by the
Spanish) erected by their ancestors. About A.D. 500, the indigenous Hohokam
people migrated from present-day Mexico into today’s southern Arizona, where
they constructed temple mounds similar to those in Mexico. For unknown rea-
sons, the Hohokam society disappeared during the fifteenth century.
The most widespread and best known of the Southwest tribal cultures
were the Anasazi (“Enemy’s Ancestors” in the Navajo language). In ancient
times they developed extensive settlements in the “four corners,” where the
states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet. In contrast to the
Mesoamerican and Mississippian cultures, Anasazi society lacked a rigid
class structure. The religious leaders and warriors labored much as the rest
of the people did. In fact, the Anasazi engaged in warfare only as a means of
self-defense (Hopi means “Peaceful People”). Environmental factors shaped
Anasazi culture and eventually caused its decline. Toward the end of the
thirteenth century, a lengthy drought and the pressure of migrating Indians
from the north threatened the survival of Anasazi society.
Cliff dwellings
Ruins of Anasazi cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
14

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
I NDI ANS I N 1500 When Europeans arrived in North America in the
sixteenth century, as many as 10 million Indians lived on a continent criss-
crossed by trails and rivers that formed an extensive trading network. Over
thousands of years, the Indians had developed a great diversity of responses
to an array of natural environments. The scores of tribes can be clustered
according to three major regional groups: the Eastern Woodlands tribes, the
Great Plains tribes, and the Western tribes.
The Eastern Woodlands peoples tended to live along the rivers. They
included three regional groups distinguished by their languages: the Algon -
quian, the Iroquoian, and the Muskogean. The dozens of Algonquian-speaking
tribes stretched from the New England seaboard to lands along the Great
Lakes and into the upper Midwest and south to New Jersey, Virginia, and the
Carolinas. The Algonquian tribes along the coast were skilled at fishing; the
inland tribes excelled at hunting. All of them practiced agriculture to some
extent, and they frequently used canoes hollowed out of trees (“dugouts”) to
navigate rivers and lakes. Most Algonquians lived in small round shelters
called wigwams. Their villages typically ranged from 500 to 2,000 inhabitants.
West and south of the Algonquians were the Iroquoian-speaking tribes
(including the Seneca, Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, and Cayuga, and the
Cherokee and Tuscarora in the South), whose lands spread from upstate New
York south through Pennsylvania and into the upland regions of the Carolinas
and Georgia. The Iroquois’s skill at growing corn led them to create perma-
nent agricultural villages. Around their villages they constructed log walls, and
within them they built enormous bark-covered longhouses, which housed
several related family clans. Unlike the patriarchal Algonquian culture,
Iroquoian society was matriarchal. In part, the matriarchy reflected the fre-
quent absence of Iroquois men. As adept hunters and traders, the men traveled
extensively for long periods. Women headed the clans, selected the chiefs,
controlled the distribution of property, and planted as well as harvested
the crops.
The third major Indian group in the Eastern Woodlands included the tribes
who spoke the Muskogean language: the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws.
West of the Mississippi River were the peoples living on the Great Plains and in
the Great Basin (present-day Utah and Nevada), many of whom had migrated
from the East. Plains Indians, including the Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Arapaho,
Comanche, Apache, and Sioux, were nomadic tribes whose culture focused on
hunting the vast herds of bison. The Western tribes, living along the Pacific
coast, depended upon fishing, sealing, and whaling. Among them were Salish
tribes, including the Tillamook, the Chinook, and the Pomo and Chumash.
For at least 15,000 years before the arrival of Europeans, the Indians had
occupied the vastness of North America undisturbed by outside invaders.
European Visions of America

15
War between tribes, however, was commonplace. Success in warfare was
the primary source of a male’s prestige among many tribes. As a Cherokee
explained in the eighteenth century, “We cannot live without war. Should we
make peace with the Tuscororas, we must immediately look out for some
other nation with whom we can engage in our beloved occupation.”
Over the centuries, the native North Americans had adapted to the neces-
sity of warfare, changing climate, and varying environments. They would
also do so in the face of the unprecedented changes wrought by the arrival of
Europeans. In the process of changing and adapting to new realities in
accordance with their own traditions, the Indians played a significant role in
shaping America and the origins of the United States.
EUROPEAN VI S I ONS OF AMERI CA
The European invasion of the Western Hemisphere was fueled by
curiosity and enabled by advances in nautical technology. Europeans had
long wondered about what lay beyond the western horizon. During the
tenth and eleventh centuries the Vikings (seafaring Norse peoples who lived
in Scandinavia) crisscrossed much of the globe. From villages in Norway,
Vikings in the “New World”
A Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, in northeastern
Canada. Reconstructed longhouses in Icelandic Viking style are in the
background.
16

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
Sweden, and Denmark, Viking warriors and traders ventured down to North
Africa, across the Baltic Sea, up Russian rivers, and across the Black Sea to
the fabled Turkish capital, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). The Vikings
also headed west, crossing the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, raiding
towns in Ireland, settling in Iceland, and then exploring the coast of the
uppermost reaches of North America.
Around A.D. 985 a Norse Icelander named Erik the Red colonized the west
coast of a rocky, fogbound island he called Greenland. The world’s largest
island, Greenland was mostly covered by ice and devoid of human inhabi-
tants. The Vikings established a settlement on the southwest coast. Erik the Red
ironically named the island Greenland in hopes of misleading prospective
colonists about its suitability for settlement. Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the
Red, sailed west and south from Greenland about A.D. 1001 and sighted
the coast of present-day Newfoundland in northeastern Canada, where he set-
tled for the winter. The Greenland colonies vanished mysteriously in the
fifteenth century.
NORTH
AMERI CA
EUROPE
AFRICA
A T L A N T I C O C E A N
Norse settlements
NORSE DISCOVERIES
GREENLAND
IRELAND
ICELAND
SCOTLAND
ENGLAND
NORTH
SEA
NORWAY
NEWFOUNDLAND
LABRADOR
L’Anse aux Meadows
FAROE
ISLANDS
SHETLAND
ISLANDS
CAPE COD
When did the first Norse settlers reach North America? What was the symbolic sig-
nificance of these lands of the Western Hemisphere? How far south in North Amer-
ica did the Norse explorers travel?
The Expansion of Europe

17
THE EXPANS I ON OF EUROPE
The European exploration of the Western Hemisphere was enabled by
several key developments during the fifteenth century. New knowledge and
new technologies enabled the construction of full-rigged sailing ships capa-
ble of oceanic voyages, more accurate navigation techniques and maps, and
more powerful weapons. Driving those improvements was an unrelenting
ambition to explore new territories (especially the Indies, a term which then
referred to eastern Asia), garner greater wealth and richer commerce, and
spread Christianity across the globe. This remarkable age of discovery coin-
cided with the rise of modern science; the growth of global trade, commercial
towns, and modern corporations; the decline of feudalism and the formation
of nations; the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation;
and the resurgence of some old sins—greed, conquest, exploitation, oppres-
sion, racism, and slavery—that quickly defiled the mythical innocence of the
so-called New World.
RENAI SSANCE GEOGRAPHY For more than two centuries before
Columbus, European thought was enlivened by the so-called Renaissance—
the rediscovery of ancient texts, the rebirth of secular learning, and a perva-
sive intellectual curiosity—all of which spread more rapidly after Johannes
Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press around 1440. Learned Euro-
peans of the fifteenth century revered the ideas of classical Greece and
Rome, including ancient concepts of geography. Greek mathematicians had
concluded that the earth was round rather than flat. That Columbus was try-
ing to prove that the world’s sphericity is an enduring—and false—myth; no
informed person in the late fifteenth century thought the earth was flat.
Progress in the art of nautical navigation accompanied the revival of secular
learning during the Renaissance. Steering across the open sea, however,
remained more a matter of intuition than science.
THE GROWTH OF TRADE, TOWNS, AND NATI ON- S TATES
Europe’s interest in global exploration derived primarily from the dramatic
growth of urban commerce and world trade. By the fifteenth century, Euro-
pean traders traveled by sea and land all the way to east Asia, where they
acquired herbal medicines, silk, jewels, perfumes, and rugs. They also pur-
chased the much-coveted Asian spices—pepper, nutmeg, clove—so essential
for preserving food and enhancing its flavor. The growing trade between
Europe and Asia spawned a growing class of wealthy merchants and led to
18

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
the creation of the first modern corporations, through which stockholders
shared risks and profits.
Global commerce was chancy and costly, however. Goods commonly
passed from hand to hand, from ships to pack horses and back to ships, along
the way subject to taxes demanded by various rulers. The vast Muslim world,
extending from Spain across North Africa and into central Asia, straddled the
important trade routes, adding to the hazards. Muslims tenaciously opposed
efforts to “Christianize” their lands. Little wonder, then, that Europeans were
eager to find an alternative all-water western route to spice-rich east Asia.
Another spur to global exploration was the rise of unified nations, ruled
by powerful monarchs wealthy enough to sponsor the search for foreign
riches. The growth of the merchant class went hand in hand with the growth
of centralized political power and the rapidly expanding population. Mer-
chants wanted uniform currencies and favorable trade regulations. They
thus became natural allies of the trade-loving monarchs. In turn, merchants
and university-trained professionals supplied the monarchs with money,
lawyers, and government officials. The Crusaders—European armies sent
between 1095 and 1270 to conquer the Muslim-controlled Holy Land—had
also advanced the process of international trade and exploration. The Crusades
had brought Europe into contact with the Middle East and had decimated
the ranks of the feudal lords, many of whom were killed while fighting Mus-
lims. And new means of warfare—the use of gunpowder and royal armies—
further weakened the independence of the nobility relative to the monarchs.
In the late thirteenth century, the Venetian explorer Marco Polo and his
father embarked on an epic, twenty-four-year-long journey eastward across
Asia where they met the fabled Kublai Khan, the grand ruler of a vast empire
encompassing Mongolia and China. Polo’s published account of the Asian
riches amassed by the “Great Khan” dazzled Europeans, including Christo-
pher Columbus.
By 1492 the map of Europe had been transformed. The decentralized feu-
dal system of the Middle Ages had given way to several united kingdoms:
France, where in 1453 Charles VII had surfaced from the Hundred Years’
War as head of a unified nation; England, where in 1485 Henry VII had
emerged victorious after thirty years of civil strife known as the Wars of the
Roses; Portugal, where John I had fought off the Castilians to ensure
national independence; and Spain, where in 1469 Ferdinand of Aragon and
Isabella of Castile had united two warring kingdoms in marriage.
The Spanish king and queen were crusading Christian expansionists. On
January 1, 1492, after nearly eight centuries of religious warfare between Span-
ish Christians and Moorish Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula, Ferdinand
The Voyages of Columbus

19
and Isabella declared victory for Catholicism at Granada, the last Muslim
stronghold. The zealously pious monarchs gave the defeated Muslims, and
soon thereafter, the Jews living in Spain and Portugal (called Sephardi), the
same desperate choice: convert to Catholicism or leave Spain.
The forced exile of Muslims and Jews from Spain was one of the many fac-
tors that prompted Europe’s involvement in global expansion. Other factors—
urbanization, world trade, the rise of centralized nations, and advances in
knowledge, technology, and firepower—combined with natural human
curiosity, greed, and religious zeal to spur the exploration and conquest of
the Western Hemisphere. Beginning in the late fifteenth century, Europeans
set in motion the events that, as one historian has observed, would bind
together “four continents, three races, and a great diversity of regional
parts.” During the two and a half centuries after 1492, the Spanish developed
the most extensive empire the world had ever known. It would span south-
ern Europe and the Netherlands, much of the Western Hemisphere, and
parts of Asia. Yet the Spanish Empire grew so vast that its sprawling size and
ethnic complexity eventually led to its disintegration. In the meantime, the
expansion of Spanish influence around the world helped shape much of
the development of American society and history.
THE VOYAGES OF COLUMBUS
Global naval exploration began in an unlikely place: the tiny seafaring
kingdom of Portugal, the westernmost country in Europe, strategically
positioned at the convergence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic cultures.
Beginning in 1422, having captured the Muslim stronghold of Ceuta, on the
North African coast, the Portuguese dispatched naval expeditions to map the
West African coast, spread the Christian faith among the “pagan” Africans,
and return with gold, spices, ivory, and slaves. Over the years Portuguese
ships brought back plunder as well as tens of thousands of enslaved Africans.
They also adapted superior sailing techniques that they encountered on
Arab merchant vessels to create new oceangoing ships called caravels, which
could perform better in headwinds and go faster. The Portuguese also bor-
rowed from the Arabs a device called an astrolabe that enabled sailors to
locate their ship’s position by latitude calculations.
Equipped with such innovations, the Portuguese then focused on find -
ing a maritime route to the riches of the Indies. In 1488, Bartholomeu Dias
rounded the Cape of Good Hope, at Africa’s southern tip, before his panicky
crew forced him to turn back. Ten years later Dias’s countryman, Vasco da
20

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
Gama, sailed south from Portugal. Without maps, charts, or reliable pilots,
he led four leaky ships along the west coast of Africa. They traveled around
the Cape of Good Hope, up the Arab-controlled east coast of Africa, and
crossed the Indian Ocean to India, where da Gama acquired tons of spices.
The epic two-year voyage covered 24,000 miles, took the lives of over half the
crew, and helped to establish little Portugal as a global seafaring power.
Christopher Columbus, meanwhile, was learning his trade in the school
of Portuguese seamanship. Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, Columbus took to
the sea at an early age, teaching himself geography, navigation, and Latin.
By the 1480s, he was eager to spread Christianity across the globe. Dazzled
by the prospect of garnering Asian riches, he developed a bold plan to reach
the spice-trade ports of the Indies (India, China, the East Indies, or Japan)
by sailing not south along the African coast but west across the Atlantic. The
tall, red-haired Columbus was an audacious visionary whose persistence was
as great as his courage. He eventually persuaded the Spanish monarchs Fer-
dinand and Isabella to award him a tenth share of any riches he gathered
abroad: pearls; gold, silver, or other precious metals; and the Asian spices so
coveted by Europeans. The legend that the queen had to hock the crown jew-
els to finance the voyage is as spurious as the fable that Columbus set out to
prove the earth was round.
Columbus chartered one seventy-
five-foot ship, the Santa María, and
the Spanish city of Palos supplied two
smaller caravels, the Pinta and the
Niña. From Palos on August 3, 1492,
this little squadron of tiny ships, with
about ninety men, most of them Span -
iards, set sail westward for what
Columbus thought was Asia. As the
weeks passed, the crews grew first weary,
then restless, then panicky. There was
even whispered talk of mutiny. Two
of Columbus’s captains urged him to
turn back. But early on October 12
a lookout yelled, “Tierra! Tierra!”
(“Land! Land!”). He had sighted an
island in the Bahamas east of Florida
that Columbus named San Salvador
(Blessed Savior). Columbus decided,
incorrectly, that they must be near the
Christopher Columbus
A portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo,
ca. 1519, said to be Christopher
Columbus.
The Voyages of Columbus

21
Indies, so he called the island people los Indios. At every encounter with the
peaceful indigenous people, known as Tainos or Arawaks, his first question
was whether they had any gold. If they had gold the Spaniards seized it; if
they did not, the Europeans forced them to search for it. Columbus
described the “Indians” as naked people, “very well made, of very handsome
bodies and very good faces.” He added that “with fifty men they could all be
subjugated and compelled to do anything one wishes.” It would be easy, he
said, “to convert these people [to Catholicism] and make them work for us.”
After leaving San Salvador, Columbus continued to search for a passage to
the fabled Indies through the Bahamas, down to Cuba, and then eastward to
the island he named Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic),
where he first found significant amounts of gold jewelry and was introduced
to tobacco. Columbus learned of, but did not encounter until his second voy-
age, the fierce Caribs of the Lesser Antilles. The Caribbean Sea was named
after them, and their supposed bad habit of eating human flesh gave rise to
the word cannibal, derived from a Spanish version of their name (caníbal).
At the end of 1492, Columbus, still believing he had reached Asia, decided
to return to Europe. He left about forty men on Hispaniola and captured a
dozen Indians to present as gifts to the Spanish king and queen. When
Columbus reached Spain, he received a hero’s welcome. Thanks to the newly
invented printing press, news of his westward voyage spread rapidly across
Europe. In a letter that circulated widely throughout Europe, Columbus
described the “great victory” he had achieved by reaching the Indies and tak-
ing “possession” of the “innumerable peoples” he found there. The Spanish
monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella told Columbus to prepare for a second
voyage, instructing him to “treat the Indians very well and lovingly and
abstain from doing them any injury.” Columbus and his men would repeat-
edly defy this order.
The Spanish monarchs also sought to solidify their legal claim against
Portugal’s threats to the newly discovered lands in the Americas. With the
help of the pope (a Spaniard), rivals Spain and Portugal reached a compro-
mise, called the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), which drew an imaginary line
west of the Cape Verde Islands (off the west coast of Africa) and stipulated
that the area to its west—which included most of the Americas—would be a
Spanish sphere of exploration and settlement. Africa and what was to
become Brazil were granted to Portugal. In practice, this meant that while
Spain developed its American empire in the sixteenth century, Portugal pro-
vided it with enslaved African laborers.
Flush with success and convinced that he was an agent of God’s divine
plan, Columbus returned across the Atlantic in 1493 with seventeen ships
22

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
and 1,400 men. Also on board were Catholic priests charged with converting
the Indians. Columbus discovered that the camp he had left behind was in
chaos. The unsupervised soldiers had run amok, raping women, robbing vil-
lages, and, as Columbus’s son later added, “committing a thousand excesses
for which they were mortally hated by the Indians.”
Columbus returned to Spain in 1496. Two years later he sailed west again,
discovering the island of Trinidad and exploring the northern coast of South
America. He led a fourth and final voyage in 1502, during which he sailed
along the coast of Central America, still looking in vain for a passage to the
Indies. To the end of his life, Columbus insisted that he had discovered the
outlying parts of Asia, not a new continent. By one of history’s greatest
ironies, this lag led Europeans to name the “New World” not for Columbus
but for another Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who sailed across
the Atlantic in 1499. Vespucci landed on the coast of South America
and reported that it was so large it must be a “new” continent. European
mapmakers thereafter began to label the “New World” using a variant of
Vespucci’s first name: America.
1498
1502
1493
1492
NORTH
AMERI CA
SOUTH
AMERI CA
AFRICA
ATLANTI C
OCEAN
PACIFIC
OCEAN
COLUMBUS’S VOYAGES
ENGLAND
SPAIN
FRANCE
PORTUGAL
GULF
OF
MEXICO
CARIBBEAN SEA
AZORES
BAHAMAS
SAN SALVADOR
JAMAICA
HISPANIOLA
CUBA
TRINIDAD
LESSER
ANTILLES
CANARY
ISLANDS
CAPE VERDE
ISLANDS
CENTRAL
AMERICA
How many voyages did Columbus make to the Americas? What is the origin of the
name for the Caribbean Sea? What happened to the colony that Columbus left on
Hispaniola in 1493?
THE GREAT BI OLOGI CAL EXCHANGE
The first European contacts with the Western Hemisphere began an
unprecedented worldwide biological and social exchange that ultimately
worked in favor of the Europeans at the expense of the indigenous peoples.
Indians, Europeans, and eventually Africans intersected to create new reli-
gious beliefs and languages, adopt new tastes in food, and develop new
modes of dress.
If anything, the plants and animals of the two worlds were more different
from each other than were the peoples and their ways of life. Europeans
had never seen creatures such as iguanas, bison, cougars, armadillos,
opossums, sloths, tapirs, anacondas, condors, and hummingbirds. Turkeys,
guinea pigs, llamas, and alpacas
were also new to Europeans. Nor
did the Indians know of horses,
cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chick-
ens, which soon arrived from
Europe in abundance. Within a
half century whole islands of the
Caribbean would be overrun by
pigs brought from Europe.
The exchange of plant life
between Old and New Worlds
worked a revolution in the
diets of both hemispheres. Before
Columbus’s voyage, three
foods were unknown in Europe:
maize (corn), potatoes (sweet
and white), and many kinds
of beans (snap, kidney, lima, and
others). The white potato, al -
though commonly called Irish, is
actually native to South America.
Explorers brought it back to
Europe, where it thrived. The
“Irish potato” was eventually
transported to North America by
Scots-Irish immigrants during
the early eighteenth century.
Other Western Hemisphere food
The Great Biological Exchange

23
Algonquian chief in warpaint
From the notebook of English settler John
White, this sketch depicts an Indian chief.
24

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
plants included peanuts, squash, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, pineapples,
sassafras, papayas, guavas, avocados, cacao (the source of chocolate), and
chicle (for chewing gum). Europeans in turn introduced rice, wheat, barley,
oats, wine grapes, melons, coffee, olives, bananas, “Kentucky” bluegrass,
daisies, and dandelions to the Americas.
The beauty of the biological exchange was that the food plants were more
complementary than competitive. Corn, it turned out, could flourish almost
anywhere in the world. The nutritious food crops exported from the Ameri-
cas thus helped nourish a worldwide population explosion probably greater
than any since the invention of agriculture. The dramatic increase in the
European populations fueled by the new foods in turn helped provide the
surplus of people who colonized the “New World.”
Smallpox
Aztec victims of the 1538 smallpox epidemic are covered in shrouds (center) as two
others lie dying (at right).
Professional Explorers

25
By far the most significant aspect of the biological exchange, however, was
the transmission of infectious diseases. European colonists and enslaved
Africans brought with them deadly pathogens that Native Americans had
never experienced: smallpox, typhus, diphtheria, bubonic plague, malaria,
yellow fever, and cholera. The results were catastrophic. Far more Indians—
tens of millions—died from contagions than from combat. Deadly diseases
such as typhus and smallpox produced pandemics on an unprecedented
scale. Unable to explain or cure the diseases, Native American chiefs and reli-
gious leaders often lost their stature. As a consequence, tribal cohesion and
cultural life disintegrated, and efforts to resist European assaults collapsed.
Smallpox was an especially ghastly and highly contagious disease in the
“New World.” In central Mexico alone, some 8 million people, perhaps a third
of the entire Indian population, died of smallpox within a decade of the
arrival of the Spanish. In colonial North America, as Indians died by the tens
of thousands, disease became the most powerful weapon of the European
invaders. A Spanish explorer noted that half the Indians died from smallpox
and “blamed us.” Many Europeans, however, interpreted such epidemics as
diseases sent by God to punish those who resisted conversion to Christianity.
PROFES S I ONAL EXPLORERS
The news of Columbus’s remarkable voyages raced across Europe
during the sixteenth century and stimulated other expeditions to the Western
Hemisphere. Over the next two centuries, many European nations dis-
patched ships and claimed territory by “right of discovery”: Spain, Portugal,
France, Britain, the Netherlands, and Russia. The national governments
sponsored professional explorers, mostly Italians, who probed the shorelines
in the Americas during the early sixteenth century. The first to sight the
North American continent was John Cabot, a Venetian sponsored by Henry
VII of England. Authorized to “conquer and possess” any territory he found,
Cabot crossed the North Atlantic in 1497. His landfall at what the king called
“the new founde lande,” in present-day Canada, gave England the basis for a
later claim to all of North America. During the early sixteenth century, how-
ever, the English grew so preoccupied with internal divisions and war
with France that they failed to capitalize on Cabot’s discoveries. In 1513 the
Spaniard Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to sight the
Pacific Ocean, having crossed the Isthmus of Panama on foot.
The Spanish were eager to find a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
To that end, in 1519 Ferdinand Magellan, a haughty Portuguese sea captain
26

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
hired by the Spanish, discovered the strait at the southern tip of South
America that now bears his name. Magellan kept sailing north and west
across the Pacific Ocean, discovering Guam and, eventually, the Philippines,
where indigenous people killed him. Surviving crew members made their
way back to Spain, arriving in 1522, having been at sea for three years. Their
dramatic accounts of the global voyage quickened Spanish interest in global
exploration.
THE SPANI S H EMPI RE
During the sixteenth century, Spain created the world’s most powerful
empire. At its height it encompassed much of Europe, most of the Americas,
parts of Africa, and various trading outposts in Asia. But it was the gold
Congo
River
Amazon River
V
e
s
p
u
c
c
i

M
a
g
e
l
l
a
n

D
i
a
s

M
a
g
e
lla
n
’s
c
re
w
Spanish
SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE
EXPLORATIONS
Portuguese
S
P
A
I
N
P
O
R
T
U
G
A
L
S
P
A
I
N
P
O
R
T
U
G
A
L
AUSTRALIA
A S I A
E U R O P E
AFRICA
SOUTH
AMERICA
NORTH
AMERICA
INDIA ARABIA
SPAIN
PORTUGAL
CHINA
JAPAN AZORES
MADAGASCAR
ZANZIBAR
SRI LANKA
PHILIPPINE
ISLANDS
MOLUCCAS
CANARY
ISLANDS
Line of Treaty
of Tordesillas,
1494
Line of Treaty
of Tordesillas,
1494
CAPE HORN
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
Strait of Magellan
Equator
ATLANTIC
OCEAN
ATLANTIC
OCEAN
PACIFIC
OCEAN
INDIAN OCEAN
0
0 2,000 Kilometers
2,000 Miles
What is the significance of Magellan’s 1519 voyage? What biological exchanges
resulted from these early explorations?
The Spanish Empire

27
and especially the silver looted from the Americas that fueled the engine
of Spain’s “Golden Empire.” And the benefits of global empire came at
the expense of Indians. Heroic Spanish adventurers were also ruthless
exploiters. By plundering, conquering, and colonizing the Americas and
converting and enslaving its inhabitants, the Spanish planted Christianity in
the Western Hemisphere and gained the resources to rule the world.
The Caribbean Sea served as the funnel through which Spanish power
entered the Americas. After establishing colonies on Hispaniola, includ -
ing Santo Domingo, which became the capital of the West Indies, the Span-
ish proceeded eastward to Puerto Rico (1508) and westward to Cuba
(1511–1514). Their motives were explicit, as one soldier explained: “We
came here to serve God and the king, and also to get rich.” Like the French
and the British after them, the Spanish who conquered vast areas of the
Western Hemisphere were willing to risk everything in pursuit of wealth,
power, glory, or divine approval.
Many of the Europeans in the first wave of settlement died of malnutri-
tion or disease. But the Indians suffered far more casualties, for they were ill
equipped to resist the European invaders. Disunity everywhere—civil disor-
der, rebellion, and tribal warfare—left the indigenous peoples vulnerable to
division and foreign conquest. Attacks by well-armed soldiers and deadly
germs from Europe perplexed and overwhelmed the Indians. Europeans
took for granted the superiority of their civilization and ways of life. Such
arrogance undergirded the conquest and enslavement of the Indians, the
destruction of their way of life, and the seizure of their land and treasures.
A CLASH OF CULTURES The often-violent encounter between Span-
ish and Indians involved more than a clash between different peoples. It also
involved contrasting forms of technological development. The Indians of
Mexico had copper and bronze but no iron. They used wooden canoes for
transportation, while the Europeans sailed in heavily armed oceangoing ves-
sels. The Spanish ships not only carried human cargo, but also steel swords,
firearms, explosives, and armor. These advanced military tools terrified
Indians. A Spanish priest in Florida observed that gunpowder “frightens the
most valiant and courageous Indian and renders him slave to the white
man’s command.” Arrows and tomahawks were seldom a match for guns,
cannons, and smallpox.
The Europeans enjoyed other cultural advantages. For example, before
the arrival of Europeans the only domesticated four-legged animals in North
America were dogs and llamas. The Spanish, on the other hand, brought
with them horses, pigs, and cattle. Horses provided greater speed in battle
28

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
and introduced a decided psychological advantage. “The most essential
thing in new lands is horses,” reported one Spanish soldier. “They instill the
greatest fear in the enemy and make the Indians respect the leaders of the
army.” Even more feared among the Indians were the greyhound fighting
dogs that the Spanish used to guard their camps.
CORTES’ S CONQUEST The most dramatic European conquest of a
major indigenous civilization on the North American mainland occurred in
Mexico. On February 18, 1519, Hernán Cortés, driven by dreams of gold
and glory in Mexico, set sail from Cuba. His fleet of eleven ships carried
nearly 600 soldiers and sailors. Also on board were 200 indigenous Cubans,
sixteen horses, and cannons. After the invaders landed at what is now Ver-
acruz, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, they assaulted a confederation of
four small Indian kingdoms independent of, and opposed to, the domineer-
ing Aztecs. Cortés shrewdly persuaded the vanquished warriors to join his
advance on the hated Aztecs.
Cortés’s soldier-adventurers, called conquistadores, received no pay; they
were military entrepreneurs willing to risk their lives for a share in the
expected plunder and slaves. To prevent any men from deserting, Cortés had
Cortés in Mexico
Page from the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, a historical narrative from the sixteenth century.
The scene, in which Cortés is shown seated on a throne, depicts the arrival of the
Spanish in Tlaxcala.
The Spanish Empire

29
the ships burned, sparing one vessel to carry the expected gold back to
Spain. The nearly 200-mile march of Cortés’s army from Veracruz through
difficult mountain passes to the Aztec capital took nearly three months.
THE AZTECS Cortés was one of the most audacious figures in world
history. With his small army, the thirty-four-year-old adventurer brashly set
out to conquer the opulent Aztec Empire, which extended from central Mex-
ico to what is today Guatemala. The Aztecs—their most accurate name is
Mexica—were a once-nomadic people who had wandered south from
northern Mexico and settled in the central highlands in the fourteenth
century. On marshy islands on the west side of Lake Tetzcoco, the site of
present-day Mexico City, they built Tenochtitlán, a dazzling capital city
dominated by towering stone temples, broad paved avenues, thriving mar-
kets, and some 70,000 adobe huts.
By 1519, when the Spanish landed on the Mexican coast, the Aztecs were one
of the most powerful civilizations in the world. As their empire had expanded
across central and southern Mexico, they had developed elaborate urban soci-
eties, sophisticated legal systems, scientific farming techniques, including irri-
gated fields and engineering marvels, and a complicated political structure. By
Aztec sacrifices to the gods
Renowned for military prowess, Aztecs would capture and then sacrifice their enemies.
30

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
1519, their arts were flourishing; their architecture was magnificent. Aztec rulers
were invested with godlike qualities, and nobles, priests, and warrior-heroes
dominated the social hierarchy.
AZTEC RELI GI ON Like most agricultural peoples, the Aztecs centered
their spiritual beliefs on the cosmic forces of nature. Many of the Aztec gods
were aligned with natural forces—the sun, the sky, water, wind, fire—and
the gods perpetually struggled with one another for supremacy. Like most
Mesoamericans, the Aztecs regularly offered human sacrifices—captives,
slaves, women, and children—to please the gods and to promote rain, enable
good harvests, and ensure victory in battle. The Aztecs also used the reli-
gious obligation to offer sacrifices as a means of justifying their relentless
imperial assaults against other tribes. Prisoners of war in vast numbers were
needed as sacrificial offerings. In elaborate weekly rituals at temples and in
the streets, Aztec priests used stone knives to cut out the beating hearts of
live victims. By the early sixteenth century as many as 10,000 people a year
were sacrificed at numerous locations across Mesoamerica. The Spanish
were aghast at this “most horrid and abominable custom,” but it is impor-
tant to remember that sixteenth-century Europeans also conducted public
torture and executions of the most ghastly sort—beheadings, burnings,
hangings. Between 1530 and 1630, England alone executed 75,000 people.
S PANI S H I NVADERS As Cortés and his army marched across Mexico,
they heard fabulous accounts of Tenochtitlán. With some 200,000 inhabi-
tants, it was the largest city in the Americas and much larger than most
European cities. Graced by wide canals, stunning gardens, and formidable
stone pyramids, the fabled lake-encircled capital seemed impregnable. But
Cortés made the most of his assets. By a combination of threats and
deceptions, Cortés and his Indian allies entered Tenochtitlán peacefully and
captured the emperor, Montezuma II. Cortés explained to Montezuma why
the invasion was necessary: “We Spaniards have a disease of the heart that
only gold can cure.” Montezuma acquiesced in part because he mistook
Cortés for a god.
After taking the Aztecs’ gold and silver, the Spanish forced Montezuma to
provide laborers to mine more of the precious metals. This state of affairs
lasted until the spring of 1520, when disgruntled Aztecs, regarding Mon-
tezuma as a traitor, rebelled, stoned him to death, and attacked Cortés’s
forces. The Spaniards lost about a third of their men as they retreated. Their
20,000 indigenous allies remained loyal, however, and Cortés gradually
regrouped his forces. In 1521, he besieged the imperial city for eighty-five
The Spanish Empire

31
days, cutting off its access to water and food and allowing a smallpox epi-
demic to decimate the inhabitants. As a Spaniard observed, the smallpox
“spread over the people as great destruction. Some it covered on all parts—
their faces, their heads, their breasts, and so on. There was great havoc. Very
many died of it. . . . They could not move; they could not stir.” The ravages of
smallpox and the support of thousands of anti-Aztec indigenous allies help
explain how such a small force of determined Spaniards lusting for gold and
silver was able to vanquish a proud nation of nearly 1 million people. After
the Aztecs surrendered, a merciless Cortés ordered the leaders hanged and
the priests devoured by dogs. In two years Cortés and his disciplined army
had conquered a fabled empire that had taken centuries to develop.
Cortés set the style for waves of plundering conquistadores to follow.
Within twenty years, Spain had established a sprawling empire in the “New
World.” In 1531, Francisco Pizarro led a band of soldiers down the Pacific
coast from Panama toward Peru, where they brutally subdued the Inca
Empire. The Spanish invaders seized the Inca palaces and country estates,
took royal women as mistresses and wives, and looted the empire of its gold
and silver. From Peru, Spain extended its control southward through Chile
by about 1553 and north, to present-day Colombia, by 1538. One of the con-
quistadores explained that he went to America “to serve God and His
Majesty, to give light to those who were in darkness, and to grow rich, as men
desire to do.”
SPANISH AMERICA As the sixteenth century unfolded, Spain
expanded its settlements in the “New World” and established far-flung
governmental and economic centers in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central
America, and South America. The crusading conquistadores transferred to
America a socioeconomic system known as the encomienda, whereby favored
officers became privileged landowners who controlled Indian villages. As
encomenderos, they were called upon to protect and care for the villages and
support missionary priests. In turn, they could require the Indians to provide them
with goods and labor. Spanish America therefore developed from the start a
society of extremes: wealthy conquistadores and encomenderos at one end of
the spectrum and indigenous peoples held in poverty at the other end.
What was left of them, that is. By the mid-1500s native Indians were
nearly extinct in the West Indies, reduced more by European diseases than
by Spanish brutality. To take their place, as early as 1503 the Spanish coloniz-
ers began to transport enslaved Africans, the first in a wretched traffic that
eventually would carry millions of captive people across the Atlantic into
bondage. In all of Spain’s “New World” empire, by one estimate, the Indian
32

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
population plummeted from about 50 million at the outset to 4 million in
the seventeenth century. Whites, who totaled no more than 100,000 in the
mid–sixteenth century, numbered over 3 million by the end of the colonial
period.
Spain established by force a Christian empire in the Western Hemisphere.
Through the various Catholic evangelical orders—Augustinians, Benedictines,
Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits—the Spanish (and later the French)
launched a massive effort to convert the Indians (“heathens”). During the
sixteenth century, thousands of priests fanned out across New Spain (and, later,
New France). The missionaries ventured into the remotest areas to spread the
gospel. Many of them decided that the Indians of Mexico could be converted
only by force. “Though they seem to be a simple people,” a Spanish friar
declared in 1562, “they are up to all sorts of mischief, and are obstinately
attached to the rituals and ceremonies of their forefathers. The whole land is
certainly damned, and without compulsion, they will never speak the [religious]
truth.” By the end of the sixteenth century, there were over 300 monasteries or
missions in New Spain, and Catholicism had become a major instrument of
Spanish imperialism.
Missionaries in the “New World”
A Spanish mission in New Mexico, established to spread the Catholic faith among
the indigenous peoples.
The Spanish Empire

33
Not all Spanish officials forced conversion on the Indians. In 1514,
Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Catholic priest in Cuba, renounced the practice of
coercive conversions and spent the next twenty years advocating better treat-
ment for indigenous people. But his courageous efforts made little headway
against the process of forced evangelization. Most colonizers believed, as a
Spanish bishop in Mexico declared in 1585, that the Indians must be “ruled,
governed, and guided” to Christianity “by fear more than by love.”
SPANI SH EXPLORATI ON I N NORTH AMERI CA During the six-
teenth century, Spanish America gradually developed into a settled society.
The conquistadores were succeeded by a second generation of bureaucrats,
and the encomienda gave way to the hacienda (a great farm or ranch) as the
claim to land became a more important source of wealth than the Span -
ish claim to labor. From the outset, in sharp contrast to the later English
experience, the Spanish government regulated every detail of colonial
administration. After 1524, the Council of the Indies issued laws for New
Spain, served as the appellate court for civil cases arising in the colonies, and
administered the bureaucracy.
Throughout the sixteenth century no European power other than Spain
held more than a brief foothold in the “New World.” Spain had the advan-
tage not only of having arrived first but also of having stumbled onto those
regions that would produce the quickest profits. While France and England
were struggling with domestic quarrels and religious conflict, Spain had
forged an intense national unity. Under King Charles V, Spain dominated
Europe as well as the “New World” during the first half of the sixteenth cen-
tury. The treasures of the Aztecs and the Incas added to its power, but the
single-minded focus on gold and silver also undermined the basic economy
of Spain and tempted the government to live beyond its means. The influx of
gold and silver from the “New World” financed the growth of the Spanish
Empire (and army) while causing inflation throughout Europe.
For most of the colonial period, much of what is now the United States
belonged to Spain, and Spanish culture etched a lasting imprint upon Amer-
ican ways of life. Spain’s colonial presence lasted more than three centuries,
much longer than either England’s or France’s. New Spain was centered in
Mexico, but its frontiers extended from the Florida Keys to Alaska and
included areas not currently thought of as formerly Spanish, such as the
Deep South and the lower Midwest. Hispanic place-names—San Francisco,
Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Santa Fe, San Antonio, Pen-
sacola, and St. Augustine—survive to this day, as do Hispanic influences in
art, architecture, literature, music, law, and cuisine.
34

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
The Spanish encounter with Indian populations and their diverse cultures
produced a two-way exchange by which the contrasting societies blended,
coexisted, and interacted. Even when locked in mortal conflict and driven by
hostility and mutual suspicion, the two cultures necessarily affected each
other; both Indians and conquerors devised creative adaptations. In other
words, New Spain, while permeated with violence, coercion, and intoler-
ance, also produced a mutual accommodation that enabled two living
traditions to persist side by side. For example, the Pueblos of the Southwest
practiced two religious traditions simultaneously, adopting Spanish Catholi-
cism under duress while retaining the essence of their inherited animistic
faith. The “Spanish borderlands” of the southern United States preserve
many reminders of the Spanish presence.
Juan Ponce de León, then governor of Puerto Rico, made the earliest
known exploration of Florida in 1513. Meanwhile, Spanish explorers skirted
the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Veracruz, scouted the Atlantic coast
from Key West to Newfoundland, and established a short-lived colony on
the Carolina coast.
Sixteenth-century knowledge of the North American interior came mostly
from would-be conquistadores who sought to plunder the hinterlands. The
first, Pánfilo de Narváez, landed in 1528 at Tampa Bay, marched northward
to Apalachee, an indigenous village in present-day Alabama, and then
returned to the coast near present-day St. Marks, Florida, where he and his
crew built crude vessels in the hope of reaching Mexico. Wrecked on the
coast of Texas, a few survivors under Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca worked
their way painfully overland and, after eight years, stumbled into a Spanish
outpost in western Mexico.
Hernando de Soto followed their example. With 600 men, as well as
horses and fighting dogs, he landed on Florida’s west coast in 1539, hiked up
as far as western North Carolina, and then moved westward beyond the Mis-
sissippi River and up the Arkansas River, looting and destroying indigenous
villages along the way. In the spring of 1542, de Soto died near Natchez; the
next year the survivors among his party floated down the Mississippi, and
311 of the original adventurers found their way to Mexico. In 1540, Fran-
cisco Vásquez de Coronado, inspired by rumors of gold, traveled northward
into New Mexico and northeast across Texas and Oklahoma as far as Kansas.
He returned in 1542 without gold but with a more realistic view of what lay
in those arid lands.
The Spanish established provinces in North America not so much as com-
mercial enterprises but as defensive buffers protecting their more lucrative
trading empire in Mexico and South America. They were concerned about
The Spanish Empire

35
French traders infiltrating from Louisiana, English settlers crossing into
Florida, and Russian seal hunters wandering down the California coast.
The first Spanish outpost in the present United States emerged in response
to French encroachments on Spanish claims. In the 1560s, spirited French
Protestants (called Huguenots) established France’s first American colonies
A T L A N T I C
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MAYAS
AZTECS
Núñez de Balboa, 1513
SPANISH EXPLORATIONS
OF THE MAINLAND
Ponce de León, 1513
Cortés, 1519
Narváez, 1527–1528
Pizarro, 1531–1533
Cabeza de Vaca, 1528–1536
de Soto, 1539–1542
Coronado, 1540–1542
What were the Spanish conquistadores’ goals for exploring the Americas? How did
Cortés conquer the Aztecs? Why did the Spanish first explore North America, and
why did they establish St. Augustine, the first European settlement in what would
become the United States?
on the coast of what became South Carolina and Florida. In 1565 a Spanish
outpost on the Florida coast, St. Augustine, became the first European town
in the present-day United States and is now the nation’s second-oldest urban
center, after the pueblos of New Mexico. Spain’s colony at St. Augustine
included a fort, church, hospital, fish market, and over 100 shops and
houses—all built decades before the first English settlements at Jamestown
and Plymouth. While other early American outposts failed, St. Augustine sur-
vived as a defensive base perched on the edge of a continent.
In September 1565, Spanish soldiers from St. Augustine assaulted Fort
Caroline, the French Hugenot colony in northeastern Florida, and hanged
all the surviving men over age fifteen. The Spanish commander notified his
devoutly Catholic king that he had “hanged all those he had found [in Fort
Caroline] because . . . they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in
these Provinces.” Later, when survivors from a shipwrecked French fleet
washed ashore on Florida beaches after a hurricane, the Spanish commander
told them they must abandon Protestantism and swear their allegiance to
Catholicism. When they refused, he executed 245 of them. Religion in Amer-
ica was truly a life-and-death affair. The destruction of the French outpost in
Florida left a vacuum of settlement along the Atlantic coast for the British,
Dutch, and Swedes to fill a half century later.
THE S PANI S H S OUTHWES T The Spanish eventually established
other permanent settlements in what are now New Mexico, Texas, and Cali -
fornia. Eager to pacify rather than fight the far more numerous Indians of
the region, the Spanish used religion as an instrument of colonial control.
Missionaries, particularly Franciscans and Jesuits, established isolated Cath -
olic missions, where they imposed Christianity on the indigenous people.
After about ten years a mission would be secularized: its lands would be
divided among the converted Indians, the mission chapel would become a
parish church, and the inhabitants would be given full Spanish citizenship—
including the privilege of paying taxes. The soldiers who were sent to protect
the missions were housed in presidios, or forts; their families and the mer-
chants accompanying them lived in adjacent villages.
The land that would later be called New Mexico was the first center of
mission activity in the American Southwest. In 1598, Juan de Oñate, a
wealthy, imperious son of a Spanish mining family in Mexico, received a
land grant for the territory north of Mexico above the Rio Grande. With an
expeditionary military force made up mostly of Mexican Native Americans
and mestizos (the offspring of Spanish fathers and indigenous mothers), he
took possession of New Mexico, established a capital north of present-day
36

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
Santa Fe, and sent out expeditions to search for gold and silver deposits. He
promised the local Indians, called Pueblos, that Spanish dominion would
bring them peace, justice, prosperity, and protection. Conversion to Catholi-
cism offered even greater benefits: “an eternal life of great bliss” instead of
“cruel and everlasting torment.”
Some Indians welcomed the missionaries as “powerful witches” capable of
easing their burdens. Others tried to use the Spanish invaders as allies
against rival tribes. Still others saw no alternative but to submit. The Indians
living in Spanish New Mexico were required to pay tribute to their
encomenderos and perform personal tasks for them, including sexual favors.
Soldiers and priests flogged disobedient Indians.
Before the end of the province’s first year, in December 1598, the Pueblos
revolted, killing several soldiers and incurring Oñate’s wrath. During
three days of relentless fighting, Spanish soldiers killed 500 Pueblo men and
300 women and children. Survivors were enslaved. Pueblo males over the age
of twenty-five had one foot severed in a public ritual intended to frighten
the Pueblos and keep them from
escaping or resisting. Children
were taken from their parents and
placed under the care of a Fran-
ciscan mission, where, Oñate
remarked, “they may attain the
knowledge of God and the salva-
tion of their souls.”
During the first three quarters
of the seventeenth century, Span-
ish New Mexico expanded very
slowly. The hoped-for deposits of
gold and silver were never found,
and a sparse food supply blunted
the interest of potential colonists.
The Spanish government pre-
pared to abandon the colony, only
to realize that Franciscan mis-
sionaries had baptized so many
Pueblos that they ought not be
deserted. In 1608 the government
decided to turn New Mexico
into a royal province. The follow-
ing year it dispatched a royal
The Spanish Empire

37
Cultural conflict
This Peruvian illustration, from a 1612–
1615 manuscript by Felipe Guamán Poma
de Ayala, shows a Dominican friar forcing a
native woman to weave.
governor, and in 1610, as English settlers were struggling to survive at
Jamestown, in Virginia, the Spanish moved the province’s capital to Santa
Fe, the first permanent seat of government in the present-day United States.
By 1630 there were fifty Catholic churches and friaries in New Mexico and
some 3,000 Spaniards.
Franciscan missionaries claimed that 86,000 Pueblos had been converted
to Christianity. In fact, however, resentment among the Indians increased
with time. In 1680 a charismatic Indian leader named Popé organized a mas-
sive rebellion among twenty Indian towns. The Indians burned Catholic
churches; tortured, mutilated, and executed priests; and destroyed all relics
of Christianity. Popé then established Santa Fe as the capital of his confeder-
acy. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 constituted the greatest defeat that the Indi-
ans ever inflicted on European efforts to conquer and colonize the “New
World.” It took fourteen years and four military assaults for the Spanish to
reestablish control over New Mexico.
HORSES AND THE GREAT PLAI NS Another major consequence of
the Pueblo Revolt was the opportunity it afforded Indian rebels to acquire
hundreds of coveted Spanish horses (Spanish authorities had made it illegal
for Indians to own horses). The Pueblos in turn established a thriving horse
trade with Navajos, Apaches, and other tribes. By 1690, horses were evident
in Texas, and they soon spread across the Great Plains, the vast rolling grass-
lands extending from the Missouri River valley in the east to the base of the
Rocky Mountains in the west.
Horses were a disruptive ecological force in North America. Prior to the
arrival of horses, Indians hunted on foot and used dogs as their beasts of
burden. But dogs are carnivores, and it was difficult to find enough meat to
feed them. Horses thus changed everything, providing the Plains Indians
with a transforming source of mobility and power. Horses are grazing
animals, and the vast grasslands of the Great Plains offered plenty of forage.
Horses could also haul up to seven times as much weight as dogs, and their
speed and endurance made the Indians much more effective hunters and
warriors. In addition, horses enabled Indians to travel farther to trade and
fight.
Horses worked a revolution in the economy as well as the ecology of the
Great Plains. Tribes such as the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and
Sioux reinvented themselves as equestrian societies. They left their tradi-
tional woodland villages on the fringes of the plains and became nomadic
bison (buffalo) hunters. Indians used virtually every part of the bison they
killed: meat for food; hides for clothing, shoes, bedding, and shelter; muscles
38

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
and tendons for thread and bowstrings; intestines for containers; bones for
tools; horns for eating utensils; hair for headdresses; and dung for fuel. One
scholar has referred to the bison as the “tribal department store.”
In the short run the horse brought prosperity and mobility to the Plains
Indians. Horses became the center and symbol of Indian life on the plains.
Yet the Indians began to kill more bison than the herds could replace. In
addition, horses competed with the bison for food, often depleting the
prairie grass and compacting the soil in the river valleys during the winter.
And as tribes traveled greater distances and encountered more people, infec-
tious diseases spread more widely.
Nonetheless, horses became so valuable that they intensified intertribal
warfare. A family’s status reflected the number of horses it possessed. Horses
eased some of the physical burdens on women, but also imposed new
demands. Women and girls tended to the horses, butchered and dried the
buffalo meat, and tanned the hides. As the value of the hides grew, male
hunters began practicing polygamy, primarily for economic reasons: more
wives could process more buffalo. The rising value of wives eventually led
The Spanish Empire

39
Plains Indians
The horse-stealing raid depicted in this hide painting demonstrates the essential
role horses played in Plains life.
Plains Indians to raid other tribes in search of captive brides as well as
horses. The introduction of horses into the Great Plains, then, was a decid-
edly mixed blessing. By 1800 a white trader could observe that “this is a
delightful country, and were it not for perpetual wars, the natives might be
the happiest people on earth.”
THE PROTES TANT REFORMATI ON
The zealous efforts of the Spanish to convert Indians to Catholicism
illustrated the murderous intensity with which Europeans engaged in reli-
gious life in the sixteenth century. Spiritual concerns were paramount. Reli-
gion inspired, consoled, and united people. In matters of faith, the Roman
Catholic Church and the Bible were the pervasive sources of authority.
Social life centered on worship services, prayer rituals, and religious festivals
and ceremonies. People believed fervently in heaven and hell, devils and
witches, demons and angels, magic and miracles, astrology and the occult.
Europeans also took for granted the collaboration of church and state;
monarchs required religious uniformity. Heresy and blasphemy were not
tolerated. Christians were willing to kill and die for their beliefs. During the
Reformation, when “protestant” dissidents challenged the supremacy of the
Roman Catholic Church, Catholics and Protestants persecuted, imprisoned,
tortured, and killed each other—in large numbers. In France between 1562
and 1629, for example, nine civil wars were fought over religion, with 2 million
to 4 million people dying in the widespread conflicts—out of a total popula-
tion of 19 million.
The Protestant Reformation intensified national rivalries, and, by chal-
lenging Catholic Spain’s power, profoundly affected the course of early
American history. When Columbus sailed west in 1492, all of western
Europe acknowledged the supremacy of the Catholic Church and its pope in
Rome. The unity of Christendom began to crack on October 31, 1517, how-
ever, when Martin Luther (1483–1546), an obscure German theologian and
minister, posted on the door of his Wittenberg church (a then-common way
to announce a public debate) his Ninety-five Theses in protest against the
corruption of Catholic officials. He especially criticized the sale of indul-
gences, whereby monks and priests would forgive sins of the living or the
dead in exchange for money or goods. Sinners, Luther argued, could win sal-
vation neither by doing good works nor by purchasing indulgences but only
by receiving the gift of God’s grace through the redemptive power of Christ
40

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
and through a direct personal relationship with God—the “priesthood of all
believers.”
Lutheranism spread rapidly among the German-speaking people and
their rulers—some of them with an eye to seizing property owned by the
Catholic Church. Church officials lashed out at Luther, calling him “a leper
with a brain of brass and a nose of iron.” The pope dismissed Lutheranism
as a “cancerous disease” and a “plague.” When the pope expelled Luther
from the church in 1521 and banned all of his writings to keep the world
from being “infected” by his heretical ideas, the German states erupted in
religious conflicts. The controversy was not settled until 1555, when each
German prince was allowed to determine the religion of his subjects. Most
of northern Germany, along with Scandinavia, became Lutheran. The prin-
ciple of close association between church and state thus carried over into
Protestant lands, but Luther had unleashed volatile ideas that ran beyond
his control.
The Protestant Reformation spread rapidly across Europe during the six-
teenth century. It was in part a theological dispute, in part a political move-
ment, and in part a catalyst for social change, civil strife, colonial expansion,
and imperial warfare. Martin Luther’s bold ideas shattered the unity of
Catholic Europe and ignited civil wars and societal upheavals. Once
unleashed, the flood of Protestant rebellion flowed in directions unexpected
and unwanted by Luther and his allies. Militant Protestants pursued Luther’s
rebellious doctrine to its logical end by preaching religious liberty for all.
Further divisions on doctrinal matters such as baptism, communion, and
church organization spawned various sects, such as the Anabaptists, who
rejected infant baptism and favored the separation of church and state.
Other offshoots—including the Mennonites, Amish, and Schwenckfeldians—
appeared first in Europe and later in America, but the more numerous like-
minded groups would be the Baptists and the Quakers, whose origins were
English. These Anabaptist sects ended up exerting considerable influence on
the fabric of colonial life in America.
CALVI NI S M Soon after Martin Luther began his revolt against the short-
comings of Catholicism, Swiss Protestants also challenged papal authority. In
Geneva the reform movement looked to John Calvin (1509–1564), a brilliant
French scholar who had fled to that city and brought it under the sway of his
powerful beliefs. In his great theological work, The Institutes of the Christian
Religion (1536), Calvin set forth a stern doctrine. All people, he taught, were
damned by Adam’s original sin, but the sacrifice of Christ made possible the
The Protestant Reformation

41
redemption of those whom God had “elected” and thus had predestined to
salvation from the beginning of time. Predestination was an uncompromis-
ing doctrine, but the infinite wisdom of God, Calvin declared, was beyond
human understanding.
Intoxicated by godliness, Calvin insisted upon strict morality and hard
work, values that especially suited the rising middle class. Moreover, he
taught that God valued every form of work, however menial it might be.
Calvin also permitted lay members a share in the governance of the church
through a body of elders and ministers called the presbytery. Calvin’s doc-
trines formed the basis for the German Reformed Church, the Dutch
Reformed Church, the Presbyterians in Scotland, some of the Puritans in
England (and, eventually, in America), and the Huguenots in France.
Through these and other groups, John Calvin exerted a greater effect upon
religious belief and practice in the English colonies than did any other leader
of the Reformation. His insistence on the freedom of individual believers, as
well as his recognition that monarchs and political officials were sinful like
everyone else, helped contribute to the evolving ideas in Europe of represen-
tative democracy and of the importance of separating church power from
state (governmental) power.
THE REFORMATI ON I N ENGLAND In England the Reformation
followed a unique course. The Church of England, or the Anglican Church,
took form through a gradual process of integrating Calvinism with English
Catholicism. In early modern England, church and state were united and
mutually supportive. The monarchy required people to attend religious
services and to pay taxes to support the church. The English rulers also
supervised the hierarchy of church officials: two archbishops, twenty-six
bishops, and thousands of parish clergy. The royal rulers often instructed the
religious leaders to preach sermons in support of particular government
policies. As one English king explained, “People are governed by the pulpit
more than the sword in time of peace.”
Purely political reasons initially led to the rejection of papal authority in
England. Brilliant and energetic Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547), the second
monarch of the Tudor dynasty, had in fact won from the pope the title
Defender of the Faith for refuting Martin Luther’s ideas. But Henry’s mar-
riage to Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow, had produced no male
heir, and to marry again required that he obtain an annulment of his mar-
riage from the pope. In the past, popes had found ways to accommodate
such requests, but Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, king of Spain and
ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, whose support was vital to the church. So
42

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
the pope refused to grant an annulment. Unwilling to accept the rebuff,
Henry severed England’s nearly nine-hundred-year-old connection with the
Catholic Church, named a new archbishop of Canterbury, who granted the
annulment, and married his mistress, the lively Anne Boleyn.
In one of history’s greatest ironies, Anne Boleyn gave birth not to the male
heir that Henry demanded but to a daughter, named Elizabeth. The disap-
pointed king later accused his wife of adultery, ordered her beheaded, and
declared the infant Elizabeth a bastard. Yet Elizabeth received a first-rate
education and grew up to be quick-witted and nimble, cunning and coura-
geous. After the bloody reigns of her Protestant half brother, Edward VI, and
her Catholic half sister, Mary I, she ascended the throne in 1558, at the age of
twenty-five. Over the next forty-five years, Elizabeth proved to be the most
remarkable female ruler in history. Her long reign over the troubled island
kingdom was punctuated by political turmoil, religious tension, economic
crises, and foreign wars. Yet Queen Elizabeth came to rule over England’s
golden age.
Born into a man’s world and given a man’s role, Elizabeth could not be a
Catholic, for in the Catholic view her birth was illegitimate. During her long
reign, from 1558 to 1603, therefore, the Church of England became Protestant,
but in its own way. The Anglican organizational structure, centered on bishops
and archbishops, remained much the same, but the church doctrine and prac-
tice changed: the Latin liturgy became, with some changes, the English Book of
Common Prayer, the cult of saints was dropped, and the clergy were permitted
to marry. For the sake of unity, the
“Elizabethan settlement” allowed some
latitude in theology and other matters,
but this did not satisfy all. Some
Britons tried to enforce the letter of the
law, stressing traditional Catholic prac-
tices. Many others, however, especially
those under Calvinist influence, wished
to “purify” the church of all its Catholic
remnants and promote widespread
spiritual revival. Some of these “Puri-
tans” would leave England to build
their own churches in America. Those
who broke altogether with the Church
of England were called Separatists.
Thus, the religious controversies asso-
ciated with the English Reformation so
Queen Elizabeth I
Shown here in her coronation robes,
ca. 1559.
The Protestant Reformation

43
dominated the nation’s political life that interest in colonizing the “New
World” waned during the mid-seventeenth century, only to be revived by the
end of the century.
CHALLENGES TO THE SPANI S H EMPI RE
The Spanish monopoly on “New World” colonies remained intact
throughout the sixteenth century, but not without challenge from European
rivals. The success of Catholic Spain in conquering and exploiting much of
the Western Hemisphere spurred Portugal, France, England, and the Nether-
lands to develop their own imperial claims in the Western Hemisphere. The
French were the first to pose a serious threat. Spanish treasure ships sailing
home from New Spain offered tempting targets for French privateers. In
1524 the French king sent the Italian Giovanni da Verrazano west across the
Atlantic in search of a passage to Asia. Sighting land (probably at Cape Fear,
North Carolina), Verrazano ranged along the coast as far north as Maine. On
a second voyage, in 1528, his life met an abrupt end in the West Indies at the
hands of the Caribs.
Unlike the Verrazano voyages, those of Jacques Cartier, beginning in the
next decade, led to the first French effort at colonization in North America.
During three voyages, Cartier explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence and ven-
tured up the St. Lawrence River, between what would become Canada and
New York. Twice he got as far as present-day Montreal, and twice he win-
tered at or near the site of Quebec, near which a short-lived French colony
appeared in 1541–1542. From that time forward, however, French kings lost
interest in Canada. France after midcentury plunged into religious civil
wars, and the colonization of Canada had to await the coming of Samuel de
Champlain, “the Father of New France,” after 1600. Champlain would lead
twenty-seven expeditions across the Atlantic from France to Canada during
a thirty-seven-year period.
From the mid-1500s, greater threats to Spanish power arose from the
growing strength of the Dutch and the English. The United Provinces of the
Netherlands (Holland), which had passed by inheritance to the Spanish king
and become largely Protestant, rebelled against Spanish rule in 1567. A long,
bloody struggle for independence ensued. Spain did not accept the indepen-
dence of the Dutch republic until 1648.
Almost from the beginning of the Protestant Dutch revolt against
Catholic Spain, the Dutch plundered Spanish ships in the Atlantic and car-
ried on illegal trade with Spain’s colonies. While Queen Elizabeth steered a
44

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
Challenges to the Spanish Empire

45
Champlain
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Cabot
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English
ENGLISH, FRENCH, AND
DUTCH EXPLORATIONS
French
Dutch
Who were the first European explorers to rival Spanish dominance in the “New
World,” and why did they cross the Atlantic? Why was the defeat of the Spanish
Armada important to the history of English exploration? What was the significance
of the voyages of Gilbert and Raleigh?
tortuous course to avoid open war with Spain, she encouraged both Dutch
and English sea captains to engage in smuggling and piracy. In 1577, Sir
Francis Drake embarked on his famous adventure around South America,
raiding Spanish towns along the Pacific Ocean and surprising a treasure ship
from Peru. Eventually he found his way westward around the world and
arrived home in 1580. Elizabeth knighted him upon his return.
THE DEFEAT OF THE ARMADA The plundering of Spanish ship-
ping by English privateers continued for some twenty years before open war
erupted. In 1568, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, having
been ousted the year before by Scottish Presbyterians in favor of her infant
son, James, fled to England. Mary, who was Catholic, had a claim to the Eng-
lish throne by virtue of her descent from Henry VII, and as the years passed,
she conspired to overthrow the Protestant queen Elizabeth. In 1587, after
learning of plots to kill her and elevate Mary to the throne, Elizabeth
ordered Mary beheaded.
News of Mary’s execution outraged Philip II, the king of Catholic Spain,
and he resolved to crush Protestant England and his former sister-in-law
Queen Elizabeth—he had been married to Elizabeth’s half sister, Mary,
whose death, in 1558, had occasioned Elizabeth’s ascent to the throne. To do
so, he assembled the fabled Spanish Armada: 130 ships, 8,000 sailors, and at
least 18,000 soldiers—the greatest invasion fleet in history. On May 28, 1588,
the Armada left Lisbon headed for the English Channel. The English navy,
whose almost one hundred warships were smaller but faster, was waiting for
them. As the two fleets positioned themselves for the great naval battle,
Queen Elizabeth donned a silver breastplate and told the English forces,
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart
and stomach of a king, and a King of England too.” As the battle unfolded,
the heavy Spanish galleons could not compete with the speed and agility of the
smaller English ships. The English fleet harried the Spanish ships through the
English Channel on their way to the Netherlands, where the Armada was to
pick up more soldiers for an assault on England. But caught up in a powerful
“Protestant wind” from the south, the storm-tossed Spanish fleet was swept
into the North Sea instead. What was left of it finally found its way home
around the British Isles, scattering wreckage on the shores of Scotland and
Ireland. The stunning defeat of Catholic Spain’s Armada bolstered the
Protestant cause across Europe. The ferocious storm that smashed the
retreating Spanish ships seemed to be a sign of God’s will. Queen Elizabeth
commissioned a special medallion to commemorate the successful defense
of England. The citation read, “God blew and they were dispersed.” Spain’s
46

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
King Philip seemed to agree. Upon learning of the catastrophic defeat, he
sighed, “I sent the Armada against men, not God’s winds and waves.”
Defeat of the Spanish Armada marked the beginning of England’s global
naval supremacy and cleared the way for English colonization of America.
English colonists could now make their way to North America without fear
of Spanish interference. The naval victory was the climactic event of Queen
Elizabeth’s reign. England at the end of the sixteenth century was in the
springtime of its power, filled with a youthful zest for new worlds and new
wonders.
ENGLI SH EXPLORATI ON OF AMERI CA The history of the English
efforts to colonize America begins with Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half
brother, Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1578, Gilbert, who had long been a favorite of
the queen’s, secured royal permission to establish a colony in America.
Gilbert, after two false starts, set out with a colonial expedition in 1583,
intending to settle near Narragansett Bay (in present-day Rhode Island). He
Challenges to the Spanish Empire

47
“The Invincible Armada”
The Spanish Armada in a sixteenth-century English oil painting.
instead landed in Newfoundland (Canada) and took possession of the land
for Elizabeth. With winter approaching and his largest vessels lost, Gilbert
returned home. While in transit, however, his ship vanished, and he was
never seen again.
The next year, Sir Walter Raleigh persuaded the queen to renew Gilbert’s
colonizing mission in his own name. The flotilla discovered the Outer Banks
of North Carolina and landed at Roanoke Island, where the soil seemed
fruitful and the Indians friendly. Raleigh decided to name the area Virginia,
in honor of childless Queen Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen.” After several false
starts, Raleigh in 1587 sponsored another expedition of about one hundred
colonists, including women and children, under Governor John White.
White spent a month on Roanoke Island and then returned to England for
supplies, leaving behind his daughter Elinor and his granddaughter Virginia
Dare, the first English child born in the “New World.” White’s return was
delayed because of the war with Spain. When he finally landed, in 1590, he
discovered that Roanoke had been abandoned and pillaged.
48

THE COLLISION OF CULTURES (CH. 1)
The Arrival of the English in Virginia
The arrival of English explorers on the Outer Banks, with Roanoke Island at left.
No trace of the “lost colonists” was ever found. Indians may have
killed them, or hostile Spaniards—who had certainly planned to
attack—may have done the job. The most recent evidence indicates that the
“Lost Colony” fell prey to a horrible drought. Tree-ring samples reveal that
the colonists arrived during the driest seven-year period in 770 years. While
some may have gone south, the main body of colonists appears to have gone
north, to the southern shores of Chesapeake Bay, as they had talked of doing,
and lived there for some years until they were killed by local Indians.
There was not a single English colonist in North America when Queen
Elizabeth died, in 1603. The Spanish controlled the only colonial outposts
on the continent. But that was about to change. Inspired by the success of
the Spanish in exploiting the “New World,” and emboldened by their defeat
of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the English—as well as the French and the
Dutch—would soon develop their own versions of American colonialism.
Challenges to the Spanish Empire

49
End of Chapter Review
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• Pre-Columbian America At the time of contact, the Aztecs and Mayas of Cen-
tral America had developed empires sustained by large-scale agriculture and
long-distance trade. North American Indians, however, were less well organized.
The Anasazi and the indigenous peoples in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys did
establish important trading centers sustained by intensive agriculture.
• Age of Exploration By the 1490s, Europe was experiencing a renewed curiosity
about the world. New technologies led to the creation of better maps and navi-
gation techniques. Nation-states searching for gold and glory emerged, and
Europeans desired silks and spices from Asia.
• Great Biological Exchange Contact resulted in a great biological exchange.
Crops prevalent in the “new world” such as maize, beans, and potatoes became
staples in the Old World. Indigenous peoples incorporated into their culture
such Eurasian animals as the horse and pig. The invaders carried pathogens that
set off pandemics of smallpox, plague, and other illnesses to which Indians had
no immunity.
• Colonizing the Americas When the Spanish began to colonize the “New
World,” the conversion of the Indians to Catholicism was important, but the
search for gold and silver was primary. In that search, the Spanish demanded
goods and labor from their new subjects. As the indigenous population
declined, mostly from diseases, the Spanish began to “import” enslaved Africans.
• Spanish Legacy Spain left a lasting legacy in the North American borderlands
from California to Florida. Catholic missionaries contributed to the destruction
of the old ways of life by exterminating “heathen” beliefs in the Southwest, a
practice that led to open rebellion in 1598 and 1680.
• Protestant Reformation The Protestant Reformation shattered the unity of
Catholic Europe. By the reign of Elizabeth I of England, religious differences had
led to state-supported plunder of Spanish treasure ships, then to open hostility
with Spain. England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada cleared the path for English
dominance in North America.
K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
Aztec Empire p. 9
pueblos p. 13
Vikings p. 15
Christopher Columbus
p. 20
Amerigo Vespucci p. 22
Hernán Cortés p. 28
conquistadores p. 28
Tenochtitlán p. 29
Francisco Pizarro p. 31
encomienda p. 31
Bartolomé de Las Casas
p. 33
Hernando de Soto p. 34
Reformation p. 40
Martin Luther p. 40
Queen Elizabeth I of
England p. 43
Jacques Cartier p. 44
Raleigh’s Roanoke Island
Colony p. 48

C H R O N O L O G Y
by 12,000 B.C. Humans have migrated to the Americas, most of them from
Siberia
A.D. 1492 Columbus, sailing for Spain, makes first voyage of discovery
1497 John Cabot explores Newfoundland
1503 First Africans are brought to the Americas
1513 Juan Ponce de León explores Florida
1517–1648 Protestant Reformation spurs religious conflict between
Catholics and Protestants
1519 Hernán Cortés begins the Spanish conquest of the Aztec
Empire
1531 Francisco Pizarro subdues the Incas of Peru
1541 Jacques Cartier, sailing for France, explores the St. Lawrence
River
1561 St. Augustine, the first European colony in present day
America, is founded
1584–1587 Raleigh’s Roanoke Island venture
1588 The English defeat the Spanish Armada
1680 Popé leads rebellion in New Mexico

2
BRITAIN AND ITS
COLONIES
T
he England that Queen Elizabeth governed at the beginning
of the seventeenth century was a unique blend of elements.
The Anglican Church mixed Protestant theology and
Catholic rituals. And the growth of royal power had paradoxically been
linked to the rise of civil liberties for the English people, in which even Tudor
monarchs took pride. In the course of their history, the English people have
displayed a genius for “muddling through,” a gift for the pragmatic compro-
mise that at times defies logic but in the light of experience somehow works.
THE ENGLI S H BACKGROUND
Dominated by England, the British Isles also included the kingdoms of
Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. The United Kingdom, set off from continental
Europe by the English Channel, had safe frontiers after the union of the Eng-
lish and Scottish crowns in 1603. Such comparative isolation enabled the
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What were Britain’s reasons for establishing colonies in North
America?
• Why did the first English colony, at Jamestown, experience hard-
ships in its first decades?
• How important was religion as a motivation for colonization?
• How did British colonists and Indians adapt to each other’s
presence?
• Why was it possible for England to establish successful colonies by
1700?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
The English Background

53
nation to develop institutions quite different from those on the Continent.
Unlike the absolute monarchs of France and Spain, the British rulers shared
power with the nobility and a lesser aristocracy, known as the gentry, whose
representatives formed the bicameral legislature known as Parliament, made
up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
ENGLI S H LI BERTI ES That England was a parliamentary monarchy
made it distinctive among the European nations in the sixteenth century.
The Magna Carta (Great Charter) of 1215, a statement of rights and liberties
wrested by feudal nobles from the king, had established the principle that
the people had basic rights, the most important of which was that everyone
was equal before the law and no person was above the law, including those in
power. The most important power allocated to the Parliament was the
authority to enact or modify taxes. By controlling government tax revenue,
the legislative body exercised important leverage over the monarchy.
ENGLI S H ENTERPRI S E The cherished tradition of English liberties
inspired a sense of personal initiative and entrepreneurial enterprise that
spawned prosperity and empire. Unlike the Spanish, the English formed for-
profit joint-stock companies as their mode of global expansion. These entre-
preneurial ventures were the ancestors of the modern corporation. Private
investors, not the government, shared the risks and profits associated with
maritime exploration and colonial settlement. In the late sixteenth century,
some of the larger companies managed to get royal charters that entitled
them to monopolies in certain territories and even government powers in
their outposts. Such joint-stock companies were the most important organi-
zational innovation of the era, and they provided the first instruments of
British colonization in America.
For all the vaunted glories of English liberty and enterprise, it was not the
best of times for the common people. During the late sixteenth century,
Britain experienced a population explosion that outstripped the economy’s
ability to support the surplus of workers. Many of those jobless workers
would find their way to America, already viewed as a land of opportunity. An
additional strain on the population was the “enclosure” of farmlands on
which peasants had lived and worked. As the trade in woolen products grew,
landlords decided to “enclose” farmlands and evict the tenants in favor of
grazing sheep. The enclosure movement of the sixteenth century, coupled
with the rising population, generated the great number of beggars and
vagrants who peopled the literature of Elizabethan times and gained
immortality in the line from the Mother Goose tale: “Hark, hark, the dogs do
bark. The beggars have come to town.” The needs of this displaced peasant
population, on the move throughout the British Isles, provided a compelling
argument for colonial expansion.
PARLI AMENT AND THE S TUARTS Queen Elizabeth, who never
married and did not give birth to an heir, died in 1603. With her demise, the
Tudor family line ran out, and the throne fell to the first of the Stuarts,
whose dynasty would span most of the seventeenth century, a turbulent time
during which the British planted their overseas empire. In 1603, James VI
of Scotland, son of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots, and great-great-
grandson of Henry VII, became King James I of England—as Elizabeth had
planned. The new monarch coined the term Great Britain to describe the
merging of Scotland with England and Ireland. A man of ponderous learn-
ing, James fully earned his reputation as the “wisest fool in Christendom.”
Tall and broad-shouldered, he was bisexual, conceited, profligate, and lazy.
He lectured the people on every topic, but remained blind to deep-rooted
English traditions and sensibilities. While the Tudors had wielded power
through constitutional authority, James promoted the theory of divine
right, by which monarchs answered only to God. James I inherited from his
54

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Stuart kings
(Left) James I, the successor to Queen Elizabeth and the first of England’s Stuart
kings. (Right) Charles I in a portrait by Gerrit van Honthorst.
cousin Queen Elizabeth a divided Church of England, with the militantly
reform-minded Puritans in one camp and the conservative Anglican estab-
lishment in the other. The Puritans had hoped the new king would support
their opposition to the Catholic trappings of Anglicanism; they found
instead a testy autocrat who promised to banish them from the British Isles.
James I offended even Anglicans by deciding to end Queen Elizabeth’s war
with Catholic Spain.
Charles I, who succeeded his father, James, in 1625, proved to be an even
more stubborn defender of absolute royal power. Like the French and Span-
ish monarchs, King Charles preferred a highly centralized kingdom special-
izing in oppression and hierarchy. He disbanded Parliament from 1629 to
1640, levied taxes by decree, and allowed the systematic persecution of Puri-
tans. The monarchy went too far when it tried to impose Anglican forms of
worship on Presbyterian Scots. In 1638, Scotland rose in revolt, and in 1640
King Charles, desperate for money, told Parliament to raise taxes for the
defense of his kingdom. The “Long Parliament” refused, going so far as to
condemn to death the king’s chief minister. In 1642, when the king tried to
arrest five members of Parliament, a prolonged civil war erupted between
the “Roundheads,” mostly Puritans who backed Parliament, and the “Cava-
liers,” or royalists, who supported the king. In 1646 parliamentary forces
captured King Charles and eventually tried him on charges of high treason.
The judges found the king guilty, labeling him a “tyrant, traitor, murderer,
and public enemy.” Charles was beheaded in 1649.
Oliver Cromwell, the commander of the parliamentary army, filled the vac-
uum created by the execution of the king. He operated like a military dictator,
ruling first through a council chosen by Parliament (the Commonwealth)
and, after he dissolved Parliament, as “lord protector” (“the Protectorate”).
Cromwell extended religious toleration to all Britons except Catholics and
Anglicans, but his arbitrary governance and his stern moralistic codes pro-
voked growing resentment. When, after his death, in 1658, his son proved too
weak to rule, the army once again took control, permitted new elections for
Parliament, and in 1660 supported the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy
under young Charles II, son of the executed king.
Charles II accepted as terms of the Restoration settlement the principle
that he must rule jointly with Parliament. His younger brother, the Duke of
York (who became James II upon succeeding to the throne in 1685), was less
flexible. He openly avowed Catholicism and assumed the same unyielding
authoritarian stance as the first two Stuart kings. He had opponents mur-
dered or imprisoned, and he defied parliamentary statutes. The people could
bear the king’s efforts to mimic France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, so long as they
The English Background

55
expected one of his Protestant daughters, Mary or Anne, to succeed him. In
1688, however, the birth of a royal son who would be reared a Catholic
brought matters to a crisis. Determined to prevent a Catholic monarch,
political, religious, and military leaders invited the king’s Protestant daugh-
ter Mary Stuart and her Protestant husband, William III of Orange, the rul-
ing Dutch prince, to assume the British throne as joint monarchs. When
William landed in England with a Dutch army, King James II fled to France,
his adopted home. The Parliament then reasserted its right to counterbal-
ance the authority of the monarchy.
By ending a long era of internal conflict, royal absolutism, and chronic
instability, the “Glorious Revolution” greatly enhanced Britain’s world
power. Moreover, Parliament finally established its freedom from monarchi-
cal control. The monarchy would henceforth derive its power not from God
but from the people. Under the Bill of Rights, drafted in 1689, William and
Mary gave up the royal right to suspend laws, appoint special courts, keep a
standing army, or levy taxes except by Parliament’s consent. They further
agreed to hold frequent legislative sessions and allow freedom of speech. The
Glorious Revolution helped to change the Church of England from an intol-
erant, persecuting church to one that acknowledged the right of dissenters.
SETTLI NG THE CHES APEAKE
During these eventful years, all but one of Britain’s North American
colonies were founded. The Stuart kings were eager to weaken the power of
France and Spain and gain Britain’s share of overseas colonies, trade, and
plunder. The British colonies in America began not as initiatives undertaken
by the monarchy but as profit-seeking corporations. In 1606, King James
I chartered a joint-stock enterprise called the Virginia Company, with two
divisions: the First Colony of London and the Second Colony of Plymouth.
King James assigned to the Virginia Company an explicit religious mission.
He decreed that the settlers would bring the “Christian religion” to the Indi-
ans who “live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge
and worship of God.” But as was true of most colonial ventures, such pious
intentions were mixed with the lure of profits. The stockholders viewed the
colony as a source of gold and other minerals; products—such as wine, cit-
rus fruits, and olive oil—that would free England from dependence upon
Spain; and pitch, tar, potash, and other forest products needed by the navy.
Investors promoted colonization as an opportunity to trade with the Indi-
ans; some also saw it as a way to transplant the growing number of jobless
56

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
vagrants from Britain to the Americas. Few if any of the original investors
foresaw what the first English colony would actually become: a place to grow
tobacco.
From the outset the pattern of English colonization diverged significantly
from the Spanish pattern, in which all aspects of colonial life were regulated
by the government. While interest in America was growing, the English had
already begun “planting” settlements, called plantations, in Ireland, which
they had conquered by military force under Queen Elizabeth. The English
would subjugate (and convert to Protestantism) the Indians as they had the
Irish in Ireland. Yet in America the English, unlike the Spanish in Mexico
and Peru, settled along the Atlantic seaboard, where the Indian populations
were relatively sparse. There was no powerful Aztec or Inca Empire to con-
quer. The colonists thus had to establish their own communities near Indian
villages. Yet the British colonists who arrived in the seventeenth century
rarely settled in one place for long. They were migrants more than settlers,
people who had been on the move in Britain and continued to pursue new
opportunities in different places once they arrived in America.
VI RGI NI A The Virginia Company planted the first permanent colony in
Virginia. On May 6, 1607, three tiny ships carrying 105 men and boys (39 of
the original voyagers had died at sea) reached Chesapeake Bay after four
storm-tossed months at sea. They chose a river with a northwest bend—in
the hope of finding a passage to Asia—and settled about forty miles inland
to hide from marauding Spaniards. The river they called the James and the
colony, Jamestown, in what would become the province of Virginia, named
after Queen Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen.”
On a low-lying peninsula fed by brackish water and swarming with
malarial mosquitoes, the sea-weary colonists built a fort, thatched huts, a
storehouse, and a church. They needed to grow their own food, but most
were either townsmen unfamiliar with farming or “gentleman” adventurers
who scorned manual labor. They had come expecting to find gold, friendly
Indians, and easy living. Instead they found disease, drought, starvation, dis-
sension, and death. Most did not know how to exploit the area’s abundant
game and fish. Supplies from England were undependable, and only some
effective leadership and trade with the Indians, who taught the ill-prepared
colonists to grow maize, enabled them to survive.
The indigenous peoples of the region were loosely organized. Powhatan
was the powerful chief of numerous Algonquian-speaking villages in eastern
Virginia, representing over 10,000 Indians. The two dozen tribes making up
the so-called Powhatan Confederacy were largely an agricultural people
Settling the Chesapeake

57
focused on raising corn. They lived in some 200 villages along rivers in for-
tified settlements and resided in wood houses sheathed with bark. Chief
Powhatan collected tribute from the tribes he had conquered—fully 80 per-
cent of the corn that they grew was handed over. Powhatan also developed a
lucrative trade with the English colonists, exchanging corn and hides for
hatchets, swords, and muskets; he realized too late that the newcomers
wanted more than corn; they intended to seize his lands and subjugate his
people.
The colonists, as it happened, had more than a match for Powhatan in
Captain John Smith, a short, stocky, twenty-seven-year-old soldier of for-
tune with rare powers of leadership and self-promotion. The Virginia Com-
pany, impressed by Smith’s exploits in foreign wars, had appointed him a
member of the council to manage the new colony in America. It was a wise
58

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
“Ould Virginia”
A 1624 map of Virginia by John Smith, showing Chief Powhatan in the upper left.
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LAND GRANTS TO THE
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A T L A N T I C
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What did the stockholders of the Virginia Company hope to
gain from the first two English colonies in North America? How
were the first English settlements different from the Spanish set-
tlements in North America? What were the major differences
between the First Colony of London and the Second Colony of
Plymouth?
decision. Of the original 105 settlers, only 38 survived the first nine months.
With the colonists on the verge of starvation, Smith imposed strict discipline
and forced all to labor, declaring that “he that will not work shall not eat.” In
dealing with the bickering settlers, he imprisoned, whipped, and forced
them to work. Smith also bargained with the Indians and explored and
mapped the Chesapeake region. Through his dictatorial efforts, Jamestown
survived.
In 1609 the Virginia Company sent more colonists to Jamestown, includ-
ing several women. A new charter replaced the largely ineffective council
with an all-powerful governor. The company then lured new investors and
attracted new settlers with the promise of free land after seven years of labor.
With no gold or silver in Virginia, the company in effect had given up hope
of prospering except through the sale of land, which would rise in value as
the colony grew. Hundreds of new settlers overwhelmed the infant colony.
During the “starving time” of the winter of 1609–1610, most of the colonists
died of disease or starvation. Desperate colonists consumed their horses,
60

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Colonial necessities
A list of provisions recommended to new settlers by the Virginia Company in 1622.
cats, and dogs, then survived on rats and mice. A few even ate the leather
from their shoes and boots. Some fled to nearby indigenous villages, only to
be welcomed with arrows. One man killed, salted, and ate his pregnant wife.
His fellow colonists tortured and executed him.
In June 1610, as the surviving colonists prepared to abandon Jamestown
and return to England, the new governor, Lord De La Warr, arrived in Vir-
ginia with three ships and 150 men. The colonists created new settlements
upstream at Henrico (Richmond) and two more downstream, near the
mouth of the river. It was a critical turning point for the English colony,
whose survival required a combination of stern measures and not a little
luck. After Lord De La Warr returned to England in 1611, Sir Thomas Gates
took charge of the colony and established a strict system of laws. When a
man was caught stealing oatmeal, the authorities thrust a long needle
through his tongue, chained him to a tree, and let him starve to death as a
grisly example to the community. Gates also ordered that the dilapidated
Anglican church be repaired and that colonists attend services on Thursdays
and Sundays. The church bell rang each morning and afternoon to remind
colonists to pray. As Lord De La Warr declared, Virginia would be a colony
where “God [would be] duly and daily served.” Religious uniformity thus
became an essential instrument of public policy and civil duty in colonial
Virginia.
Over the next seven years the Jamestown colony limped along until it
gradually found a lucrative source of revenue: tobacco. The plant had been
grown on Caribbean islands for years, and smoking had become a popular—
and addictive—habit in Europe. In 1612, having been introduced to growing
tobacco by the Indians, colonist John Rolfe got hold of some seed from the
more savory Spanish varieties, and by 1616 Chesapeake tobacco had become
a profitable export. Even though King James dismissed smoking as “loath-
some to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to
the lungs,” he swallowed his objections to the “noxious weed” when he
realized how much revenue it provided the monarchy. Virginia’s tobacco
production soared during the seventeenth century, leading the Virginia
Company in 1616 to change its land policy in the colony. Instead of being
treated as laborers, whereby they worked the land for the company, colonists
were thereafter allowed to own their own land. But still there was a chronic
shortage of labor. Tobacco became such a profitable, labor-intensive crop
that planters purchased more and more indentured servants (colonists who
exchanged several years of labor for the cost of passage to America and the
eventual grant of land), thus increasing the flow of immigrants to the
colony. Indentured servitude became a primary source of labor in English
Settling the Chesapeake

61
America. Over half of the white immi-
grants to the British colonies arrived
under indenture.
Meanwhile, John Rolfe had made
another contribution to stability by mar-
rying Pocahontas, the favorite daughter of
Chief Powhatan. Pocahontas (a nickname
usually translated as “Frisky”; her given
name was Matoaka) had been a familiar
figure in Jamestown. In 1607, then only
eleven, she figured in perhaps the best-
known story of the settlement, her plea
for the life of John Smith. Smith had got-
ten into trouble when he led a small group
up the James River. When the Englishmen
trespassed on Powhatan’s territory, the
Indians attacked. Smith was wounded, interrogated, and readied for execution.
At that point, according to Smith, the headstrong Pocahontas made a dramatic
appeal for his life, and Powhatan eventually agreed to release the foreigner in
exchange for muskets, hatchets, beads, and trinkets.
Schoolchildren still learn the dramatic story of Pocahontas intervening to
save Smith. Such dramatic events are magical; they inspire movies, excite our
imagination, animate history—and confuse it. Pocahontas and John Smith
were friends, not lovers. Moreover, the Indian princess saved the swashbuck-
ling Smith on more than one occasion, before she herself was kidnapped by
English settlers in an effort to blackmail Powhatan. As the weeks passed, how-
ever, she surprised her captors by choosing to join them. She embraced Chris-
tianity, was baptized and renamed Rebecca, and fell in love with 28-year-old
widower John Rolfe. They married and in 1616 moved with their infant son,
Thomas, to London. There the young princess drew excited attention from the
royal family and curious Londoners. But only a few months after arriving,
Rebecca, aged twenty, contracted a lung disease and died.
In 1618, Sir Edwin Sandys, a prominent member of Parliament, became
head of the Virginia Company and instituted a series of reforms. First of all he
inaugurated a new “headright” policy: any Englishman who bought a share in
the company and could get to Virginia could have fifty acres on arrival, and
fifty more for any servants he brought along. The following year the company
relaxed the colony’s military regime and promised that the settlers would have
the “rights of Englishmen,” including a legislature. This was a crucial develop-
ment, for the English had long enjoyed the greatest civil liberties and the least
62

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Pocahontas
Shown here in European dress, by
1616 Pocahontas was known as
“Lady Rebecca.”
intrusive government in Europe. Now, the English colonists in Virginia were to
enjoy the same rights. On July 30, 1619, the first General Assembly of Virginia
met in the Jamestown church, “sweating & stewing, and battling flies and mos-
quitoes,” as they assumed responsibility for representative government.
The year 1619 was eventful in other respects. In that year, a ship with
ninety young women aboard arrived in the overwhelmingly male colony.
Men rushed to claim them as wives by providing 125 pounds of tobacco for
the cost of their transatlantic passage. And a Dutch ship stopped by and
dropped off “20 Negars,” the first Africans known to have reached English
America. By this time, Europeans had been selling enslaved Africans for over
a century. The increasingly profitable tobacco trade intensified the settlers’
lust for land, slaves, and women. English planters especially coveted the
fields cultivated by Indians because they had already been cleared and were
ready to be planted. In 1622 the Indians tried to repel the land-grabbing
English. They killed a fourth of the settlers, some 350 colonists, including
John Rolfe (who had returned from England). The vengeful English thereafter
decimated Indians in Virginia. The 24,000 Algon quians who inhabited the
colony in 1607 were reduced to 2,000 by 1669.
Some 14,000 English men, women, and children had migrated to
Jamestown since 1607, but most of them had died; the population in 1624
stood at a precarious 1,132. In 1624 an English court dissolved the struggling
Virginia Company, and Virginia became a royal colony. No longer were the
settlers mere laborers toiling for a stock company; they were now citizens
with the freedom to own private property and start business enterprises.
Sir William Berkeley, who arrived as Virginia’s royal governor in 1642,
presided over the colony’s growth for most of the next thirty-five years. The
turmoil of Virginia’s early days gave way to a more stable period. Tobacco
prices surged, and the large planters began to consolidate their economic
gains through political action. They assumed key civic roles as justices of the
peace and sheriffs, helped initiate improvements such as roads and bridges,
supervised elections, and collected taxes. They also formed the able-bodied
men into local militias. Despite the presence of a royal governor, the elected
Virginia assembly continued to assert its sovereignty, making laws for the
colony and resisting the governor’s encroachments.
The relentless stream of new settlers and indentured servants into Vir-
ginia exerted constant pressure on indigenous lands and produced unwanted
economic effects and social unrest. To sustain their competitive advantage,
the largest planters bought up the most fertile land along the coast, thereby
forcing freed servants to become tenants or claim less fertile land inland. In
either case the tenants found themselves at a disadvantage. They grew
Settling the Chesapeake

63
dependent upon planters for land and credit, and small farmers along the
western frontier became more vulnerable to Indian attacks. By 1676 a fourth
of the free white men in Virginia were landless. Vagabonds roamed the
countryside, squatting on private property, working at odd jobs, or poaching
game or engaging in other petty crimes in order to survive. Alarmed by the
growing social unrest, the large planters who controlled the assembly
lengthened terms of indenture, passed more stringent vagrancy laws, stiff-
ened punishments, and stripped the landless of their political rights. Such
efforts only increased social friction.
BACON’ S REBELLI ON In the mid-1670s a variety of simmering
tensions—caused by depressed tobacco prices, rising taxes, roaming livestock,
and crowds of freed servants greedily eyeing indigenous lands—contributed
to the tangled events that have come to be labeled Bacon’s Rebellion. The
revolt grew out of a festering hatred for the domineering colonial governor,
William Berkeley. He catered to the wealthiest planters and despised
commoners. The large planters who dominated the assembly levied high
taxes to finance Berkeley’s regime, which in turn supported their interests at
the expense of the small farmers and servants. With little nearby land avail-
able, newly freed indentured servants were forced to migrate westward in
their quest for farms. Their lust for land
led them to displace the Indians. When
Governor Berkeley failed to support the
aspiring farmers in their conflict with
Indians, the farmers rebelled. The tyran-
nical governor expected as much. Just
before the outbreak of rebellion, Berkeley
had remarked that most Virginians were
“Poore, Endebted, Discontented and
Armed.”
The discontent turned to violence in
1675 when a petty squabble between a
white planter and indigenous people on
the Potomac River led to the murder of
the planter’s herdsman and, in turn, to
retaliation by frontier militiamen, who
killed two dozen Indians. The violence
spread. A force of Virginia and Maryland
militiamen murdered five indigenous
chieftains who had sought to negotiate.
64

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
News of the Rebellion
A pamphlet printed in London
provided details about Bacon’s
Rebellion.
Enraged Indians took their revenge on frontier settlements. Scattered attacks
continued southward down to the James River, where Nathaniel Bacon’s
overseer was killed.
By then, their revenge accomplished, the Indians had pulled back. What
followed had less to do with a state of war than with a state of hysteria. Gov-
ernor Berkeley proposed that the assembly erect a series of forts along the
frontier. But that would not slake the settlers’ own thirst for revenge—nor
would it open new lands to settlement. Besides, it would be expensive. Some
thought Berkeley was out to preserve for himself the profitable trade with
Indians in animal hides and fur.
In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon defied Governor Berkeley’s authority by
assuming command of a group of frontier vigilantes. The tall, slender
twenty-nine-year-old Bacon, a graduate of Cambridge University, had been
in Virginia only two years, but he had been well set up by an English father
relieved to get his vain, ambitious, hot-tempered son out of the country.
Later historians would praise Bacon as “the Torchbearer of the Revolution”
and leader of the first struggle of common folk versus aristocrats. In part
that was true. The rebellion he led was largely a battle of servants, small
farmers, and even slaves against Virginia’s wealthiest planters and political
leaders. But Bacon was also a rich squire’s spoiled son with a talent for trou-
ble. It was his ruthless assaults against peaceful Indians and his greed for
power and land rather than any commitment to democratic principles that
sparked his conflict with the governing authorities.
Bacon despised indigenous people and resolved to kill them all. Berkeley
opposed Bacon’s genocidal plan not because he liked Indians, but also
because he wanted to protect his lucrative monopoly over the deerskin
trade. Bacon ordered the governor arrested. Berkeley’s forces resisted—but
only feebly—and Bacon’s men burned Jamestown. Bacon, however, could
not savor the victory long; he fell ill and died a month later.
Governor Berkeley quickly regained control, hanged twenty-three rebels,
and confiscated several estates. When his men captured one of Bacon’s lieu-
tenants, Berkeley gleefully exclaimed: “I am more glad to see you than any man
in Virginia. Mr. Drummond, you shall be hanged in half an hour.” For such
severity the king denounced Berkeley as a “fool” and recalled him to England,
where he died within a year. A royal commission made peace treaties with the
remaining Indians, about 1,500 of whose descendants still live in Virginia on
tiny reservations guaranteed them by the king in 1677. The result of Bacon’s
Rebellion was that new lands were opened to the colonists, and the wealthy
planters became more cooperative with the small farmers. But the rebellion by
landless whites also convinced many large planters that they would be better
served by bringing in more enslaved Africans to work their fields.
Settling the Chesapeake

65
MARYLAND In 1634, ten years after Virginia became a royal colony, a
neighboring settlement appeared on the northern shores of Chesapeake Bay.
Named Maryland in honor of Queen Henrietta Maria, it was granted to
Lord Baltimore by King Charles I and became the first proprietary colony—
that is, it was owned by an individual, not by a joint-stock company.
Sir George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, converted to Catholicism in
1625 and sought the American colony as a refuge for persecuted English
Catholics. His son, Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, actually
founded the colony.
In 1634, Calvert planted the first settlement in Maryland at St. Mary’s,
near the mouth of the Potomac River. Calvert recruited Catholic gentlemen
as landholders, but a majority of the indentured servants were Protestants.
The charter gave Calvert power to make laws with the consent of the
freemen (all property holders). The first legislative assembly met in 1635
66

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
0
0 50 100 Kilometers
100 Miles 50
EARLY VIRGINIA AND
MARYLAND
Present-day boundary of Maryland
Original grant to Lord Baltimore
VIRGINIA
MARYLAND
Henrico (1610)
Jamestown (1607)
St. Marys (1634)
Chesapeake
Bay
Roanoke
Island (1580s)
Delaware
Bay
ATLANTIC
OCEAN
J
a
m
e
s

R
i
v
er
Y
o
r
k

R
i
v
e
r

P
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a
c

R
i
v
e
r

D
e
l
a
w
a
r
e




R
i
v
e
r

Why did Lord Baltimore create Maryland? How was Maryland
different from Virginia? What were the main characteristics of
Maryland’s 1632 charter?
and divided into two houses in 1650, with governor and council sitting sepa-
rately, an action instigated by the predominantly Protestant freemen—
largely immigrants from Virginia and former servants who had become
landholders. The charter also empowered the proprietor to grant huge
manorial estates, and Maryland had some sixty before 1676, but the Lords
Baltimore soon found that to recruit settlers they had to offer them small
farms, most of which grew tobacco. Unlike Virginia, which struggled for
years to reach economic viability, Maryland prospered quickly because of its
ability to grow tobacco. And its long coastline along the Chesapeake Bay gave
planters easy access to shipping.
SETTLI NG NEW ENGLAND
Far to the north of the Chesapeake Bay colonies, quite different Eng-
lish settlements were emerging. The New England colonists were generally
made up of middle-class families that could pay their own way across the
Atlantic. In the Northeast there were relatively few indentured servants, and
there was no planter elite. Most male settlers were small farmers, merchants,
seamen, or fishermen. New England also attracted more women than did the
southern colonies. Although its soil was not as fertile as that of the Chesa-
peake and its growing season much shorter, New England was a much
healthier place to settle. Because of its colder climate, settlers avoided the
infectious diseases that ravaged the southern colonies. Life expectancy was
accordingly much longer. During the seventeenth century only 21,000
colonists arrived in New England, compared with the 120,000 who went to
the Chesapeake Bay colonies. But by 1700, New England’s white population
exceeded that of Maryland and Virginia.
Unlike the early Jamestown colonists who arrived in America seeking
adventure and profit, most early New Englanders were motivated by reli-
gious ideals. They were devout Puritans who embraced a much more rigor-
ous Protestant faith than did the Anglican colonists who settled Virginia and
Maryland. In 1650, for example, Massachusetts had eight times as many
ministers as Virginia. The Puritans who arrived in America were on a divine
mission to create a model Christian society living according to God’s com-
mandments. In the New World these self-described “saints” intended to
purify their churches of all Catholic and Anglican rituals and enact a code of
laws and a government structure based upon biblical principles. Such a holy
settlement, they hoped, would provide a beacon of righteousness for a
wicked England to emulate.
Settling New England

67
PLYMOUTH In 1620 a band of Puritan refugees heading for Virginia
strayed off course and made landfall at Cape Cod, off the southern coast of
what became Massachusetts. These “Pilgrims” belonged to the most radical
sect of Puritans, the Separatists (also called Nonconformists). The Church of
England, according to the Puritans, had retained too many vestiges of
Catholicism. Viewing themselves as the “godly,” they demanded that the
Anglican Church rid itself of “papist” rituals. No use of holy water. No ele-
gant robes (vestments). No jeweled gold crosses. No worship of saints and
relics. No kneeling for communion. No “viperous” bishops and archbishops.
No organ music.
The Separatists went further. Having decided that the Church of England
could not be fixed, they resolved to create their own godly congregations.
Such rebelliousness infuriated the leaders of the Church of England. During
the late sixteenth century, Separatists were “hunted & persecuted on every
side.” English authorities imprisoned Separatist leaders, three of whom were
hanged, drawn, and quartered. King James I resolved to eliminate the Puri-
tan Separatists. “I shall make them conform,” he vowed in 1604, “or I will
hurry them out of the land or do worse.” Many Separatists fled to Holland to
escape persecution. After ten years in the Dutch city of Leiden, they decided
to move to America.
In 1620, about a hundred men, women, and children, led by William
Bradford, crammed aboard the tiny Mayflower. Their ranks included both
“saints” (people recognized as having been selected by God for salvation)
and “strangers” (those yet to receive the gift of grace). The latter group
included John Alden, a cooper (barrel maker), and Myles Standish, a soldier
hired to organize their defenses. The stormy voyage led them to Cape Cod.
“Being thus arrived at safe harbor, and brought safe to land,” William Brad-
ford wrote, “they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who
had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.” Since they were outside
the jurisdiction of any organized government, forty-one of the Pilgrim lead-
ers entered into the Mayflower Compact, a formal agreement to abide by the
laws made by leaders of their own choosing.
On December 26 the Mayflower reached harbor at the place the Pilgrims
named Plymouth, after the English port from which they had embarked, and
they built dwellings on the site of an abandoned indigenous village. Nearly
half of them died of disease over the winter, but in the spring of 1621 the
colonists met Squanto, an Indian who showed them how to grow maize and
catch fish. By autumn the Pilgrims had a bumper crop of corn and a flour-
ishing fur trade. To celebrate, they held a harvest feast with the Indians. That
68

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
event provided the inspiration for what has become the annual Thanksgiv-
ing holiday in the United States.
Throughout its existence, until it was absorbed into Massachusetts in
1691, the Plymouth colony remained in the anomalous position of holding a
land grant but no charter of government from any English authority. Their
government grew instead out of the Mayflower Compact, which was neither
exactly a constitution nor a precedent for later constitutions. Rather, it was
the obvious recourse of a group of colonists who had made a covenant (or
agreement) to form a church and believed God had made a covenant with
them to provide a way to salvation. Thus, the civil government grew natu-
rally out of the church government, and the members of each were identical
at the start. The signers of the compact at first met as the General Court,
which chose the governor and his assistants (or council). Others were later
admitted as members, or “freemen,” but only church members were eligible.
Settling New England

69
Crossing the Atlantic
Sailors on a sixteenth-century oceangoing vessel navigating by the stars.
Eventually, as the colony grew, the General Court became a body of repre-
sentatives from the various towns.
MAS S ACHUS ETTS BAY The Plymouth colony’s population never rose
above 7,000, and after ten years it was overshadowed by its larger neighbor,
the Massachusetts Bay Colony. That colony, too, was intended to be a holy
commonwealth bound together in the harmonious worship of God and the
pursuit of their “callings.” Like the Pilgrims, most of the Puritans who
70

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Miles
Why did European settlers first populate the Plymouth colony? How were the set-
tlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony different from those of Plymouth? What was
the origin of the Rhode Island colony?
colonized Massachusetts Bay were
Congregationalists, who formed self-
governing churches with membership
limited to “visible saints”—those who
could demonstrate receipt of the gift
of God’s grace. But unlike the Ply-
mouth Separatists, the Puritans still
hoped to reform (“purify”) the Church
of England from within, and therefore
they were called Nonseparating Con-
gregationalists.
In 1629, King Charles I had char-
tered a joint-stock company called the
Massachusetts Bay Company. It con-
sisted of a group of English Puritans
led by John Winthrop, a lawyer ani-
mated by profound religious convic-
tions. Winthrop resolved to use the
colony as a refuge for persecuted Puri-
tans and as an instrument for building
a “wilderness Zion” in America. To do so, he shrewdly took advantage of a
fateful omission in the royal charter for the Massachusetts Bay Company:
the usual proviso that the joint-stock company maintain its home office in
England. Winthrop’s group took its charter with them, thereby transferring
government authority to Massachusetts Bay, where they hoped to ensure
local control. So unlike the Virginia Company, which ruled Jamestown from
London, the Massachusetts Bay Company was self-governing.
In 1630 the Arbella, with John Winthrop and the charter aboard,
embarked with ten other ships for Massachusetts. There were 700 Puritans
on board. Some 200 of the exiles died in the crossing. In “A Modell of Chris-
tian Charity,” a lay sermon delivered on board, Winthrop told his fellow
Puritans that they were a chosen people on a divine mission: “We must con-
sider that we shall be a city upon a hill”—a shining example to England of
what a godly community could be, a community dedicated to God and
God’s laws. They landed in Massachusetts, and by the end of the year seven-
teen ships bearing 1,000 more colonists had arrived. As settlers—both Puri-
tan and non-Puritan—poured into the region, Boston became the new
colony’s chief city and capital.
It is hard to exaggerate the crucial role played by John Winthrop in estab-
lishing the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A devout pragmatist who often
Settling New England

71
John Winthrop
The first governor of Massachusetts
Bay Colony, in whose vision the
colony would be as “a city upon a hill.”
governed as an enlightened despot, he steadfastly sought to steer a middle
course between clerical absolutists and Separatist zealots. Winthrop prized
stability and order and hated democracy, which he called the “worst of all
forms of government.” Like many Puritan leaders, Winthrop believed that
enforcing religious orthodoxy (the “true religion”) and ensuring civil order
justified the persecution of dissenters and heretics. Dissenters, whether they
were Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers, or Baptists, would be punished, impris-
oned, banished, or executed. As an iron-souled man governing a God-
saturated community, John Winthrop provided the foundation not only for
a colony but also for major elements in America’s cultural and political
development.
The Arbella migrants were the vanguard of a massive movement, the
Great Migration, which carried some 80,000 Britons to new settlements
around the world over the next decade. The migrants were seeking religious
freedom and economic opportunity, and most of them traveled to America.
They went not only to New England and the Chesapeake Bay colonies but
also to the West Indies: St. Christopher (first settled in 1624), Barbados
(1625), Nevis (1632), Montserrat (1632), Antigua (1632), and Jamaica
(1655). The West Indian islands started out to grow tobacco but ended up
in the more profitable business of producing sugarcane. In seventeenth-
century Europe, sugar evolved from being a scarce luxury to a daily neces-
sity, and its value as an import commodity soared. By the late eighteenth
century, the value of commerce from Jamaica—sugar, slaves, and molasses—
was greater than all of the trade generated by the North American colonies.
During the first half of the seventeenth century, more English emigrants
lived on the “sugar islands” in the Caribbean than in New England and the
Chesapeake colonies.
The transfer of the Massachusetts charter, whereby an English trading
company evolved into a provincial government, was a unique venture in col-
onization. Under the royal charter, power rested with the Massachusetts
General Court, which elected the governor and the assistants. The General
Court consisted of shareholders, called freemen. At first the freemen had no
power except to choose “assistants,” who in turn chose the governor and
deputy governor. In 1634, however, the freemen turned themselves into a
representative body called the General Court, with two or three deputies to
represent each town. A final stage in the evolution of the government came
in 1644, when the General Court divided itself into a bicameral assembly,
with all decisions requiring a majority in each house.
Thus, over a period of fourteen years, the Massachusetts Bay Company, a
trading corporation, evolved into the governing body of a holy common-
72

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
wealth. Membership in a Puritan church replaced the purchase of stock as
the means of becoming a freeman, which was to say a voter. The General
Court, like Parliament, had two houses: the House of Assistants, corre-
sponding roughly to the House of Lords, and the House of Deputies, corre-
sponding to the House of Commons. Although the charter remained
unchanged, government was quite different from the original expectation.
Settling New England

73
FLORIDA
JAMAICA
(Br., 1655)
TOBAGO (Fr., 1677;
Br., 1763; Fr., 1783)
TRINIDAD
(Br., 1802)
BAHAMA
ISLANDS
(Br., 1629,
1670)
TURKS ISLANDS (Br., 1672)
HAITI
(Fr., 1640, 1697)
SANTO DOMINGO
(SPAIN)
PUERTO RICO
(SPAIN)
CUBA
(SPAIN)
CAYMAN ISLANDS
(Br., 1655)
BELIZE (Br., Ca. 1638)
BRITISH HONDURAS
(Br., 1786)
MOSQUITO
COAST
(Br., 1655)
Inset area
PACIFIC
OCEAN
C A R I B B E A N S E A
G U L F
O F
M E X I C O
AT L ANT I C
OCEAN
G
R
E
A
T
E
R







A
N
T
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L
L E S
L E S S E
R



A
N
T
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L
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S

THE WEST INDIES,
1600–1800
0
0 300 Kilometers 150
150 300 Miles
Havana
Port Royal
(Kingston)
HONDURAS
(SPAIN)
NEW GRANADA
(SPAIN)
NICARAGUA
(SPAIN)
ST. CHRISTOPHER (Br., 1624)
ANTIGUA (Br., 1632)
NEVIS
(Br., 1628)
MONTSERRAT
(Br., 1632)
GUADELOUPE
(Fr., 1635)
DOMINICA
(Fr., 1632; Br., 1763)
MARTINIQUE
(Fr., 1635)
ST. VINCENT
(Br., 1763)
GRENADA
(Br., 1763)
VIRGIN
ISLANDS
(Br., 1672)
BARBADOS
(Br., 1625)
0 100 200 Miles
0 100 200 Kilometers
Why did Britons settle in the West Indies in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
turies? Keeping in mind what you read in Chapter 1 about the colonies in the West
Indies, what products would you expect those colonies to produce? Why would
those colonies have had strategic importance to the British?
RHODE I SLAND More by accident than design, Massachusetts became
the staging area for the rest of New England, as new colonies grew out of
religious quarrels that prompted some to leave the original colony. Puri-
tanism was a combustible religious movement: on the one hand, the search
for God’s will encouraged a rigid orthodoxy; on the other hand, it could lead
troubled consciences to embrace radical ideas. Young Roger Williams
(1603–1683), who had arrived from England in 1631 as a “godly minister,”
was among the first to cause problems, precisely because he was the purest of
Puritans. He shared with the colony’s leaders the same faith: all saw God’s
purpose in every facet of life and saw their own purpose as advancing the
kingdom of God. But Williams criticized his Massachusetts brethren for fail-
ing to repudiate all elements of the “whorish” Church of England. Whereas
John Winthrop cherished authority, Williams championed liberty and pro-
moted mercy. Williams decided that the true covenant was not between God
and each congregation but between God and the individual. He was one of a
small but growing number of Puritans who posed a provocative question: If
one’s salvation depends solely upon God’s grace, why bother to have
churches at all? Why not endow individuals with the authority to exercise
their free will in worshipping God?
The charismatic Williams held a brief pastorate in Salem, north of
Boston, and then moved south to Separatist Plymouth, where he learned
indigenous languages. Governor Bradford liked Williams but charged that
he “began to fall into strange opinions,” specifically, that he questioned the
right of English settlers to confiscate Indian lands. Williams then returned to
Salem, where he came to love and support the Indians. His belief that a true
church must include only those who had received God’s gift of grace eventu-
ally convinced him that no true church was possible, unless perhaps consist-
ing of his wife and himself.
In Williams’s view the purity of the church required complete separation
between religion and government, for politics would inevitably corrupt
faith. He especially detested the longstanding practice of governments
imposing a particular faith on people. “Forced worship,” he declared, “stinks
in God’s nostrils.” He labeled efforts by governments to impose religious
orthodoxy “soul rape.” Governments should be impartial regarding reli-
gions, he believed: all faiths should be treated equally; the individual con-
science (a “most precious and invaluable Jewel”) should be sacrosanct.
Williams steadfastly resisted the attempts by governmental authorities to
force Indians to abandon their “own religions.”
Such radical views prompted the Salem church to expel Williams, where-
upon he retorted so hotly against “ulcered and gangrened” churches that
74

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
the General Court in October 1635 banished him to England. Williams,
however, slipped away with his family and a few followers and found shelter
among the Narragansetts. In 1636, Williams bought land from the Indians
and established the town of Providence at the head of Narragansett Bay, the
first permanent settlement in Rhode Island and the first in America to
promote religious freedom and to prohibit residents from “invading or
molesting” the Indians. In Rhode Island, Williams welcomed all who fled
religious persecution in Massachusetts Bay, including Baptists, Quakers,
The diversity of English Protestantism
Religious quarrels within the Puritan fold led to the founding of new colonies. In
this seventeenth-century cartoon, four Englishmen, each representing a faction in
opposition to the established Church of England, are shown fighting over the Bible.
Settling New England

75
and Jews. For their part, Boston officials came to view Rhode Island as a
refuge for rogues.
Thus the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the smallest
in America, began in Narragansett Bay as a refuge for dissenters who agreed
that the state had no right to coerce religious belief. In 1640 the colony’s set-
tlers formed a confederation and in 1643 secured their first charter of incor-
poration as Providence Plantations. In 1652 Rhode Island passed the first
law in North America outlawing slavery. Roger Williams lived until 1683, an
active, beloved citizen of the commonwealth he founded, in a society that,
during his lifetime at least, lived up to his principles of religious freedom
and a government based upon the consent of the people. His ideas eventu-
ally would exercise a significant influence on America’s ethical and legal tra-
ditions. The ease with which Williams rejected Puritan orthodoxy and
launched his own free colony illustrated the geographical imperative of
American religious history: first the colonies and later the nation were too
large to allow any form of orthodoxy to remain dominant. America’s vast-
ness fostered diversity.
ANNE HUTCHI NS ON Roger Williams was only one of several prominent
Puritan dissenters. Another, Anne Hutchinson, quarreled with the Puritan lead-
ers for different reasons. She was the
articulate, strong-willed, intelligent wife
of a prominent merchant. Hutchinson
raised thirteen children, served as a
healer and midwife, and hosted meet-
ings in her Boston home to discuss
sermons. Soon, however, the discus-
sions turned into well-attended forums
for Hutchinson’s own commentaries
on religious matters. Blessed with vast
biblical knowledge and a quick wit,
she claimed to have experienced direct
revelations from the Holy Spirit that
convinced her that only two or three
Puritan ministers actually preached the
appropriate “covenant of grace.” The
others, she charged, were godless hyp-
ocrites, deluded and incompetent; the
“covenant of works” they promoted
led people to believe that good con -
76

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
The Trial of Anne Hutchinson
In this nineteenth-century wood
engraving, Anne Hutchinson stands
her ground against charges of heresy
from the leaders of Puritan Boston.
duct would ensure salvation. Eventually Hutchinson claimed to know which of
her neighbors had been saved and which were damned.
Hutchinson’s beliefs were provocative for several reasons. Puritan theol-
ogy was grounded in the Calvinist doctrine that people could be saved only
by God’s grace rather than through their own willful actions. But Puritanism
in practice also insisted that ministers were necessary to interpret God’s will
for the people so as to “prepare” them for the possibility of their being
selected for salvation. In challenging the very legitimacy of the ministerial
community as well as the hard-earned assurances of salvation enjoyed by
current church members, Hutchinson was undermining the stability of an
already fragile social system. Moreover, her critics likened her claim of direct
revelations from the Holy Spirit to the antinomian heresy, a subversive belief
that one is freed from obeying the moral law by one’s own faith and by God’s
grace. Unlike Roger Williams, Hutchinson did not advocate religious indi-
vidualism. Instead, she sought to eradicate the concept of “grace by good
works” infecting Puritan orthodoxy. She did not represent a forerunner of
modern feminism or freedom of conscience. Instead, she was a proponent
of a theocratic extremism that threatened the solidarity of the common-
wealth. What made the situation worse in the male-dominated society of
seventeenth-century New England was that a woman was making such
charges. Mrs. Hutchinson had both offended authority and sanctioned a
disruptive self-righteousness.
A pregnant Hutchinson was hauled before the General Court in 1637, and
for two days she sparred on equal terms with the magistrates and ministers.
Her skillful deflections of the charges and her ability to cite chapter-and-
verse biblical defenses of her actions led an exasperated Governor Winthrop
at one point to explode, “We do not mean to discourse with those of your
sex.” He found Hutchinson to be “a woman of haughty and fierce carriage, of
a nimble wit and active spirit, and a very voluble tongue.” As the trial contin-
ued, an overwrought Hutchinson was eventually lured into convicting her-
self by claiming direct revelations from God—blasphemy in the eyes of
orthodox Puritans.
Banished in 1638 as a leper not fit for “our society,” Hutchinson settled
with her family and about sixty followers on an island south of Providence,
near what is now Portsmouth, Rhode Island. But the arduous journey had
taken its toll. Hutchinson grew sick, and her baby was stillborn, leading her
critics in Massachusetts to assert that the “monstrous birth” was God’s way of
punishing her sins. Hutchinson’s spirits never recovered. After her husband’s
death, in 1642, she moved near New York City, then under Dutch jurisdiction,
and the following year she and six of her children were massacred during
Settling New England

77
an attack by Indians. Her fate, wrote a vindictive Winthrop, was “a special
manifestation of divine justice.”
NEW ENGLAND EXPANDS Connecticut had a more orthodox begin-
ning than Rhode Island. In 1633 a group from Plymouth settled in the Con-
necticut Valley. Three years later Thomas Hooker led three entire church
congregations from Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut River towns of
Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford. In 1637 the inhabitants organized the
self-governing colony of Connecticut. Two years later the Connecticut Gen-
eral Court adopted the Fundamental Orders, a series of laws that provided
for a “Christian Commonwealth” like that of Massachusetts, except that
voting was not limited to church members. The Connecticut constitution
specified that the Congregational churches would be the colony’s official
religion, supported by governmental tax revenues and protected by the civil
authorities. The governor was commanded to rule according to “the word
of God.”
To the north of Massachusetts, most of what are now the states of New
Hampshire and Maine was granted in 1622 by the Council for New England
to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Captain John Mason, and their associates. In
1629, Mason and Gorges divided their territory, with Mason taking the
southern part, which he named New Hampshire, and Gorges taking the
northern part, which became the province of Maine. During the English
civil strife in the early 1640s, Massachusetts took over New Hampshire and
in the 1650s extended its authority to the scattered settlements in Maine.
This led to lawsuits, and in 1678 English judges decided against Massachu-
setts in both cases. In 1679, New Hampshire became a royal colony, but
Massachusetts continued to control Maine as its proprietor. A new Massa-
chusetts charter in 1691 finally incorporated Maine into Massachusetts.
I NDI ANS I N NEW ENGLAND
The English settlers who poured into New England found not a “virgin
land” of uninhabited wilderness but a developed region populated by over
100,000 Indians. The white colonists considered the Indians wild pagans
incapable of fully exploiting nature’s bounty. In their view, God meant for
the Puritans to take over indigenous lands as a reward for their piety and
hard work. The town meeting of Milford, Connecticut, for example, voted in
1640 that the land was God’s “and that the earth is given to the Saints; voted,
we are the Saints.”
78

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Indians coped with the newcomers in different ways. Many resisted, oth-
ers sought accommodation, and still others grew dependent upon European
culture. In some areas, indigenous peoples survived and even flourished in
concert with settlers. In other areas, land-hungry whites quickly displaced or
decimated the Indians. In general, the English colonists adopted a strategy
for dealing with the Indians quite different from that of the French and the
Dutch. Merchants from France and the Netherlands were not seeking gold
or sugar; they were preoccupied with exploiting the profitable fur trade. The
thriving commerce in animal skins—especially beaver, otter, and deer—not
only helped to spur exploration of the vast American continent, but it also
alternately enriched and devastated the lives of Indians. To facilitate their
acquisition of fur pelts from the Indians, the French and Dutch built perma-
nent trading outposts along the western frontier and established amicable
relations with the indigenous peoples in the region, who greatly outnum-
bered them. In contrast, the English colonists were more interested in
Indians in New England

79
Algonquian ceremony celebrating harvest
As with most Indians, the Algonquians’ dependence on nature for survival shaped
their religious beliefs.
pursuing their “God-given” right to fish and farm. They sought to exploit the
Indians rather than deal with them on an equal footing. And they ensured
that the Indians, for the most part, lived separately in their own villages and
towns. Their goal was subordination rather than collaboration.
THE I NDI ANS OF NEW ENGLAND In Maine the Abenakis were
primarily hunters and gatherers dependent upon the natural offerings of the
land and waters. The men did the hunting and fishing; the women retrieved
the dead game and prepared it for eating. Women were also responsible
for setting up and breaking camp, gathering fruits and berries, and raising
the children. The Algonquian tribes of southern New England—the Massa-
chusetts, Nausets, Narragansetts, Pequots, and Wampanoags—were more
horticultural. Their highly developed agricultural system centered on three
primary crops: corn, beans, and pumpkins.
Initially the coastal Indians helped the white settlers develop a subsistence
economy. They taught the English settlers how to plant corn and use fish for
fertilizer. They also developed a flourishing trade with the newcomers,
exchanging furs for manufactured goods and “trinkets.” The various Indian
tribes of New England often fought among themselves, usually over dis-
puted land. Had they been able to forge a solid alliance, they would have
been better able to resist the encroachments of white settlers. As it was, they
were not only fragmented but also vulnerable to the infectious diseases
carried on board the ships transporting British settlers to the New World.
Smallpox epidemics devastated the indigenous population, leaving the
coastal areas “a widowed land.” Between 1610 and 1675 the Abenakis
declined from 12,000 to 3,000 and the southern New England tribes from
65,000 to 10,000. Governor William Bradford of Plymouth reported that the
Indians “fell sick of the smallpox, and died most miserably.” By the hundreds
they died “like rotten sheep.”
THE PEQUOT WAR Indians who survived the epidemics and refused to
yield their lands were forced out. In 1636, settlers in Massachusetts accused a
Pequot of murdering a colonist. Joined by Connecticut colonists, they
exacted their revenge by setting fire to a Pequot village on the Mystic River.
As the Indians fled their burning huts, the Puritans shot and killed them—
men, women, and children. The militia commander who ordered the mas-
sacre declared that God had guided his actions: “Thus the Lord was pleased
to smite our Enemies . . . and give us their land for an Inheritance.”
Sassacus, the Pequot chief, organized the survivors and attacked the Eng-
lish. During the Pequot War of 1637, the colonists and their Narragansett
80

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
allies killed hundreds of Pequots in their village near West Mystic, in the
Connecticut River valley. The Puritan minister Cotton Mather later described
the slaughter as a “sweet sacrifice” and “gave the praise thereof to God.” The
English colonists captured most of the surviving Pequots and sold them into
slavery in Bermuda. Under the terms of the Treaty of Hartford (1638), the
Pequot Nation was dissolved. Only a few colonists regretted the massacre.
Roger Williams warned that the lust for land would become “as great a God
with us English as God Gold was with the Spanish.”
KI NG PHI LI P’ S WAR After the Pequot War the prosperous fur trade
contributed to peaceful relations between Europeans and the remaining
Indians, but the relentless growth of the New England colonies and the
decline of the beaver population began to reduce the eastern tribes to rela-
tive poverty. The colonial government repeatedly encroached upon indige-
nous settlements, forcing them to embrace English laws and customs. By
1675 the Indians and English settlers had come to know each other well—
and fear each other deeply.
The era of peaceful coexistence that had begun with the Treaty of Hart-
ford in 1638 came to a bloody end during the last quarter of the seventeenth
century. Tribal leaders, especially the chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet
(known to the colonists as King Philip), resented English efforts to convert
Indians to Christianity. During the mid–seventeenth century, the Puritans,
led by John Eliot, “Apostle to the Indians,” began an aggressive campaign
to win indigenous peoples over to Christianity. The missionaries insisted,
however, that the Indians must abandon their native cultural practices as
well as their spiritual beliefs. This meant resettling the indigenous converts
in what were called praying towns, not unlike the Catholic missions con-
structed in New Spain. The so-called “praying Indians” had to adopt English
names, cut their hair short, and take up farm work and domestic chores.
By 1674, some 1,100 indigenous converts were living in fourteen praying
towns. But most of the Indians of New England resisted such efforts. As
one of them asked a Puritan missionary, why should Indians convert to
English ways when “our corn is as good as yours, and we take more pleasure
than you?”
In the fall of 1674, John Sassamon, a “praying Indian” who had graduated
from Harvard College, warned the English that Metacomet and the Wam -
panoags were preparing for war. A few months later Sassamon was found
dead in a frozen pond. Colonial authorities convicted three Wampanoags
of murder and hanged them. Enraged Wampanoag warriors then attacked
and burned Puritan farms on June 20, 1675. Three days later an Englishman
Indians in New England

81
shot a Wampanoag, and the Wampanoags retaliated by ambushing and
beheading a group of Puritans.
Both sides suffered incredible losses in what came to be called King Philip’s
War, or Metacomet’s War. The fighting killed more people and caused more
destruction in New England in proportion to the population than any Ameri-
can conflict since. Bands of warriors assaulted fifty towns. Within a year the
Indians were threatening Boston itself. The situation was so desperate that the
colonies instituted America’s first conscription laws, drafting into the militia
all males between the ages of sixteen and sixty. Finally, however, shortages of
food and ammunition and staggering casualties wore down indigenous resis-
tance. Metacomet’s wife and son were captured and sold into slavery in
Bermuda. Some of the tribes surrendered, a few succumbed to disease, while
others fled to the west. Those who remained were forced to resettle in villages
supervised by white settlers. Metacomet initially escaped, only to be hunted
down and killed in 1676. The victorious colonists marched his severed head to
82

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
King Philip’s War
A 1772 engraving by Paul Revere depicts Metacomet (King Philip), leader of the
Wampanoags.
Plymouth, where it sat atop a pole for twenty years, a gruesome reminder of
the British determination to control the Indians. King Philip’s War devastated
the indigenous culture in New England. Combat deaths, deportations, and
flight cut the region’s Indian population in half. Military victory also enabled
the Puritan authorities to increase their political, economic, legal, and reli-
gious control over the 9,000 Indians who remained.
THE ENGLI S H CI VI L WAR I N AMERI CA
By 1640, English settlers in New England and around Chesapeake Bay
had established two great beachheads on the Atlantic coast, with the Dutch
colony of New Netherland in between. After 1640, however, the struggle
between king and Parliament in England distracted attention from coloniza-
tion, and migration to America dwindled to a trickle for more than twenty
years. During the English Civil War (1642–1646) and Oliver Cromwell’s
Puritan dictatorship (1653–1658), the struggling colonies were left pretty
much to their own devices.
In 1643, four of the New England colonies—Massachusetts Bay, Ply-
mouth, Connecticut, and New Haven—formed the New England Confeder-
ation to provide joint defense against the Dutch, French, and Indians. Two
commissioners from each colony met annually to transact business. In some
ways the confederation behaved like a sovereign power. It made treaties, and
in 1653 it declared war against the Dutch, who were accused of inciting the
Indians to attack Connecticut. Massachusetts, far from the scene of trouble,
failed to cooperate, greatly weakening the confederation. But the commis-
sioners continued to meet annually until 1684, when Massachusetts lost
its charter.
Virginia and Maryland remained almost as independent of English con-
trol as New England. At the behest of Governor William Berkeley, the Vir-
ginia burgesses (legislators) in 1649 denounced the Puritans’ execution of
King Charles and recognized his son, Charles II, as the lawful king. In 1652,
however, the assembly yielded to parliamentary commissioners and over-
ruled the governor. In return for the surrender, the commissioners let the
assembly choose its own council and governor. The colony grew rapidly in
population during its years of independent government, some of the growth
coming from the arrival of Royalists, who found a friendly haven in Angli-
can Virginia.
The parliamentary commissioners who won the submission of Virginia
proceeded to Catholic Maryland, where the proprietary governor faced
The English Civil War in America

83
particular difficulties with his Protestant majority. At the governor’s sugges-
tion the assembly had passed the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649, an assur-
ance that Puritans would not be molested in the practice of their religion. In
1654 the commissioners revoked the Toleration Act and deprived Lord Balti-
more of his governmental rights, though not of his lands and revenues. Still,
the more extreme Puritan elements were dissatisfied, and a brief clash in
1654 brought religious civil war to Maryland and led to the deposing of the
governor. But Oliver Cromwell took the side of Lord Baltimore and restored
his full rights in 1657, whereupon the Toleration Act was reinstated. The act
deservedly stands as a landmark to human liberty, albeit enacted more out of
expediency than conviction.
Cromwell let the colonies go their own way, but he was not indifferent to
Britain’s North American empire. He fought trade wars with the Dutch, and
his navy harassed England’s traditional enemy, Catholic Spain, in the
Caribbean. In 1655 a British force wrested Jamaica from Spanish control.
The Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 led to an equally painless
restoration of previous governments in the colonies. Agents hastily dis-
patched by the colonies won reconfirmation of the Massachusetts charter in
1662 and the very first royal charters for Connecticut and Rhode Island in
1662 and 1663. All three retained their status as self-governing corporations.
Plymouth still had no charter, but it went unmolested. New Haven, however,
disappeared as a separate entity, absorbed into the colony of Connecticut.
SETTLI NG THE CAROLI NAS
The Restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660 revived
interest in colonial expansion. Within twelve years the English would con-
quer New Netherland, settle Carolina, and nearly fill out the shape of the
colonies. In the middle region, formerly claimed by the Dutch, four new
colonies emerged: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. With-
out exception the new colonies were proprietary, awarded by the king to men
(“proprietors”) who had remained loyal to the monarchy during the civil war,
who had brought about his restoration, or in one case, to whom he was
indebted. In 1663, for example, King Charles II granted Carolina to eight
prominent allies, who became lords proprietors (owners) of the region.
THE CAROLI NAS From the start Carolina comprised two widely sepa-
rated areas of settlement, which eventually became two distinct colonies.
The northernmost part, long called Albemarle, had been settled in the 1650s
84

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
by colonists who had drifted southward from Virginia. For half a century,
Albemarle remained a remote scattering of farmers along the shores of Albe-
marle Sound. Albemarle had no governor until 1664, no assembly until
1665, and not even a town until a group of French Huguenots founded the
village of Bath on the Outer Banks in 1704.
The eight lords proprietors to whom the king had given Carolina
neglected Albemarle from the outset and focused on more promising sites to
the south. They recruited seasoned British planters from the Caribbean
island of Barbados to replicate in South Carolina the profitable West Indian
sugar-plantation system based on the labor of enslaved Africans. The first
British colonists arrived in South Carolina in 1669 at Charles Town (later
named Charleston). Over the next twenty years, half the South Carolina
colonists came from Barbados.
Settling the Carolinas

85
0
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100 200 Miles
EARLY
SETTLEMENTS
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(Spanish)
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VI RGI NI A
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CAROLI NA SOUTH
CAROLI NA
GEORGI A
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1763
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How were the Carolina colonies created? What were the impedi-
ments to settling North Carolina? How did the lords proprietors
settle South Carolina? What were the major items traded by set-
tlers in South Carolina?
The government of South Carolina rested upon one of the most curious
documents of colonial history, the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina,
drawn up by one of the eight proprietors, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, with
the help of his secretary, the philosopher John Locke. Its cumbersome frame
of government and its provisions for an elaborate nobility had little effect in
the colony except to encourage a practice of large land grants. From the
beginning, however, smaller headrights (land grants) were given to every
immigrant who could afford the cost of transit. The most enticing provision
was a grant of religious toleration, designed to encourage immigration,
which gave South Carolina a greater degree of religious freedom (extending
even to Jews and “heathens”) than England or any other colony except
Rhode Island and, once it was established, Pennsylvania. South Carolina
became a separate royal colony in 1719. North Carolina remained under the
proprietors’ rule for ten more years, until they transferred their governing
rights to the British Crown.
ENSLAVI NG I NDI ANS The eight English proprietors of South Car-
olina wanted the colony to focus on producing commercial crops (staples).
Such production took time to develop, however. Land had to be cleared and
86

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
The Broiling of Their Fish over the Flame
In this drawing by John White, Algonquian men in North Carolina broil fish, a
dietary staple of coastal societies.
then crops planted, harvested, transported, and sold. These activities
required laborers. Some Carolina planters brought enslaved Africans and
white indentured servants with them from British-controlled islands in the
West Indies. Yet slaves and servants were expensive to purchase and support.
The quickest way to raise capital in the early years of South Carolina’s devel-
opment was through trade with Indians.
In the late seventeenth century, English merchants began traveling south-
ward from Virginia into the Piedmont region of Carolina, where they devel-
oped a prosperous trade with the Catawbas. By 1690, traders from Charles
Town, South Carolina, had made their way up the Savannah River to arrange
deals with the Cherokees, Creeks, and Chickasaws. Between 1699 and 1715,
Carolina exported to England an average of 54,000 deerskins per year. Euro-
peans, in turn, transformed the valuable hides into bookbindings, gloves,
belts, hats, and work aprons. The voracious demand for the soft skins almost
exterminated the deer population.
The growing trade with the English exposed indigenous peoples to conta-
gious diseases that decimated the population. Commercial activity also
entwined Indians in a dependent relationship with Europeans that would
prove disastrous to their traditional way of life. Beyond capturing and
enslaving Indians, the English traders began providing the Indians with
goods, firearms, and rum as incentives to persuade them to capture mem-
bers of rival tribes to be sold as slaves. Because indigenous captives often ran
Settling the Carolinas

87
Cherokee chiefs
A print depicting seven Cherokee chiefs who had been taken from Carolina to Eng-
land in 1730.
away, the traders preferred to ship them to New York, Boston, and the West
Indies and import enslaved Africans to work in the Carolinas.
The profitability of indigenous captives prompted a frenzy of slaving
activity among white settlers. Slave traders turned tribes against one another
in order to ensure a continuous supply of captives. As many as 50,000 Indi-
ans, most of them women and children, were sold as slaves in Charles Town
between 1670 and 1715. More enslaved Indians were exported during that
period than Africans were imported. Thousands more captured Indians cir-
culated through New England ports. The burgeoning trade in enslaved Indi-
ans triggered bitter struggles between tribes, gave rise to unprecedented
colonial warfare, and spawned massive internal migrations across the south-
ern colonies.
During the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the trade in enslaved
Indians spread across the entire Southeast. Slave raiding became the region’s
single most important economic activity and a powerful weapon in Britain’s
global conflict with France and Spain. During the early eighteenth century,
Indians armed with British weapons and led by English soldiers crossed into
Spanish territory in south Georgia and north Florida. They destroyed thir-
teen Catholic missions, killed several hundred Indians and Spaniards, and
enslaved over 300 indigenous men, women, and children. By 1710 the
Florida tribes were on the verge of extinction. In 1708, when the total popu-
lation of South Carolina was 9,580, including 2,900 Africans, there were
1,400 enslaved Indians.
The trade in enslaved Indians led to escalating troubles. Fears of slaving
raids disrupted the planting cycle in indigenous villages. Some tribes fled the
South altogether. In 1712 the Tuscaroras of North Carolina attacked Ger-
man and English colonists who had encroached upon their land. North
Carolina authorities appealed to South Carolina for aid, and the colony,
eager for more slaves, dispatched two expeditions made up mostly of Indian
allies—Yamasees, Cherokees, Creeks, and Catawbas—led by whites. In 1713,
they destroyed a Tuscarora town, executed 162 male warriors, and took 392
women and children captive for sale in Charles Town. The surviving Tus-
caroras fled north, where they joined the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Tuscarora War in North Carolina sparked more conflict in South
Carolina. The Yamasees felt betrayed when white traders paid them less for
their Tuscarora captives than they wanted. What made this shortfall so acute
was that the Yamasee owed debts to traders totaling 100,000 deerskins—
almost five years worth of hunting. To recover their debts, white traders
cheated Yamasees, confiscated their lands, and began enslaving their women
and children. In April 1715 the enraged Yamasees attacked coastal plantations
88

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
and killed over 100 whites. Their vengeful assaults continued for months,
aided by Creeks. Most of the white traders were killed. Whites throughout
the coastal areas of South Carolina panicked; hundreds fled to Charles
Town. The governor mobilized all white and black males to defend the
colony; other colonies supplied weapons. Not until the governor persuaded
the Cherokees (with the inducement of many gifts) to join them against the
Yamasees and Creeks did the Yamasee War end—in 1717. The defeated
Yamasees fled to Spanish-controlled Florida. By then hundreds of whites
had been killed and dozens of plantations destroyed and abandoned. To pre-
vent another conflict, the colonial government outlawed all private trading
with Indians. Commerce between whites and indigenous peoples could now
occur only through a colonial agency created to end abuses and shift activity
from trading enslaved Indians to trading deerskins.
The end of the Yamasee War did not stop infighting among Indians, how-
ever. For the next ten years or so the Creeks and Cherokees engaged in a
costly blood feud, much to the delight of the English. One Carolinian
explained that their challenge was to figure out “how to hold both [tribes] as
our friends, for some time, and assist them in cutting one another’s throats
without offending either. This is the game we intend to play if possible.” The
French played the same brutal game, doing their best to excite hatred
between the Choctaws and the Chickasaws. Between 1700 and 1730 the
indigenous population in the Carolinas dwindled from 15,000 to just 4,000.
SETTLI NG THE MI DDLE COLONI ES AND GEORGI A
NEW NETHERLAND BECOMES NEW YORK During the early sev-
enteenth century, having gained its independence from Spain, the tiny,
densely populated nation of the Netherlands (Holland) emerged as a mari-
time and financial giant. By 1670 the mostly Protestant Dutch had the
largest merchant fleet in the world and the highest standard of living. They
controlled northern European commerce and became one of the most
diverse societies in Europe. The Dutch Republic was a polyglot confedera-
tion that embraced diversity. It welcomed exiles from the constant religious
strife in Europe: Iberian and German Jews, French Protestants (Huguenots),
English Puritans, and Catholics from across Europe. The extraordinary suc-
cess of the Netherlands also proved to be its downfall, however. Like imperial
Spain, the Dutch Empire expanded too rapidly. Netherlanders dominated
European trade with China, India, Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean, but
they could not efficiently manage their far-flung possessions. It did not take
Settling the Middle Colonies and Georgia

89
long for European rivals to exploit the weak points in the lucrative Dutch
Empire. By the mid–seventeenth century, England and the Netherlands were
locked in ferocious commercial warfare.
In London, King Charles II resolved to pluck out that old thorn in the side
of the English colonies in America: New Netherland. The Dutch colony was
older than New England, having been planted when the two Protestant
powers allied in opposition to Catholic Spain. The Dutch East India Com-
pany (organized in 1602) had hired an English captain, Henry Hudson, to
explore America in hopes of finding a northwest passage to the spice-rich
Indies. Sailing along the upper coast of North America in 1609, Hudson had
discovered Delaware Bay. He also explored the river named for him, ventur-
ing 160 miles north to a point probably beyond what is now Albany, where he
and a group of Mohawks began a lasting trade relationship between the Dutch
and the Iroquois Nations. Like Virginia and Massachusetts, New Netherland
was created as a profit-making enterprise. In 1610 the Dutch established
lucrative fur-trading posts on Manhattan Island and upriver at Fort Orange
(later Albany). In 1626, Governor Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from
the Indians for 60 gilders, or about $1000 in current values. The Dutch then
built a fort at the lower end of the island. The village of New Amsterdam,
which grew up around the fort, became the capital of New Netherland and
developed into a rollicking commercial powerhouse, in large part because of
its sheltered harbors and deepwater ports. Unlike their Puritan counterparts
in Massachusetts Bay, the Dutch in New Amsterdam were preoccupied more
with profits and freedoms than with piety and restrictions. They embraced
free enterprise and ethnic and religious pluralism.
Dutch settlements gradually dispersed in every direction in which furs
might be found. In 1638 a Swedish trading company established Fort
Christina at the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware, and scattered a
few hundred settlers up and down the Delaware River. The Dutch, at the
time allied with the Swedes in the Thirty Years’ War, made no move to
challenge the claim until 1655, when a force outnumbering the entire
Swedish colony subjected them, without bloodshed, to the rule of New
Netherland. The chief contribution of the short-lived New Sweden to Amer-
ican culture was the idea of the log cabin, which the Swedes and a few
Finnish settlers had brought from the woods of Scandinavia.
Like the French, the Dutch were interested mainly in the fur trade rather
than agricultural settlements. The European demand for beaver hats created
huge profits. In 1629, however, the Dutch West India Company (organized
in 1623) decided that it needed a mass of settlers to help protect the colony’s
“front door” at the mouth of the Hudson River. It provided that any stock-
90

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
holder might obtain a large estate (a patroonship) in exchange for peopling
it with fifty adults within four years. The “patroon” was obligated to supply
cattle, tools, and buildings. His tenants, in turn, paid him rent, used his
gristmill, gave him first option to purchase surplus crops, and submitted to
a court he established. It amounted to transplanting the feudal manor to the
New World, and it met with as little luck as similar efforts in Maryland and
South Carolina. Volunteers for serfdom were hard to find when there was
land to be had elsewhere; most settlers took advantage of the company’s
provision that one could have as farms (bouweries) all the lands one could
improve.
The New Netherland government was under the almost absolute control
of a governor sent out by the Dutch West India Company. The governors
were mostly stubborn autocrats, either corrupt or inept, and especially
clumsy at Indian relations. They depended upon a small army garrison for
defense, and the inhabitants (including a number of English on Long Island)
Settling the Middle Colonies and Georgia

91
Castello Plan of New Amsterdam
A map of New Amsterdam in 1660, shortly before the English took the colony from
the Dutch and christened it New York City.
were hardly devoted to the Dutch government. New Amsterdam was one of
the most ethnically diverse colonial cities. Its residents included Swedes,
Norwegians, Spaniards, Sephardic Jews, free blacks, English, Germans, and
Finns—as well as Dutch. The polyglot colonists prized their liberties and
lived in a smoldering state of near mutiny against the colony’s governors. In
fact, in 1664 they showed almost total indifference when Governor Peter
Stuyvesant called them to arms against a threatening British fleet. Almost
defenseless, the old soldier Stuyvesant blustered and stomped about on his
wooden leg but finally surrendered without firing a shot and stayed on qui-
etly at his farm in what became the English colony of New York.
The English plan to conquer New Netherland had been hatched by the
Duke of York, later King James II. As lord high admiral and an investor in the
African trade, he had already harassed Dutch shipping and forts in Africa.
When he and his advisers counseled that New Netherland could easily be
conquered, his brother King Charles II simply granted the region to the
Duke of York as proprietor and permitted the hasty gathering of an invasion
force. The English thus transformed New Amsterdam into New York City
and Fort Orange into Albany. The Dutch, however, left a permanent imprint
on the land and the language: the Dutch vernacular faded, but place-names
such as Block Island, Wall Street (the original wall being for protection
against Indians), and Broadway (Breede Wegh) remained, along with family
names like Rensselaer, Roosevelt, and Van Buren. The Dutch presence lin-
gered, too, in the Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) Church; in words like boss,
cookie, crib, snoop, stoop, spook, and kill (for “creek”); and in the legendary
Santa Claus and in Washington Irving’s “Rip van Winkle.”
More important to the development of the American colonies were New
Netherland’s political principles, as embodied in the formal document
transferring governance of the colony from the Dutch to the British. Called
the Articles of Capitulation, the document provided a guarantee of individ-
ual rights unparalleled in the English colonies. The articles, which endorsed
free trade, religious liberty, and local political representation, were incorpo-
rated into the New York City Charter of 1686 and thereafter served as a
benchmark for disputes with Britain over colonial rights.
J UDAI S M I N NORTH AMERI CA In September 1654, ten years before
the English took control of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, a French
ship arrived in New Amsterdam (New York) Harbor. On board were twenty-
three Sephardi, Jews of Spanish-Portuguese descent. Penniless and weary,
they had come seeking refuge from Brazil, where they had earlier fled from
Spain and Portugal after being exiled by the Catholic Inquisition. When
92

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Portugal took Brazil from the Dutch, the Sephardi again had to flee the
Catholic Inquisition. They were the first Jewish settlers to arrive in North
America, and they were not readily embraced. Leading merchants as well as
members of the Dutch Reformed Church asked Peter Stuyvesant, the dictator-
ial Dutch director general of New Netherland, to expel them. Stuyvesant
despised Jews, Lutherans, Catholics, and Quakers. He characterized Jews as
“deceitful,” “very repugnant,” and “blasphemous.” If the Jews were allowed in,
then “we cannot refuse the Lutherans and Papists.” Stuyvesant’s employers at
the Dutch West India Company disagreed, however. Early in 1655 they
ordered him to accommodate the homeless Jews, explaining that he should
“allow every one to have his own belief, as long as he behaves quietly and
legally, gives no offense to his neighbor and does not oppose the government.”
The autocratic Stuyvesant grudgingly complied, but the Jews in New
Amsterdam thereafter had to fight for civil and economic rights, as well as
the right to worship in public. It would not be until the late seventeenth cen-
tury, years after the English took over New Netherland and renamed it New
York, that Jews could worship in public. Such restrictions help explain why
the American Jewish community grew so slowly. In 1773, over 100 years after
the first Jewish refugees arrived in New Amsterdam, only 242 Jews resided in
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93
Jewish heritage in colonial America
A seventeenth-century Jewish cemetery in New York City.
New York City, and Jews represented only one tenth of 1 percent of the entire
colonial population. On the eve of the American Revolution, there was not a
single rabbi in British America. Not until the nineteenth century would the
American Jewish community experience dramatic growth.
THE I ROQUOI S LEAGUE One of the most significant effects of Euro-
pean settlement in North America during the seventeenth century was the
intensification of warfare among Indians. The same combination of forces
that decimated the indigenous populations of New England and the Caroli-
nas affected the tribes around New York City and the lower Hudson River
valley. Dissension among Indians and their susceptibility to infectious dis-
ease left them vulnerable to exploitation by whites and other Indians.
In the interior of New York, however, a different situation arose. There the
tribes of the Iroquois (an Algonquian term signifying “Snake” or “Terrifying
Man”) forged an alliance so strong that the outnumbered Dutch and, later,
English traders were forced to work with Indians in exploiting the lucrative
beaver trade. By the early 1600s some fifty sachems (chiefs) governed the
12,000 members of the Iroquois League, or Iroquois Confederacy. The
sachems made decisions for all the villages and mediated tribal rivalries and
dissension within the confederacy.
When the Iroquois began to deplete the local game during the 1640s, they
used firearms supplied by their Dutch trading partners to seize the Canadian
94

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Wampum belt
The diamond shapes at the center of this “covenant chain” belt indicate community
alliances. Wampum belts such as this one were often used to certify treaties or
record transactions.
hunting grounds of the neighboring Hurons and Eries. During the so-called
Beaver Wars, the Iroquois defeated the other tribes and thereafter hunted the
beaver in the region to extinction. During the second half of the seventeenth
century, the relentless search for furs and captives led Iroquois war parties to
range far across what is today eastern North America. They gained control
over a huge area from the St. Lawrence River to Tennessee and from Maine
to Michigan. The Iroquois wars helped reorient the political relationships in
the whole eastern half of the continent, especially in the area from the Ohio
River valley northward across the Great Lakes Basin. Besieged by the Iro-
quois League, the western tribes forged defensive alliances with the French.
For over twenty years, warfare raged across the Great Lakes region. In
the 1690s the French and their Indian allies gained the advantage over the
Iroquois. They destroyed Iroquois crops and villages, infected them with small-
pox, and reduced the male population by more than a third. Facing extermina-
tion, the Iroquois made peace with the French in 1701. During the first half of
the eighteenth century, they maintained a shrewd neutrality in the struggle
between the two rival European powers, which enabled them to play the British
off against the French while creating a thriving fur trade for themselves.
NEW J ERS EY Shortly after the conquest of New Netherland, the Duke of
York granted his lands between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers to Sir
George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley (brother of Virginia’s governor)
and named the territory for Carteret’s native Jersey, an island in the English
Channel. In 1676, by mutual agreement, the colony was divided by a diago-
nal line into East and West Jersey, with Carteret taking the east. Finally, in
1682, Carteret sold out to a group of twelve, including William Penn, who in
turn brought into the partnership twelve more proprietors, for a total of
twenty-four. In East Jersey, peopled at first by perhaps 200 Dutch who had
crossed the Hudson River, new settlements gradually arose: some disaffected
Puritans from New Haven founded Newark, Carteret’s brother brought a
group to found Elizabethtown (named for Queen Elizabeth), and a group of
Scots founded Perth Amboy. In the west, facing the Delaware River, a scatter-
ing of Swedes, Finns, and Dutch remained, soon to be overwhelmed by
swarms of English and Welsh Quakers, as well as German and Scots-Irish
settlers. In 1702, East and West Jersey were united as the single royal colony
of New Jersey.
PENNSYLVANI A AND DELAWARE The Quaker sect, as the Society
of Friends was called in ridicule (because they were supposed to “tremble at
the word of the Lord”), became the most influential of many radical
Settling the Middle Colonies and Georgia

95
religious groups that emerged from the turbulence of the English Civil War.
Founded by George Fox in about 1647, the Quakers carried further than any
other group the doctrine of individual inspiration and interpretation—the
“inner light,” they called it. They discarded all formal sacraments and formal
ministry, refused deference to persons of rank, used the familiar thee and
thou in addressing everyone, refused to take oaths, claiming they were
contrary to Scripture, and embraced pacifism. Quakers were subjected to
intense persecution—often their zeal seemed to invite it—but never in -
flicted it upon others. Their tolerance extended to complete religious free-
dom for everyone, whatever one’s belief or disbelief, and to equality of the
sexes, including the full participation of women in religious affairs.
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BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
42° parallel
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Why was New Jersey divided in half? Why did Quakers choose to
settle in Pennsylvania? How did the relations between European
settlers and Indians in Pennsylvania differ from such relations in
the other colonies?
The settling of English Quakers in West Jersey encouraged other Friends
to migrate, especially to the Delaware River side of the colony. And soon
across the river arose William Penn’s Quaker commonwealth, the colony of
Pennsylvania. Penn was the son of Admiral Sir William Penn, who had sup-
ported Parliament in the civil war. Young William was reared as a proper
gentleman, but as a student at Oxford University he had become a Quaker.
Upon his father’s death, Penn inherited a substantial estate, including pro-
prietary rights to a huge tract in America. The land was named, at the king’s
insistence, for Penn’s father: Pennsylvania (literally, “Penn’s Woods”).
When Penn assumed control of the area, there was already a scattering of
Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers on the west bank of the Delaware River.
But Penn soon made vigorous efforts to recruit more colonists. Unlike John
Winthrop in Massachusetts, Penn encouraged people of different religious
affiliations (as long as they believed in God) to settle in his new colony. He
Quaker meeting
The presence of women at this meeting is evidence of Quaker views on gender
equality.
Settling the Middle Colonies and Georgia

97
assumed that believers, regardless of their particular denomination or theol-
ogy, would set aside their religious differences for the good of the common-
wealth (“the holy experiment”). He published glowing descriptions of the
colony, which were translated into German, Dutch, and French. By the end
of 1681, about 1,000 settlers were living in his province. By that time a town
was growing up at the junction of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. Penn
called it Philadelphia (“City of Brotherly Love”). Because of the generous
terms on which Penn offered land, the colony grew rapidly.
The relations between the Indians and the Quakers were cordial from the
beginning, because of the Quakers’ friendliness and Penn’s careful policy of
purchasing land titles from the Indians. Penn even took the trouble to learn
an indigenous language, something few colonists ever tried. For some fifty
years the settlers and the Indians lived side by side in peace.
The colony’s government, which rested on three Frames of Government
drafted by Penn, resembled that of other proprietary colonies except that the
freemen (taxpayers and property owners) elected the council members well as
the assembly. The governor had no veto—although Penn, as proprietor, did.
Penn hoped to show that a government could operate in accordance with
Quaker principles, that it could maintain peace and order without oaths or
wars, and that religion could flourish without government support and with
absolute freedom of conscience. Because of its tolerance, Pennsylvania became
a refuge not only for Quakers but also for a variety of dissenters—as well as
Anglicans—and early reflected the ethnic mixture of Scots-Irish and Germans
that became common to the middle colonies and the southern backcountry.
In 1682 the Duke of York also granted Penn the area of Delaware, another
part of the former Dutch territory. At first, Delaware became part of Penn-
sylvania, but after 1704 it was granted the right to choose its own assembly.
From then until the American Revolution, it had a separate assembly but
shared Pennsylvania’s governor.
GEORGI A Georgia was the last of the British continental colonies to be
established—half a century after Pennsylvania. During the seventeenth cen-
tury, settlers pushed southward into the borderlands between the Carolinas
and Florida. They brought with them enslaved Africans and a desire to win
the Indian trade from the Spanish. Each side used guns, goods, and rum to
influence the Indians, and the Indians in turn played off the English against
the Spanish in order to gain the most favorable terms.
In 1732, King George II gave the land between the Savannah and
Altamaha Rivers to the twenty-one trustees of Georgia. In two respects,
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BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
Georgia was unique among the colonies: it was set up as a philanthropic
experi ment and as a military buffer against Spanish Florida. General James E.
Oglethorpe, who accompanied the first colonists as resident trustee, repre-
sented both concerns: he served as a soldier who organized the defenses and
as a philanthropist who championed prison reform and sought a colonial
refuge for the poor and the religiously persecuted.
In 1733 a band of about 120 colonists founded Savannah on the coast
near the mouth of the Savannah River. Carefully laid out by Oglethorpe, the
old town, with its geometric pattern and numerous little parks, remains a
monument to the city planning of a bygone day. Protestant refugees from
Austria began to arrive in 1734, followed by Germans and German-speaking
Moravians and Swiss, who made the colony for a time more German than
English. The addition of Welsh, Highland Scots, Sephardic Jews, and others
gave the early colony a cosmopolitan character much like that of Charleston.
As a buffer against Florida, the colony succeeded, but as a philan-
thropic experiment it failed. Efforts to develop silk and wine production
foundered. Landholdings were limited to 500 acres, rum was prohibited, and
Savannah, Georgia
The earliest known view of Savannah, Georgia (1734). The town’s layout was care-
fully planned.
Settling the Middle Colonies and Georgia

99
Why did European settlement lead to the expansion of hostilities
among the Indians? What were the consequences of the trade and
commerce between the English settlers and the southern indige-
nous peoples? How were the relationships between the settlers
and the members of the Iroquois League different from those
between settlers and tribes in other regions?
s
T
c
the importation of slaves was forbidden, partly to leave room for servants
brought on charity, partly to ensure security. But the utopian rules soon col-
lapsed. The regulations against rum and slavery were widely disregarded
and finally abandoned. By 1759 all restrictions on landholding had been
removed.
In 1754 the trustees’ charter expired, and the province reverted to the
Crown. As a royal colony, Georgia acquired an effective government for the
first time. The colony developed slowly over the next decade but grew
rapidly in population and wealth after 1763. Instead of wine and silk, as was
Oglethorpe’s plan, Georgians exported rice, indigo, lumber, beef, and pork
and carried on a lively trade with the West Indies. The colony had inadver-
tently become a commercial success.
THRI VI NG COLONI ES
By the early eighteenth century the English had outstripped both the
French and the Spanish in the New World. British America had become
the most populous, prosperous, and powerful region on the continent. By
the mid–seventeenth century, American colonists on average were better fed,
clothed, and housed than their counterparts in Europe, where a majority of
the people lived in destitution. But the English colonization of North Amer-
ica included failures as well as successes. Many settlers found only hard labor
and an early death in the New World. Others flourished only because they
exploited the Indians, indentured servants, or Africans.
The British succeeded in creating a lasting American empire because of
crucial advantages they had over their European rivals. The centralized con-
trol imposed by the monarchs of Spain and France eventually hobbled inno-
vation. By contrast, the enterprising British acted by private investment and
with a minimum of royal control. Not a single colony was begun at the direct
initiative of the Crown. In the English colonies poor immigrants had a much
greater chance of getting at least a small parcel of land. The English and
Dutch, unlike their rivals, welcomed people from a variety of nationalities
and dissenting religious sects who came in search of a new life or a safe
harbor. And a greater degree of self-government made the English colonies
more responsive to new circumstances—though they were sometimes stymied
by controversy.
The compact pattern of English settlement, whereby colonies were settled
contiguous to one another, contrasted sharply with Spain’s far-flung con-
quests and France’s far-reaching trade routes to the interior by way of the
102

BRITAIN AND ITS COLONIES (CH. 2)
St. Lawrence and Mississippi Rivers. Geography reinforced England’s bent
for the concentrated settlement of its colonies. The rivers and bays that
indent the Atlantic seaboard served as communication arteries along which
colonies first sprang up, but no great river offered a highway to the far inte-
rior. About 100 miles inland in Georgia and the Carolinas, and nearer the
coast to the north, the fall line of the rivers presented rocky rapids that
marked the limit of navigation and the end of the coastal plain. About 100
miles beyond that, and farther back in Pennsylvania, stretched the rolling
expanse of the Piedmont, literally, “Foothills.” And the final western back-
drop of English America was the Appalachian Mountain range, some 200
miles inland from the coast in the South and reaching the coast at points in
New England, with only one significant break—up the Hudson and
Mohawk River valleys of New York. For 150 years the farthest outreach of
British settlement stopped at the slopes of those mountains. To the east lay
the wide expanse of ocean, which served not only as a highway for the trans-
port of people, ideas, commerce, and ways of life from Europe to America
but also as a barrier that separated old ideas from new, allowing the new to
evolve in a “new world.”
Thriving Colonies

103
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• British Colonization Profit from minerals and exotic products was the over-
riding objective of the joint-stock Virginia Company, organized to finance the
1607 Jamestown venture. Proprietary colonies, such as Maryland and the Caroli-
nas, were given to individuals who desired wealth but did not usually become
colonists themselves. The colonies were also an outlet for Britain’s poor.
• Jamestown Hardships The early years of Jamestown were grim because food
was in short supply except when the Powhatans provided corn. Relations with
the Indians deteriorated, however, culminating in an Indian uprising in 1622.
English investors searched for profits from minerals and trade with Indians, not
from agriculture. A high mortality rate caused a scarcity of labor.
• Religion and Colonization Religion was the primary motivation for the found-
ing of several colonies. The Plymouth colony was founded by separatists on a
mission to build a Christian commonwealth outside the structure of the Angli-
can Church. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was created by Puritans who wished
to purify the established church. Rhode Island was established by Roger
Williams, a religious dissenter from Massachusetts. Maryland was founded as a
refuge for English Catholics. William Penn, a Quaker, founded Pennsylvania and
invited Europe’s persecuted religious sects to his colony. The Dutch, with their
policy of toleration, allowed members of all faiths to settle in New Netherland.
• Indian Relations Settler-Indian relations were complex. Trade with the
Powhatans in Virginia enabled Jamestown to survive its early years, but brutal
armed conflicts occurred as settlers invaded indigenous lands. Puritans retali-
ated harshly against indigenous resistance in the Pequot War of 1637 and in
King Philip’s War from 1675–1676. Only Roger Williams and William Penn
treated Indians as equals. Conflicts in the Carolinas—the Tuscarora and
Yamasee Wars—occurred because of trade of enslaved Indians and other abuses
by traders. France and Spain used indigenous peoples to further their imperial
ambitions, which allowed the Indians to play the European powers against each
another.
• British America By 1700, England was a great trading empire. British America
was the most populous and prosperous area of North America. Commercial
rivalry between the Dutch and the English led to war, during which the Dutch
colony of New Netherland surrendered to the English in 1664. Indigenous allies,
such as the Iroquois, traded pelts for English goods. By relying increasingly on
slave labor, the southern colonies provided England with tobacco and other
plantation crops.
End of Chapter Review
K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
Puritans p. 55
Virginia Company p. 56
Chief Powhatan p. 58
Captain John Smith p. 58
Bacon’s Rebellion p. 64
proprietary colonies p. 66
John Winthrop p. 71
Roger Williams p. 74
Anne Hutchinson p. 76
Pequot War p. 80
King Philip, or Metacomet
p. 81
New Netherland p. 83
Iroquois League p. 94
Quakers p. 95

C H R O N O L O G Y
1607 Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English colony, is
established
1616 Pocahontas marries John Rolfe
1619 First Africans arrive in English America
1620 Plymouth colony is founded; Pilgrims agree to the
Mayflower Compact
1622 Indian uprising in Virginia
1630 Massachusetts Bay Colony is founded
1634 Settlement of Maryland begins
1637 Pequot War
1642–1651 English Civil War
1660 Restoration of the English monarchy
1675–1676 King Philip’s War
1676 Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia
1681 Pennsylvania is established
1733 Georgia is founded

3
COLONIAL WAYS
OF LIFE
T
he process of carving a new civilization out of an abundant
“New World” involved often violent encounters among
European, African, and Indian cultures. War, duplicity, dis-
placement, and enslavement were the tragic results. Yet on another level the
process of transforming the American continent was not simply a story of
conflict but also of accommodation, a story of diverse peoples and cultures
engaged in the everyday tasks of building homes, planting crops, trading
goods, raising families, enforcing laws, and worshipping their gods. Those
who colonized America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
were part of a massive social migration occurring throughout Europe and
Africa. Everywhere, it seemed, people were moving from farms to villages,
from villages to cities, and from homelands to colonies. They moved for dif-
ferent reasons. Most Britons and Europeans were responding to powerful
social and economic forces as rapid population growth and the rise of com-
mercial agriculture squeezed people off the land. Many migrants traveled in
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What were the social, ethnic, and economic differences among the
southern, middle, and New England colonies?
• What were the prevailing attitudes of English colonists toward
women?
• How important was indentured servitude to the development of
the colonies, and why had the system been replaced by slavery in
the South by 1700?
• How did the colonies participate in international and imperial
trade?
• What were the effects of the Enlightenment in America?
• How did the Great Awakening affect the colonies?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
The Shape of Early America

107
search of political security or religious freedom. A tragic exception was the
Africans, who were captured and transported to new lands against their will.
Those who settled in colonial America were mostly young (over half were
under twenty-five), male, and poor. Almost half were indentured servants or
slaves, and during the eighteenth century England would transport some
50,000 convicts to the North American colonies. Only about a third of the
settlers came with their families. Once in America, many of the newcomers
kept moving, trying to take advantage of inexpensive western land or new
business opportunities. Whatever their status or ambition, this extraordi-
nary mosaic of adventurous people created America’s enduring institutions
and values, as well as its distinctive spirit and energy.
THE SHAPE OF EARLY AMERI CA
BRI TI S H FOLKWAYS The vast majority of early European settlers came
from the British Isles in four mass migrations over the seventeenth and eigh-
teenth centuries. The first wave involved some 20,000 Puritans who settled
Massachusetts between 1630 and 1641. A generation later a smaller group of
wealthy Royalist Cavaliers (aristocrats) and their indentured servants migrated
from southern England to Virginia. The third wave brought some 23,000
Quakers from the north Midlands of England to the colonies of West Jersey,
Pennsylvania, and Delaware. They professed a sense of spiritual equality, a sus-
picion of class distinctions and powerful elites, and a commitment to plain liv-
ing and high thinking. The fourth and largest surge of colonization occurred
between 1717 and 1775 and included hundreds of thousands of Celtic Britons
and Scots-Irish from northern Ireland; these were mostly poor, feisty, clannish
folk who settled in the rugged backcountry along the Appalachian Mountains.
It was long assumed that the strenuous demands of the American frontier
served as a great “melting pot” that stripped immigrants of their native identi-
ties and melded them into homogeneous Americans. Yet for all of the trans-
forming effects of the New World, British ways of life have persisted to this day.
Although most British migrants spoke a common language and shared the
Protestant faith, they carried with them—and retained—very different cultural
attitudes and customs. They spoke distinct dialects, cooked different foods, pre-
ferred different architectural styles, and organized their societies differently.
SEABOARD ECOLOGY One of the cherished legends of American history
has it that those settling the New World arrived to find an unspoiled wilder-
ness little touched by human activity. That was not the case, however. For
thousands of years, Indian hunting practices had produced what one scholar
has called the “greatest known loss
of wild species” in the continent’s
history. Over centuries the Indians
had regularly burned forests and
dense undergrowth in order to cre-
ate cropland, ease travel through
hardwood forests, and make way
for grasses, berries, and other for-
age for the animals they hunted.
This migratory “slash-and-burn”
agriculture increased the rate at
which plant nutrients were recy-
cled and allowed more sunlight to
reach the forest floor. These condi-
tions in turn created rich soil and
ideal grazing grounds for elk, deer,
turkeys, bears, moose, and beavers.
Equally important in shaping
the ecosystem of America was the
European attitude toward the environment. Colonists followed the Biblical
command to “subdue the earth.” Whereas the Indians tended to be migratory,
considering land and animals communal resources with spiritual signifi-
cance, to be shared and consumed only as necessary, most European
colonizers viewed natural resources as privately owned commodities to be
exploited for profit. White settlers thus quickly set about evicting Indians;
clearing, fencing, improving, and selling land; cutting timber for masts; and
growing surplus crops, trapping game, and catching fish for commercial
use. These practices transformed the seaboard environment. British ships
brought domesticated animals—cattle, oxen, sheep, goats, horses, and pigs—
that were unknown on the Atlantic seaboard. By 1650, English farm animals
outnumbered the colonists. As livestock herds grew, they often trespassed on
Indian lands. In 1666, a frustrated Maryland Indian told colonists, “Your hogs &
cattle injure us. You come too near us to live & drive us from place to place.
We can fly no farther. Let us know where to live & how to be secured for the
future from the hogs & cattle.”
POPULATI ON GROWTH England’s first footholds in America were
bought at a fearsome price: many settlers died in the first years. But once the
brutal seasoning phase was past and the colonies were on their feet, Virginia
and its successors grew rapidly. By 1750 the number of colonists had passed
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
Colonial farm
This plan of a newly cleared American
farm shows how trees were cut down and
the stumps left to rot.
The Shape of Early America

109
1 million; by 1775 it stood at about 2.5 million. The prodigious increase of
the colonial population did not go unnoticed. Benjamin Franklin, a keen
observer of many things, published in 1751 his Observations Concerning the
Increase of Mankind, in which he pointed out two facts of life that distin-
guished the colonies from Europe: land was plentiful and cheap, and labor
was scarce and expensive. The opposite conditions prevailed in the Old
World. From this reversal of conditions flowed many of the changes that
European culture underwent in America—not the least being that more
land and good fortune beckoned enterprising immigrants and induced set-
tlers to replenish the earth with large families. Where labor was scarce, chil-
dren could lend a hand and, once grown, find new land for themselves if
need be. Colonists tended, as a result, to marry and start families at an earlier
age than did their Old World counterparts.
BI RTHRATES AND DEATH RATES Given the better economic pro s -
pects in the colonies, a greater proportion of white women married, and the
birthrate remained much higher than it did in Europe. In England the aver-
age age at marriage for women was twenty-five or twenty-six; in America it
dropped to twenty. Men also married younger in the colonies than in the
Old World. The birthrate rose accordingly, since women who married earlier
had time for about two additional pregnancies during their childbearing
years.
Equally responsible for the burgeoning colonial population was a much
lower death rate than that in Europe. After the difficult first years of settle-
ment, infants generally had a better chance of reaching maturity, and adults
had a better chance of reaching old age. In seventeenth-century New Eng-
land, apart from childhood mortality, men could expect to reach seventy
and women nearly that age.
This longevity resulted from several factors. Since the land was bountiful,
famine seldom occurred after the first year, and although the winters were
more severe than those in England, firewood was plentiful. Being younger
on the whole—the average age in the new nation in 1790 was sixteen—
Americans were less susceptible to disease than were Europeans. That they
were more scattered than in the Old World meant they were also less
exposed to infectious diseases. That began to change, of course, as cities grew
and trade and travel increased. By the mid–eighteenth century the colonies
were beginning to have levels of contagion much like those in Europe.
The greatest variations in these patterns occurred in the earliest years of
the southern colonies. During the seventeenth century, a high rate of mor-
tality and a chronic shortage of women in Jamestown meant that population
growth was dependent on the steady arrival of more colonists from Britain. In
the humid southern climate, English settlers contracted malaria, dysentery,
and a host of other diseases. The mosquito-infested rice plantations of the
Carolina Tidewater were especially unhealthy. And ships that docked along
Virginia rivers brought with their payloads unseen cargoes of smallpox,
diphtheria, and other infectious diseases.
SEX RATI OS AND THE FAMI LY Whole communities of religious or
ethnic groups migrated more often to the northern colonies than to the
southern, bringing more women with them. Males, however, were most
needed in the early years of new colonies. In fact, as a pamphlet promoting
opportunities in America stressed, the new colonies needed “lusty labouring
men . . . capable of hard labour, and that can bear and undergo heat and
cold,” men adept with the “axe and the hoe.” Virginia’s seventeenth-century
sex ratio of two or three white males to each female meant that many men
never married, although nearly every adult woman did. Counting only the
unmarried, the ratio was about eight men for every woman.
A population made up largely of bachelors made for instability of a high
order in the first years. And the high mortality rates of the early years at
Jamestown further loosened family ties. A majority of the women who
arrived in the Chesapeake colonies during the seventeenth century were
unmarried indentured servants, most of whom died before the age of fifty.
While the first generations in New England proved to be long-lived, young
people in the seventeenth-century South were apt never to see their grand-
parents and in fact likely to lose one or both parents before reaching matu-
rity. Eventually, however, the southern colonies reverted to a more even gen-
der ratio, and family sizes approached those of New England. Thus, in
contrast to New Spain and New France, British America had far more
women, and this different sex ratio largely explains the difference in popula-
tion growth rates among the European empires competing in the New
World.
WOMEN I N THE COLONI ES Most colonists brought to America
deeply rooted convictions about the inferiority of women. As one minister
stressed, “the woman is a weak creature not endowed with like strength and
constancy of mind.” The prescribed role of women was clear: to obey and serve
their husbands, nurture their children, and endure the taxing labor required to
maintain their households. Governor John Winthrop insisted that a “true wife”
would find contentment only “in subjection to her husband’s authority.” Both
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
social custom and legal codes ensured that most women in most colonies could
not vote, preach, hold office, attend public schools or colleges, bring lawsuits,
make contracts, or own property.
Yet there were exceptions to these prevailing gender roles. Circum-
stances often required or enabled women to exercise leadership outside the
domestic sphere. Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney (1722?–1793), for example,
emerged as one of America’s most enterprising horticulturalists. Born in
the West Indies, raised on the island of Antigua, and educated in England,
she moved with her family to Charleston, South Carolina, at age fifteen.
The following year her father, a British army officer and colonial adminis-
trator, was called back to Antigua. He left young Eliza to care for her ailing
mother and younger sister—and to manage three plantations worked by
slaves. Intelligent and plucky, Eliza decided to try growing indigo, a West
Indian plant that produced a much-coveted blue dye for coloring fabric.
Within six years she had reaped a bonanza. Exporting indigo became fabu-
lously profitable for her and for other planters on the Carolina coast. She
later experimented with other crops, such as flax, hemp (used in making
rope and twine), and silk.
WOMEN AND RELI GI ON During the colonial era, women played a
crucial, if restricted, role in religious life. No denomination allowed women to
be ordained as ministers. Only the Quakers let women hold church offices and
preach (“exhort”) in public. Puritans cited biblical passages claiming that God
required “virtuous” women to submit to male authority and remain “silent” in
congregational matters. Governor John Winthrop demanded that women
“not meddle in such things as are proper for men” to manage.
Women who challenged ministerial authority were usually prosecuted and
punished. Yet by the eighteenth century, as is true today, women made up the
overwhelming majority of church members. Their disproportionate atten-
dance at church services and revivals worried many ministers. A feminized
church was presumed to be a church in decline. In 1692 the magisterial
Boston minister Cotton Mather observed that there “are far more Godly
Women in the world than there are Godly Men.” In explaining this phenome-
non, Mather put a new twist on the old notion of women being the weaker
sex. He argued that the pain associated with childbirth, which had long been
interpreted as the penalty women paid for Eve’s sinfulness, was in part what
drove women “more frequently, & the more fervently” to commit their lives
to Christ.
In colonial America the religious roles of black women were quite differ-
ent from those of their white counterparts. In most West African tribes,
The Shape of Early America

111
women were not subordinate to men, and women frequently served as
priests and cult leaders. Furthermore, some enslaved Africans had been
exposed to Christianity or Islam in Africa, through slave traders and mis-
sionaries. Most of them, however, tried to sustain their traditional African
religion once they arrived in the colonies. In America, black women (and
men) were often excluded from church membership for fear that Christian-
ized slaves might seek to gain their freedom. To clarify the situation, Virginia
in 1667 passed a law specifying that children of slaves would be slaves even if
they had been baptized as Christians.
“WOMEN’ S WORK” In the eighteenth century, “women’s work” typi-
cally involved activities in the house, garden, and yard. Farm women usually
rose at four in the morning and prepared breakfast by five-thirty. They then
fed and watered the livestock, woke the children, churned butter, tended the
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
The First, Second, and Last Scene of Mortality
Prudence Punderson’s needlework (ca. 1776) shows the domestic path, from
cradle to coffin, followed by most colonial women.
garden, prepared lunch, played with the children, worked the garden again,
cooked dinner, milked the cows, got the children ready for bed, and cleaned
the kitchen before retiring, at about nine. Women also combed, spun,
spooled, wove, and bleached wool for clothing, knit linen and cotton,
hemmed sheets, pieced quilts, made candles and soap, chopped wood, hauled
water, mopped floors, and washed clothes. Female indentured servants in the
southern colonies commonly worked as field hands, weeding, hoeing, and
harvesting.
Despite the laws and traditions that limited the sphere of women, the
scarcity of labor in the colonies created opportunities. In the towns, women
commonly served as tavern hostesses and shopkeepers and occasionally also
worked as doctors, printers, upholsterers, painters, silversmiths, tanners, and
shipwrights—often, but not always, they were widows carrying on their hus-
bands’ trade.
One of the most lucrative trades among colonial women was the oldest:
prostitution. Many servants took up prostitution after their indenture was
fulfilled. All of the colonial port cities hosted thriving brothels. They catered
especially to sailors and soldiers, but men from all walks of life, married and
unmarried, frequented what were called “bawdy houses” or, in Puritan
Boston, “disorderly houses.” Local authorities frowned on such activities. In
Massachusetts convicted prostitutes were stripped to the waist, tied to the
back of a cart, and whipped as it moved through the town. In South Carolina,
several elected public officials in the seventeenth century were dismissed
because they were caught “lying with wenches.” New York City officials
ordered raids on brothels in 1753. Some two dozen “ladies of pleasure” were
arrested, and five of them were subjected to a public whipping. Some
enslaved women whose owners expected sexual favors turned the tables by
demanding compensation.
The colonial environment did generate slight improvements in the status
of women. The acute shortage of women in the early years made them more
highly valued than they were in Europe, and the Puritan emphasis on a well-
ordered family life led to laws protecting wives from physical abuse and
allowing for divorce. In addition, colonial laws allowed wives greater control
over property that they had contributed to a marriage or that was left after a
husband’s death. But the age-old notion of female subordination and domes-
ticity remained firmly entrenched in colonial America. As a Massachusetts
boy maintained in 1662, the superior aspect of life was “masculine and eter-
nal; the feminine inferior and mortal.”
The Shape of Early America

113
SOCI ETY AND ECONOMY I N THE SOUTHERN
COLONI ES
As the southern colonies matured, inequalities of wealth became more
pronounced and social life grew more stratified. The wealthy increasingly
became a class apart, distinguished by their sumptuous living and their dis-
dain for their social “inferiors,” both white and black.
RELI GI ON It has often been said that Americans during the seven-
teenth century took religion more seriously than they have at any time
since. That may have been true, but many early Americans—especially in
the southern colonies—were not active communicants. One estimate
holds that fewer than one in fifteen residents of the southern colonies was
a church member. After 1642, Virginia governor William Berkeley decided
that his colony was to be officially Anglican, and he sponsored laws requir-
ing “all nonconformists . . . to depart the colony.” Puritans and Quakers
were hounded out. By the end of the seventeenth century, Anglicanism
predominated in the Chesapeake region, and it proved especially popular
among the large landholders. In the early eighteenth century it became the
established (official) church throughout the South. The tone of religious
belief and practice in the eighteenth-century South was less demanding
than that in Puritan New England or Quaker Pennsylvania. As in England,
colonial Anglicans tended to be more conservative, rational, and formal in
their modes of worship than their Puritan, Quaker, or Baptist counter-
parts. Anglicans stressed collective rituals over personal religious experi-
ence. They did not require members to give a personal, public, and often
emotional account of their conversion. Nor did they expect members to
practice self-denial. Anglicans preferred ministers who stressed the reason-
ableness of Christianity, the goodness of God, and the capacity of
humankind to practice benevolence.
CROPS The southern colonies had one unique economic advantage: the
climate. The warm weather and plentiful rainfall enabled the colonies to
grow exotic staples (profitable market crops such as tobacco and rice) prized
by the mother country. Virginia, as King Charles I put it, was “founded upon
smoke.” Tobacco production soared during the seventeenth century. “In Vir-
ginia and Maryland,” wrote Governor Leonard Calvert in 1629, “Tobacco as
our Staple is our All, and indeed leaves no room for anything else.” After
1690, rice was as much the profitable staple crop in South Carolina as
tobacco was in Virginia. Planters discovered that the translucent grain was
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
perfectly suited to the growing conditions in the semi-tropical coastal areas
known as the low country. Rice loves water; it flourishes in warm, moist
soils, and it thrives when visited by frequent rains or watered by regular irri-
gation. The daily rise and fall of tidewater rivers perfectly suited a crop that
required the alternate flooding and draining of fields. In addition, southern
pine trees provided lumber and key items for the maritime industry. The
resin from pine trees could be boiled to make tar, which was in great demand
for waterproofing ropes and caulking the seams of wooden ships. From their
early leadership in the production of pine tar, North Carolinians would earn
the nickname of Tar Heels. In the Carolinas a cattle industry presaged life
on the Great Plains—with cowboys, roundups, brandings, and long drives to
the market.
LABOR Voluntary indentured servitude accounted for probably half the
white settlers (mostly from England, Ireland, or Germany) in all the colonies
outside New England. The name derived from the indenture, or contract, by
Society and Economy in the Southern Colonies

115
Virginia plantation wharf
Southern colonial plantations were constructed with easy access to oceangoing
vessels, as shown on this 1730 tobacco label.
which a person promised to work for a fixed number of years in return for
transportation to America. Not all the servants went voluntarily. The Lon-
don underworld developed a flourishing trade in “kids” and “spirits,” who
were “kidnapped” or “spirited” into servitude in America. After 1717, by act
of Parliament, convicts guilty of certain major crimes could escape the
hangman by relocating to the colonies.
Once in the colonies, servants contracted with masters. Their rights were
limited. As a Pennsylvania judge explained in 1793, indentured servants
occupied “a middle rank between slaves and free men.” They could own
property but could not engage in trade. Marriage required the master’s per-
mission. Runaway servants were hunted down and punished just as runaway
slaves were. Masters could whip servants and extend their indentures for bad
behavior. Many servants died from disease or the exhaustion of cultivating
tobacco in the broiling sun and intense humidity. In due course, however,
usually after four to seven years, the indenture ended, and the servant
claimed the “freedom dues” set by custom and law: money, tools, clothing,
food, and occasionally small tracts of land. Some former servants did very
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
Indentured servants
An advertisement from the Virginia Gazette, October 4,
1779, for indentured servants. The people whose services
are being offered secured a life in America, but at a steep
price. Servants endured years of labor before their con-
tracts expired and they were granted their freedom.
well for themselves. In 1629 seven members of the Virginia legislature were
former indentured servants. Others, including Benjamin Franklin’s grand-
mother, married the men who had originally bought their services. Many
servants died before completing their indenture, however, and most of those
who served their term remained relatively poor thereafter.
COLONI AL SLAVERY Colonial America increasingly became a land of
white opportunity and black slavery. Africans were the largest ethnic group
to come to British America during the colonial era. Black slavery evolved
slowly in the Chesapeake Bay region during the early seventeenth century.
Some of the first Africans in America were treated as indentured servants,
with a limited term of servitude. Those few African servants who worked out
their term of indenture gained freedom, and some of them, as “free blacks,”
acquired slaves and white indentured servants. Gradually, however, with
racist rationalizations based on color difference, lifelong servitude for black
slaves became the custom—and law—of the land. Slaves cost more to buy
than servants, but they served for life. By the 1660s colonial legislative
assemblies had legalized lifelong slavery.
RACI AL PREJ UDI CE African slavery had economic, political, and cul-
tural effects in the Americas that would be felt far into the future and would
lead to tragic conflicts. Today it is hard to understand how common racist
Society and Economy in the Southern Colonies

117
Slavery
A newspaper advertisement placed by Ignatius Davis of Fredericktown, Maryland,
in 1741, offering a reward for the capture of a runaway slave.
attitudes were in early American society. Slavery was not considered an
abomination in the seventeenth century. Most Europeans viewed race-based
slavery as a normal aspect of everyday life in an imperfect world; few consid-
ered it a moral issue. They instead believed that God determined one’s “sta-
tion in life.” Slavery was thus considered a “personal misfortune,” but not
something to worry about. It would not be until the late eighteenth century
that large numbers of white Europeans and Americans began to be exposed
to moral arguments against slavery and began to embrace a new culture of
compassion, often motivated by religious ideals.
Questions about the beginnings of slavery still have a bearing on the pres-
ent. Did a deep-rooted color prejudice lead to race-based slavery, for
instance, or did the practice of slavery produce the racial prejudice? Slavery
in the American colonies evolved because of the pervasive demand for more
laborers, and the English thereafter joined a global African slave trade that
had been established by the Portuguese and Spanish more than a century
before—the very word negro is Spanish for “black.” English settlers often
enslaved Indian captives, but they did not enslave captured Europeans.
Color was the crucial difference, or at least the crucial rationalization used to
justify the heinous institution.
The English in the seventeenth century associated the color black with
darkness and evil; they stamped the different appearance, behavior, and cus-
toms of Africans as “savagery.” Most of the self-serving qualities that colonial
Virginians imputed to blacks to justify slavery were the same qualities that
the English assigned to their own poor to explain their lowly status: their
alleged bent for laziness, treachery, and stupidity, among other shortcom-
ings. Similar traits, moreover, were imputed by ancient Jews to the Canaan-
ites and by the Mediterranean peoples of a later date to the Slavic captives
sold among them. The names Canaanite and Slav both became synonymous
with slavery—the latter lingers in the very word for the practice. Through-
out history, dominant peoples have repeatedly assigned ugly traits to those
they bring into subjugation. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
American colonists readily rationalized enslaving Africans because they
were deemed both “heathens” and “aliens.”
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the incredibly profitable
sugar-based economies of the French and British West Indies and Portuguese
Brazil had the most voracious appetite for enslaved Africans. By 1675 the
British West Indies had over 100,000 slaves while the colonies in North Amer-
ica had only about 5,000. But as profitable crops such as tobacco, rice, and
indigo became established in Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas, the
demand for mostly male Indians or, especially, African slaves grew. Though
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
British North America took only 5 percent of the total slaves imported to the
Western Hemisphere during more than three centuries of that squalid traffic,
it offered better chances for survival, if few for human fulfillment.
As overall living conditions improved in the colonies, slave mortality
improved. By 1730 the black slave population in Virginia and Maryland had
become the first in the Western Hemisphere to achieve a self-sustaining rate of
population growth. By 1750 about 80 percent of the slaves in the Chesapeake
region had been born there. The natural increase of blacks in America approx-
imated that of whites by the end of the colonial period. During the colonial
era, slavery was recognized in all the colonies but was most prevalent in the
southern colonies. Almost 90 percent of the black slaves transported to the
American mainland went to the southern colonies. South Carolina had a black
majority through the eighteenth century. As a visitor observed, “Carolina
looks more like a negro country than like a country settled by white people.”
AFRI CAN ROOTS The transport of Africans across the Atlantic to the
Americas was the largest forced migration in world history. Over 10 million
people made the journey, so many that it changed the trajectory of Africa’s
development. The vast majority of Africans were taken to Brazil or the West
Indian islands. Only 5 percent of them—including twice as many men as
women—were taken to British North America, often in ships built in New
England and owned by merchants in Boston and Newport. Most of the
enslaved were young—between the ages of fifteen and thirty.
Such aggregate statistics can be misleading, however. Enslaved Africans are
so often lumped together as a social group that their great ethnic diversity
is overlooked. They came from lands as remote from each other as Angola is
from Senegal. They spoke as many as fifty different languages and wor-
shipped many different gods. Some lived in large kingdoms, and others in
dispersed villages. All of them prized their kinship ties. Trade networks criss-
crossed the African continent. Africans during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries experienced almost constant civil wars among competing tribes
and kingdoms. Still, the varied peoples of sub-Saharan Africa did share simi-
lar kinship and political systems. Like the Indian cultures, the African soci-
eties were often matrilineal: property and social status descended through the
mother rather than the father. When a couple married, the wife did not
leave her family; the husband left his family to join that of his bride.
West African tribal kingdoms were organized hierarchically. Priests and the
nobility lorded over the masses of farmers and craftspeople. Below the masses
were the slaves, typically war captives, criminals, or debtors. Slaves in African
cultures, however, did have certain rights. They could marry and have children.
Society and Economy in the Southern Colonies

119
120

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NORTH
AMERICA
NEW GRANADA
(SPAIN)
ENGLISH
COLONIES
BRAZIL
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S O U T H
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THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE,
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How were Africans captured and enslaved? What were some of the experiences
faced by most Africans on the Middle Passage? How did enslaved African Americans
create a new culture?
Some of them were adopted by the families that “owned” them. Their servitude
was not always permanent, nor were children automatically slaves by virtue of
their parentage, as would be the case in the Americas.
The West African economy centered on hunting, fishing, and farming.
Men and women typically worked alongside each other in the fields. Reli-
gious belief served as the spine of West African life. Virtually all tribal groups
believed in a supreme Creator and an array of lesser gods tied to specific
natural forces, such as rain, fertility, and animal life. West Africans were pan-
theistic in that they believed that spirits resided in trees, rocks, and streams.
People who died were also subjects of reverence, because they served as
mediators between the living and the gods.
Africans preyed upon Africans, however, for centuries, rival tribes had
conquered, kidnapped, enslaved, and sold one another. “I must [acknowl-
edge] the shame of my own countrymen,” wrote an African who was cap-
tured and sold into slavery. He was “first kidnapped and betrayed by those of
my own complexion.” Slavery in Africa, however, was more benign than the
culture of slavery that developed in North America. In Africa, slaves were
not isolated as a distinct caste; they also lived with their captors, and their
children were not automatically enslaved. The involvement of Europeans in
commercial slavery changed that. Although European Christians disavowed
enslaving fellow Christians, they had no qualms about enslaving “pagans” or
Muslims. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, African middle-
men brought captives (debtors, thieves, war prisoners, and those who
refused to convert to Islam) to dozens of “slave forts” along the Atlantic
coast, where they were subjected to humiliating physical inspections before
being sold to European slave traders. To reduce the threat of rebellion,
traders split up family and tribal members. Once purchased, the millions of
people destined for slavery in the Americas were branded on the back or
buttocks with a company mark, shackled, and loaded onto horrific slave
ships, where they were packed tightly like animals below deck. “Rammed like
herring in a barrel,” wrote one white, slaves were “chained to each other hand
and foot, and stowed so close, that they were not allowed above a foot-and-
a-half for each in breadth.” The Africans then endured a four-week to six-
month Atlantic voyage, known as the Middle Passage. It was so brutal that
one in six captives died en route. Almost one in every ten slave ships experi-
enced a revolt during the crossing. On average, twenty-five Africans were
killed in such uprisings. Far more died of disease. Some committed suicide
by jumping off the ships.
Slavery in the Western Hemisphere was driven by high profits and ratio-
nalized by a pervasive racism. Race-based slavery entailed the dehumaniza-
tion of an entire class of human beings who, in the eyes of white Europeans,
were justifiably deprived of their dignity and honor. Once in America,
Africans were treated like property (“chattel”), herded in chains to public
slave auctions, where they were sold to the highest bidder. They were often
barefoot, ill-clothed, and poorly housed and fed. Their most common role
was to dig ditches, drain swamps, build dams, clear, plant, and tend fields.
On large southern plantations, “gangs” of slaves cultivated tobacco and rice.
They were often quartered in barracks, fed in bulk, like livestock, and issued
work clothes and unsized shoes so uncomfortable that many slaves preferred
Society and Economy in the Southern Colonies

121
to go barefoot. Colonial laws allowed whites to use brutal means to disci-
pline slaves and enforce their control over them. They were whipped,
branded, shackled, castrated, or sold away, often to the Caribbean islands. A
1669 Virginia law declared that accidentally killing a slave during punish-
ment would not be considered a felony. During a three-year period a South
Carolina overseer killed five slaves while whipping them. Slaves convicted of
trying to burn barns or houses were often burned at the stake. The wealthy
Virginia planter William Byrd II confessed that the “unhappy effect of own-
ing many Negroes is the necessity of being severe.”
Enslaved Africans, however, found ingenious ways to resist being “mas-
tered.” Some rebelled against their captors, resisting work orders, sabotaging
crops and stealing tools, feigning illness or injury, or running away. Colonial
newspapers were sprinkled with notices about runaway slaves. A Georgia
slaveowner asked readers to be on the lookout for “a negro fellow named
Mingo, about 40 years old, and his wife Quante, a sensible wench about
20 with her child, a boy about 3 years old, all this country born.” If caught,
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
Slave ship
One in six Africans died while crossing the Atlantic in ships like this one, from an
American diagram ca. 1808.
runaways faced certain punishment—whipping, branding, and even the
severing of an Achilles tendon. Runaways also faced uncertain freedom.
Where would they run to in a society governed by whites and ruled by
racism? In a few cases, slaves organized armed rebellions, stealing weapons,
burning and looting plantations, and occasionally killing their captors. Cap-
tured slave rebels faced ghastly retribution; many were hanged or burned at
the stake. In 1739 some twenty slaves attacked a store in Stono, South Car-
olina, south of Charleston. They killed the owner, seized weapons, and
headed toward promised freedom in Spanish Florida, gathering more
recruits along the way. Within a few days, the insurgent slaves had killed
twenty-five whites, whereupon the militia caught up with them. Most of the
rebels were killed, and in the weeks that followed, some sixty more were cap-
tured by enraged planters who “cut off their heads and set them up at every
Mile Post.”
SLAVE CULTURE In 1700 there were enslaved Africans in every American
colony, and they constituted 11 percent of the total population (it would be
more than 20 percent by 1770). But slavery in British North America dif-
fered greatly from region to region. Africans were a tiny minority in New
England (about 2 percent) and in the middle colonies (about 8 percent).
Because there were no large plantations in New England and fewer slaves
were owned, “family slavery” prevailed, with masters and slaves usually liv-
ing under the same roof. Slaves in the northern colonies performed a variety
of tasks, outside and inside. In the southern colonies, slaves were far more
numerous, and most of them worked on farms and plantations.
Most slaves in the northern colonies lived in towns or cities, and their
urban environs gave them more opportunities to move about. For many
years before the American Revolution, New York City had more slaves than
any other American city. By 1740, it was second only to Charleston in the
percentage of slaves in its population. Most of the enslaved blacks came to
Manhattan via the Caribbean sugar islands rather than directly from Africa.
As the number of slaves increased in the congested city, racial fears and ten-
sions mounted—and occasionally exploded. In 1712 several dozen slaves
revolted; they started fires and then used swords, axes, and guns to kill
whites as they fought the fires. Called out to restore order, the militia cap-
tured twenty-seven slaves. Six committed suicide, and the rest were exe-
cuted; some were burned alive. New York officials thereafter passed a series
of ordinances—a black code—strictly regulating slave behavior. Any slave
caught with a weapon, for example, would be whipped, and owners could
punish their slaves as they saw fit, as long as they did not kill them.
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123
124

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
African cultural heritage in the south
The survival of African culture among enslaved Americans is evident in this late-
eighteenth-century painting of a South Carolina plantation. The musical instru-
ments and pottery are of African (probably Yoruban) origin.
Yet the punitive regulations did not prevent another major racial incident.
In the bitterly cold March of 1741, city dwellers were aghast at a rash of suspi-
cious fires across the city, including one at the governor’s house. Their worst
fear was that the fires were the result of a slave conspiracy. “The Negroes are
rising!” shouted terrified whites. The frantic city council launched a frenzied
investigation to find and punish the “villains.” The self-promoting prosecutors
proved adept at eliciting formulaic confessions. Mary Burton, a sixteen-year-
old indentured servant, told authorities that there was indeed a conspiracy
among slaves and poor whites to “burn the whole town” and kill the white
men among its 11,000 residents. Some 2,000 of the city’s residents were
enslaved blacks.
The plotters (“seducers of the slaves”) were supposedly led by John Hugh-
son, a white trafficker in stolen goods who owned the tavern where Mary
Burton worked. His wife, two slaves, and a prostitute were charged as co-
conspirators. Despite their denials, all were convicted and hanged. The accu-
sations continued amid an atmosphere of public hysteria, which turned a
slave revolt into a papal plot. Attracting particular suspicion were people
with ties to the Spanish colonies or Catholicism, since England was then at
war with Spain, and the Spanish had offered freedom to any slave who
defected. Within weeks over half of the adult male slaves in the city were in
jail. Five Spanish blacks were hanged. Mary Burton then implicated John
Ury, a recently arrived teacher whom she claimed was in fact a Jesuit priest
and Spanish spy who instigated the conspiracy to burn Manhattan. He, too,
was hanged. Mary Burton, meanwhile, kept naming more conspirators. The
Conspiracy of 1741 ended when some of the most prominent New Yorkers
were named as plotters. In the end, twenty-one people—seventeen slaves
and four whites—were hanged; thirteen blacks were burned at the stake.
Seventy-two other blacks were deported.
Such organized resistance to the abuses and indignities of slavery was
rare—in large part because the likelihood of success was so small and the
punishments so severe. Much more common were subtler forms of resis-
tance and accommodation adopted by enslaved Africans brought to the
Americas.
In the process of being forced into lives of bondage in a new world,
diverse blacks from diverse homelands forged a new identity as African
Americans while leaving entwined in the fabric of American culture more
strands of African heritage than historians and anthropologists can ever dis-
entangle, including new words that entered the language, such as tabby, tote,
cooter, goober, yam, and banana and the names of the Coosaw, Pee Dee, and
Wando Rivers.
Most significant are African influences in American music, folklore, and
religious practices. On one level, slaves used such cultural activities to dis-
tract themselves from their servitude; on another level they used songs, sto-
ries, and religious preachings to circulate coded messages expressing their
distaste for masters or overseers.
Africans brought with them to America powerful kinship ties. Even
though most colonies outlawed slave marriages, many owners believed that
slaves would work harder and be more stable if allowed to form families.
Though many families were broken up when members were sold to different
owners, slave culture retained its powerful domestic ties. It also developed
gender roles distinct from those of white society. Most enslaved women were
by necessity field workers as well as wives and mothers responsible for child -
rearing and household affairs. Since they worked in proximity to enslaved
Society and Economy in the Southern Colonies

125
men, they were treated more equally (for better or worse) than were most of
their white counterparts.
SLAVE ECONOMY Enslaved workers were eventually used in virtually
every activity within the expanding colonial economy. To be sure, the vast
majority worked as agricultural workers, often performing strenuous labor
from dawn to dusk in oppressive heat and humidity. As Jedidiah Morse, a
prominent Charleston minister, admitted in the late eighteenth century, “No
white man, to speak generally, ever thinks of settling a farm, and improving
it for himself, without negroes.” During the eighteenth century, the demand
for slaves soared in the southern colonies. In 1750 the vast majority of slaves
in British America resided in Virginia and Maryland, about 150,000 com-
pared with 60,000 in South Carolina and Georgia and only 33,000 in all of
the northern colonies. As the number of slaves grew, so, too, did the variety
of their labors and the need for different skills. Virginia and Maryland
planters, for example, favored slaves from areas of Africa where the cultiva-
tion of yams was similar to the cultivation of tobacco. Fulani tribesmen from
West Africa were prized as cattle herdsmen. South Carolina rice planters, the
wealthiest group in British North America, purchased slaves from Africa’s
“Rice Coast,” especially Gambia, where rice cultivation was commonplace.
As Governor John Drayton explained, an enslaved African could “work for
hours in mud and water” cultivating rice “while to a white this kind of labor
would be almost certain death.” Using only hand tools, slaves, often called
“saltwater” Africans, transformed the landscape of coastal South Carolina
and Georgia. They first removed massive bald cypress, tupelo, and sweet
gum trees from freshwater swamps infested with snakes, alligators, and mos-
quitoes. They then drained the water, leveled the land, and enclosed the
newly squared fields with earth embankments and dikes. Floodgates on the
dikes allowed workers to drain or flood the field as needed.
Owners of slaves from the lowlands of Africa used their talents as boat-
men in the coastal waterways. Some slaves had linguistic skills that made
them useful interpreters. In a new colonial society forced to construct itself,
slaves became skilled artisans: blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, bricklayers,
and the like. Many enslaved women worked as household servants and
midwives.
COLONI AL TRADE English customs records showed that for the years
1698 to 1717, South Carolina and the Chesapeake colonies enjoyed a favor-
able balance of trade with England. But the surplus revenues earned on goods
sold to England were more than offset by “invisible” charges by English
126

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
“middlemen”: freight payments to shippers; commissions, storage charges,
and interest payments to English merchants; insurance premiums; inspection
and customs duties; and outlays to purchase indentured servants and slaves.
Thus began a pattern that would plague southern agriculture for centuries.
Planters’ investments went into land and slaves while the more profitable
enterprises of shipping, trade, investment, and manufacture were conducted
by outsiders.
If one distinctive feature of the South’s agrarian economy was a ready
market in England, another was a trend toward large-scale production.
Those who planted tobacco discovered that it quickly exhausted the soil,
thereby giving an advantage to the planter who had extra fields in which to
plant beans and corn or to leave fallow. With the increase of the tobacco
crop, moreover, a fall in prices meant that economies of scale might come
into play—the large planter with the lower cost per unit might still make a
profit. Gradually he would extend his holdings along the riverfronts and
thereby secure the advantage of direct access to the oceangoing vessels that
plied the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay, discharging goods from London
and taking on tobacco. So easy was the access, in fact, that the Chesapeake
colonies never required a city of any size as a center of commerce, and
the larger planters functioned as merchants and harbormasters for their
neighbors.
SOCI ETY AND ECONOMY I N NEW ENGLAND
There was remarkable diversity among the American colonies during
the seventeenth century and after. The prevalence of slavery, for example,
was much less outside the southern colonies. Other environmental, social,
and economic factors also contributed to striking differences between New
England and the middle Atlantic and southern regions.
TOWNS HI PS New England was born Protestant; its civic life had a
stronger social and religious purpose than elsewhere. Seventeenth-century
Puritans saw themselves as living under the special care of God; they saw no
distinction between church and state in their holy commonwealth. The close
ties between Puritanism and politics established the American tradition of
public life being consistently influenced by religious forces. New England
towns shaped by English precedent and Puritan policy also were adapted to
the environment of a rock-strewn land, confined by sea and mountains and
unfit for large-scale commercial agriculture.
Society and Economy in New England

127
Unlike the settlers in the southern colonies or in Dutch New York, few
New England colonists received huge tracts of land. Township grants were
usually awarded to organized groups. A group of settlers, often already gath-
ered into a church, would petition the general court for a town (what else-
where was commonly called a township) and then divide its acres according
to a rough principle of equity—those who invested more or had larger fami-
lies or greater status might receive more land—retaining some pasture and
woodland in common and holding some for later arrivals. In some early
cases the towns arranged each settler’s land in separate strips after the
medieval practice, but over time the land was commonly divided into sepa-
rate farms distant from the close-knit village. By the early eighteenth century
the colonies were using their remaining land as a source of revenue, selling
townships, more often than not to land speculators.
DWELLI NGS AND DAI LY LI FE The first colonists in New England
initially lived in caves, tents, or “English wigwams,” but they soon built sim-
ple frame houses clad with hand-split clapboards. The roofs were steeply
pitched to reduce the buildup of snow and were covered with thatched
128

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
Housing in Colonial New England
This frame house, built in the 1670s, belonged to Rebecca Nurse, one of the
women hanged as a witch in Salem Village in 1692.
grasses or reeds. By the end of the seventeenth century, most New England
homes were plain but sturdy dwellings centered on a fireplace. Some had
glass windows brought from England. The interior walls were often plas-
tered and whitewashed, but the exterior boards were rarely painted. It was
not until the eighteenth century that most houses were painted, usually a
dark “Indian” red. New England homes were not commonly painted white
until the nineteenth century. The interiors were dark, illuminated only by
candles or oil lamps, both of which were expensive; most people usually
went to sleep soon after sunset.
Family life revolved around the main room on the ground floor, called the
hall, where meals would be cooked in a large fireplace. Food would be served
at a table of rough-hewn planks, called the board. The father was sometimes
referred to as the chair man because he sat in the only chair (hence the origin
of the term chairman of the board). The rest of the family usually stood to
eat or sat on stools or benches. People in colonial times ate with their hands
and wooden spoons. Forks were not introduced until the eighteenth century.
The fare was usually corn, boiled meat, and vegetables washed down with
beer, cider, rum, or milk. Corn bread was a daily staple, as was cornmeal
mush, known as hasty pudding. Colonists also relished succotash, an Indian
meal of corn and kidney beans cooked in bear grease.
ENTERPRI S E Early New England farmers and their families led hard
lives. Simply clearing rocks from the glacier-scoured soil might require sixty
days of hard labor per acre. The growing season was short, and no staple
(profitable) crops grew in that harsh climate. The crops and livestock were
those familiar to the English countryside: wheat, barley, oats, some cattle,
pigs, and sheep.
Many New Englanders turned to the sea for their livelihood. Cod, a com-
mercial fish that can weigh hundreds of pounds, had been a regular element
of the European diet for centuries, and the waters off the New England coast
had the heaviest concentrations of cod in the world. Whales, too, abounded
in New England waters and supplied oil for lighting and lubrication, as well
as ambergris, a waxy substance used in the manufacture of perfumes.
The New England fisheries, unlike the farms, supplied a product that
could be profitably exported to Europe, with lesser grades of fish going to
the West Indies as food for slaves. Fisheries encouraged the development of
shipbuilding, and experience at seafaring spurred transatlantic commerce.
A growing trade with Britain and Europe encouraged wider contacts in the
Atlantic world and prompted a self-indulgent materialism and cosmopoli-
tanism that clashed with the Puritan ideal of plain living and high thinking.
Society and Economy in New England

129
In 1714 a worried Puritan deplored the “great extravagance that people are
fallen into, far beyond their circumstances, in their purchases, buildings,
families, expenses, apparel, generally in the whole way of living.”
S HI PBUI LDI NG The abundant forests of New England represented a
source of enormous wealth. Old-growth trees were especially prized for use
as ships’ masts and spars. Early on, the British government claimed the
tallest and straightest American trees, mostly white pines and oaks, for
use by the Royal Navy. At the same time, British officials encouraged the
colonists to develop their own shipbuilding industry. American-built ships
quickly became prized for their quality and price. It was much less expensive
to purchase ships built in America than to transport American timber to
Britain for ship construction, especially since a large ship might require the
timber from as many as 2,000 trees.
Nearly a third of all British ships were made in the colonies. Shipbuilding
was one of colonial America’s first big industries, and it in turn nurtured
many related businesses: timbering, sawmills, iron foundries, sail lofts, fish-
eries, and taverns. Constructing a large ship required as many as thirty
skilled trades and 200 workers. The vessel’s hull was laid out by master
130

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
Profitable fisheries
Fishing for, curing, and drying codfish in Newfoundland
in the early 1700s. For centuries the rich fishing grounds of
the North Atlantic provided New Englanders with a
prosperous industry.
shipwrights, talented maritime carpenters who used axes and adzes to cut
and fit together the pieces to form the keel, or spine of the hull. Caulkers
made the ship watertight by stuffing the seams with oakum, a loose hemp
fiber that was sealed with hot tar.
As the new ship took shape, rope makers created the ship’s extensive rig-
ging. After the coils of rope were spun, they were dipped in heated tar to pre-
serve them from saltwater rot. Sailmakers, meanwhile, fashioned sails out of
canvas, laying them out in large lofts. Other craftsmen produced the dozens
of other items needed for a sailing vessel: Blacksmiths forged iron anchors,
chains, hinges, bolts, rudder braces, and circular straps that secured sections
of a mast to each other. Block makers created the dozens of metal-strapped
wooden pulleys needed to hoist sails. Joiners built hatches, ladders, lockers,
and furnishings. Painters finished the trim and interiors. Ship chandlers
provided lamps, oil, and candles. Instrument makers fashioned compasses,
chronometers, and sextants for navigation.
Such skilled workers were trained in the apprentice-journeyman system
then common in England. A master craftsman taught an apprentice the
skills of his trade in exchange for wages. After the apprenticeship period,
lasting from four to seven years, a young worker would receive a new suit of
clothes from the master craftsman and then become a journeyman, literally
moving from shop to shop, working for wages as he honed his skills. Over
time, journeymen joined local guilds and became master craftsmen, who
themselves took on apprentices.
Society and Economy in New England

131
Architectural drawings used in shipbuilding
An architectual drawing of a ship from eighteenth-century New England.
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COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
It took four to six months to build a major sailing ship. The ship christen-
ings and launchings were festive occasions that attracted large crowds and
dignitaries. Shops and schools would often close to enable workers and stu-
dents to attend. All of the workers joined the celebration. The ceremony
would begin with a clergyman blessing the new vessel. Then the ship’s owner
or a senior member of the crew would “christen” the ship before ropes were
cut and blocks removed to allow the hull to slide into the water.
TRADE By the end of the seventeenth century, the American colonies had
become part of a complex North Atlantic commercial network, trading not
only with the British Isles and the British West Indies but also—and often
illegally—with Spain, France, Portugal, Holland, and their colonies. Out of
necessity the American colonists imported manufactured goods from
Europe: hardware, machinery, paint, instruments for navigation, wine, and
various household items. The colonies thus served as an important market
for goods from the mother country. The colonies were blessed with abun-
dant natural resources—land, furs, deerskins, timber, fish, tobacco, indigo,
rice, and sugar, to mention a few—but they lacked capital (money to invest
in new enterprises) and laborers.
The mechanism of trade in New England and the middle colonies differed
from that in the South in two respects: the lack of staple crops to exchange
for English goods was a relative disadvantage, but the success of the region’s
own shipping and commercial enterprises worked in their favor. After 1660,
in order to protect England’s agriculture and fisheries, the British govern-
ment placed prohibitive duties (taxes) on certain major colonial exports—
fish, flour, wheat, and meat—while leaving the door open to timber, furs,
and whale oil, products in great demand in the home country. New York and
New England between 1698 and 1717 bought more from England than they
sold to England, incurring an unfavorable trade balance.
The northern colonies addressed the import/export imbalance partly by
using their own ships and merchants, thus avoiding the “invisible” charges
by British middlemen, and by finding other markets for the staples excluded
from England, thus acquiring goods or coins to pay for imports from the
mother country. American lumber and fish therefore went to southern
Europe for money or in exchange for wine; lumber, rum, and provisions
went to Newfoundland; and all of these and more went to the sugar-producing
island colonies in the West Indies, which became the most important trad-
ing outlet of all. American merchants could sell fish, bread, flour, corn, pork,
bacon, beef, and horses to West Indian planters. In return, they got gold,
sugar, molasses, rum, indigo, dyewoods, and other products, many of which
went eventually to England.
These circumstances gave rise to the famous “triangular trade” (more a
descriptive convenience than a uniform pattern), in which New Englanders
shipped rum to the west coast of Africa, where they bartered for slaves; took
the enslaved Africans to the West Indies; and returned home with various
commodities, including molasses, from which they manufactured rum. In
another version they shipped provisions to the West Indies, carried sugar
and molasses to England, and returned with goods manufactured in Europe.
The colonies suffered from a chronic shortage of hard currency (coins),
which drifted away to pay for imports and shipping charges. Merchants tried
Society and Economy in New England

133
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various ways to get around the shortage of gold or silver coins. Some
engaged in barter, using commodities such as tobacco or rice as currency. In
addition, most of the colonies at one time or another issued bills of credit,
on promise of payment later (hence the dollar “bill”), and most set up “land
banks” that issued paper money for loans to farmers who used their land for
collateral. Colonial farmers knew that printing paper money inflated crop
prices, and they therefore asked for more and more paper money. Thus
began in colonial politics what was to become a recurrent issue in later
times, the complex question of currency inflation. Whenever the issue arose,
debtors (often farmers) commonly favored growth in the money supply,
which would make it easier for them to pay long-term debts, whereas credi-
tors favored a limited money supply, which would increase the value of their
capital. British merchants wanted gold or silver, and they convinced Parlia-
ment to outlaw paper money in New England in 1751 and throughout the
colonies in 1764.
THE UNPURI TANI CAL PURI TANS New England was settled by
religious fundamentalists; the Puritans looked to the Bible for authority and
inspiration. They read the Bible daily and memorized its passages and sto-
ries. The Christian faith was a living source of daily inspiration for most
New Englanders. Yet the conventional stereotype of the dour Puritan, hostile
to anything that gave pleasure, is false. Puritans wore colorful clothing,
enjoyed secular music, and imbibed prodigious quantities of rum. “Drink is
in itself a good creature of God,” said the Reverend Increase Mather, “but the
abuse of drink is from Satan.” If found incapacitated by reason of strong
drink, a person was subject to arrest. A Salem man, for example, was tried
for staggering into a house where he “eased his stomak in the Chimney.”
Repeat offenders were forced to wear the letter D in public.
Moderation in all things except piety was the Puritan guideline, and it
applied to sexual activity as well. Puritans openly acknowledged natural
human desires. Of course, sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage
was strictly forbidden. Seventeenth-century New England court records are
filled with cases of adultery and fornication. A man found guilty of inter-
course with an unwed woman could be jailed, whipped, fined, disfranchised,
and forced to marry the woman. Female offenders were also jailed and
whipped, and in some cases adulterers were forced to wear the letter A in
public. The abundance of sex offenses is explained in part by the dispropor-
tionate number of men in the colonies. Many were unable to find a wife and
were tempted to satisfy their sexual desires outside marriage.
134

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
CHURCH AND S TATE The Puritans who settled Massachusetts, unlike
the Separatists of Plymouth, proposed only to form a purified version of the
Anglican Church. They were called Nonseparating Congregationalists. That
is, they remained loyal to the Church of England, the unity of church and
state, and the principle of compulsory religious uniformity. But their
remoteness from England led them to adopt a congregational form of
church government identical with that of the Pilgrim Separatists and for
that matter little different from the practice of Anglicans in the southern
colonies.
In the Puritan version of John Calvin’s theology, God had voluntarily
entered into a covenant, or contract, with worshippers through which they
could secure salvation. By analogy, therefore, an assembly of true Christians
could enter into a congregational covenant, a voluntary union for the com-
mon worship of God. From this idea it was a short step to the idea of people
joining together to form a government. The early history of New England
included several examples of such limited steps toward constitutional govern-
ment: the Mayflower Compact, the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and the informal arrangements
whereby the Rhode Island settlers governed themselves until they secured a
charter in 1663.
The covenant theory contained certain kernels of democracy in both
church and state, but democracy was no part of Puritan political thought,
which like so much else in Puritan belief began with an emphasis on original
sin. Humanity’s innate depravity made government necessary. The Puritan
was more of a biblical fundamentalist than a political democrat, dedicated to
seeking the will of God, not the will of the people. The ultimate source of
authority was not majority rule but the Bible. Biblical passages often had to
be interpreted, however. Hence, most Puritans looked to ministers to explain
God’s will. By law, every town had to collect taxes to support a church. And
every community member was required to attend midweek and Sunday
religious services. The average New Englander heard 7,000 sermons in a
lifetime.
Religion exercised a pervasive influence over the life of New England
towns, but unlike the Church of England and the British government in New
England, church and government were technically separate. Although Puri-
tan New England has often been called a theocracy, individual congregations
were entirely separate from the state—except that the residents were taxed to
support the churches. And if not all inhabitants were official church mem-
bers, all were nonetheless required to attend church services.
Society and Economy in New England

135
DI VERSI TY AND SOCI AL STRAI NS Despite long-enduring myths,
New England towns were not always pious, harmonious, and self-sufficient
utopias populated by praying Puritans. Several communities were founded
not as religious refuges but as secular centers of fishing, trade, or commer-
cial agriculture. The animating concerns of residents in such commercial
towns tended to be more entrepreneurial than spiritual. After a Puritan min-
ister delivered his first sermon to a congregation in the Massachusetts port
of Marblehead, a crusty fisherman admonished him: “You think you are
preaching to the people of the Bay. Our main end was to catch fish.”
In many of the godly inland communities, social strains increased as time
passed, a consequence primarily of population pressure on the land and
increasing disparities of wealth. “Love your neighbor,” said Benjamin
Franklin, “but don’t pull down your fence.” Initially fathers exercised strong
authority over sons through their control of the land. They kept their sons
and their families in the town, not letting them set up their own households
or get title to their farmland until they reached middle age. In New England,
as elsewhere, fathers tended to subdivide their land among all the male chil-
dren. But by the eighteenth century, with land scarcer, the younger sons were
either getting control of the property early or moving on. Often they were
forced out, with family help and blessings, to seek land elsewhere or new
kinds of work in the commercial cities along the coast or inland rivers. With
the growing pressure on land in the settled regions, poverty and social ten-
sion increased in what had once seemed a country of unlimited opportunity.
The emphasis on a direct accountability to God, which lies at the base of
all Protestant theology, itself caused a persistent tension and led believers to
challenge authority in the name of private conscience. Massachusetts
repressed such “heresy” in the 1630s, but it resurfaced during the 1650s
among Quakers and Baptists, and in 1659–1660 the Puritan colony hanged
four Quakers who persisted in returning after they had been expelled.
These acts caused such revulsion—and an investigation by the British
government—that they were not repeated, although people deemed heretics
continued to face harassment and persecution.
More damaging to the Puritan utopia was the gradual erosion of religious
fervor. More and more children of the “visible saints” found themselves
unable to give the required testimony of spiritual regeneration. In 1662 an
assembly of Boston ministers created the “Half-Way Covenant,” whereby
baptized children of church members could be admitted to a “halfway”
membership and secure baptism for their own children in turn. Such partial
members, however, could neither vote in church nor take communion.
A further blow to Puritan control came with the Massachusetts royal charter
136

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
of 1691, which required toleration of religious dissenters and based the right
to vote in public elections on property rather than church membership.
THE DEVI L I N NEW ENGLAND The strains accompanying Massa-
chusetts’s transition from Puritan utopia to royal colony reached a tragic cli-
max in the witchcraft hysteria at Salem Village (now the town of Danvers) in
1692. Belief in witchcraft was widespread throughout Europe and New Eng-
land in the seventeenth century. Prior to the dramatic episode in Salem,
almost 300 New Englanders (mostly middle-aged women) had been accused
of practicing witchcraft, and more than 30 had been hanged. New England
was, in the words of Cotton Mather, “a country . . . extraordinarily alarum’d
by the wrath of the Devil.”
Still, the Salem episode was unique in its scope and intensity. During the win-
ter of 1691–1692, several adolescent girls became fascinated with the for-
tunetelling and voodoo practiced by Tituba, a West Indian slave owned by a
minister. The entranced girls began to behave oddly—shouting, barking, grovel-
ing, and twitching for no apparent reason. When asked who was tormenting
them, the girls replied that three women—Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah
Society and Economy in New England

137
Puritan town
A hand-colored woodcut depicting seventeenth-century New England colonists.
Osborne—were Satan’s servants.
Authori ties thereupon arrested the
three accused women. At a special
hearing, the “afflicted” girls rolled
on the floor in convulsive fits as the
accused women were questioned.
Tituba not only confessed to the
charge but also listed others in the
community who she claimed were
performing the devil’s work. Within
a few months the Salem Village jail
was filled with townspeople—men,
women, and children—all accused
of practicing witchcraft.
As the accusations and execu -
ti ons spread, leaders of the Massa -
chusetts Bay Colony began to worry
that the witch hunts were out of
control. The governor intervened
when his own wife was accused of
serving the devil. He disbanded
the special court in Salem and
ordered the remaining suspects
released. A year after it had
begun, the frenzy was finally over.
Nineteen people (including some
men married to women who had been convicted) had been hanged, one
man—the courageous Giles Corey—was pressed to death with heavy stones
for refusing to sacrifice family and friends to the demands of the court, and
more than one hundred others were jailed. Nearly everybody responsible for
the Salem executions later recanted, and nothing quite like it happened in
the colonies again.
What explains Salem’s witchcraft hysteria? It may have represented
nothing more than theatrical adolescents trying to enliven the dreary rou-
tine of everyday life. Yet adults pressed the formal charges against the
accused and provided most of the testimony. This fact has led some schol-
ars to speculate that long-festering local feuds and property disputes may
have triggered the prosecutions. More recently, historians have focused
on the most salient feature of the accused witches: most of them were
women. Many of the supposed witches, it turns out, had in some way
138

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
The Wonders of the Invisible World
Title page of the 1693 London edition of
Cotton Mather’s account of the Salem
witchcraft cases. Mather, a prominent
Boston minister, advocated the admission of
“spectral” evidence in witchcraft trials and
warned his congregation that the devil’s
legions were assaulting New England.
defied the traditional roles assigned to females. Some had engaged in
business transactions outside the home; others did not attend church;
some were curmudgeons. Most of them were middle-aged or older and
without sons or brothers. They thus stood to inherit property and live
independently. The notion of autonomous spinsters flew in the face of
prevailing social conventions.
Still another interpretation stresses the hysteria caused by frequent Indian
attacks occurring just north of Salem, along New England’s northern fron-
tier. Some of the participants in the witch trials were girls from Maine who
had been orphaned by indigenous violence. The terrifying threat of Indian
attacks created a climate of fear that helped fuel the witchcraft hysteria. “Are
you guilty or not?” the Salem magistrate John Hathorne demanded of
fourteen-year-old Abigail Hobbs in 1692. “I have seen sights and been
scared,” she answered.
Whatever the precise cause, the witchcraft controversy reflected the pecu-
liar social dynamics of the Salem community. Late in 1692, as the hysteria in
Salem subsided, several of the afflicted girls were traveling through nearby
Ipswich when they encountered an old woman resting on a bridge.
“A witch!” they shouted and began writhing as if possessed. But the people
of Ipswich were unimpressed. Passersby showed no interest in the theatrics.
Unable to elicit either sympathy or curiosity, the bewitched girls picked
themselves up and continued on their way.
SOCI ETY AND ECONOMY I N THE MI DDLE
COLONI ES
Both geographically and culturally, the middle colonies stood between
New England and the South, blending their own influences with elements
derived from the older regions on either side. In so doing, they more com-
pletely reflected the diversity of colonial life and more fully foreshadowed
the pluralism of the American nation than the other regions did.
AN ECONOMI C MI X The primary crops in the middle colonies were
those of New England but more bountiful, owing to more fertile soil and a
longer growing season. They developed surpluses of foodstuffs for export to
the plantations of the South and the West Indies: wheat, barley, oats, and
other cereals, flour, and livestock. Three great rivers—the Hudson, the
Delaware, and the Susquehanna—and their tributaries gave the middle
Society and Economy in the Middle Colonies

139
colonies ready access to the backcountry and the extremely profitable fur
trade with Indians. As a consequence, the region’s bustling commerce
rivaled that of New England, and indeed Philadelphia in time supplanted
Boston as the largest city in the colonies.
Land policies in the middle colonies followed the headright system of the
South. In New York the early royal governors carried forward, in practice
if not in name, the Dutch device of the patroonship, granting influential
men (called patroons) vast estates on Long Island and throughout the Hud-
son and Mohawk River valleys. The patroons lorded over self-contained
domains farmed by tenants who paid fees to use the landlords’ mills, ware-
houses, smokehouses, and wharves. But with free land available elsewhere,
New York’s population languished, and the new waves of immigrants sought
the promised land of Pennsylvania.
AN UNRULY ETHNI C MI X In the makeup of their population, the
middle colonies of British North America stood apart from both the mostly
English Puritan settlements and the biracial plantation colonies to the
south. In New York and New Jersey, for instance, Dutch culture and language
lingered, along with the Dutch Reformed Church. Along the Delaware River
the few Swedes and Finns, the first settlers, were overwhelmed by the influx
of English and Welsh Quakers, followed in turn by Germans, Irish, and
Scots-Irish. By the mid-eighteenth century, the middle colonies were the
fastest growing area in North America.
The Germans came to America (primarily Pennsylvania) mainly from the
war-torn Rhineland region of Europe. (Until German unification, in 1871, eth-
nic Germans—those Europeans speaking German as their native language—
lived in a variety of areas and principalities in central Europe.) William
Penn’s recruiting brochures encouraging settlement in Pennsylvania circu-
lated throughout central Europe in German translation, and his promise of
religious freedom appealed to persecuted sects, especially the Mennonites,
German Baptists whose beliefs resembled those of the Quakers.
In 1683 a group of Mennonites founded Germantown, near Philadelphia.
They were the vanguard of a swelling migration in the eighteenth century
that included Lutherans, Reformed Calvinists, Moravians, and members of
other evangelical German sects, a large proportion of whom paid their way
as indentured servants, or “redemptioners,” as they were commonly
called. West of Philadelphia they created an expanding belt of German set-
tlements in which the “Pennsylvania Dutch” (a corruption of Deutsch,
meaning “German”) predominated, as well as a channel for the dispersion of
German populations throughout the colonies. The relentless waves of
140

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
German immigrants during the eighteenth century alarmed many English
colonists. Benjamin Franklin expressed the fear of many that the Germans
“will soon . . . outnumber us.”
The feisty Scots-Irish began to arrive later and moved still farther out into
the backcountry throughout the eighteenth century. (“Scotch-Irish” is an
enduring misnomer for Ulster Scots or Scots-Irish, mostly Presbyterians
transplanted from Scotland to northern Ireland to give that Catholic coun-
try a more Protestant tone.) During the eighteenth century these people
were more often called “Irish” than “Scots-Irish,” a term later preferred by
their descendants. Catholic-Protestant tensions, political persecution, and
economic disaster caused a quarter-million migrants from northern Ireland
to settle in America during the eighteenth century. Most arrived in Philadel-
phia, then gravitated to the backwoods of Pennsylvania before streaming
southward into the fertile valleys stretching southwestward into Virginia and
western Carolina. Land was the great magnet attracting the waves of Scots-
Irish settlers. They were, said a recruiting agent, “full of expectation to have
land for nothing” and were “unwilling to be disappointed.” In most cases, the
lands they “squatted on” were owned and occupied by Indians. In 1741 a
group of Delaware Indians protested to Pennsylvania authorities that the
Scots-Irish intruders were taking “our land” without giving “us anything for
it.” If the government did not intervene, the Indians threatened, then they
would “drive them off.”
The Scots-Irish and Germans became the largest non-English elements in
the colonies. Other minority ethnic groups enriched the population in New
York and the Quaker colonies: Huguenots (Protestants whose religious free-
dom had been revoked in Catholic France in 1685), Irish, Welsh, Swiss, and
Jews. New York had inherited from the Dutch a tradition of ethnic and reli-
gious tolerance, which had given the colony a diverse population before the
English conquest: French-speaking Walloons (a Celtic people of southern Bel-
gium), French, Germans, Danes, Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, Bohe mians,
Poles, and others, including some New England Puritans. The Sephardic Jews who
landed in New Amsterdam in 1654 quickly founded a synagogue there.
THE BACKCOUNTRY Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century became
the great distribution point for the different ethnic groups of European
origin, just as the Chesapeake Bay region and Charleston, South Carolina,
became the distribution points for African peoples. Before the mid–
eighteenth century, settlers in the Pennsylvania backcountry had trespassed
across Indian lands and reached the Appalachian mountain range.
Rather than crossing the steep ridges, the Scots-Irish and Germans filtered
Society and Economy in the Middle Colonies

141
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What attracted German immigrants to the middle colonies? Why did
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southward down the Shenandoah River valley of Virginia and on into the
Carolina and Georgia backcountry. Germans were the first white settlers in
the upper Shenandoah Valley, and Scots-Irish filled the lower valley. Feisty,
determined, and rugged, the Germans and Scots-Irish settlers confiscated
Indian lands, built robustly evangelical churches, and established con-
tentious rustic communities along the frontier of settlement.
COLONI AL CI TI ES
During the seventeenth century the American colonies remained in
comparative isolation from one another, evolving distinctive folkways and
unfolding separate histories. Residents of Boston, New York, Philadelphia,
and Charleston were more likely to keep in close touch with people in Lon-
don than with one another. Since commerce was their chief purpose, colo-
nial cities hugged the coastline or, like Philadelphia, sprang up on rivers that
could be navigated by oceangoing vessels. Never holding more than 10 per-
cent of the colonial population, the large coastal cities exerted a dispropor-
tionate influence on commerce, politics, and culture. By the end of the
colonial period, Philadelphia, with some 30,000 people, was the largest city
in the colonies and second only to London in the British Empire. New York
City, with about 25,000, ranked second; Boston numbered 16,000; Charles -
ton, 12,000; and Newport, Rhode Island, 11,000.
THE S OCI AL AND POLI TI CAL ORDER The urban social elite was
dominated by wealthy merchants and a middle class of retailers, innkeepers,
and artisans. Almost two thirds of the urban male workers were artisans,
people who made their living at handicrafts. They included carpenters and
coopers (barrel makers), shoemakers and tailors, silversmiths and black-
smiths, sailmakers, stonemasons, weavers, and potters. At the bottom of the
pecking order were sailors and unskilled workers.
Class stratification in the cities became more pronounced as time passed.
One study of Boston found that in 1687 the richest 15 percent of the popula-
tion held 52 percent of the taxable wealth; by 1771 the top 15 percent held
about 67 percent and the top 5 percent contributed some 44 percent of the
city’s wealth. In Philadelphia and Charleston the concentration of wealth
was even more pronounced.
Colonial cities were busy, crowded, and dangerous. Frequent fires led to
building codes, restrictions on burning rubbish, and the organization of fire
companies. Rising crime and violence required formal police departments.
Colonial Cities

143
Colonists brought with them to
America the English principle of
public responsibility for the
poor and homeless. The number
of Boston’s poor receiving public
assistance rose from 500 in 1700 to
4,000 in 1736; in New York the
number rose from 250 in 1698 to
5,000 in the 1770s. Most of the
public assistance went to “out-
door” relief in the form of money,
food, clothing, and fuel. Alms -
houses were built to house the
destitute.
THE URBAN WEB Transit
within and between colonial cities
was initially difficult. The first
roads were Indian trails, which
were widened with travel, then
made into roads. Land travel was
initially by horse or by foot. The first public stagecoach line opened in 1732.
Taverns were an important aspect of colonial travel, as movement at night
was treacherous. (During the colonial era it was said that when the Spanish
settled an area, they would first build a church; the Dutch, in their settle-
ments, would first construct a fort; and the English, in theirs, would first
erect a tavern.) By the end of the seventeenth century, there were more tav-
erns in America than any other business. Indeed, taverns became the most
important social institution in the colonies—and the most democratic. By
1690 there were fifty-four taverns in Boston alone, half of them operated by
women. Colonial taverns and inns were places to drink, relax, read a newspa-
per, play cards or billiards, gossip about people or politics, learn news from
travelers, or conduct business. Local ordinances regulated them, setting
prices and usually prohibiting them from serving liquor to African Ameri-
cans, Indians, servants, or apprentices.
In 1726 a concerned Bostonian wrote a letter to the community, declaring
that “the abuse of strong Drink is becoming Epidemical among us, and it is
very justly Supposed . . . that the Multiplication of Taverns has contributed
not a little to this Excess of Riot and Debauchery.” Despite the objections by
some that crowded taverns engendered disease and unruly behavior, colonial
144

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
The Rapalje Children
John Durand (ca. 1768). These children of
a wealthy Brooklyn merchant wear clothing
typical of upper-crust urban society.
taverns and inns continued to proliferate. By the mid–eighteenth century,
they would become the gathering place for protests against British rule.
The eighteenth century was a period of rapid expansion and soaring
population growth in British North America, during which the colonies
grew much more diverse. A rough estimate of the national origins of the
white population as of 1790 found it to be 61 percent English; 14 percent
Scottish and Scots-Irish; 9 percent German; 5 percent Dutch, French, and
Swedish; 4 percent Irish; and 7 percent miscellaneous or unassigned. If one
adds to the 3,172,444 whites in the 1790 census the 756,770 nonwhites,
without even considering uncounted Indians, it seems likely that only
about half the nation’s inhabitants, perhaps fewer, could trace their origins
to England.
More reliable mail delivery gave rise to newspapers in the eighteenth cen-
tury. Before 1745 twenty-two newspapers had been started: seven in New
England, ten in the middle colonies, and five in the South. An important
landmark in the progress of freedom of the press was John Peter Zenger’s
trial for publishing criticisms of New York’s governor in his newspaper, the
New York Weekly Journal. Zenger was imprisoned for ten months and
brought to trial in 1735. English common law held that one might be pun-
ished for “libel,” or criticism that fostered “an ill opinion of the government.”
Colonial Cities

145
Taverns
A tobacconist’s business card from 1770 captures the atmosphere of late-
eighteenth-century taverns. Here men in a Philadelphia tavern converse while
they drink ale and smoke pipes.
Zenger’s lawyer startled the court with his claim that the editor had pub-
lished the truth—which the judge ruled an unacceptable defense. The jury,
however, held the editor not guilty. The libel law remained standing as
before, but editors thereafter were emboldened to criticize officials more
freely.
THE ENLI GHTENMENT I N AMERI CA
By the middle of the eighteenth century, the thirteen colonies were
rapidly growing and maturing. Schools and colleges were springing up, and
the standard of living was rising as well. More and more colonists had easier
access to the latest consumer goods—and the latest ideas percolating in
Europe. Through their commercial contacts, newspapers, and other chan-
nels, colonial cities became centers for the dissemination of new ideas. Most
significant was a burst of intellectual activity known as the Enlightenment
that originated in Europe and soon spread to the colonies. Like the Renais-
sance, the Enlightenment celebrated rational inquiry, scientific research, and
individual freedom. Curious people wanted to dissect the workings of
nature by close observation, scientific experimentation, and precise calcula-
tion. Unlike their Renaissance predecessors, however, many enlightened
thinkers during the eighteenth century were willing to discard orthodox reli-
gious beliefs in favor of more “rational” ideas and ideals.
DI SCOVERI NG THE LAWS OF NATURE One manifestation of the
Enlightenment was a scientific revolution in which the ancient view of an
earth-centered universe, which reinforced Christian mythology, was over-
thrown in the early sixteenth century by the controversial heliocentric (sun-
centered) solar system proposed by the Polish cleric Nicolaus Copernicus.
His discovery that the earth orbits the sun was more than controversial; in
an age governed by religious orthodoxy, it was heretical.
The climax to the scientific revolution came with Sir Isaac Newton’s the-
ory of gravitation, which he announced in 1687. Newton challenged biblical
notions of the cosmos by depicting a mechanistic universe moving in accor-
dance with natural laws that could be grasped by human reason and
explained by mathematics. He implied that natural laws govern all things—
the orbits of the planets and the orbits of human relations: politics, econom-
ics, and society. Reason could make people aware, for instance, that the
natural law of supply and demand governs economics or that the natural
146

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
rights to life, liberty, and property determine the limits and functions of
government.
When people carried Newton’s scientific outlook to its ultimate logic, as
the Deists did, the idea of natural law reduced God from a daily presence to a
remote Creator who planned the universe and set it in motion but no longer
interacted with the earth and its people. Evil in the world, in this view,
results not from original sin and innate depravity so much as from igno-
rance, an imperfect understanding of the laws of nature. The best way, there-
fore, to improve both society and human nature was by the application and
improvement of Reason, which was the highest Virtue (Enlightenment
thinkers often capitalized both words).
THE AGE OF REASON I N AMERI CA Such illuminating ideas pro-
foundly affected the climate of thought in the eighteenth century. The
premises of Newtonian science and the Enlightenment, moreover, fitted the
American experience, which placed a premium on observation, experiment,
reason, and the need to think anew. America was therefore especially recep-
tive to the new science. Benjamin Franklin epitomized the Enlightenment
in the eyes of both Americans and Europeans. Born in Boston in 1706, a
descendant of Puritans, Franklin left home at the age of seventeen, bound
for Philadelphia. There, before he was twenty-four, he owned a print shop,
where he edited and published the Pennsylvania Gazette. When he was
twenty-six, he published Poor Richard’s Almanack, a collection of homely
maxims on success and happiness. Before he retired from business, at the age
of forty-two, Franklin, among other achievements, had founded a library,
organized a fire company, helped start the academy that became the Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania, and organized a debating club that grew into the
American Philosophical Society.
Franklin was devoted to science and the scientific method. Skeptical and
curious, pragmatic and irreverent, he was a voracious reader and an inventive
genius. His wide-ranging experiments traversed the fields of medicine, meteo-
rology, geology, astronomy, and physics, among others. He developed the
Franklin stove, the lightning rod, and a glass harmonica.
Franklin’s love of commonsensical reason and his pragmatic skepticism
clashed with prevailing religious beliefs. Although raised as a Presbyterian,
he became a freethinker who had no patience with religious orthodoxy and
sectarian squabbles. Franklin prized reason over revelation. He was not bur-
dened with anxieties regarding the state of his soul. Early on, he abandoned
the Calvinist assumption that God had predestined salvation for a select few.
The Enlightenment in America

147
He grew skeptical of the divinity of
Jesus and the authenticity of the Bible
as God’s word. Franklin quit attend-
ing church as a young man. Like the
European Deists, he came to believe
in a God that had created a universe
animated by natural laws, laws that
inquisitive people could discern
through the use of reason.
Benjamin Franklin and other like-
minded thinkers, such as Thomas Jef-
ferson and James Madison, derived an
outlook of hope and optimism from
modern science and Enlightenment
rationalism. Unlike Calvinists, they
believed people have the capacity,
through rational analysis, to unlock
the mysteries of the universe and
thereby shape their own destinies.
“The rapid Progress true Science now
makes,” as Franklin wrote, led him to
regret being “born too soon.” Jefferson concurred. He, too, envisioned a
bright future for humankind: “As long as we may think as we will and speak as
we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.” The evangeli-
cal religiosity of traveling revivalists disgusted Jefferson. His “fundamental
principle” was that reason, not emotion and “blindfolded fear,” should
inform decision making: “We are saved by our good works, which are within
our power, and not by our faith, which is not in our power.” Jefferson warned
against those “despots” in religion and politics who resisted change and still
wanted to dictate belief.
Such enlightened thinking, founded on freedom of thought and expres-
sion, could not have been more different from the religious assumptions
that had shaped Puritan New England in the seventeenth century. The
eighteenth-century Enlightenment thus set in motion intellectual forces in
the colonies that challenged the “truthfulness” of revealed religion and the
logic of Christian faith. Those modern forces, however, would inspire stern
resistance among the defenders of religious orthodoxy.
EDUCATI ON I N THE COLONI ES White colonial Americans were
among the most literate people in the world. Almost ninety percent of men
148

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
Benjamin Franklin
A champion of reason, Franklin was an
inventor, philosopher, entrepreneur,
and statesman.
(more than in England) could
read. For the colonists at large,
education in the traditional ideas
and manners of society—even lit-
eracy itself—remained primarily
the responsibility of family and
church. The modern conception
of free public education was slow
in coming and failed to win uni-
versal acceptance until the twenti-
eth century. Yet colonists were
concerned from the beginning
that steps needed to be taken to
educate their young.
Conditions in New England
proved most favorable for the
establishment of schools. The
Puritan emphasis on reading
Scripture, which all Protestants
shared to some degree, implied an
obligation to ensure literacy. And
the compact towns of New Eng-
land made schools more feasible
than they were among the scattered settlers of the southern colonies. In 1647
the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted the famous “ye olde deluder Satan”
act (designed to thwart the evil one), which required every town of fifty or
more families to set up a grammar school (a “Latin school” that could pre-
pare a student for college). Although the act was widely evaded, it did signify
a serious attempt to promote education.
The Dutch in New Netherland were as interested in education as the New
England Puritans. In Pennsylvania the Quakers never heeded William Penn’s
instructions to establish public schools, but they did finance a number of
private schools, where practical as well as academic subjects were taught. In
the southern colonies, efforts to establish schools were hampered by the
more scattered population and, in parts of the backcountry, by indifference
and neglect. Some of the wealthiest southern planters and merchants sent
their children to England or hired tutors. In some places wealthy patrons or
the people collectively managed to raise some kind of support for “old field”
schools (primitive one-room buildings usually made of logs) and academies
at the secondary level.
The Enlightenment in America

149
Colonial education
A page from the rhymed alphabet of The
New England Primer, a popular American
textbook first published in the 1680s.
THE GREAT AWAKENI NG
Religion was put on the defensive by the rational emphases of the
Enlightenment and the growing materialism of eighteenth century life. But
religious fervor has always shown remarkable resilience in the face of new ideas
and secular forces. During the early eighteenth century, the American colonies
experienced a widespread revival of religious zeal. Hundreds of new congrega-
tions were founded between 1700 and 1750. Most Americans (85 percent) lived
in colonies with an “established” church, meaning that the government offi-
cially sanctioned—and collected taxes to support—a single official denomina-
tion. Anglicanism was the established church in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware,
and the Carolinas. Congregationalism was the official faith in New England. In
New York, Anglicanism vied with the Dutch Reformed Church for control.
Pennsylvania had no single state-supported church, but Quakers dominated
the legislative assembly. New Jersey and Rhode Island had no official denomi-
nation and hosted numerous sects.
Most colonies with an established church organized religious life on the
basis of well-regulated local parishes, which defined their borders and
defended them against dissenters and heretics. No outside preacher could
enter the parish and speak in public without permission. Then, in the 1740s,
the parish system was thrown into turmoil by the arrival of outspoken trav-
eling (itinerant) evangelists, who claimed that the parish ministers were
incompetent. The evangelists also insisted that Christians must be “reborn” in
their convictions and behavior; traditional creeds or articles of faith were
unnecessary for rebirth. By emphasizing the individualistic strand embedded
in Protestantism, the so-called Great Awakening ended up invigorating—
and fragmenting—American religious life. Unlike the Enlight enment, which
affected primarily the intellectual elite, the Great Awakening appealed to the
masses and spawned Protestant evangelicalism. It was the first popular move-
ment before the American Revolution that spanned all thirteen colonies. As
Benjamin Franklin observed of the Awakening, “Never did the people show
so great a willingness to attend sermons. Religion is become the subject of
most conversation.”
FI RS T S TI RRI NGS During the early eighteenth century the currents of
rationalism stimulated by the Enlightenment aroused concerns among
orthodox believers in Calvinism. Many pesople seemed to be drifting away
from the moorings of piety. And out along the fringes of settlement, many of
the colonists were unchurched. On the frontier, people had no minister to
preach to them or administer sacraments or perform marriages. According
150

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
to some ministers, these pioneers had lapsed into a primitive and sinful life,
little different from that of the “heathen” Indians. By the 1730s the sense of
religious decline had provoked the Great Awakening.
In 1734–1735 a remarkable spiritual revival occurred in the congregation
of Jonathan Edwards, a Congregationalist minister in Northampton, in
western Massachusetts. One of America’s most brilliant philosophers and
theologians, Edwards had entered Yale College in 1716, at age thirteen, and
graduated as valedictorian four years later. In 1727, Edwards was called to
serve the Congregational church in Northampton. He was shocked at the
town’s tepid spirituality. Edwards claimed that the young people of
Northampton were addicted to sinful pleasures, such as “night walking and
frequenting the tavern”; they indulged in “lewd practices” that “exceedingly
corrupted others.” Christians, he believed, had become preoccupied with
making and spending money. Religion had lost its emotional force. Edwards
lambasted Deists for believing that “God has given mankind no other light
to walk by but their own reason.” Edwards resolved to restore deeply felt
spirituality. “Our people,” he said, “do not so much need to have their heads
stored [with new knowledge] as to have their hearts touched.” His own vivid
descriptions of the torments of hell and the delights of heaven helped rekin-
dle spiritual fervor among his congregants. By 1735, Edwards could report
that “the town seemed to be full of the
presence of God; it never was so full of
love, nor of joy.” To judge the power of
the religious awakening, he thought,
one need only observe that “it was no
longer the Tavern” that drew local
crowds, “but the Minister’s House.”
The Great Awakening saved souls
but split churches. At about the same
time that Jonathan Edwards was pro-
moting revivals in New England,
William Tennent, an Irish-born Pres-
byterian revivalist, was stirring souls
in Pennsylvania. He and his sons
shocked Presbyterian officials by
claiming that many of the local minis-
ters were “cold and sapless”; they
showed no evidence of themselves
having experienced a convincing con-
version experience, nor were they
The Great Awakening

151
Jonathan Edwards
One of the foremost preachers of the
Great Awakening, Edwards dramati-
cally described the torments that
awaited sinners in the afterlife.
willing to “thrust the nail of terror into sleeping souls.” Tennent’s oldest son,
Gilbert, defended their aggressive (and often illegal) tactics by explaining
that he and other traveling evangelists invaded parishes only when the “set-
tled ministry” showed no interest in the “Getting of Grace and Growing in
it.” The Tennents caused great consternation because they and other unau-
thorized ministers offered a compelling fire-and-brimstone alternative to
the settled parish preachers. They promoted a passionate piety, and they
refused to accept the prevailing structure of denominations and clerical
authority. Competition was emerging in colonial religious life.
The great catalyst of the Great Awakening was a young English minister,
George Whitefield, whose reputation as a spellbinding evangelist preceded him
to the colonies. Congregations were lifeless, he claimed, “because dead men
preach to them.” Too many ministers were “slothful shepherds and dumb dogs.”
His objective was to restore the fires of religious fervor to American congrega-
tions. In the autumn of 1739, Whitefield, then twenty-five, arrived in Philadel-
phia and began preaching to huge crowds. After visiting Georgia, he made a
triumphal procession northward to New England, drawing thousands and
releasing “Gales of Heavenly Wind” that blew gusts throughout the colonies.
The cross-eyed Whitefield enthralled audiences with his golden voice, flam-
boyant style, and unparalleled eloquence. Even the skeptical Benjamin Franklin,
who went to see Whitefield preach in
Philadelphia, was so carried away that
he emptied his pockets into the collec-
tion plate. Whitefield urged his listeners
to experience a “new birth”—a sudden,
emotional moment of conversion and
salvation. By the end of his sermon, one
listener reported, the entire congrega-
tion was “in utmost Confusion, some
crying out, some laughing, and Bliss still
roaring to them to come to Christ, as
they answered, I will, I will, I’m coming,
I’m coming.”
Jonathan Edwards took advantage
of the commotion stirred up by White-
field to spread his own revival gospel
throughout New England. The Awak-
ening reached its peak in 1741 when
Edwards delivered his most famous
sermon at Enfield, Massachusetts (in
152

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
George Whitefield
The English minister’s dramatic elo-
quence roused American congregants,
inspiring many to experience a
religious rebirth.
present-day Connecticut). Titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” it
represented a devout appeal to repentance. Edwards reminded his congregation
that hell is real and that God’s vision is omnipotent, his judgment certain. He
noted that God “holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or
some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked . . .
he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire.” When
Edwards finished, he had to wait several minutes for the congregants to quiet
down before leading them in a closing hymn.
The Great Awakening encompassed a worldwide resurgence of evangelical
Protestantism and “enthusiastic” expressions of faith. Women, both white
and black, were believed to be more susceptible to fits of spiritual emotion
than men. The Tennents, Whitefield, and other traveling evangelists thus
targeted women because of their spiritual virtuosity. Whitefield and the
other ecstatic evangelists believed that conversion required a visceral, emo-
tional experience.
Convulsions, shrieks, and spasms were the physical manifestation of the
Holy Spirit at work, and women seemed more willing to let the Spirit move
them. Some of the revivalists, especially Baptists, initially loosened traditional
restrictions on female participation in worship. Scores of women served as lay
exhorters, including Bathsheba Kingsley, who stole her husband’s horse in 1741
to spread the gospel among her rural neighbors after receiving “immediate rev-
elations from heaven.” Similarly, Mary Reed of Durham, New Hampshire, so
enthralled her minister with her effusions of the Holy Spirit that he allowed her
to deliver spellbinding testimonials to the congre gation every Wednesday
evening for two months. Such ecstatic piety was symptomatic of the Awaken-
ing’s rekindling of religious enthusiasm. Yet most ministers who encouraged
public expressions of female piety refused to embrace the more controversial
idea of allowing women to participate in congregational governance. Churches
remained male bastions of political authority.
Edwards and Whitefield were selfless promoters of Christian revivalism
who insisted on the central role of the emotions in spiritual life. They
inspired many imitators, some of whom carried emotional evangelism to
extremes. Once unleashed, spiritual enthusiasm is hard to control. In many
ways the Awakening backfired on those who had intended it to bolster
church discipline and social order. Some of the revivalists began to stir up
those at the bottom of society—laborers, seamen, servants, slaves, and farm
folk. The Reverend James Davenport, for instance, a fiery New England Con-
gregationalist, set about shouting, raging, and stomping on the devil,
beseeching his listeners to renounce the established clergy and become the
agents of their own salvation. The churched and unchurched flocked to his
The Great Awakening

153
theatrical sermons. Seized by terror and ecstasy, they groveled on the floor or
lay unconscious on the benches, much to the chagrin of more traditional
churchgoers. Critics of the Awakening decried the emotionalism generated
by the revivalists. They were especially concerned that evangelicals were
encouraging “women, yea, girls to speak” at revivals. One critic of “female
exhorters” reminded congregations of the scriptural commandment “let
your women keep silence in the churches.”
PI ETY AND REAS ON The Great Awakening undermined many of the
established churches by emphasizing that individuals could receive God’s
grace without the assistance of traditional clergy. It also gave people more
religious choices, splitting the Calvinistic churches. Presbyterians divided
into the “Old Side” and the “New Side,” Congregationalists into “Old Light”
and “New Light.” New England religious life would never be the same.
Jonathan Edwards lamented the warring factions. We are “like two armies,”
he said, “separated and drawn up in battle array, ready to fight one another.”
Church members chose sides and either dismissed their ministers or
deserted them. Many of the New Lights went over to the Baptists, and others
flocked to Presbyterian or, later, Methodist groups, which in turn divided
and subdivided into new sects.
New England Puritanism disintegrated amid the emotional revivals of the
Great Awakening. The precarious balance in which the founders had held
the elements of emotionalism and reason collapsed. In addition, the Puritan
ideal of religious uniformity was shattered. The crusty Connecticut Old
Light Isaac Stiles denounced the “intrusion of choice into spiritual matters.”
In Anglican Virginia some fifty Baptist evangelists were jailed for disturbing
the peace during the Great Awakening. New England subsequently attracted
more and more Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and other denominations
while the revival frenzy scored its most lasting victories along the frontiers of
the middle and southern colonies. In the more sedate churches of Boston,
moreover, the principle of rational religion gained the upper hand in a reac-
tion against the excesses of revival emotion. Boston ministers such as
Charles Chauncey and Jonathan Mayhew found Puritan theology too for-
bidding. To them the concept that people could be forever damned by pre-
destination was irrational.
In reaction to taunts that the “born-again” revivalist ministers lacked learn-
ing, the Awakening gave rise to the denominational colleges that became char-
acteristic of American higher education. The three colleges already in exis-
tence had their origins in religious motives: Harvard College, founded in 1636
because the Puritans dreaded “to leave an illiterate ministry to the church
154

COLONIAL WAYS OF LIFE (CH. 3)
when our present ministers shall lie in the dust”; the College of William and
Mary, created in 1693 to strengthen the Anglican ministry; and Yale College,
set up in 1701 to educate the Puritans of Connecticut, who believed that Har-
vard was drifting from the strictest orthodoxy. The College of New Jersey, later
Princeton University, was founded by Presbyterians in 1746. In close succes-
sion came King’s College (1754) in New York, later renamed Columbia Uni-
versity, an Anglican institution; the College of Rhode Island (1764), later
called Brown University, which was Baptist; Queens College (1766), later
known as Rutgers, which was Dutch Reformed; and Dartmouth College
(1769), which was Congregationalist and the outgrowth of a school for Indi-
ans. Among the colonial colleges, only the University of Pennsylvania,
founded as the Academy of Philadelphia in 1751, arose from a secular impulse.
The Great Awakening subsided by 1750, although revivalism in Virginia
continued unabated for another twenty years. The Awakening, like its coun-
terpart, the Enlightenment, influenced the American Revolution and set in
motion powerful currents that still flow in American life. It implanted in
American culture the evangelical impulse and the emotional appeal of
revivalism. The movement weakened the status of the old-fashioned clergy
and state-supported churches, encouraged believers to exercise their own
judgment, and thereby weakened habits of deference generally. By encourag-
ing the proliferation of denominations, it heightened the need for toleration
of dissent. But in some respects the counterpoint between the Awakening
and the Enlightenment, between the urgings of the spirit and the logic of
reason, led by different roads to similar ends. Both movements emphasized
the power and right of individual decision making, and both aroused mil-
lennial hopes that America would become the promised land in which
people might attain the perfection of piety or reason, if not both.
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155
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• Colonial Differences Agriculture diversified: tobacco was the staple crop in Vir -
ginia, and rice and naval stores were the staples in the Carolinas. Family farms
and a mixed economy characterized the middle and New England colonies,
while plantation agriculture based on slavery became entrenched in the South.
By 1790, German, Scots-Irish, Welsh, and Irish immigrants had settled in the
middle colonies, along with members of religious groups such as Quakers, Jews,
Huguenots, and Mennonites.
• Women in the Colonies English colonists brought their belief systems with
them, including convictions about the inferiority of women. The initial shortage
of women gave way to a more equal gender ratio as women immigrated—alone
and in family groups—thereby enabling a dramatic population growth in the
colonies.
• Indentured Servants In response to the labor shortage in the early years, Vir-
ginia relied on indentured servants. By the end of the seventeenth century,
enslaved Africans had replaced indentured servants in the South. With the sup-
ply of slaves seeming inexhaustible, the Carolinas adopted slavery as its primary
labor source.
• Triangular Trade British America sent raw materials, such as fish and furs, to
England in return for manufactured goods. The colonies participated in the tri-
angular trade with Africa and the Caribbean, building ships and exporting man-
ufactured goods, especially rum, while “importing” slaves from Africa.
• The Enlightenment The attitudes of the Enlightenment were transported along
the trade routes. Isaac Newton’s scientific discoveries culminated in the belief
that Reason could improve society. Benjamin Franklin, who believed that people
could shape their own destinies, became the face of the Enlightenment in
America.
• The Great Awakening Religious diversity in the colonies increased. By the 1730s
a revival of faith, the Great Awakening, swept through the colonies. New congre-
gations formed, as evangelists, who insisted that Christians be “reborn,” chal-
lenged older sects. Individualism, not orthodoxy, was stressed in this first popu-
lar movement in America’s history.
End of Chapter Review
K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney
p. 111
staple crop, or cash crop
p. 114
indentured servants
p. 116
triangular trade p. 133
“Half-Way Covenant”
p. 136
Enlightenment p. 146
Benjamin Franklin p. 147
Great Awakening p. 150
Jonathan Edwards p. 151
George Whitefield p. 152

C H R O N O L O G Y
1619 First Africans arrive at Jamestown
1636 Harvard College is established
1662 Puritans initiate the “Half-Way Covenant”
1662 Virginia enacts law declaring that children of slave women are
slaves
1691 Royal charter for Massachusetts is established
1692 Salem witchcraft trials
1730s–1740s Great Awakening
1735 John Peter Zenger is tried for seditious libel
1739 Stono Uprising
1739 George Whitefield preaches his first sermon in America, in
Philadelphia
1741 Jonathan Edward preaches “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry
God”

4
FROM COLONIES
TO STATES
T
hree great European powers—Spain, France, and England––
took the lead in conquering and colonizing North America
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The English
differed from the Spanish and French in the degree of freedom they initially
allowed their colonies. Unlike New France and New Spain, New England was
in effect a self-governing community. There was much less control by the
mother country in part because England was a less authoritarian, less mili-
taristic, and less centralized nation-state than Spain or France. The monar-
chy shared power with Parliament, and citizens enjoyed specified rights and
privileges. In 1606, for example, the Virginia Company took care in drawing
up its charter to ensure that the colonists who settled in America would
enjoy all the “liberties, franchises, and immunities” of English citizens.
But colonists did not have all the rights of English citizens. The English gov-
ernment insisted that the Americans contribute to the expense of maintaining
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• How did the British Empire administer the economy of its
colonies?
• How were colonial governments structured, and how independent
were they of the mother country?
• What were the causes of the French and Indian War?
• How did victory in the French and Indian War affect the British
colonies in North America?
• How and why did British colonial policy change after 1763?
• What were the main motivations and events that led to a break
with the mother country?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
English Administration of the Colonies

159
the colonies but did not give them a voice in shaping administrative policies.
Such inconsistencies spawned growing grievances and tensions. By the
mid–eighteenth century, when Britain tried to tighten its control of the
colonies, it was too late. Americans had developed a far more powerful sense
of their rights than any other colonial people, and in the 1770s they resolved to
assert and defend those rights against the English government’s efforts to limit
them.
ENGLI S H ADMI NI STRATI ON OF THE COLONI ES
Throughout the colonial period, the British monarchy was the source
of legal authority in America. The English Civil War (1642–1646) had pro-
found effects in the colonies. It fractured loyalties as colonists divided their
support between the king and Parliament. The civil war also sharply reduced
the inflow of money and people from England to America, created great
confusion about the colonial relationship to the mother country, and kept
the English government from effectively overseeing colonial affairs. The vic-
tory of Oliver Cromwell’s army over royalist forces in the civil war led to the
creation during the 1650s of the Puritan Commonwealth and Protectorate.
As England’s ruler, Cromwell showed little interest in regulating the Ameri-
can colonies, but he had a lively concern for colonial trade. In 1651, there-
fore, Parliament adopted the first in a series of Navigation Acts designed to
increase the nation’s commercial revenues by restricting the economic
freedom of its colonies in ways that would also take commerce away from
their Dutch enemies. The act of 1651 required that all goods imported to
England or the colonies from Asia and Africa be carried only in ships built in
England and owned by Englishmen, ships that also would be captained and
crewed by a majority of English sailors. Colonial merchants resented such
new regulations because they had benefited from Dutch shippers that
charged only two thirds as much as English ships to transport American
products across the Atlantic. English colonists in sugar-rich Barbados and
tobacco-rich Virginia and Maryland initially defied the new law, only to
relent when the English government dispatched warships to enforce the new
requirements. By 1652, England and the Netherlands were at war, the first of
three maritime conflicts that erupted between 1652 and 1674.
THE MERCANTI LE SYSTEM The Navigation Act of 1651 reflected the
prevailing emphasis of the English and European governments upon an eco-
nomic and political policy known as the mercantile system. Mercantilism
160

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
grew out of the prolonged warfare among the major European nations as well
as the growing importance of acquiring foreign colonies. It centered on
the belief that international power and influence depended upon a nation’s
wealth and its ability to become economically self-sufficient. A nation, the
theory went, could gain wealth only at the expense of another nation—by
seizing its gold and silver and dominating its trade. Trade wars began to sup-
plant religious wars. Under mercantilism, the government controlled all
economic activities, limiting foreign imports so as to preserve a favorable
balance of trade whereby exports exceeded imports. This required that the
government promote domestic manufacturers, through subsidies and
monopolies if need be. Mercantilism also required a nation to acquire
colonies that would enrich the mother country by providing the raw materi-
als for goods manufactured in the mother country, goods that would be sold
at home as well as to its colonists.
It was such mercantilist assumptions that prompted England to create
more Navigation Acts to tighten its control over commerce with its
colonies. After the English monarchy was restored in 1660, the new royalist
Parliament passed the Navigation Act of 1660, which ordered that all trade
between the colonies be carried in English ships, three quarters of whose
crews now must be English. The act also specified that certain products from
the colonies were to be shipped only to England or to other English colonies.
The list of “enumerated” products initially included tobacco, cotton, indigo,
ginger, and sugar. Rice, hemp, masts, copper, and furs, among other items,
were added later. Not only did England (and its colonies) become the sole
outlet for those “enumerated” colonial exports, but the Navigation Act of
1663 declared that all colonial imports from Europe to America must stop
first in England, be offloaded, and have a tax paid on them before their
reshipment to the colonies. The Navigation Acts, also called the British Acts
of Trade, gave England a monopoly over the incredibly profitable tobacco
and sugar produced in Maryland, Virginia, and the British-controlled
islands of the West Indies. The acts also increased customs revenues col-
lected in England, channeled all colonial commerce through English mer-
chants (rather than Europeans), enriched English shipbuilders, and required
that only English-owned ships with a majority of English crews could con-
duct trade with Great Britain.
Over time these Navigation Acts ensured that the commercial activities of
the American colonies became ever more important to the economic
strength of the British Empire. In one respect the new regulations worked as
planned: the English by 1700 had supplanted the Dutch as the world’s leading
maritime power. Virtually all of the colonial trade by then was carried in
British ships and passed through British ports on its way to Europe. And by
1700 British North America was prospering at a rate unsurpassed around
the world. What the English government did not predict or fully understand
was that the Navigation Acts would arouse growing resentment, resistance,
and rebellion in the colonies. Colonial merchants and shippers loudly com-
plained that the Navigation Acts were burdensome and costly. But the
British paid no heed. Slowly and erratically, the English government was
developing a more coherent imperial policy exercising greater control over
its wayward transatlantic colonies, and for a while, this policy worked.
The actual enforcement of the Navigation Acts was spotty, however.
Americans found ingenious ways to avoid the regulations. Smuggling was
rampant. In 1675, Charles II designated the Lords of Trade, a new govern-
ment agency, to force the colonies to abide by the mercantile system. The
royal governors in the colonies thereafter reported to the Lords of Trade.
During the 1670s, the government appointed collectors of customs duties
(fees levied on imports/exports) in all the colonies. In 1678 a defiant Massa-
chusetts legislature declared that the Navigation Acts had no legal standing
in the colony. Six years later, in 1684, the Lords of Trade tried to teach the
rebellious colonists a lesson by annulling the charter of Massachusetts.
English Administration of the Colonies

161
Boston from the southeast
This view of eighteenth-century Boston shows the importance of shipping and its
regulation in the colonies, especially in Massachusetts Bay.
THE DOMI NI ON OF NEW ENGLAND In 1685, King Charles II died
and was succeeded by his brother, the Duke of York, as James II, the first
Catholic sovereign since the death of Queen Mary in 1558. To impress upon
the colonies their subordinate status and institute tighter regulatory con-
trols, the new king approved a proposal to consolidate the New England
colonies into a single royal colony called the Dominion of New England that
would undermine the authority of Puritanism and abolish elected assem-
blies. The Dominion was to have a government named by royal authority; a
governor and council would rule without any legislative assembly. In 1686
the newly appointed royal governor, the authoritarian Sir Edmund Andros,
arrived in Boston to take control of the new Dominion of New England. A
rising resentment greeted Andros’s measures. Andros levied taxes, sup-
pressed town governments, enforced the Navigation Acts, and punished
smugglers. Most ominous of all, Andros and his lieutenants took control of a
Puritan church in Boston and began using it for Anglican services.
THE GLORI OUS REVOLUTI ON I N AMERI CA The Dominion of
New England was scarcely established before the Glorious Revolution
erupted in England in 1688. When news reached Boston that James II had
fled to France and that William was the new king of England, the city staged
its own bloodless revolution. Merchants, ministers, and militias (citizen-
soldiers) mobilized to arrest the hated Governor Andros and his aides, seize
a royal ship in Boston harbor, and remove Massachusetts from the hated
Dominion. The other colonies that had been absorbed into the Dominion
followed suit. All were permitted to revert to their former status except
Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth, which, after some delay, were united
under a new charter in 1691 as the royal colony of Massachusetts Bay.
The new British monarchs, William and Mary, were determined to
reassert royal control in America. To that end, they appointed new royal gov-
ernors in Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland. In Massachusetts the new
governor was given authority to veto acts of the assembly, and he removed
the Puritans’ religious qualification for voting. Maryland did not remain a
royal colony long; it reverted to proprietary status in 1715, after the fourth
Lord Baltimore became Anglican. Pennsylvania had an even briefer career as
a royal colony, from 1692 to 1694, before reverting to William Penn’s propri-
etorship. New Jersey became a royal province in 1702, South Carolina in
1719, North Carolina in 1729, and Georgia in 1752.
The Glorious Revolution had significant long-term effects on American
history in that the Bill of Rights and the Act of Toleration, passed in England
in 1689, influenced attitudes and events in the colonies. Even more significant,
162

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
the overthrow of James II set a precedent for the removal of a hated
monarch. The justification for revolution appeared in 1690 when the Eng-
lish philosopher John Locke published his Two Treatises on Government,
which had an enormous impact on political thought in the colonies. Locke
refuted the prevailing theories of the “divine” right of kings to govern with
absolute power. He also insisted that people are endowed with “natural
rights” to life, liberty, and property. The need to protect those “natural”
rights led people to establish governments. When rulers failed to protect the
property and lives of their subjects, Locke argued, the people had the right—
in extreme cases—to overthrow the monarch and change the government.
AN EMERGI NG COLONI AL S YS TEM Many colonists were disap-
pointed when William and Mary, the new British monarchs, strengthened
the Navigation Acts. The Act to Prevent Frauds and Abuses of 1696 required
colonial governors to enforce the trade laws, allowed customs officials to use
“writs of assistance” (general search warrants that did not have to specify the
place to be searched), and ordered that accused smugglers be tried in royal
“admiralty” courts (because colonial juries habitually refused to convict
their peers). Admiralty cases were decided by judges whom the royal gover-
nors appointed.
From 1696 to 1725, the Board of Trade sought to impose more efficient
royal control over the colonies. But colonists continued to resist. They lob-
bied against the various Navigation Acts, challenged them in court, and
resisted them by smuggling, bribery, fraudulent bookkeeping, and even vio-
lence. The fifty or so British customs officials struggled to police hundreds of
American vessels operating along a thousand miles of jagged coastline.
After the death of Queen Anne, in 1714, efforts to enforce the commercial
restrictions and collect customs duties waned. The throne went in turn to
George I (r. 1714–1727) and George II (r. 1727–1760), German princes who
were next in the Protestant line of succession by virtue of descent from
James I. Under these monarchs, the cabinet emerged as the central agency of
royal administration. Robert Walpole, the long-serving prime minister
(1721–1742) and lord of the treasury, believed that the American colonies
should be let alone to export needed raw materials (timber, tobacco, rice,
indigo) and to buy various manufactured goods from the mother country.
Under Walpole’s leadership Britain followed a policy of “a wise and salutary
neglect” that gave the colonies greater freedom to pursue their economic
interests and claim greater political freedoms. What he did not realize was
that such “salutary neglect” would create among many colonists an inde-
pendent attitude that would blossom into revolution.
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163
THE HABI T OF SELF- GOVERNMENT
Government within the diverse American colonies evolved without
plan. In broad outline, the governor, council, and assembly in each colony
corresponded to the king, lords, and commons in England. Over the years
certain anomalies appeared as colonial governments diverged from that of
England. On the one hand, the governors retained powers and prerogatives
that the king had lost in the course of the seventeenth century. On the other
hand, the assemblies acquired powers, particularly with respect to govern-
ment appointments, that Parliament had yet to gain for itself.
POWERS OF THE ROYAL GOVERNERS English monarchs never
vetoed acts of Parliament after 1707, but the colonial royal governors, most
of whom were mediocre or incompetent, still held an absolute veto over the
assemblies. As chief executives, the governors could appoint and remove
officials, command the militia, and grant pardons. In these respects their
authority resembled the Crown’s, for the king still exercised executive
authority and had the power to name administrative officials. For the king,
those powers often strengthened an effective royal influence in Parliament,
since the king could appoint members or their friends to lucrative offices.
While this arrangement might seem a breeding ground for corruption or
tyranny, it was often viewed in the eighteenth century as a stabilizing influ-
ence, especially by the king’s friends. But it was an influence less and less
available to the governors as the authorities in England more and more drew
the control of colonial patronage into their own hands.
POWERS OF THE COLONI AL AS S EMBLI ES The English colonies
in America, unlike their counterparts under Spanish rule, benefited from
elected legislative assemblies. Whether called the House of Burgesses (Vir-
ginia), Delegates (Maryland), Representatives (Massachusetts), or simply
the assembly, the “lower” houses were chosen by popular vote in counties,
towns, or, in South Carolina, parishes. Not all colonists could vote, however.
Only male property owners could vote, based upon the notion that only
men who held a tangible “stake in society” could vote responsibly. Because
property holding was widespread in America, a greater proportion of the
population could vote in the colonies than anywhere else in the world.
Women, Indians, and African Americans were excluded from the political
process—as a matter of course—and continued to be excluded for the most
part into the twentieth century. Members of the colonial assemblies tended
to be wealthy, prominent figures, but there were exceptions. One unsympa-
164

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
Troubled Neighbors

165
thetic colonist observed in 1744 that the New Jersey Assembly “was chiefly
composed of mechanicks and ignorant wretches; obstinate to the last
degree.”
The most profound political trend during the early eighteenth century
was the growing power exercised by the colonial assemblies. Like Parliament,
the assemblies controlled the budget by their right to vote on taxes and
expenditures, and they held the power to initiate legislation. Most of the
colonial assemblies also exerted leverage on the royal governors by control-
ling their salaries. Throughout the eighteenth century the assemblies
expanded their power and influence, sometimes in conflict with the gover-
nors, sometimes in harmony with them. Self-government in America
became first a habit, then a “right.” By the mid–eighteenth century, the
American colonies had become largely self-governing
TROUBLED NEI GHBORS
S PANI S H AMERI CA I N DECLI NE By the start of the eighteenth cen-
tury, the Spanish controlled a huge colonial empire spanning much of North
America. Yet their sparsely populated settlements in the borderlands north
of Mexico were small and weak when compared with the North American
colonies of the other European powers. The Spanish failed to create thriving
colonies in what is now the American Southwest for several reasons. The
region lacked the gold and silver that attracted the Spanish to Mexico and
Peru. In addition, the Spanish were distracted by their need to control the
perennial unrest among the Indians and the mestizos (people of mixed
Indian and European ancestry). Moreover, the Spaniards who led the colo-
nization effort in the Southwest failed to produce settlements with self-
sustaining economies. Instead, the Spanish concentrated on building
Catholic missions and forts and looking—in vain—for gold. Whereas the
French and the English based their Indian policies on trade (which included
supplying Indians with firearms), Spain emphasized the conversion of
indigenous peoples to Catholicism, forbade manufacturing within its
colonies, and strictly limited trade with the Indians.
NEW FRANCE French settlements in the New World differed consider-
ably from both the Spanish and the English models. The French settlers were
predominantly male but much smaller in number than the English and
Spanish settlers. Although the population of France was three times that
of Spain, only about 40,000 French came to the New World during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This forced the French to develop
cooperative relationships with the Indians. Unlike the English colonists, the
French typically established fur-trading outposts rather than farms, mostly
along the St. Lawrence River, on land not claimed by Indians. They thus did
not have to confront initial hostility from Indians; they lived among them.
French traders sometimes served as mediators among rival Great Lakes
tribes. This diplomatic role gave them much more influence among the
Indians than their English counterparts had.
French settlement of North America began when the enterprising Samuel de
Champlain landed on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in 1603 and, two
years later, at Port Royal, Acadia, in Canada. In 1608, a year after the English
landed at Jamestown, Champlain led another expedition, during which he
founded Quebec. While Acadia remained a remote outpost, New France
expanded well beyond Quebec, from which Champlain pushed his explo-
rations up the great river and into the Great Lakes as far as Lake Huron, and
southward to the lake that still bears his name. There, in 1609, he joined a band
of Huron and Algonquian allies in a fateful encounter. When an Iroquois war
party attacked Champlain’s group, the French explorer shot and killed two
chiefs, and the Indians fled. The episode ignited in the Iroquois a hatred for the
French that the English would capitalize upon. The vengeful Iroquois stood as a
buffer against French plans to move southward from Canada toward the Eng-
lish colonies and as a constant menace on the flank of the French waterways to
the interior. For over a century, in fact, Indians determined the military balance
of power within North America. In 1711 the governor general of New France
declared that “the Iroquois are more to be feared than the English colonies.”
Until his death, in 1635, Champlain governed New France under a trading
company that won a profitable monopoly of the huge fur trade. But a provi-
sion that limited the population to French Catholics stunted the growth of
New France. Neither the enterprising, seafaring Huguenots (Protestants) of
coastal France nor foreigners of any faith were allowed to populate the coun-
try. New France therefore remained a scattered patchwork of dependent
peasants, Jesuit missionaries, priests, soldiers, officials, and coureurs de bois
(literally, “runners of the woods”), who roamed the interior in quest of furs.
In 1663, King Louis XIV changed New France into a royal colony and dis-
patched new settlers, including shiploads of young women. The government
provided tools and livestock for farmers and nets for fishermen. The popula-
tion grew from about 4,000 in 1665 to about 15,000 in 1690.
FRENCH LOUI S I ANA From the Great Lakes, French explorers moved
southward down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. They named
the vast area along the mighty river Louisiana, after King Louis XIV. Settlement
166

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
of the Louisiana country finally began in 1699, when Pierre Le Moyne,
sieur d’Iberville, established a colony near Biloxi, Mississippi. The main set-
tlement then moved to Mobile Bay and, in 1710, to the present site of
Mobile, Alabama. For nearly half a century the driving force in Louisiana
was Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, a younger brother of
Iberville. Bienville arrived with settlers in 1699, when he was only nineteen,
and left the colony for the last time in 1743, when he was sixty-three. Some-
times called the Father of Louisiana, he served periodically as governor, and
in 1718 he founded New Orleans, which shortly thereafter became the capi-
tal. Louisiana, first a French royal colony, then a proprietary colony, and then
a corporate colony, again became a royal province in 1731.
“France in America had two heads,” the historian Francis Parkman wrote,
“one amid the snows of Canada, the other amid the canebrakes of Lou isiana.”
The French thus had one enormous advantage over their English rivals: access to
the great inland rivers that led to the heartland of the continent. In the Illi-
nois region, scattered French settlers began farming the fertile soil, and
Jesuits established missions at places such as Terre Haute (High Land) and
Des Moines (Some Monks). Because of geography as well as deliberate policy,
however, French America remained largely a vast wilderness traversed by a
mobile population of traders, trappers, missionaries—and, mainly, Indians.
In 1750, when the English colonials numbered about 1.5 million, the total
French population was no more than 80,000. Yet in some ways the French had
Troubled Neighbors

167
Champlain in New France
Samuel de Champlain firing at a group of Iroquois, killing two chiefs (1609).
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English possessions
THE FRENCH IN NORTH AMERICA
French possessions
Spanish possessions
Disputed territory
Marquette and Jolliet’s route, 1673
La Salle’s route, 1682
Where were the largest French settlements in North America? How were they differ-
ent from the Spanish and English colonies? Describe the French colonization of
Louisiana.
the edge on the British. They offered European goods to Indians in return for
furs and encroached far less upon indigenous lands. They thereby won Native
American allies against the English. French governors could mobilize for
action without any worry about rebellious colonial assemblies or ethnic and
religious diversity. The British may have had the greater population, but their
separate colonies often worked at cross-purposes.
THE COLONI AL WARS
For most of the seventeenth century, the Spanish, French, Dutch, and
British empires in North America developed in relative isolation from each
other. By the end of the century, however, the rivalries among the European
nations began to spill over into the Americas. The Glorious Revolution of
1688 worked an abrupt reversal in English diplomacy, as the new King
William III, a Protestant, was an ardent foe of Catholic France’s Louis XIV.
William’s ties to the Netherlands and England helped to form a Grand
Alliance of European nations against the French in a transatlantic war
known in the American colonies as King William’s War (1689–1697).
The Colonial Wars

169
Jesuits in New France
Founded in 1539, the Jesuits sought to covert Indians to Catholicism, in part to
make them more reliable trading and military partners.
King William’s War was the first
of four great wars fought in
Europe and the colonies over the
next seventy-four years. In each
case, England and its European
allies were aligned against Catholic
France or Spain and their allies. By
far the most significant of the four
conflicts was the last one, the
Seven Years’ War (called in North
America the French and Indian
War, which in fact lasted nine
years in America, from 1754 to
1763). In all four of the wars
except the Seven Years’ War, the
battles in America were but a
sideshow accompanying massive
warfare in Europe. Although the
wars involved many nations,
including Indian tribes on both
sides, they centered on the implaca-
ble struggle for global supremacy
between the British and the French, a struggle that ended up profoundly shift-
ing the international balance of power among the great powers of Europe. By
the end of the eighteenth century, Spain would be in decline, while France and
Great Britain fought for supremacy.
The prolonged international warfare during the eighteenth century had a
devastating effect on New England, especially Massachusetts, for it was clos-
est to the battlefields of French Canada. The wars also had profound conse-
quences for England that would reshape the contours of its relationship with
America. Great Britain emerged from the wars as the most powerful nation in
the world, solidifying its control over Ireland and Scotland in the process.
International commerce became even more essential to the expanding British
Empire, thus making the American colonies even more strategically signifi-
cant. The wars with France led the English government to build a huge navy
and massive army, which created an enormous government debt that led to
new efforts to wring more government revenue from the British people. Dur-
ing the early eighteenth century, the changes in English financial policy and
political culture led critics in Parliament to charge that traditional liberties
were being usurped by a tyrannical central government. After the French and
Indian War, American colonists began making the same point.
170

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
From La Roque’s Encyclopédie des Voyages
An Iroquois warrior in an eighteenth-
century French engraving.
THE FRENCH AND I NDI AN WAR The French and Indian War was
the climactic conflict between Britain and France in North America. It was
sparked by competing claims over the ancestral Indian lands in the sprawl-
ing Ohio River valley, the “most fertile country of America.” Indians, Vir-
ginians, Pennsylvanians, and the French in Canada had long squabbled over
who owned the region. In the early 1750s enterprising Virginians, including
George Washington’s two half-brothers, had formed the Ohio Company, a
business venture to develop some 200,000 acres in western Pennsylvania.
The incursion by the Virginians infuriated the French. Like the British, they
believed that whoever controlled the “Ohio Country” would control North
America, and that the area’s Indians would determine the military balance of
power. Both nations recruited Indian tribes as allies.
To defend their interests in the Ohio River valley, the French built forts in
what is now western Pennsylvania. When the Virginia governor learned of
the French fortifications, he sent an ambitious twenty-one-year-old Virginia
militia officer, Major George Washington, to warn the French to leave the
area. With an experienced guide and a few others, Washington made his way
by horseback, foot, canoe, and raft the 450 miles to Fort Le Boeuf (just south
of Lake Erie, in northwest Pennsylvania) in late 1753. He gave the French
commander a note from the Virginia governor demanding that the French
withdraw from the Ohio Country. After the French captain rejected the
request, Washington trudged home through deepening snow, having accom-
plished nothing despite “as fatiguing a journey as it is possible to conceive.”
In the spring of 1754, Washington led 150 inexperienced volunteers and
Iroquois allies back across the Alleghenies. Their mission was to build a fort
at the convergence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers (where
the city of Pittsburgh later developed). After two months of difficult travel,
Washington learned that French soldiers had beaten him to the strategic site
and erected Fort Duquesne, named for the French governor of Canada.
Washington decided to make camp about forty miles from the fort and await
reinforcements. The next day, the Virginians ambushed a French scouting
party. Ten French soldiers were killed, including the commander, and twenty-
one were captured. The Indians tomahawked and scalped several of the
wounded soldiers as a stunned Washington looked on. The mutilated soldiers
were the first fatalities in what would become the French and Indian War.
George Washington and his troops, reinforced by more Virginians and
British soldiers dispatched from South Carolina, hastily constructed a stockade
at Great Meadows, dubbed Fort Necessity, which a large force of vengeful
French soldiers attacked during a rainstorm a month later, on July 3, 1754. After
a daylong battle, Washington surrendered, having seen a third of his 300 men
killed or wounded. France was now in undisputed control of the Ohio Country.
The Colonial Wars

171
George Washington’s blundering expedition triggered a series of events that
would ignite a protracted world war. As a British politician exclaimed, “the volley
fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.”
THE ALBANY CONGRES S In London, government officials already
had taken notice of the conflict in the backwoods of North America and had
called commissioners from all the colonies as far south as Maryland to a
meeting in Albany, New York, to confer about the growing tensions with the
French and with Indian tribes in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.
The Albany Congress (June 19–July 10, 1754), which was meeting when the
first shots sounded at Great Meadows, ended with little accomplished. The
172

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
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Boston
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MASSACHUSETTS
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NEW HAMPSHIRE
MAINE
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CONNECTICUT
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NEW YORK
PENNSYLVANIA
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CAPE
BRETON
ISLAND
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C A N A D A
Braddock, 1755
Washington, 1754
Amherst, 1759
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1
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9

MAJOR CAMPAIGNS OF THE
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
Battle site
AT L A N T I C
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Potomac River
What was the significance of the siege of Fort Necessity? What was the Plan of Union?
How did the three-pronged offensive of 1759 lead to a British victory in North America?
congress is remembered mainly for its bold Plan of Union, worked out by a
committee led by Benjamin Franklin. The innovative plan called for a cen-
tral colonial government led by a chief executive as well as a legislature with
forty-eight members chosen by the colonial assemblies. This federal body
would oversee matters of defense, Indian relations, and trade and settlement
in the West, and it would levy taxes to support its programs. It must have
been a good plan, Franklin reasoned, because the various assemblies
thought it gave too much power to the Crown, and the Crown thought it
gave too much freedom to the colonies. At any rate, the colonial assemblies
either rejected or ignored it. Franklin later mused that had the Albany Plan
of Union been adopted, there may never have been a need for the American
Revolution. Franklin’s proposal, however, did have a lasting significance in
that it would be the model for the form of governance (Articles of Confeder-
ation) created by the Continental Congress in 1777.
RI S I NG TENS I ONS In London the government decided to force a
showdown with the “presumptuous” French in North America. In June 1755
a British fleet captured the French forts on Nova Scotia along the Atlantic
coast of Canada and expelled thousands of Roman Catholic residents, called
Acadians. The Acadians were put on ships and scattered throughout the
colonies, from Maine to Georgia. Hundreds of them eventually found their
The Colonial Wars

173
The first American political cartoon
Benjamin Franklin’s exhortation to the colonies to unite
against the French in 1754 would become popular again
twenty years later, when the colonies faced a different threat.
way to French Louisiana, where they became the Cajuns (a corruption of
Acadians), many of whose descendants still speak French.
In 1755 the British government also dispatched over a thousand troops to
Virginia to dislodge the French from the Ohio Country. The arrival of
unprecedented numbers of “redcoat” soldiers on American soil would
change the dynamics of British North America. Although the colonists
endorsed the use of force against the French, they later would oppose the use
of British soldiers to enforce colonial regulations.
BRADDOCK’ S DEFEAT The British commander in chief of North
American operations, Major General Edward Braddock, was a seasoned,
stubborn, overconfident officer. Neither he nor his troops had any experience
fighting in the American wilderness. The imperious Braddock viewed Indi-
ans with contempt, and his cocksure ignorance would prove fatal. With the
addition of some colonial troops, including George Washington as a volun-
teer, Braddock’s force hacked a 125-mile road through the rugged mountains
from the upper Potomac River in Maryland to the vicinity of Fort Duquesne.
Braddock’s army was on the verge of success when, on July 9, 1755, six miles
from Fort Duquesne, their failure to recruit Indian scouts led them into an
ambush. The surrounding woods suddenly came alive with Ojibwas and
French militiamen. Beset on three sides by concealed enemies, the British
troops—dressed in bright-red woolen uniforms in the summer heat—stood
their ground for most of the afternoon before retreating in disarray. General
Braddock was mortally wounded. George Washington, his own coat riddled
by four bullets, helped other officers contain the rout and lead a hasty retreat.
Though they lost 23 of their own, the French and their Native American
allies killed 63 of 86 British officers (including Braddock), 914 out of 1,373
soldiers, and captured the British cannons, supplies, and secret papers. It
was one of the worst British defeats of the eighteenth century. Twelve of the
wounded British soldiers left behind on the battlefield were stripped, bound,
and burned at the stake by Indians. A devastated George Washington wrote
his brother that the British army had “been scandalously beaten by a trifling
body of men.” The vaunted redcoats “broke & run as sheep before Hounds,”
but the Virginians “behaved like Men and died like Soldiers.”
A WORLD WAR Braddock’s stunning defeat sent shock waves through
the colonies. Emboldened by the news, Indians allied with the French
launched widespread assaults on frontier farms throughout western Penn-
sylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, burning houses and barns, and killing or
capturing hundreds of men, women, and children. Newly arrived French
174

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
troops assaulted British garrisons along the Great Lakes. It was not until May
1756, however, that England and France formally declared war on each
other, and the French and Indian War in America bled into what would
become the Seven Years’ War in Europe. A truly world war, it would eventu-
ally be fought on four continents and three oceans around the globe. The
onset of war brought into office a new British government, with the elo-
quent William Pitt as prime minister. His exceptional ability and self-
assurance matched his towering ego. “I know that I can save England and no
one else can,” he announced. His jaunty bluntness instilled confidence at
home and abroad.
Pitt decided that North America should be the primary battleground in
the world war with France. He eventually mobilized some 45,000 British
troops in Canada and America, half of whom were American colonists. In
1759 the French and Indian War reached its climax with a series of resound-
ing British triumphs on land and at sea around the world. The most decisive
British victory was at Quebec, the gateway to Canada. Thereafter, the war in
North America dragged on until 1763, but the rest was a process of mopping
up. In the South, where little significant action had occurred, belated fight-
ing flared up between the Carolina settlers and the Cherokee Nation. A force
of British regulars and colonial militia broke Cherokee resistance in 1761.
On October 25, 1760, King George II, as was his habit, arose at 6 A.M.,
drank his morning chocolate, and then died on his toilet as the result of a
ruptured artery. The twenty-two-year-old, inexperienced grandson he des -
pised thereupon ascended the throne
as George III. Initially timid and
insecure, the boyish king soon proved
himself to be a strong leader. He
quickly dismissed the inner circle of
politicians who had dominated his
grandfather’s reign and replaced them
with a compliant group called the
“king’s friends.” He then oversaw the
military defeat of France and Spain
and the signing of a magisterial peace
treaty that made Great Britain the
ruler of an enormous world empire
and a united kingdom brimming with
confidence and pride. No nation in
1763 was larger or richer or militarily
as strong.
The Colonial Wars

175
George III
At age thirty-three, the young king of a
victorious empire.
THE TREATY OF PARI S The Treaty of Paris, signed in February 1763,
brought an end to the world war and to the French Empire in North Amer-
ica. In winning the long war against France and Spain, Great Britain had
gained a vast global empire. Victorious Britain took all of France’s North
American possessions east of the Mississippi River: all of Canada and all of
what was then called Spanish Florida (including much of present-day
Alabama and Mississippi).
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0
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England
NORTH AMERICA, 1713
France
Spain
What events led to the first clashes between the French and the British in the late
seventeenth century? Why did New England suffer more than other regions of North
America during the wars of the eighteenth century? What were the long-term finan-
cial, military, and political consequences of the wars between France and Britain?
In compensation for its loss of Florida in the Treaty of Paris, Spain
received the vast Louisiana Territory (including New Orleans and all French
land west of the Mississippi River) from France. Unlike the Spanish in
Florida, however, few of the French settlers left Louisiana after 1763. The
French government encouraged the settlers to work with their new Spanish
governors to create a Catholic bulwark against further English expansion.
Spain would hold title to Louisiana for nearly four decades but would never
succeed in erasing the territory’s French roots. The French-born settlers
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177
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England
NORTH AMERICA, 1763
Spain
Proclamation line
of 1763
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CUBA
HAITI
(France)
GUADELOUPE
(France)
MARTINIQUE
(France)
HISPANIOLA
EAST
FLORIDA
WEST
FLORIDA
H U D S O N ’ S B A Y
C O M P A N Y
RUSSIANS
NEW
GRANADA
NEW
GRANADA
BRITISH
HONDURAS
OREGON
Disputed by
Russia and Spain
0
0 500 1000 Kilometers
500 1000 Miles
How did the map of North America change between 1713 and 1763? How did Spain
win Louisiana? What were the consequences of the British winning all the land east
of the Mississippi?
always outnumbered the Spanish. The loss of Louisiana left France with no
territory on the continent. British power reigned supreme over North Amer-
ica east of the Mississippi River.
The triumph in what England called the Great War saw Americans cele-
brating as joyously as Londoners in 1763. Colonists were proud members of
the vast new British Empire. Most Americans, as Benjamin Franklin
explained, “submitted willingly to the government of the Crown.” He him-
self proudly proclaimed, “I am a Briton.”
But Britain’s spectacular military success also created future problems.
Humiliated France thirsted for revenge against an “arrogant” Britain. Vic-
tory was also costly. Britain’s national debt doubled during the war. The
cost of maintaining the North American empire, including the permanent
stationing of British soldiers in the colonies, was staggering. Simply taking
over the string of French forts along the Great Lakes and in the Ohio and
Mississippi river valleys would require 10,000 additional British soldiers.
Even more soldiers would be needed to manage the rising tensions gener-
ated by continuing white encroachment into Indian lands in the trans-
Appalachian West. And the victory required that Britain devise ways to
administer (and finance the supervision of ) half a billion acres of new colo-
nial territory. How were the vast, fertile lands (taken from Indians) in the
Ohio Country to be “pacified” of Indian conflict, exploited, settled, and
governed? The British may have won a global empire as a result of the Seven
Years’ War, but their grip on the American colonies would grow ever weaker
as the years passed.
MANAGI NG A NEW EMPI RE No sooner was the Treaty of Paris
signed than King George III set about reducing the huge national debt
caused by the prolonged world war. In 1763 the average Briton paid 26
shillings a year in taxes; the average American colonist paid only one
shilling. The British government’s efforts to force colonists to pay their share
of the financial burden set in motion a chain of events that would lead to
revolution and independence. That Americans bristled at efforts to get them
to pay their “fair share” of the military expenses led British officials to view
them as selfish and self-centered. At the same time, the colonists who fought
in the French and Indian War and celebrated the British victory soon grew
perplexed at why the empire they served, loved, and helped to secure seemed
determined to treat them as “slaves” rather than citizens. “It is truly a miser-
able thing,” said a Connecticut minister in December 1763, “that we no
sooner leave fighting our neighbors, the French, but we must fall to quarrel-
ing among ourselves.”
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FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
PONTI AC’ S REBELLI ON American colonists were rabid expansion-
ists. With the French out of the way and vast new western lands to exploit,
they looked to the future with confidence. Already the population of America
in 1763 was a third the size of Great Britain’s—and was growing more
rapidly. No sooner had the Seven Years’ War ended than land speculators
began squabbling over disputed claims to sprawling tracts of Indian–owned
land west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Peace of Paris did not in fact bring peace to North America. News of
the treaty settlement devastated those Indians who had been allied with the
French. Their lands were being given over to the British without consultation.
The Shawnees, for instance, demanded to know “by what right the French
could pretend” to transfer their ancestral lands to the British. In a desperate
effort to recover their lands, Indians struck back in the spring of 1763, cap-
turing most of the British forts around the Great Lakes and in the Ohio River
valley—and killing hundreds of British soldiers in the process. They also
raided colonial settlements in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, destroy-
ing hundreds of homesteads and killing several thousand people.
The widespread Indian attacks in the spring and summer of 1763 came to
be called Pontiac’s Rebellion because of the prominent role played by the
charismatic Ottawa chieftain. The attacks convinced most colonists that all
Indians must be killed or removed. The British government took a different
stance, negotiating an agreement with the Indians that allowed redcoats to
reoccupy the frontier forts in exchange for a renewal of the generous trading
and gift giving long practiced by the French. Still, as Chief Pontiac stressed,
the Indians denied the legitimacy of the British claim to their territory under
the terms of the Treaty of Paris. He told a British official that the “French
never conquered us, neither did they purchase a foot of our Country, nor
have they a right to give it to you.”
To keep peace with the Indians, King George III issued the Proclamation
of 1763, which drew an imaginary line along the crest of the Appalachian
Mountains from Canada in the north to Georgia in the south, beyond which
white settlers (“our loving subjects”) were forbidden to go. For the first time,
American territorial expansion was to be controlled by royal officials—and
10,000 British soldiers were dispatched to the frontier to enforce the new
rule. Yet the proclamation line was ineffective. Land-hungry settlers defied
the prohibitions and pushed across the Appalachian ridges into Indian
country. The Proclamation of 1763 was the first of a series of efforts by the
British government to more effectively regulate the American colonies. Little
did the king and his ministers know that their efforts at efficiency would
spawn a revolution.
The Colonial Wars

179
REGULATI NG THE COLONI ES
GRENVI LLE’ S COLONI AL POLI CY Just as the Proclamation of
1763 was being drafted, a new British ministry had begun to grapple with
the complex problems of imperial finances. The new chief minister, George
Grenville, was a strong-willed accountant whose humorless self-assurance
verged on pomposity. King George III came to despise him, but the king
needed the dogged Grenville because they agreed on the need to cut govern-
ment expenses, reduce the national debt, and generate more revenue from
the colonies.
In developing new policies regulating the American colonies, Grenville
took for granted the need for British soldiers to defend the western frontier.
Because the average Briton paid twenty-six times the average annual taxes
paid by Americans (the “least taxed people in the world”), Grenville—and
most other Britons—reasoned that the “spoiled” Americans should share
more of the cost of the troops providing their defense. He also resented the
large number of American merchants who defied British trade regulations
by engaging in rampant smuggling. So Grenville ordered to colonial officials
to tighten the enforcement of the Navigation Acts, and he dispatched war-
ships to capture American smugglers. He also set up a new maritime, or
vice-admiralty, court in the Canadian port of Halifax, granting its single
judge jurisdiction over all the American colonies and ensuring that there
would be no juries of colonists sympathetic to smugglers. Under Grenville,
the period of “salutary neglect” in the enforcement of the Navigation Acts
was abruptly coming to an end, causing American merchants (and smug-
glers) great annoyance.
Strict enforcement of the Molasses Act of 1733 posed a serious threat to
New England’s prosperity. Making rum from molasses, a syrup derived from
sugarcane, was quite profitable. Grenville recognized that the long-neglected
molasses tax, if enforced, would devastate a major colonial industry. So he
put through the American Revenue Act of 1764, commonly known as the
Sugar Act, which cut the duty on molasses in half. Reducing the duty, he
believed, would reduce the temptation to smuggle or to bribe customs offi-
cers. But the Sugar Act also levied new duties on imports into America of
textiles, wine, coffee, indigo, and sugar. The new revenues generated by the
Sugar Act, Grenville estimated, would help defray “the necessary expenses of
defending, protecting, and securing, the said colonies and plantations.”
The Sugar Act was momentous. For the first time, Parliament had
adopted so-called external duties designed to raise revenues in the colonies
and not merely intended to regulate trade. As such, it was an example of Par-
180

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
liament trying to “tax” the colonists without their consent. Critics of the
Sugar Act pointed out that British subjects could only be taxed by their
elected representatives in Parliament. Because the colonists had no elected
representatives in Parliament, the argument went, Parliament had no right
to impose taxes on them.
Another of Grenville’s regulatory measures, the Currency Act of 1764,
originated in the complaints of London merchants about doing business
with Americans, especially Virginians. The colonies had long faced a chronic
shortage of “hard” money (gold and silver coins, called specie), which kept
flowing overseas to pay debts in England. To meet the shortage of specie,
they issued their own paper money or, as in the case of Virginia planters,
used tobacco as a form of currency. British creditors feared payment in a
currency of such fluctuating value, however. To alleviate their fears,
Grenville prohibited the colonies from printing more paper money. This
caused the value of existing paper money to plummet. As a Philadelphia
newspaper lamented, “The Times are Dreadful, Dismal, Doleful, Dolorous,
and DOLLAR-LESS.” The deflationary impact of the Currency Act, com-
bined with new duties on commodities and stricter enforcement, jolted a
colonial economy already suffering a postwar decline and a surge in popula-
tion, many of them new immigrants—mostly poor, young, male, and hungry
for opportunity. This surge of enterprising people could not be contained
within the boundaries of the existing colonies—or by royal decrees.
THE S TAMP ACT As prime minister, George Grenville excelled at doing
the wrong thing—repeatedly. The Sugar Act, for example, did not produce
additional net revenue for Great Britain. Its administrative costs were four
times greater than the additional revenue it generated. Yet Grenville com-
pounded the problem by pushing through an even more provocative measure
to raise money in America: a stamp tax. On February 13, 1765, Parliament
passed the Stamp Act, which created revenue stamps to be purchased and
affixed to every form of printed matter used in the colonies: newspapers,
pamphlets, bonds, leases, deeds, licenses, insurance policies, college diplo-
mas, even playing cards. The requirement was to go into effect November 1,
nine months later. The Stamp Act affected all the colonists, not just New Eng-
land merchants, and it was the first outright effort by Parliament to place a
direct—or “internal”—tax specifically on American goods and services
rather than an “external” tax on imports and exports—all for the purpose of
generating revenue for the British treasury rather than regulating trade.
That same year, Grenville completed his new system of colonial regula-
tions when he persuaded Parliament to pass the Quartering Act. In effect it
Regulating the Colonies

181
was yet another tax. The Quartering Act required the colonies to feed and
house British troops. It applied to all colonies but affected mainly New York
City, the headquarters of the British forces. The new act raised troubling
questions in the colonies. Why was it necessary for British soldiers to be sta-
tioned in colonial cities in peacetime? Was not the Quartering Act another
example of taxation without representation, as the colonies had neither
requested the troops nor been asked their opinion on the matter? Some
colonists decided that the Quartering Act was an effort to use British soldiers
to tyrannize the Americans.
THE I DEOLOGI CAL RES PONS E Grenville’s revenue measures out-
raged Americans. Unwittingly, he had stirred up a storm of protest and set in
motion a profound exploration of colonial rights and imperial relations.
From the start of English settlement in America, free colonists had come to
take for granted certain essential principles and practices: self-government,
religious freedom, economic opportunity, and territorial expansion. All of
those deeply embedded values seemed threatened by Britain’s efforts to
tighten its control over the colonies after 1763. The tensions between the
colonies and mother country began to take on moral and spiritual overtones
associated with the old Whig principle that no Englishman could be taxed
without his consent through representative government. Americans opposed
to English policies began to call themselves true Whigs and label the king
and his “corrupt” ministers as “Tories.”
In 1764 and 1765, American Whigs decided that Grenville was imposing
upon them the very chains of tyranny from which Parliament had rescued
England in the seventeenth century. A standing army—rather than a militia—
was the historic ally of despots, yet now with the French defeated and
Canada under English control, thousands of British soldiers remained in the
colonies. For what purpose—to protect the colonists or to subdue them?
Other factors heightened colonial anxiety. Among the fundamental rights of
English people were trial by jury and the presumption of innocence, but the
new admiralty court in Halifax excluded juries and put the burden of proof
on the defendant. Most important, English citizens had the right to be taxed
only by their elected representatives. Now, however, Parliament was usurp-
ing the colonial assemblies’ power of the purse strings. This could lead only
to tyranny and enslavement, critics argued. Sir Francis Bernard, the royal
governor of Massachusetts, correctly predicted that the new stamp tax
“would cause a great Alarm & meet much Opposition” in the colonies.
Indeed, the seed of American independence was planted by the fiery debates
over the stamp tax.
182

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
PROTEST I N THE COLONI ES The Stamp Act aroused a ferocious
response among the colonists. In a flood of pamphlets, speeches, and resolu-
tions, critics repeated a slogan familiar to all Americans: “no taxation without
representation.” A Connecticut minister attributed the Stamp Act to a “selfish
and venal spirit of corruption” that required more revenue solely “to add fuel
to ungodly lusts . . . all manner of unrighteousness and oppression, debauch-
ery and wickedness.” Through the spring and summer of 1765, resentment
boiled over at meetings, parades, bonfires, and other demonstrations. The
protesters, calling themselves Sons of Liberty, met underneath “liberty
trees”—in Boston a great elm; in Charleston, South Carolina, a live oak.
In mid-August 1765, nearly three months before the Stamp Act was to
take effect, a Boston mob sacked the homes of the lieutenant governor and
the local customs officer in charge of enforcing the stamp tax. Thoroughly
shaken, the Boston stamp agent resigned, and stamp agents throughout the
colonies were hounded out of office. By November 1, its effective date, the
Stamp Act was a dead letter. Colonists by the thousands signed nonimporta-
tion agreements, promising not to buy imported British goods as a means of
exerting leverage in London.
Regulating the Colonies

183
Opposition to the Stamp Act
In protest of the Stamp Act, which was to take effect the next day, The Pennsylva-
nia Journal printed a skull and crossbones on its masthead.
The widespread protests involved courageous women as well as men, and
the boycotts of British goods encouraged colonial unity as Americans dis-
covered that they had more in common with each other than with London.
The Virginia House of Burgesses struck the first blow against the Stamp Act
with the Virginia Resolves, a series of resolutions inspired by the ardent
young Patrick Henry. Virginians, the burgesses declared, were entitled to all
the rights of Englishmen, and Englishmen could be taxed only by their own
elected representatives. Virginians, moreover, had always been governed by
laws passed with their own consent. Newspapers spread the Virginia
Resolves throughout the colonies, and other assemblies hastened to copy
Virginia’s example.
In 1765 the Massachusetts House of Representatives invited the other
colonial assemblies to send delegates to confer in New York about their
opposition to the Stamp Act. Nine responded, and from October 7 to 25,
1765, the Stamp Act Congress formulated a Declaration of the Rights and
Grievances of the Colonies. The delegates acknowledged that the colonies
184

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
The Repeal, or the Funeral Procession of Miss America-Stamp
This 1766 cartoon shows Grenville carrying the dead Stamp Act in its coffin. In the
background, trade with America starts up again.
owed a “due subordination” to Parliament and recognized its right to regu-
late colonial trade, but they insisted “that no taxes should be imposed on
them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representa-
tives.” Parliament, in other words, had no right to levy taxes on people who
were unrepresented in that body. The bonds connecting colonies and
Mother Country were splaying. “The boldness of the minister [Grenville]
amazes our people,” wrote a New Yorker. “This single stroke has lost Great
Britain the affection of all of her Colonies.” Grenville responded by
denouncing colonial critics as “ungrateful.”
REPEAL OF THE S TAMP ACT The storm had scarcely broken before
Grenville’s ministry was out of office and the Stamp Act was repealed. For
reasons unrelated to his colonial policies, Grenville had lost the confidence
of the king, who replaced Grenville with Lord Rockingham, a leader of a
Whig faction critical of Grenville’s colonial policies. Pressure from British
merchants who feared the economic consequences of the colonial non -
importation movement convinced the Rockingham-led government that
the Stamp Act was a mistake. The prime minister asked Parliament to
rescind the Stamp Act. In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Tax but at the
same time passed the Declaratory Act, which asserted the power of Parlia-
ment to make laws binding the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” It was a
cunning evasion that made no concession with regard to taxes but made no
mention of them either. For the moment, however, the Declaratory Act was a
face-saving gesture. News of the repeal of the Stamp Act set off excited
demonstrations throughout the colonies. Amid the rejoicing and relief on
both sides of the Atlantic, few expected that the quarrel between Britain and
its American colonies would be reopened within a year.
FANNI NG THE FLAMES
Meanwhile, King George III continued to play musical chairs with his
prime ministers. In July 1766 the king replaced Rockingham with William
Pitt, the former prime minister who had exercised heroic leadership during
the French and Indian War. Alas, by the time he returned as prime minister,
Pitt was so mentally unstable that he deferred policy decisions to the other
cabinet members. For a time in 1767, the guiding force in the ministry was
the witty but reckless Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer (trea-
sury), whose “abilities were superior to those of all men,” said a colleague,
“and his judgment below that of any man.” Like George Grenville before
Fanning the Flames

185
him, Townshend held the “factious and turbulent” Americans in contempt,
was surprised by their resistance, and resolved to force their obedience. The
erratic Townshend reopened the question of colonial taxation and the more
fundamental issue of Parliament’s absolute sovereignty over the colonies. He
took advantage of Pitt’s debilitating mental confusion to enact a new series
of money-generating policies aimed at the American colonies.
THE TOWNS HEND ACTS In 1767, Townshend put his ill-fated rev-
enue plan through the House of Commons, and a few months later he died
at age forty-two, leaving behind a bitter legacy: the Townshend Acts. With
this legislation, Townshend had sought first to bring New York’s colonial
assembly to its senses. That body had defied the Quartering Act and refused
to provide beds or supplies for British troops. Parliament, at Townshend’s
behest, had suspended all acts of New York’s assembly until it would yield.
New Yorkers protested but finally caved in, inadvertently confirming the
British suspicion that too much indulgence had encouraged colonial bad
manners. Townshend had followed up with the Revenue Act of 1767, which
levied duties on colonial imports of glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. The
Townshend duties increased government revenues, but the intangible costs
were greater. The duties taxed goods exported from England, indirectly
hurting British manufacturers, and had to be collected in colonial ports,
increasing collection costs. But the highest cost came in the form of added
conflict with the colonists. The Revenue Act of 1767 posed a more severe
threat to colonial assemblies than Grenville’s taxes had, for Townshend pro-
posed to use these revenues to pay colonial governors and other officers and
thereby release them from financial dependence upon the assemblies.
The Townshend Acts surprised and angered the colonists, but this time
the storm gathered more slowly than it had two years before. Once again,
colonial activists, including a growing number of women calling themselves
Daughters of Liberty, resolved to resist. They boycotted the purchase of
imported British goods, made their own clothes (“homespun”), and devel-
oped their own manufactures. While boycotting direct commerce with Great
Britain, the colonists expanded their trade with the islands in the French
West Indies. The British sought to intercept such trade by increasing their
naval presence off the coast of New England. Their efforts to curtail smug-
gling also included the use of search warrants that allowed British troops to
enter any building during daylight hours.
S AMUEL ADAMS AND THE S ONS OF LI BERTY As American
anger bubbled over, loyalty to the mother country waned. British officials
186

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
could neither conciliate moderates
like Dickinson nor cope with fire-
brands like Samuel Adams of Boston,
who was emerging as the supreme
genius of revolutionary agitation.
Adams became a tireless agitator, whip -
ping up the Sons of Liberty and orga-
nizing protests at the Boston town
meeting and in the provincial assem-
bly. Early in 1768 he and the Boston
attorney James Otis formulated a let-
ter that the Massachusetts assembly
dispatched to the other colonies. The
letter’s tone was polite and logical: it
restated the illegality of taxation with-
out colonial representation in Parlia-
ment and invited the support of other
colonies. British officials ordered the
Massachusetts assembly to withdraw the Adams-Otis letter. The assembly
refused and was dissolved by royal decree. In response to an appeal by the royal
governor, 4,000 British troops were dispatched to Boston in October 1768 to
maintain order. Loyalists, as the Americans who supported the king and Parlia-
ment were called, welcomed the soldiers; Patriots, those rebelling against
British authority, viewed the troops as an occupation force intended to quash
dissent.
In 1769 the Virginia assembly reasserted its exclusive right to tax Virgini-
ans, rather than Parliament, and called upon the colonies to unite in the
cause. Virginia’s royal governor promptly dissolved the assembly, but the
members met independently and adopted a new set of nonimportation
agreements that sparked a remarkably effective boycott of British goods.
Meanwhile, in London the king’s long effort to reorder British politics to
his liking was coming to fulfillment. In 1769 new elections for Parliament
finally produced a majority of the “king’s friends.” And George III found a
new chief minister to his taste in Frederick, Lord North. In 1770 the king
installed a cabinet of the “king’s friends,” with the stout Lord North as first
minister.
THE BOS TON MAS S ACRE By 1770 the American nonimportation
agreements were strangling British trade and causing unemployment in
England. The impact of colonial boycotts had persuaded Lord North to
Fanning the Flames

187
Samuel Adams
Adams was the fiery organizer of the
Sons of Liberty.
modify the Townshend Acts—just in time to halt a perilous escalation
of tensions. The presence of 4,000 British soldiers (“lobster backs”) in
Boston had become a constant provocation. Crowds heckled and ridiculed
the red-coated soldiers, many of whom earned the abuse by harassing and
intimidating colonists.
On March 5, 1770, in the square outside the Boston customhouse, a group
of rowdies began taunting and hurling icicles at the British sentry. His call
for help brought reinforcements. Then someone rang the town fire bell,
drawing a larger crowd to the scene. At their head, or so the story goes, was
Crispus Attucks, a runaway Indian–African American slave. Attucks and
others continued to bait the British troops. Finally, a soldier was knocked
down; he rose to his feet and fired into the crowd, as did others. When the
smoke cleared, five people lay dead or dying, and eight more were wounded.
The cause of colonial resistance now had its first martyrs, and the first to die
188

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
The Bloody Massacre
Paul Revere’s partisan engraving of the Boston Massacre.
was Crispus Attucks. The British soldiers were indicted for murder. John
Adams, Sam’s cousin, was one of the defense attorneys. He insisted that the
accused soldiers were the victims of circumstance, provoked, he said, by a
“motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattoes.” All of the British sol-
diers were acquitted except two, who were convicted of manslaughter and
branded on their thumbs.
The so-called Boston Massacre sent shock waves throughout the
colonies—and to London. Late in April 1770, Parliament repealed all the
Townshend duties except for the tea tax. Angry colonists insisted that pres-
sure be kept on British merchants until Parliament gave in altogether, but
the nonimportation movement soon faded. Parliament, after all, had given
up the substance of the taxes, with one exception, and much of the colonists’
tea was smuggled in from the Netherlands (Holland) anyway.
For two years thereafter, colonial discontent remained at a simmer. The
Stamp Act was gone, as were all the Townshend duties except that on tea. But
most of the Grenville-Townshend innovations remained in effect: the Sugar
Act, the Currency Act, the Quartering Act. The redcoats had left Boston, but
they remained nearby, and the British navy still patrolled the coast. Each
remained a source of irritation and the cause of occasional incidents.
Many colonists showed no interest in the disputes over British regulatory
policies raging along the seaboard. Frontier folks’ complaints centered on
the lack of protection provided by the British. As early as 1763 near Harris-
burg, Pennsylvania, a group of frontier ruffians took the law into their own
hands. Outraged at the unwillingness of Quakers in the Pennsylvania
Assembly to suppress marauding Indians, a group called the Paxton Boys
took revenge by massacring peaceful Susquehannock Indians. Moving east-
ward, the angry Paxton boys chased another group of peaceful Indians from
Bethlehem to Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin talked the Paxton Boys into
returning home by promising more protection along the frontier. Farther
south, settlers in the South Carolina backcountry complained about the lack
of protection from horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and Indians. They organized
societies called Regulators to administer vigilante justice in the region and
refused to pay taxes until they gained effective government. In 1769 the
assembly finally set up six circuit courts in the region and revised the taxes,
but it still did not respond to the backcountry’s demand for representation
in the colonial legislature.
Whether in the urban commercial centers or along the frontier, there was
still tinder awaiting a spark, and the most incendiary colonists were eager to
provide it. As Sam Adams stressed, “Where there is a spark of patriotick fire,
we will enkindle it.”
Fanning the Flames

189
A WORS ENI NG CRI S I S
In 1772 a maritime incident further eroded the colonies’ fragile rela-
tionship with the mother country. Near Providence, Rhode Island, the
Gaspee, a British warship, ran aground while chasing smugglers, and its hun-
gry crew proceeded to commandeer local sheep, hogs, and poultry. An angry
crowd from the town boarded the ship, shot the captain, removed the crew,
and set fire to the vessel. The Gaspee incident reignited tensions between the
colonies and the mother country. Ever the agitator, Sam Adams convinced
the Boston town meeting to form the Committee of Correspondence, which
issued a statement of rights and grievances and invited other towns to do the
same. Similar committees sprang up across Massachusetts and in other
colonies. A Massachusetts Loyalist called the committees “the foulest, sub-
tlest, and most venomous serpent ever issued from the egg of sedition.” The
crisis was escalating. “The flame is kindled and like lightning it catches from
soul to soul,” reported Abigail Adams, the wife of future president John
Adams.
THE BOS TON TEA PARTY Lord North soon provided the colonists
with the occasion to bring resentment from a simmer to a boil. In 1773, he
tried to help some friends bail out the East India Company, which had in its
British warehouses some 17 million pounds of tea it desperately needed to
sell. Under the Tea Act of 1773, the government would allow the grossly
mismanaged company to send its south Asian tea directly to America with-
out paying any duties. British tea merchants could thereby undercut the
prices charged by their colonial competitors, most of whom were smugglers
who bought tea from the Dutch. At the same time, King George III told
Lord North that his job was to “compel obedience” in the colonies; North
ordered British authorities in New England to clamp down on American
smuggling.
The Committees of Correspondence, backed by colonial merchants,
alerted colonists to the new danger. The British government, they said, was
trying to purchase colonial acquiescence with cheap tea. They saw the reduc-
tion in the price of tea as a clever ruse to make them accept taxation without
consent. Before the end of the year, large shipments of tea left Britain for the
major colonial ports. In Boston irate colonists decided that their passion for
liberty outweighed their love for tea. On December 16, 1773, scores of Patri-
ots disguised as Mohawks boarded three British ships and threw the 342
chests of East India Company tea overboard—cheered on by a crowd along
the shore. John Adams applauded the vigilante action. The destruction of
190

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
the disputed tea, he said, was “so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and
inflexible” that it would have “important consequences.” Indeed it did.
The Boston Tea Party pushed British officials to the breaking point. They
had tolerated abuse, evasion, and occasional violence, but the destruction of
so much valuable tea convinced the furious king and his advisers that a firm
response was required. “The colonists must either submit or triumph,”
George III wrote to Lord North, who decided to make an example of Boston
to the rest of the colonies. In the end, however, he helped make a revolution
that would cost England far more than three shiploads of tea.
THE COERCI VE ACTS In 1774 Parliament enacted a cluster of harsh
measures, called the Coercive Acts, intended to punish rebellious Boston.
The Boston Port Act closed the harbor from June 1, 1774, until the city paid
for the lost tea. A new Quartering Act directed local authorities to provide
lodging in the city for British soldiers. Finally, the Massachusetts Govern-
ment Act made all of the colony’s civic officers appointive rather than elec-
tive, declared that sheriffs would select jurors, and stipulated that no town
meeting could be held without the royal governor’s consent. In May,
Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage, commander in chief of British forces in
North America, became governor of Massachusetts and assumed command
of the 4,000 British soldiers in Boston.
A Worsening Crisis

191
The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught
This 1774 engraving shows Lord North, the Boston Port Act in his pocket, pouring
tea down America’s throat and America spitting it back.
The Coercive Acts were designed to isolate Boston from the other
colonies. Instead, they galvanized resistance across the colonies. If these
“Intolerable Acts,” as the colonists labeled the Coercive Acts, were not
resisted, they would eventually be applied to the other colonies. Further con-
firmation of British “tyranny” came with news of the Quebec Act, also
passed in June of 1774. It established a royal governor in Canada with no
representative assembly and abolished the cherished principle of trial by
jury. The Quebec Act also extended the Canadian boundary southward to
include all lands west of the Ohio River and encouraged the Catholic Church
to expand freely throughout the Canadian colony. The measure seemed
merely another indicator of British authoritarianism.
Indignant colonists rallied to the cause of besieged Boston, raising money,
sending provisions, and boycotting, as well as burning, British tea. In
Williamsburg, when the Virginia assembly met in May, a young member of
the Committee of Correspondence, Thomas Jefferson, proposed to set aside
June 1, the effective date of the Boston Port Act, as a day of fasting and
prayer in Virginia. The royal governor immediately dissolved the assembly,
whose members then retired to the Raleigh Tavern and resolved to form a
Continental Congress to represent all the colonies. As George Washington
prepared to leave Virginia to attend the gathering of the First Continental
Congress in Philadelphia, he declared that Boston’s fight against British
tyranny “now is and ever will be considered as the cause of America (not that
we approve their conduct in destroying the Tea).” The alternative, Washing-
ton added in a comment that betrayed his moral blind spot, was to become
“tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway.”
Washington’s reference to slavery revealed the ugly contradiction in the
inflamed rhetoric about American liberties. The colonial leaders who
demanded their freedom from British tyranny were unwilling to give free-
dom to enslaved blacks. Amid the heightened resistance to British tyranny
and the fevered rhetoric about cherished liberties, African Americans in
Boston submitted petitions to the legislature and governor, reminding offi-
cials that they were being “held in slavery in the bowels of a free and Christian
Country.” When the legislature endorsed their cry for freedom, Thomas
Hutchinson, the royal governor, vetoed it. Not to be deterred, slaves in Boston
in September 1774 approached Hutchinson’s successor, General Thomas
Gage, and offered to serve the British army if they would be armed and there-
after awarded their freedom. They stressed that they had “in common with all
other men a natural right to our freedoms.” Gage showed no interest, but the
efforts of slaves to convert American revolutionary ardor into an appeal for
their own freedom struck Abigail Adams as a legitimate cause. She confessed
to her husband John, then serving in Philadelphia with the Continental Con-
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FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
gress, that she found it hypocritical of Revolutionaries to be “daily robbing
and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.”
THE CONTI NENTAL CONGRES S On September 5, 1774, the fifty-
five delegates making up the First Continental Congress assembled in
Philadelphia. Their mission was to assert the rights of the colonies and cre-
ate collective measures to defend them. During seven weeks of meetings, the
Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves, which declared the Coercive
(“Intolerable”) Acts null and void and urged Massachusetts to resist British
tyranny with force. The Congress then adopted a Declaration of American
Rights, which proclaimed once again the rights of Americans as English citi-
zens, denied Parliament’s authority to regulate internal colonial affairs, and
proclaimed the right of each colonial assembly to determine the need for
British troops within its own province.
Finally, the Continental Congress adopted the Continental Association of
1774, which recommended that every community form committees to enforce
an absolute boycott of all imported British goods. These elected committees
became the organizational and communications network for the Revolution-
ary movement, connecting every locality to the leadership and enforcing
public behavior. Seven thousand men across the colonies served on the com-
mittees of the Continental Association. The committees often required
colonists to sign an oath to join the boycotts against British goods. Those who
refused to sign were ostracized and intimidated; some were tarred and feath-
ered. The nonimportation movement of the 1760s and 1770s provided
women with a significant public role. The Daughters of Liberty again resolved
to quit buying imported British apparel and to make their own clothing.
Such efforts to gain economic self-sufficiency helped bind the diverse
colonies by ropes of shared resistance. Thousands of ordinary men and
women participated in the boycott of British goods, and their sacrifices on
behalf of colonial liberties provided the momentum leading to revolution.
For all of the attention given to colonial leaders such as Sam Adams and
Thomas Jefferson, it was common people who enforced the boycott, volun-
teered in “Rebel” militia units, attended town meetings, and increasingly
exerted pressure on royal officials in the colonies. The “Founding Fathers” (a
phrase coined in 1916) could not have led the Revolutionary movement
without such widespread popular support. As the people of Pittsfield, Mass-
achusetts, declared in a petition, “We have always believed that the people
are the fountain of power.”
In London the king fumed. He wrote Lord North that “blows must decide”
whether the Americans “are to be subject to this country or independent.” In
early 1775, Parliament declared that Massachusetts was “in rebellion” and
A Worsening Crisis

193
prohibited the New England
colonies from trading with any
nation outside the empire. There
would be no negotiation with the
rebellious Continental Congress;
force was the only option. British
military leaders assured the king
that the colonies could not mount
a significant armed resistance. On
February 27, 1775, Lord North
issued a Conciliatory Proposition,
sent to the individual colonies
rather than the unrecognized
Continental Congress. It offered
to resolve the festering dispute by
eliminating all revenue-generating
taxes on any colony that voluntar-
ily paid both its share for military
defense and the salaries of the
royal governors.
But the colonial militants were in no mood for reconciliation. In March
1775, Virginia’s leading rebels met to discuss their options. While most of
the Patriots believed that Britain would relent in the face of united colonial
resistance, the theatrical Patrick Henry decided that war was imminent. He
urged Patriots to prepare for combat. The twenty-nine-year-old Henry, a
former farmer and storekeeper turned lawyer who fathered eighteen chil-
dren, claimed that the colonies “have done everything that could be done to
avert the storm which is now coming on,” but their efforts had been met only
by “violence and insult.” Freedom, the defiant Henry shouted, could be
bought only with blood. While staring at his reluctant comrades, he refused
to predict what they might do for the cause of liberty. If forced to choose, he
shouted, “give me liberty”—he paused dramatically, clenched his fist as if it
held a dagger, then plunged it into his chest—“or give me death.”
SHI FTI NG AUTHORI TY
As Patrick Henry had predicted, events during 1775 quickly moved
beyond conciliation toward conflict. The king and Parliament had lost con-
trol of their colonies; they could neither persuade nor coerce them to accept
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FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
Patrick Henry of Virginia
Henry famously declared “Give me Liberty,
or give me Death!”
new regulations and revenue measures. In Boston, General Gage warned his
British superiors that armed conflict with the Americans would unleash the
“horrors of civil war.” But British politicians scoffed at the idea of any seri-
ous armed resistance. Lord Sandwich, the head of the navy, dismissed the
colonists as “raw, undisciplined, cowardly men.” Major John Pitcairn agreed,
writing home from Boston in 1775, “that one active campaign, a smart
action, and burning two or three of their towns, will set everything to
rights.”
LEXI NGTON AND CONCORD Major Pitcairn soon had his chance to
suppress the resistance. On April 14, 1775, the British army in Boston
received secret orders to stop the “open rebellion” in Massachusetts. General
Gage decided to arrest rebel leaders and seize the militia’s gunpowder stored
at Concord, about twenty miles northwest of Boston. After dark on April 18,
some seven hundred redcoats gathered on Boston Common, marched on
cobbled streets to the Long Wharf, boarded thirteen barges, crossed the
Charles River after midnight, and set out west to Lexington, accompanied by
American Loyalists who volunteered to guide the troops and “spy” for them.
When Patriots got wind of the plan, Boston’s Committee of Safety sent Paul
Revere and William Dawes by separate routes on their famous ride to warn
the rebels. Revere reached Lexington about midnight and alerted rebel
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LEXINGTON AND
CONCORD,
APRIL 19, 1775
British
retreat
British
advance
Describe the Battle of Lexington. Why did the Americans’
tactics along the road between Concord and Lexington suc-
ceed? Why did the British march on Concord in the first
place?
leaders John Hancock and Sam Adams, who were hiding there. Joined by
Dawes and Samuel Prescott, Revere rode on toward Concord. A British
patrol intercepted the trio, but Prescott slipped through and delivered the
warning.
At dawn on April 19, the British advance guard of 238 redcoats found
Captain John Parker, a veteran of the French and Indian War, and about
seventy “Minutemen” lined up on the Lexington town square. Parker
apparently intended only a silent protest, but Major Pitcairn rode onto the
green, swung his sword, and yelled, “Disperse, you damned rebels! You dogs,
run!” The greatly outnumbered militiamen had already begun backing away
when someone, perhaps an onlooker, fired a shot, whereupon the British
soldiers, without orders, loosed a volley into the Minutemen, then charged
them with bayonets, leaving eight dead and ten wounded.
The British officers hastily brought their men under control and led them
along the road to Concord. There the Americans resolved to stop the British
advance. The militant Reverend William Emerson expressed the fiery deter-
mination of the Patriots when he told his townsmen: “Let us stand our
ground. If we die, let us die here.” The Americans inflicted fourteen casual-
ties, and by noon the British had begun a ragged retreat back to Lexington,
where they were joined by reinforcements. By then, however, the narrow
road back to Boston had turned into a gauntlet of death as hundreds of
rebels fired from behind stone walls, trees, barns, and houses. Among the
196

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
The Battle of Lexington
Amos Doolittle’s impression of the Battle of Lexington as combat begins.
Americans were Captain Parker and the reassembled Lexington militia,
some of them with bandaged wounds from their morning skirmish. By
nightfall the redcoat survivors were safely back in Boston, having suffered
three times as many casualties as the Americans. A British general reported
to London that the Americans had earned his respect: “Whoever looks upon
them as an irregular mob will find himself much mistaken.”
During the fighting along the road leading to Lexington from Concord, a
British soldier was searching a house for rebel snipers when he ran into
twenty-five-year-old Patriot James Hayward, a school teacher. The redcoat
pointed his musket at the American and said, “Stop, you’re a dead man.”
Hayward raised his weapon and answered, “So are you.” They fired simulta-
neously. The British soldier died instantly, and Hayward succumbed to a
head wound eight hours later.
THE S PREADI NG CONFLI CT The Revolutionary War had begun.
When the Second Continental Congress convened at Philadelphia on May
10, 1775, the British army in Boston was under siege by Massachusetts mili-
tia units. On the very day that Congress met, Britain’s Fort Ticonderoga, on
Lake Champlain near the Canadian border, fell to a Patriot force of “Green
Mountain Boys” led by Ethan Allen of Vermont and Massachusetts volun-
teers under Benedict Arnold. Two days later the Patriots captured a smaller
British fort at Crown Point, north of Ticonderoga.
The Continental Congress, with no legal authority and no resources, met
amid reports of spreading warfare. On June 15, it unanimously named forty-
three-year-old George Washington commander in chief of a Continental
army. Washington accepted but refused to be paid. The Congress selected
Washington because his service in the French and Indian War had made him
one of the most experienced officers in America. That he was from influen-
tial Virginia, the wealthiest and most populous province, added to his attrac-
tiveness. And, as many people commented then and later, Washington
looked like a leader. He was tall and strong, a superb horseman, and a fear-
less fighter.
On June 17, the very day that Washington was commissioned, Patriots
engaged British forces in their first major clash, the inaccurately named Bat-
tle of Bunker Hill. On the day before the battle, colonial forces fortified the
high ground overlooking Boston. Breed’s Hill was the battle location, nearer
to Boston than Bunker Hill, the site first chosen (and the source of the bat-
tle’s erroneous name). The British reinforced their army with troops com-
manded by three senior generals: William Howe, Sir Henry Clinton, and
John Burgoyne.
Shifting Authority

197
The Patriots were spoiling for a fight. As Joseph Warren, a dapper Boston
physician, put it, “The British say we won’t fight; by heavens, I hope I shall
die up to my knees in blood!” He soon got his wish. With civilians looking
on from rooftops and church steeples, the British attacked in the blistering
heat, with 2,400 troops moving in tight formation through tall grass. The
Americans watched from behind their earthworks as the waves of British
troops in their beautiful but impractical uniforms, including bearskin hats,
advanced up the hill. The militiamen, mostly farmers, waited until the
attackers had come within fifteen to twenty paces, then loosed a shattering
volley that devastated the British ranks.
The British re-formed their lines and attacked again. Another sheet of
flames and lead greeted them, and the redcoats retreated a second time. Still,
despite the appalling slaughter, the proud British generals were determined
not to let the ragtag rustics humiliate them. On the third attempt, when the
colonials began to run out of gunpowder and were forced to throw stones, a
bayonet charge ousted them. The British took the high ground, but at the
cost of 1,054 casualties. American losses were about 450 killed or wounded
out of a total of 1,500 defenders. “A dear bought victory,” recorded a British
general; “another such would have ruined us.”
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FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
View of the Attack on Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown Peninsula.
The Battle of Bunker Hill had two profound effects. First, the high num-
ber of British casualties made the English generals more cautious in subse-
quent encounters with the Continental army. Second, the Continental
Congress recommended that all able-bodied men enlist in a militia. After the
Battle of Bunker Hill, the two armies, American and British, settled in for a
nine-month stalemate as the two opposing forces waited on diplomatic
efforts.
On July 6 and 8, 1775, the Continental Congress, still eager for a resolu-
tion of the conflict with the mother country, issued an appeal to the king
known as the Olive Branch Petition, written by Pennsylvanian John Dickin-
son. It professed continued loyalty to George III and urged the king to seek
reconciliation with his aggrieved colonies. When the Olive Branch Petition
reached London, George III refused even to look at it. On August 22, he
declared the American rebels “open and avowed enemies.”
In July 1775, while the Continental Congress waited for a response to its
Olive Branch Petition, authorized an ill-fated offensive against Quebec, in
the vain hope of rallying support among the French inhabitants in Canada,
Britain’s fourteenth American colony, and also winning the allegiance of the
Indian tribes in the region. One Patriot force, under General Richard Mont-
gomery, headed toward Quebec by way of Lake Champlain along the New
York–Canadian border; another, under General Benedict Arnold, struggled
west through the dense Maine woods. The American units arrived outside
Quebec in September, tired, exhausted, and hungry. A silent killer then
ambushed them: smallpox. As the deadly virus raced through the American
camp, General Montgomery faced a brutal dilemma. Most of his soldiers
had signed up for short tours of duty, many of which were scheduled to
expire at the end of the year. He could not afford to wait until spring for the
smallpox to subside. Seeing little choice but to fight, Montgomery ordered a
desperate attack on the British forces at Quebec during a blizzard, on
December 31, 1775. The assault was a disaster. Montgomery was killed early
in the battle and Benedict Arnold wounded. Over 400 Americans were taken
prisoner. The rest of the Patriot force retreated to its camp outside the walled
city and appealed to the Continental Congress for reinforcements.
The smallpox virus continued attacking both the Americans in the camp
and their comrades taken captive by the British. As fresh troops arrived, they,
too, fell victim to the deadly virus. Benedict Arnold warned George Wash-
ington in February 1776 that the runaway disease would soon lead to “the
entire ruin of the Army.” By May there were only 1,900 American soldiers left
outside Quebec, and 900 of them were infected with smallpox. The British,
sensing the weakness of the American force, attacked and sent the ragtag
Shifting Authority

199
Patriots on a frantic retreat up the St. Lawrence River to the American-held
city of Montreal and eventually back to New York and New England. The
sick and wounded soldiers were left behind, but the smallpox virus travelled
with the fleeing Americans. Major General Horatio Gates later remarked
that “every thing about this Army is infected with the Pestilence; The
Clothes, The Blankets, the Air & the Ground they Walk on.”
Quebec was the first military setback for the Revolutionaries. It would not
be the last. In the South, British forces armed Cherokees and Shawnees and
encouraged their raids on white frontier settlements from Virginia to Geor-
gia. As the fighting spread north into Canada and south into Virginia and
the Carolinas, the Continental Congress negotiated treaties of peace with
Indian tribes, organized a network of post offices headed by Benjamin
Franklin, and authorized the formation of a navy and Marine Corps. But the
delegates continued to hold back from declaring independence.
COMMON SENSE The Revolutionary War was well underway in Janu-
ary 1776 when Thomas Paine, a recent English emigrant to America, pro-
vided the Patriot cause with a stirring pamphlet titled Common Sense. Until
his fifty-page pamphlet appeared, colonial grievances had been mainly
directed at the British Parliament; few colonists considered independence an
option. Paine, however, directly attacked allegiance to the monarchy, which
had remained the last frayed connection to Britain. The “common sense” of
the matter, he stressed, was that King George III bore the responsibility for
the rebellion. Americans, Paine urged, should consult their own interests,
abandon George III, and assert their independence: “The blood of the slain,
the weeping voice of nature cries, ’TIS TIME TO PART.” Only by declaring inde-
pendence, Paine predicted, could the colonists enlist the support of France
and Spain and thereby engender a holy war of monarchy against monarchy.
I NDEPENDENCE
Within three months more than 150,000 copies of Paine’s pamphlet
were circulating throughout the provinces, an enormous number for the
time. “Common Sense is working a powerful change in the minds of men,”
George Washington reported. Meanwhile, in Boston, the prolonged standoff
between Patriot and British forces ended in dramatic fashion when a hardy
group of American troops led by Colonel Henry Knox captured the strategic
British Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. Then, through a herculean
effort across hundreds of miles of snow-covered, mountainous terrain, they
200

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
brought back with them to Boston sleds loaded with captured British can-
nons and ammunition. The added artillery finally gave General Washington
the firepower needed to make an audacious move. In early March 1776,
Patriot forces, including Native American allies, occupied Dorchester
Heights, to the south of the Boston peninsula, and aimed their newly
acquired cannons at the besieged British troops and their “Tory” supporters
in the city.
In March 1776 the British army in Boston decided to abandon the city.
The last British forces, along with 2,000 panicked Loyalists (“Tories”),
boarded a fleet of 120 ships and sailed for Canada on March 17, 1776. By the
time the British forces fled Boston, they were facing not the suppression of a
rebellion but the reconquest of a continent. In May 1776 the Second Conti-
nental Congress authorized all thirteen colonies to form themselves into
new state governments. Thereafter, one by one, the colonies authorized their
delegates in the Continental Congress to take the final step. On June 7,
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moved “that these United Colonies are, and of
right ought to be, free and independent states.” Two weeks later, in South
Carolina, a British naval force attacked Charleston. The Patriot militia there
had partially finished a fort made of palmetto trees on Sullivan’s Island,
at the entrance to Charleston harbor. When the British fleet attacked, on
June 28, 1776, the spongy palmetto logs absorbed the naval fire, and the
American cannons forced the British fleet to retreat. South Carolina would
later honor the resilient palmetto tree by putting it on its state flag.
The naval warfare in Charleston gave added momentum to Richard
Henry Lee’s resolution for independence. The Continental Congress finally
Independence

201
The coming revolution
The Continental Congress votes for independence, July 2, 1776.
took the audacious step on July 2, a date that “will be the most memorable
epoch in the history of America,” John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail.
Upon hearing the dramatic news, George Washington declared that the “fate
of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and con-
duct of this army.” The more memorable date, however, became July 4, 1776,
when the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence as the
official statement of the American position.
J EFFERS ON’ S DECLARATI ON In June 1776 the Continental Con-
gress appointed a committee of five men—Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John
Adams, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut—
to write a public rationale for independence. The group asked Adams and
Jefferson to produce a first draft, whereupon Adams deferred to Jefferson
202

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration in its most frequently reproduced form,
an 1823 engraving by William J. Stone.
because of the thirty-three-year-old Virginian’s reputation as an eloquent
writer.
Jefferson shared his draft with the committee members, and they made
several minor revisions before submitting the document to the Congress.
The legislators made eighty-six changes in Jefferson’s declaration, including
the insertion of two references to God and the deletion of a section
blaming the English monarch for imposing African slavery on the colonies
(delegates from Georgia and South Carolina had protested that the language
smacked of abolitionism).
The resulting Declaration of Independence introduced the radical con-
cept that “all men are created equal” in terms of their God-given right to
maintain governments of their own choosing. This represented a compelling
restatement of John Locke’s contract theory of government—the theory, in
Jefferson’s words, that governments derive “their just Powers from the con-
sent of the people,” who are entitled to “alter or abolish” those governments
that deny people (white people, in Jefferson’s eyes) their “unalienable rights”
to “life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Parliament, which had no
proper authority over the colonies, was never mentioned by name. The
stated enemy was a king trying to impose “an absolute Tyranny over these
States.” The “Representatives of the United States of America,” therefore,
declared the thirteen “United Colonies” to be “Free and Independent States.”
General George Washington ordered the Declaration read to every unit in
the Continental army. Benjamin Franklin acknowledged how high the stakes
were: “Well, Gentlemen,” he told the Congress, “we must now hang together,
or we shall most assuredly hang separately.” The Declaration of Indepen-
dence converted what had been an armed rebellion—a civil war between
British subjects—into a war between Britain and a new nation.
“WE ALWAYS HAD GOVERNED OURS ELVES” So it had come to
this, thirteen years after Britain had defeated France and gained control of
North America with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The Patriots were willing to
fight for their freedom against the most formidable military power in the
modern world. Joseph Martin, an enthusiastic young Connecticut farmer
who joined George Washington’s army in 1776, expressed the naïve confi-
dence of many Patriots when he said that “I never spent a thought about [the
greater] numbers [of British military resources]. The Americans were invin-
cible in my opinion.”
In explaining the causes of the Revolution, historians have highlighted
many factors: the excessive British regulation of colonial trade, the restric-
tions on settling western lands, the growing tax burden, the mounting debts
Independence

203
to British merchants, the lack of American representation in Parliament, the
abrupt shift from a mercantile to an “imperial” policy after 1763, class con-
flict, and revolutionary agitators.
Each of those factors (and others) contributed to the collective grievances
that rose to a climax in a gigantic failure of British statesmanship. A conflict
between British sovereignty and American rights had come to a point of
confrontation that adroit diplomacy might have avoided, sidestepped, or
outflanked. The rebellious colonists saw the tightening of British regulations
as the conspiracy of a despotic king—to impose an “absolute Tyranny.”
Yet colonists sought liberty from British tyranny for many reasons, not all
of which were selfless or noble. The Boston merchant John Hancock
embraced the Patriot cause in part because he was the region’s foremost
smuggler. Paying British taxes would have cost him a fortune. Likewise,
South Carolina’s Henry Laurens and Virginia’s Landon Carter, wealthy
planters, were concerned about the future of slavery under British control.
The seeming contradiction between American slaveholders demanding
liberty from British oppression was not lost on observers at the time. The
talented writer Phillis Wheatley, the first African American to see her poetry
published in America, highlighted the hypocritical “absurdity” of white
colonists’ demanding their freedom from British tyranny while continuing
to exercise “oppressive power” over
enslaved Africans. Wealthy slave owner
George Washington was not devoid
of self-interest in his opposition to
British policies. An active land specu -
lator, he owned 60,000 acres in the
Ohio Country west of the Appalachi-
ans and very much resented British
efforts to restrict white settlement on
the frontier.
Perhaps the last word on the com-
plex causes of the Revolution should
belong to an obscure participant, Levi
Preston, a Minuteman from Dan -
vers, Massachusetts. Asked sixty-seven
years after Lexington and Concord
about British oppressions, the ninety-
one-year-old veteran responded by
asking his young interviewer, “What
were they? Oppressions? I didn’t feel
204

FROM COLONIES TO STATES (CH. 4)
Phillis Wheatley
An autographed portrait of Phillis
Wheatley, America’s first African
American poet.
them.” He was then asked, “What, were you not oppressed by the Stamp
Act?” Preston replied that he “never saw one of those stamps . . . I am certain
I never paid a penny for one of them.” What about the tax on tea? “Tea-tax! I
never drank a drop of the stuff; the boys threw it all overboard.” His
interviewer finally asked why he decided to fight for independence. “Young
man,” Preston explained, “what we meant in going for those redcoats was
this: we always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to. They didn’t
mean we should.”
Independence

205
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• Mercantilism The Navigation Acts decreed that enumerated goods had to go
directly to England and discouraged manufacturing in the colonies. Raw materials
were shipped to the mother country to be processed into manufactured goods.
These mercantilist laws were designed to curb direct trade with other countries,
such as the Netherlands, and keep the wealth of the empire in British hands.
• “Salutary Neglect” Lax administration by the mother country allowed the
colonies a measure of self-government. The dynastic problems of the Stuart kings
aided the New England colonists in their efforts to undermine the Dominion of
New England. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 resulted in a period of “salutary
neglect.” The American colonies pursued their interests with minimal interven-
tion from the British government, which was preoccupied with European wars.
• The French and Indian War Four European wars affected America between 1689
and 1763 as the British and French confronted each other throughout the world. The
Seven Years’ War (1754–1763), known as the French and Indian War in the American
colonies, was the first world war and was eventually won by the British. A plan to
unify all of Britain’s American colonies, including those in Canada, proposed by Ben-
jamin Franklin at the Albany Congress, failed to gain colonial support.
• The Effects of the Seven Years’ War At the Peace of Paris in 1763, France lost all
its North American possessions. Britain gained Canada and Florida, while Spain
acquired Louisiana. With the war’s end, Indians were no longer regarded as
essential allies and so had no recourse when settlers squatted on their lands. The
Treaty of Paris set the stage for conflict between the mother country and the
American colonies as Britain tightened control to pay for the colonies’ defense.
• British Colonial Policy After the French and Indian War, the British govern-
ment was saddled with an enormous national debt. To reduce that imperial bur-
den, the British government concluded that the colonies ought to help pay for
their own defense. Thus, the ministers of King George III began to implement
various acts and impose new taxes.
• Road to the American Revolution Colonists based their resistance to the
Crown on the idea that taxation without direct colonial representation in Parlia-
ment violated their rights. Colonial reaction to the Stamp Act of 1765 was the
first intimation of real trouble for imperial authorities. Conflict intensified
when the British government imposed additional taxes. Spontaneous resistance
led to the Boston Massacre; organized protesters staged the Boston Tea Party.
The British response, called the Coercive Acts, sparked further violence. Com-
promise became less likely, if not impossible.
End of Chapter Review
K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
mercantile system p. 159
Navigation Acts p. 160
Glorious Revolution p. 162
“salutary neglect” p. 163
Jesuits p. 167
Pontiac’s Rebellion p. 179
Whigs p. 182
Sons of Liberty p. 183
Stamp Act Congress p. 184
Samuel Adams p. 187
Lord North p. 187
Thomas Jefferson p. 192
Patrick Henry p. 194
Paul Revere p. 195
Minutemen p. 196
Thomas Paine’s Common
Sense p. 200

C H R O N O L O G Y
1608 Samuel de Champlain founds Quebec
1660 Restoration of the Stuart monarchy—King Charles II
1673 The French explore the Mississippi River valley from Canada to
the Gulf of Mexico
1684 Dominion of New England is established
1688 Glorious Revolution
1754 Albany Congress adopts Plan of Union
1754–1763 French and Indian War
1763 Pontiac’s Rebellion
1764 Parliament passes the Revenue (Sugar) Act
1766 Parliament repeals the Stamp Act and passes the Declaratory Act
1767 Parliament levies the Townshend duties
1770 Boston Massacre
1773 Colonists stage the Boston Tea Party
1774 Parliament passes the Coercive Acts; colonists hold First
Continental Congress
1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord
1775 Colonists hold Second Continental Congress
1776 Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is published; Declaration of
Independence is signed
Part Two

BUI LDI NG
A
NATI ON
T
he signing of the Declaration of Independence in early July
1776 exhilarated the rebellious colonists and ended the ambivalence
about the purpose of the revolt. Americans now had a sober choice: to
remain subjects of King George III and thus traitors to the new United
States of America, or to embrace the rebellion and become a traitor to
Great Britain. Yet it was one thing for Patriot leaders to declare Ameri-
can independence from British authority and quite another to win it
on the battlefield. The odds greatly favored the British: barely a third of
the colonists actively supported the Revolution, and almost as many
(“Loyalists”) fought tenaciously against it. The political stability of the
fledgling nation was uncertain, and George Washington found himself
in command of a poorly supplied, inexperienced army facing the world’s
greatest military power.
Yet the Revolutionary movement would persevere and prevail. The
skill and fortitude of General Washington and his lieutenants enabled
the American forces to exploit their geographic advantages. Even more
important was the intervention of the French on behalf of the Revolu-
tionary cause. The Franco-American military alliance, negotiated in
1778, proved to be the decisive event in the war. In 1783, after eight years
of sporadic fighting
and heavy human and
financial losses, the
British gave up the fight
and their American colonies.
Amid the Revolutionary
turmoil the Patriots faced the
daunting task of forming new
governments for themselves.
Their deeply ingrained
resentment of British
imperial rule led them to
decentralize political power
and grant substantial sover-
eignty to the individual states.
As Thomas Jefferson declared,
“Virginia, Sir, is my country.”
Such powerful local ties help explain why the colonists focused their
attention on creating new state constitutions rather than a powerful
national government. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781,
provided only the semblance of national authority. Final power to make
and execute laws remained with the states.
After the Revolutionary War, the flimsy political bonds authorized by
the Articles of Confederation could not meet the needs of the new—
and rapidly expanding—nation. This realization led to the calling of
the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The process of drafting and
ratifying the new constitution prompted a heated debate on the relative
significance of national power, local control, and individual freedom
that has provided the central theme of American political thought ever
since.
The Revolution involved much more than the apportionment of
political power, however. It also unleashed social forces that would help
reshape the very fabric of American culture. What would be the role of
women, African Americans, and Native Americans in the new republic?
How would the quite different economies of the various regions of the
new United States be developed? Who would control access to the vast
territories to the west of the original thirteen states? How would the new
republic relate to the other nations of the world?
These controversial questions helped spawn the first national political
parties in the United States. During the 1790s, Federalists, led by
Alexander Hamilton, and Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson and
James Madison, furiously debated the political and economic future
of the new nation. With Jefferson’s election as president in 1800, the
Republicans gained the upper hand in national politics for the next
quarter century. In the process they presided over a maturing republic
that aggressively expanded westward at the expense of the Native Ameri-
cans, ambivalently embraced industrial development, fitfully engaged in
a second war with Great Britain, and ominously witnessed a growing
sectional controversy over slavery.

5
THE AMERICAN
REVOLUTION
F
ew foreign observers thought that the upstart American
revolutionaries could win a war against the world’s greatest
empire—and the Americans ended up losing most of the
battles in the Revolutionary War. But they eventually forced the British to
sue for peace and grant their independence, a stunning result reflecting the
tenacity of the Patriots as well as the peculiar difficulties facing the British as
they tried to conduct a far-flung campaign thousands of miles from home.
The British Empire dispatched two thirds of its entire army and one half of
its formidable navy to suppress the American rebellion. The costly military
commitments that the British maintained elsewhere around the globe fur-
ther complicated their war effort, and the intervention of the French on
behalf of the struggling Americans in 1778 proved to be the war’s key turn-
ing point. The Patriots also had the advantage of fighting on their home
ground; the American commanders knew the terrain and the people. Per-
haps most important of all, the Patriot forces led by George Washington did
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What were the military strategies and challenges for both the
American and the British forces?
• What were the war’s major turning points?
• Who were the Loyalists and what became of them?
• Why was it possible for the new United States to gain European
allies in its war for independence?
• To what extent was the American Revolution a social revolution in
matters of gender equality, race relations, and religious freedom?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
not have to win the war; they simply had to avoid losing the war. Over time,
as they discovered, the British government and the British people would tire
of the human and financial expense of a prolonged war.
Fighting in the New World was not an easy task for either side, however.
The Americans had to create and sustain an army and a navy. Recruiting,
supplying, equipping, training, and paying soldiers and sailors were monu-
mental challenges, especially for a new nation in the midst of forming its
first governments. The Patriot army encircling British-controlled Boston in
1775 was little more than a rustic militia made up of volunteers who had
enlisted for six months. The citizen-soldiers lacked training and discipline.
They came and went as they pleased, gambled frequently, and drank liquor
freely. General George Washington recognized immediately that the fore-
most needs of the new army were capable officers, intensive training, strict
discipline, and longer enlistment contracts. Washington was pleased to see
that the soldiers from the different colonies were as one in their “continen-
tal” viewpoint; hence, he called it the Continental army. He soon began
whipping his army into shape. Recruits who violated army rules were placed
in the stockade, flogged, or sent packing. Some deserters were hanged. The
tenacity of Washington and the Revolutionaries bore fruit as war-weariness
and political dissension in London hampered British efforts to suppress the
rebel forces.
Like all major wars, the Revolution had unexpected consequences affect-
ing political, economic, and social life. It not only secured American inde-
pendence, generated a sense of nationalism, and created a unique system of
self-governance, but it also began a process of societal change that has yet to
run its course. The turmoil of revolution upset traditional social relation-
ships and helped transform the lives of people who had long been relegated
to the periphery of social status—African Americans, women, and Indians.
In important ways, then, the Revolution was much more than simply a war
for independence. It was an engine for political experimentation and social
change.
1776: WAS HI NGTON’ S NARROW ES CAPE
On July 2, 1776, the day that Congress voted for independence, British
redcoats landed on undefended Staten Island, across New York Harbor from
Manhattan. They were the vanguard of a gigantic effort to reconquer Amer-
ica and the first elements of an enormous force that gathered around the
harbor over the next month. By mid-August, British general William Howe
214

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
1776: Washington’s Narrow Escape

215
had some thirty-two thousand men at his disposal, the largest single force
mustered by the British in the eighteenth century. The British recruited
mercenaries (hired foreign soldiers) in Europe to assist them in putting
down the American revolt. Eventually almost thirty thousand Germans
served in America, about seventeen thousand of them from the principal-
ity of Hesse-Cassel—thus Hessian became the name applied to all of
them.
After the British withdrew their forces from Boston, George Washington
transferred most of his troops to New York, but he could gather only about
nineteen thousand poorly trained local militiamen and members of the new
Continental army. It was much too small a force to defend New York, but
Congress wanted it held. This meant that Washington had to expose his out-
numbered men to entrapments from which they escaped more by luck and
General Howe’s excessive caution than by any strategic genius on the part of
the American commander. Although a veteran of frontier fighting, Washing-
ton had never commanded a large unit or supervised artillery. As he con-
fessed to the Continental Congress, he had no “experience to move [armies]
on a large scale” and had only “limited . . . knowledge . . . in Military Mat-
ters.” In 1776 he was still learning the art of generalship, and the British inva-
sion of New York taught him some costly lessons.
FI GHTI NG I N NEW YORK AND NEW J ERS EY In late August
1776 the massive British armada began landing troops on Long Island. It was
the largest seaborne military expedition in world history. Short of munitions
and greatly outnumbered, the new American army suffered a humiliating
defeat at the Battle of Long Island. Only a timely rainstorm enabled the
retreating Americans to cross the harbor from Brooklyn to Manhattan
under cover of darkness. Had General Howe moved more quickly, he could
have trapped Washington’s army in lower Manhattan. The main American
force, however, withdrew northward, crossed the Hudson River, and
retreated across New Jersey and over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.
As Washington’s army fled New York City, so, too did Patriot civilians. Local
Loyalists (Tories) welcomed the British occupation of New York City, which
came to be called Torytown.
By December 1776, General Washington had only three thousand men
left under his command. Thousands of militiamen had simply gone home.
Prolonged warfare quickly lost its appeal for untrained volunteers. As Wash-
ington acknowledged, “after the first emotions are over,” those who
remained willing to serve out of dedication to the “goodness of the cause”
would be few. The supreme commander saw that his shrunken army was
populated by “much broken and dispirited men.” Unless a new army could
be raised quickly, Washington warned, “I think the game is pretty near up.”
But it wasn’t. In the retreating American army marched a volunteer, English-
man Thomas Paine. Having opened the eventful year of 1776 with his
inspiring pamphlet Common Sense, which in plain terms encouraged Ameri-
can independence, Paine now composed The American Crisis, in which he
penned these uplifting lines:
These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country;
but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with
us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Paine’s stirring pamphlet bolstered the shaken morale of the Patriots—as
events would soon do more decisively. Congress’s decision to offer recruits
cash, land, clothing, and blankets pro -
ved more important than Thomas
Paine’s inspiring words in lifting the
spirits of the Revolutionaries.
General Howe, firmly—and luxuri-
ously—based in New York City (which
the British held throughout the war),
settled down with his Loyalist mis-
tress to wait out the winter. George
Washington, however, was not ready
to hibernate. He knew that the morale
of his men and the hopes of a new
nation required “some stroke” of good
news in the face of their devastating
losses in New York. So he seized the
initiative with a desperate gamble to
achieve a much-needed first victory
before more of his soldiers returned
home once their initial enlistment con-
tracts expired. On Christmas night
1776, he led some 2,400 men across
the icy Delaware River. Near dawn at
Trenton, New Jersey, the Americans
surprised a garrison of 1,500 sleeping
216

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
Common Sense
Thomas Paine’s inspiring pamphlet
was originally published anonymously
because of its treasonous content.
1776: Washington’s Narrow Escape

217
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Allentown
Princeton
Morristown
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MAJOR CAMPAIGNS IN NEW YORK
AND NEW JERSEY, 1776–1777
British forces
Battle site
Why did Washington lead his army from Brooklyn to Manhattan and from there to
New Jersey? How could General Howe have ended the rebellion in New York? What
is the significance of the Battle of Trenton?
218

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
Hessians. It was a total rout, from which
only 500 Hessians escaped death or cap-
ture. Just two of Washington’s men were
killed and four wounded, one of whom
was Lieutenant James Monroe, the future
president. A week later, at nearby Prince-
ton, the Americans improbably won
another battle, outmaneuvering the
British before taking refuge in winter
quarters at Morristown, in the hills of
northern New Jersey about thirty-five
miles west of New York City (eighteenth-
century armies rarely fought during the
winter months).
The unexpected victories at Princeton
and Trenton saved the cause of indepen-
dence. Having learned of the American
triumphs in New Jersey, a Virginian loyal
to Britain glumly reported that a few days
before, the Revolutionaries “had given up the cause for lost. Their late successes
have turned the scale and now they are all liberty mad again.” By not aggres-
sively pursuing the Americans as they retreated from Long Island and later
Manhattan, General Howe and the British had missed their great chance—
indeed, several chances—to bring the Revolution to a speedy end. A British
officer grumbled that the Americans had “become a formidable enemy.”
George Washington had painfully realized that the only way to defeat the
British was to wear them down in a long war. As the combat in New York had
shown, the Americans could rarely beat the British army in a large conven-
tional battle. The only hope of winning the war was to wear down the
patience of the British. Over the next eight years, General Washington and his
troops would outlast the invaders through a strategy of evasion punctuated
by selective confrontations.
AMERI CAN SOCI ETY AT WAR
CHOOS I NG S I DES The Revolution was as much a brutal civil war
among Americans (and their Native American allies) as it was a prolonged
struggle against Great Britain. The act of choosing sides in the colonies
divided families and friends, towns and cities. Benjamin Franklin’s illegiti-
George Washington at Princeton
By Charles Willson Peale.
mate son, William, for example, was the royal governor of New Jersey. An
ardent Loyalist, he sided with Great Britain during the Revolution, and his
Patriot father later removed him from his will. The fratricidal passions
unleashed by the Revolution erupted in brutalities on both sides. One Loyal-
ist, John Stevens, testified that he “was dragged by a rope fixed about his
neck” across the Susquehanna River because he refused to sign an oath sup-
porting the Revolution. In Virginia, the planter Charles Lynch set up vigi-
lante courts to punish Loyalists by “lynching” them—which in this case
meant whipping them.
Opinion among the colonists concerning the war divided in three ways:
Patriots, or Whigs (as the Revolutionaries called themselves), who formed the
Continental army and fought in state militias; Loyalists, or Tories, as the Patri-
ots derisively called them; and a less committed middle group swayed mostly
by the better organized and more energetic radicals. Loyalists may have repre-
sented 20 percent of the American population, but the Patriots were probably
the largest of the three groups. Some Americans switched sides during the war;
there were also numerous deserters, spies, and traitors—on both sides.
The Loyalists did not want to “dissolve the political bands” with Britain, as
the Declaration of Independence demanded. Instead, as some seven hun-
dred of them in New York City said in a petition to British officials, they
“steadily and uniformly opposed” this “most unnatural, unprovoked Rebel-
lion.” Where the Patriots rejected the monarchy, the Loyalists staunchly
upheld royal authority. They viewed the Revolution as an act of treason.
Loyalists were concentrated in the seaport cities, especially New York City
and Philadelphia, but they came from all walks of life. Governors, judges,
and other royal officials were almost all Loyalists; most Anglican ministers
also preferred the mother country, as did many Anglican parishioners. In the
backcountry of New York and the Carolinas, many farmers rallied to the
Crown. More New York men during the Revolution joined Loyalist regi-
ments than opted for the Continental army. In few places, however, were
there enough Loyalists to assume control without the presence of British
troops, and nowhere for very long. The British were repeatedly frustrated by
both the failure of Loyalists to materialize in strength and the collapse of
Loyalist militia units once British troops departed. Because Patriot militias
quickly returned whenever the British left an area, any Loyalists in the region
faced a difficult choice: either accompany the British and leave behind their
property or stay and face the wrath of the Patriots. Even more disheartening
was what one British officer called “the licentiousness of the [Loyalist]
troops, who committed every species of rapine and plunder” and thereby
converted potential friends to enemies.
American Society at War

219
MI LI TI A AND ARMY American militiamen served two purposes: they
constituted a home guard, defending their communities, and they helped
augment the Continental army. Often dressed in hunting shirts and armed
with their own muskets, they preferred to ambush their opponents or
engage them in hand-to-hand combat rather than fight in traditional Euro-
pean formations. To repel an attack, the militia somehow materialized; the
danger past, it evaporated, for there were chores to do at home. They “come
in, you cannot tell how,” Washington said in exasperation, “go, you cannot
tell when, and act you cannot tell where, consume your provisions, exhaust
your stores [supplies], and leave you at last at a critical moment.”
The national Continental army, by contrast, was on the whole better
trained and more reliable. Unlike the professional soldiers in the British
army, Washington’s troops were citizen soldiers, mostly poor native-born
Americans or immigrants who had been indentured servants or convicts.
Many of the Patriots found camp life debilitating and combat horrifying. As
burly General Nathanael Greene—Washington’s ablest commander and a
Rhode Island Quaker ironmaker who had never set foot on a battlefield until
1775—pointed out, few of the Patriots had ever engaged in mortal combat,
and they were hard-pressed to “stand the shocking scenes of war, to march
over dead men, to hear without concern the groans of the wounded.” Deser-
tions grew as the war dragged on. At times, General Washington could put
only two to three thousand men in the field.
220

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
American militia
This sketch of militiamen by a French soldier at Yorktown, Virginia, shows an
American frontiersman turned soldier (second from right), and it is also one of the
earliest depictions of an African American soldier.
PROBLEMS OF FI NANCE AND S UPPLY Congress found it difficult
to finance the war and supply the army. The states rarely provided their des-
ignated share of the war’s expenses, and Congress reluctantly let army agents
take supplies directly from farmers in return for promises of future pay-
ment. Many of the states found a ready source of revenue in the sale of aban-
doned Loyalist estates. Nevertheless, Congress and the states fell short of
funding the war’s cost and resorted to printing paper money. At the start of
the fighting there were no uniforms, and the weapons they carried were “as
various as their costumes.” Most munitions were supplied either by captur-
ing British weapons or by importation from France, whose government was
all too glad to help the Patriots fight its archenemy.
During the harsh New Jersey winter at Morristown (1776–1777), George
Washington’s army nearly disintegrated as enlistments expired and deserters
fled the hardships of brutally cold weather, inadequate food, and widespread
disease. One soldier recalled that “we were absolutely, literally starved. . . .
I saw several of the men roast their old shoes and eat them.” Smallpox con-
tinued to wreak havoc among the American armies. By 1777, Washington
had come to view the virus with greater dread than “the Sword of the
Enemy.” On any given day, a fourth of the American troops were deemed
unfit for duty, usually because of smallpox. The threat of smallpox to the war
effort was so great that in early 1777 Washington ordered a mass inocula-
tion, which he managed to keep secret from the British. Inoculating an
entire army was an enormous, risky undertaking. Washington’s daring gam-
ble paid off. The successful inoculation of the American army marks one of
his greatest strategic accomplishments of the war.
Only about a thousand Patriots stuck out the Morristown winter. With
the spring thaw, however, recruits began arriving to claim the bounty of
$20 and 100 acres of land offered by Congress to those who would enlist for
three years or for the duration of the conflict, if less. Having cobbled
together some nine thousand regular troops, Washington began sparring
and feinting with Howe’s British forces in northern New Jersey. Howe had
been making his own plans, however, and so had other British officers.
1777: SETBACKS FOR THE BRI TI S H
The British plan to defeat the “American rebellion” involved a three-
pronged assault on New York. By gaining control of that important state,
they would cut off New England from the rest of the colonies. The plan
called for a northern British army based in Canada and led by General John
“Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne to advance southward from Quebec via Lake
1777: Setbacks for the British

221
222

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
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MASSACHUSETTS
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MAJOR CAMPAIGNS
IN NEW YORK AND
PENNSYLVANIA, 1777
American forces
British forces
Battle site
What were the consequences of Burgoyne’s strategy of dividing
the colonies with two British forces? How did life in Washington’s
camp at Valley Forge transform the American army? Why was
Saratoga a turning point in the American Revolution?
Champlain to the Hudson River, while another British force moved eastward
from Oswego, in western New York. General Howe, meanwhile, would lead a
third British army up the Hudson from New York City. As often happens
with ambitious war plans, however, the British failed in their execution—
and in their communications with one another. At the last minute, General
Howe changed his mind and decided to move against the Patriot capital,
Philadelphia, expecting that the Pennsylvania Loyalists would rally to the
Crown and secure the rebellious colony.
General Washington withdrew most of his men from New Jersey to meet
the new British threat in Pennsylvania. At Brandywine Creek, southwest
of Philadelphia, the British routed the Americans on September 11, then occu-
pied Philadelphia, the largest and wealthiest American city. Washington retired
with his army to winter quarters twenty miles away at Valley Forge, while Howe
and his men remained for the winter in the relative comfort of Philadelphia.
The displaced Continental Congress relocated to York, Pennsylvania.
Howe’s plan had succeeded, up to a point. Loyalist Philadelphians hailed
the arrival of British troops. But the Tories there proved fewer than Howe
had expected, and the timid British general lost another chance to deal
Washington’s army a knockout blow. In addition, his decision to move on
Philadelphia from the south, by way of Chesapeake Bay, put his forces even
farther from General Burgoyne’s northern army, which was stumbling into
disaster in upper New York.
THE CAMPAI GN OF 1777 The British plan to defeat the Americans
in their war for independence centered on the northern theater. In an attempt
to cut off New York from the rest of the colonies, an overconfident General
Burgoyne moved south from Canada toward Lake Champlain in June 1777.
His cumbersome invasion force moved slowly, for it comprised about seven
thousand soldiers, his mistress, a thousand or so “camp followers” (cooks,
laundresses, entertainers, and prostitutes), four hundred horses, fifty cannons,
and supplies, including some thirty carts carrying, among other things, Bur-
goyne’s tailored uniforms and his large stock of wine and champagne. The
heavily laden army struggled to cross the wooded, marshy terrain in upstate
New York. Burgoyne sent a smaller army led by Barrimore “Barry” St. Leger
southward on Lake Ontario to Oswego, where a force of Iroquois allies
joined them. The combined force then headed east along the fertile Mohawk
River valley toward Albany, a trading town some one hundred fifty miles north
of New York City near the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers.
The American army commander in New York facing Burgoyne’s redcoats
was General Horatio Gates. In 1745 Gates and Burgoyne had joined the same
1777: Setbacks for the British

223
British regiment. Now they were com-
manding opposing armies. The out-
numbered but more mobile Patriots
inflicted two serious “defeats” on the
British forces. At Oriskany, New York,
on August 6, 1777, a band of militia-
men, mostly local German farmers and
their Indian allies, withstood an ambush
by Loyalists and Indians and gained
time for Patriot reinforcements to arrive
at nearby Fort Stanwix, which had been
besieged by British soldiers. When the
British demanded that the fort’s com-
mander surrender, Gates rejected the
offer “with disdain,” saying that the
fort would be defended to the “last
extremity.” As the days passed, the Iro-
quois deserted the British army, lead-
ing the British commander to order a
withdrawal, after which the strategic Mohawk River valley was secured for
the Patriot forces.
To the east, at Bennington, Vermont, on August 16, New England militia-
men, led by grizzled veteran Colonel John Stark, decimated a detachment of
Hessians and Loyalists foraging for supplies. Stark had pledged that morn-
ing, “We’ll beat them before night, or Molly Stark will be a widow.” As Patriot
militiamen converged from across central New York, Burgoyne pulled his
dispirited forces back to the village of Saratoga, where the reinforced Amer-
ican army surrounded the outnumbered and stranded British army, which
was desperate for food.
Attempting to retreat to Canada, the British twice tried to break through
the encircling Americans, but to no avail. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne,
resplendent in his gorgeous scarlet dress uniform with gleaming gold braid,
signed an agreement with the American general Horatio Gates, himself
dressed in a simple blue coat, to surrender his 5,895 British and German
troops and leave North America. Many of his British and German soldiers,
however, were imprisoned in several American states. The shocking British
defeat at Saratoga prompted the British political leader William Pitt, the Earl
of Chatham, who as prime minister had engineered the British triumph over
France in 1763, to tell Parliament upon hearing the news about Burgoyne’s
surrender: “You CANNOT conquer America.”
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THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
General John Burgoyne
Commander of Britain’s northern
forces. Burgoyne and most of his
troops surrendered to the Americans
at Saratoga on October 17, 1777.
ALLI ANCE WI TH FRANCE The surprising American victory at
Saratoga was strategically important because it convinced the French to sign
two crucial treaties in early 1778. Under the Treaty of Amity and Commerce,
France recognized the new United States and offered trade concessions,
including important privileges to American shipping. Under the Treaty of
Alliance, both parties agreed, first, that if France entered the war, both coun-
tries would fight until American independence was won; second, that nei-
ther would conclude a “truce or peace” without “the formal consent of the
other first obtained”; and third, that each guaranteed the other’s possessions
in America “from the present time and forever against all other powers.”
France further bound itself to seek neither Canada nor other British posses-
sions on the mainland of North America.
By June 1778, British vessels had fired on French ships, and the two
nations were at war. The French decision to join the infant United States in
its fight for independence was by far the most important factor in America’s
winning the Revolutionary War. Even more important than French supplies
and financial assistance was the role of the French navy in allowing the
Americans to hold out against the British. In 1779, Spain entered the war as
an ally of France but not of the United States. In 1780, Britain declared war
on the Dutch, who persisted in a profitable trade with the French and the
Americans. The rebellious farmers at Lexington and Concord had indeed
fired a shot “heard round the world.” A civil war between Britain’s colonies
and the mother country had mushroomed into another world war, as the
fighting now spread to the Mediterranean, Africa, India, the West Indies, and
the high seas.
1778: BOTH SI DES REGROUP
After the British defeat at Saratoga and the news of the French alliance
with the United States, Lord North decided that the war was unwinnable,
but the king refused to let him either resign or make peace. On March 16,
1778, the House of Commons in effect granted all the demands that the
American rebels had made prior to independence. Parliament repealed the
Townshend tea duty, the Massachusetts Government Act, and the Pro-
hibitory Act, which had closed the colonies to commerce, and sent peace
commissioners to Philadelphia to negotiate an end to hostilities. But Con-
gress refused to begin any negotiations until Britain recognized American
independence or withdrew its forces.
1778: Both Sides Regroup

225
VALLEY FORGE For Washington’s army at Valley Forge, the winter of
1777–1778 was a season of intense suffering. The American force, encamped
near Philadelphia, endured unrelenting cold, hunger, and disease. Some
troops lacked shoes and blankets. Their makeshift log-and-mud huts offered
little protection from the howling winds and bitter cold. Most of the army’s
horses died of exposure or starvation. By February, seven thousand troops
were too ill for duty. More than two thousand five hundred soldiers died at
Valley Forge; another thousand deserted. Fifty officers resigned on one
December day. Several hundred more left before winter’s end.
Desperate for relief, Washington sent troops on foraging expeditions
into New Jersey, Delaware, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, confiscating
horses, cattle, and hogs in exchange for “receipts” to be honored by the Con-
tinental Congress. By March 1778 the once-gaunt troops at Valley Forge saw
their strength restored. Their improved health enabled Washington to begin
a rigorous training program, designed to bring unity to his motley array
of forces. Because few of the regimental commanders had any formal mili-
tary training, their troops lacked leadership, discipline, and skill. To remedy
this defect, Washington turned to an energetic Prussian soldier of fortune,
Friedrich Wilhelm, baron von Steuben. Steuben used an interpreter and fre-
226

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
Valley Forge
During the winter of 1777–1778, Washington’s army battled starvation, disease, and
freezing temperatures.
quent profanity to instruct the troops, teaching them the fundamentals of
close-order drill: how to march in formation and how to handle their weapons.
Steuben was one of several foreign volunteers who joined the American
army at Valley Forge. Among the Europeans was also a twenty-year-old red-
haired Frenchman named, in short, Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de
Lafayette. A wealthy idealist excited by the American cause, Lafayette offered
to serve for no pay in exchange for being named a general. General Washing-
ton was initially skeptical of the young French patriot, but Lafayette soon
became the commander in chief ’s most trusted aide. The French general
proved to be a courageous soldier and able diplomat.
By the end of the winter, the ragtag soldiers at Valley Forge were beginning
to resemble a professional army. The army’s morale rose when Congress
promised extra pay and bonuses after the war. The good news from France
about the formal military alliance also helped raise their spirits. In the spring
of 1778, British forces withdrew from Pennsylvania to New York City, with
the American army in hot pursuit. Once the British were back in Manhattan,
Washington’s men encamped at White Plains, north of the city. From that
time on, the northern theater, scene of the major campaigns and battles early
in the war, settled into a long stalemate, interrupted by minor engagements.
ACTI ONS ON THE FRONTI ER The one major American success of
1778 occurred far from the New Jersey battlefields. The Revolution had
spawned two wars. In addition to the main conflict between British and
American armies, a frontier guerrilla war of terror and vengeance pitted Indi-
ans and Loyalists against isolated Patriot settlers along the northern and
western frontiers. The British incited frontier Loyalists and Indians to raid
farm settlements and offered to pay bounties for American scalps. To end the
English-led attacks, young George Rogers Clark took 175 Patriot frontiers-
men on flatboats down the Ohio River early in 1778, marched through the
woods, and on the evening of July 4 captured English-controlled Kaskaskia
(in present-day Illinois). The French inhabitants, terrified at first, “fell into
transports of joy” at news of the French alliance with the Americans. Then,
without bloodshed, Clark took Cahokia (in present-day Illinois across the
Mississippi River from St. Louis) and Vincennes (in present-day Indiana).
After the British retook Vincennes, Clark marched his men (almost half of
them French volunteers) through icy rivers and flooded prairies, sometimes
in water neck deep, and laid siege to the astonished British garrison. Clark’s
men, all hardened woodsmen, captured five Indians carrying American
scalps. Clark ordered his men to tomahawk the Indians in sight of the fort.
The British thereupon surrendered the fort.
1778: Both Sides Regroup

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THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
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WESTERN CAMPAIGNS,
1776–1779
British forces
Battle site
Tory-Iroquois raids (1778)
Cherokee settlements
How did George Rogers Clark secure Cahokia and Vincennes? Why did the American
army destroy Iroquois villages in 1779? Why were the skirmishes between settlers
and Indian tribes significant for the future of the trans-Appalachian frontier?
While Clark’s Rangers were in Indiana, a much larger American expedi-
tion moved through western Pennsylvania to attack Iroquois strongholds in
western New York. There the Loyalists and Indians had terrorized frontier
settlements throughout the summer of 1778. Led by the charismatic Mohawk
Joseph Brant, the Iroquois had killed hundreds of militiamen along the Penn-
sylvania frontier. In response, Washington dispatched an expedition of four
thousand men under General John Sullivan to suppress “the hostile tribes”
and “the most mischievous of the
Tories.” At Newton, New York, on
August 29, 1779, Sullivan carried out
Washington’s instruction that the Iro-
quois country be not “merely overrun
but destroyed.” The American force
burned about forty Seneca and Cayuga
villages, together with their orchards
and food supplies, leaving many of the
Indians homeless and without enough
provisions to survive. The campaign
against the Loyalists and Indians broke
the power of the Iroquois Confederacy
for all time, but it did not completely
pacify the frontier. Sporadic encounters
with various tribes continued to the
end of the war.
In the Kentucky territory, Daniel
Boone and his small band of settlers
repeatedly clashed with the Shawnees
and their British and Loyalist allies. In
1778, Boone and some thirty men, aided by their wives and children, held off
an assault by more than four hundred Indians at Boonesborough. Thereafter,
Boone himself was twice shot and twice captured. Indians killed two of his
sons, a brother, and two brothers-in-law. His daughter was captured, and
another brother was wounded four times.
In early 1776 a delegation of northern Indians—Shawnees, Delawares, and
Mohawks—had talked the Cherokees into striking at frontier settlements in
Virginia and the Carolinas. Swift retaliation had followed as Carolina militia-
men led by Andrew Pickens burned dozens of Cherokee villages just east of
the Blue Ridge mountains, destroying their corn, orchards, and livestock. By
weakening the major Indian tribes along the frontier, the American Revolu-
tion cleared the way for white settlers to seize Indian lands after the war.
THE WAR I N THE SOUTH
At the end of 1778, the focus of the British military efforts shifted to
the southern theater. The whole region from Virginia southward had been
free of major military action since 1776. Now the British would test King
George’s belief that a dormant Loyalist sentiment in the South needed only
The War in the South

229
Joseph Brant
This 1786 portrait of Thayendanegea
(Joseph Brant) by Gilbert Stuart
features the Mohawk leader who
fought against the Americans in the
Revolution.
the presence of redcoats to be awakened. The new commander of British
forces in America, General Sir Henry Clinton, dispatched three thousand
redcoats, Hessians, and Loyalists to take Savannah, on the southeast Georgia
coast, and roll northeast, gathering momentum by enlisting support from
local Loyalists and the Cherokee Indians. Initially, Clinton’s southern strat-
egy worked. Within twenty months, the British and their allies had defeated
three American armies, retaken the strategic port cities of Savannah and
Charleston, occupied Georgia and much of South Carolina, and killed,
wounded, or captured some seven thousand American soldiers, nearly equal-
ing the British losses at Saratoga. The success of the “southern campaign” led
one British official to declare that there soon would be a “speedy and happy
termination of the American war.” But his optimistic prediction ran afoul of
three developments: first, the Loyalist strength in the South was—again—
less than estimated; second, the British effort to unleash Indian attacks con-
vinced many undecided backcountry settlers to join the Patriot side; and,
third, some of the British and Loyalist soldiers behaved so harshly that they
drove even some Loyalists to switch to the rebel side.
S AVANNAH AND CHARLES TON In November 1778 a British force
attacked Savannah, the capital and largest city of Georgia, the least populous
American colony. The invaders quickly overwhelmed the Patriots, took the
town, and hurried northeast toward Charleston, the capital of South Car-
olina, plundering plantation houses along the way. The Carolina campaign
took a major turn when British forces, led brilliantly by generals Clinton and
Charles Cornwallis, bottled up an American force on the Charleston Penin-
sula. On May 12, 1780, the American general surrendered Charleston and its
5,500 defenders, the greatest single Patriot loss of the war. American resis-
tance to the British onslaught in the South seemed to have been crushed. At
that point, Congress, against George Washington’s advice, turned to the vic-
tor at Saratoga, Horatio Gates, to take command and sent him south to form
a new army. General Cornwallis, now in charge of the British troops in the
South, engaged Gates’s much larger force at Camden, South Carolina, rout-
ing his new army, which retreated all the way to Hillsborough, North Car-
olina, 160 miles away. General Gates, the hero of Saratoga, fled to safety on a
fast horse.
THE CAROLI NAS From the point of view of British imperial goals, the
southern colonies were ultimately more important than the northern ones
because they produced valuable staple crops such as tobacco, rice, and indigo.
Eventually the war in the Carolinas aroused the ruthless passions and vio-
230

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
lence of a frontier civil war among neighbors that degenerated into savage
guerrilla-style raids and reprisals between “partisan” Patriots and local Loy-
alists along with Cherokees allied with the British. Each side at times tor-
tured, scalped, and executed prisoners.
General Cornwallis had Georgia and most of South Carolina under British
control by 1780, but his two most ruthless cavalry officers, Sir Banastre Tar-
leton and Patrick Ferguson, who were in charge of mobilizing, training, and
leading Loyalist militiamen, overreached themselves. The British officers
often let their men burn Patriot farms, liberate slaves, and destroy livestock.
As one of the British officers explained, “We have got a method that will put
an end to the rebellion in a short time . . . by hanging every man that . . . is
found acting against us.” Ferguson sealed his doom when he threatened to
march over the Blue Ridge Mountains, hang the mostly Scots-Irish back-
country Patriot leaders (“barbarians”), and destroy their farms. Instead, the
feisty “overmountain men” from southwestern Virginia and western North
and South Carolina (including “Tennesseans”), mostly hunters rather than
soldiers, went after Ferguson and his army of Loyalists. They clashed on par-
tially wooded ground near King’s Mountain, just across the North Carolina
border, about fifty miles west of Charlotte. There, on October 7, 1780, in a
ferocious hour-long battle, the frontier sharpshooters decimated the Loyal-
ists and Major Ferguson, their British commander, whose dead body was
found riddled with seven bullet holes. Almost seven hundred Loyalists were
captured, a dozen of whom were tried and hanged.
The Battle of King’s Mountain was the turning point of the war in the
South. The British forces under General Cornwallis retreated into South Car-
olina and found it virtually impossible to recruit more Loyalists. By proving
that the British were not invincible, the Battle of King’s Mountain embold-
ened farmers to join guerrilla bands under such colorful leaders as Francis
Marion, “the Swamp Fox,” and Thomas Sumter, “the Carolina Gamecock.”
In late 1780 Congress chose a new commander for the southern theater,
General Nathanael Greene, “the fighting Quaker” of Rhode Island. A for-
mer blacksmith blessed with infinite patience, skilled at managing men and
saving supplies, careful to avoid needless risks, he was Washington’s ablest
general—and well suited to a prolonged war against the British forces.
From Charlotte, North Carolina, where Greene arrived in December 1780,
he moved his army eastward and sent General Daniel Morgan with about
seven hundred men on a sweep to the west of Cornwallis’s headquarters at
Winnsboro, South Carolina. Taking a position near Cowpens, a cow-grazing
area in northern South Carolina, Morgan’s force engaged Tarleton’s British
army on January 17, 1781. Once the battle was joined, Tarleton rushed his
The War in the South

231
232

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
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MAJOR CAMPAIGNS IN
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YORKTOWN, 1781
Why did the British suddenly shift their campaign to the South? Why
were the battles at Savannah and Charleston major victories for the
British? How did Nathanael Greene undermine British control of the
Deep South? Why did Cornwallis march to Virginia and camp at
Yorktown? How was the French navy crucial to the American victory?
Why was Cornwallis forced to surrender?
men forward, only to be ambushed by Morgan’s cavalry. Tarleton escaped,
but over a hundred British were killed, and more than seven hundred were
taken prisoner. Cowpens was the most complete tactical victory for the Amer-
ican side in the Revolution. It was one of the few times that Americans won a
battle in which the two sides were evenly matched. When General Cornwallis
learned of the American victory, he said the news “broke my heart.”
After the victory at Cowpens, Morgan’s army moved into North Carolina
and linked up with General Greene’s main force at Guilford Courthouse
(near what became Greensboro). Greene lured Cornwallis’s army north, and
then attacked the redcoats at Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. The
Americans inflicted such heavy losses that Cornwallis marched his men off
toward Wilmington, on the North Carolina coast, to lick their wounds and
take on supplies from British ships. Greene then resolved to go back into
South Carolina in the hope of drawing Cornwallis after him or forcing the
British to give up the state. There he joined forces with local guerrilla bands.
In a series of brilliant actions, the Americans kept narrowly losing battles
while winning the war by prolonging it. It was a contest of endurance, and
the Americans held the advantage in time, men, and supplies; they could
outlast the British as long as they avoided a catastrophic defeat. “We fight,
get beat, rise, and fight again,” Greene said. By September 1781, the Ameri-
cans had narrowed British control in the South to Charleston and Savannah,
although for more than a year longer local Patriots and Loyalists slashed at
each other in the backcountry, where there was “nothing but murder and
devastation in every quarter,” Greene said.
Meanwhile, Cornwallis had pushed his British army north, away from
Greene, reasoning that Virginia must be eliminated as a source of reinforce-
ment and supplies before the Carolinas could be subdued. In May 1781 the
British force marched into Virginia. There, since December 1780, the traitor-
ous Benedict Arnold, now a British general, had been engaged in a war of
maneuver against the American forces. Arnold, until September 1780, had
been the American commander at West Point, New York. But like many sol-
diers during the Revolution, Arnold had switched sides. Overweening in
ambition, lacking in moral scruples, and a reckless spender on his fashion-
able wife, Arnold had nursed a grudge against George Washington over an
official reprimand for his extravagances as commander of reoccupied
Philadelphia. Traitors have a price, and Arnold had found his: he had crassly
plotted to sell out the American garrison at West Point to the British, and he
even suggested how they might seize George Washington himself. Only the
fortuitous capture of the British go-between, Major John André, had ended
Arnold’s plot. Warned that his plan had been discovered, Arnold had joined
the British in New York City, while the Americans hanged André as a spy.
The War in the South

233
YORKTOWN When Cornwallis linked up his army with Arnold’s at
Petersburg, Virginia, their combined forces totaled 7,200 men. As the Amer-
icans approached, Cornwallis picked Yorktown, Virginia, on Chesapeake
Bay, as a defensible site on which to establish a base of operations. There
appeared to be little reason to worry about a siege, since General Washing-
ton’s main land force seemed preoccupied with attacking New York, and the
British navy controlled American waters.
To be sure, there was a small American navy, but it was no match for the
British fleet. Yet American privateers distracted and wounded the massive
British ships. Most celebrated were the exploits of Captain John Paul Jones.
Off the English coast on September 23, 1779, Jones and his crew won a des-
perate battle with a British frigate, which the Americans captured and occu-
pied before their own ship sank. This was the occasion for Jones’s stirring
and oft-repeated response to a British demand for surrender: “I have not yet
begun to fight.”
Still, such heroics were little more than nuisances to the British. But at a
critical point, thanks to the French navy, the British navy lost control of
Chesapeake Bay. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine an American victory in
the Revolution without the assistance of the French. As long as the British
navy maintained supremacy at sea, the Americans could not hope to win the
war. For three years, George Washington had waited to get some strategic
military benefit from the French alliance. In July 1780 the French had finally
landed six thousand soldiers at Newport, Rhode Island, which the British
had given up to concentrate on the South, but the French army had sat there
for a year, blockaded by the British fleet.
Then, in 1781, the elements for a combined Franco-American action sud-
denly fell into place. In May, as Cornwallis’s army moved into Virginia,
George Washington persuaded the commander of the French army in Rhode
Island to join forces for an attack on the British army in New York. The two
armies linked up in July, but before they could strike at New York, word
came from the West Indies that Admiral François-Joseph-Paul de Grasse was
bound for the Chesapeake Bay with his large French fleet and some three
thousand soldiers. The news led Washington to change his strategy. He
immediately began moving his army south toward Yorktown. Meanwhile,
French ships slipped out of the British blockade at Newport, Rhode Island
and also headed south toward Chesapeake Bay.
On August 30, Admiral de Grasse’s fleet reached Yorktown, and French
troops landed to join the Americans confronting Cornwallis’s army. On Sep-
tember 6, the day after a British fleet appeared, de Grasse attacked and forced
the British navy to give up the effort to relieve Cornwallis, whose fate was
234

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
quickly sealed. De Grasse then sent ships up the Chesapeake to ferry down
the allied armies that were marching south, bringing the total American and
French armies to more than sixteen thousand men, better than double the
size of Cornwallis’s besieged British army.
The siege of Yorktown began on September 28. On October 14 two major
British outposts fell to French and American attackers, the latter led by Wash-
ington’s aide, Alexander Hamilton. A British counterattack failed to retake
them. On October 17, 1781, an abject Cornwallis sued for peace, and on Octo-
ber 19, the surrendering British force of more than seven thousand marched
out as its band played a somber tune titled “The World Turned Upside Down.”
Cornwallis himself claimed to be too ill to participate. His dispatch to London
was telling: “I have the mortification to inform your Excellency that I have
been forced to . . . surrender the troops under my command.”
THE TREATY OF PARI S
Any lingering hopes of victory the British may have had vanished at
Yorktown. In London, Lord North reacted to the news of the surrender as if
he had “taken a ball in the breast,” said the messenger who delivered the
report. “O God,” the prime minister exclaimed, “it is all over.” In December
The Treaty of Paris

235
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis
By John Trumbull. The artist completed his painting of the pivotal British surrender
at Yorktown in 1781.
King George III and his ministers decided to send no more troops to Amer-
ica. Although British forces still controlled New York City, Wilmington,
North Carolina, Charleston, and Savannah, the House of Commons voted
against continuing the war on February 27, 1782, and on March 20 Lord
North resigned. The British leaders decided to end the war in America so
that they could concentrate their efforts on the conflict with France and
236

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
Claimed by
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United States
England
Spain
Russia
How did France’s treaties with Spain complicate the peace-treaty negotiations with
the British? What were the terms of the Treaty of Paris? Why might the ambiguities
in the treaty have led to conflicts among the Americans, the Spanish, and the
British?
Spain. The Continental Congress named commissioners to negotiate a peace
treaty in Paris; these commissioners included John Adams, who was repre-
senting the United States in the Netherlands; John Jay, minister (ambas-
sador) to Spain; and Benjamin Franklin, already in France. The cranky John
Adams was an odd choice since, as Thomas Jefferson said, he seemed to hate
everyone: “He hates [Benjamin] Franklin, he hates John Jay, he hates the
French, he hates the English.” In the end, Franklin and Jay did most of
the work leading to a peace treaty, and they did it very well.
The negotiations dragged on for months until finally, on September 3,
1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed. Its provisions were surprisingly favorable
to the United States. Great Britain recognized the independence of the thir-
teen former colonies making up the United States, but it surprisingly agreed
to view the Mississippi River as America’s western boundary, thereby more
than doubling the territory of the new nation. The boundaries of the United
States created by the treaty encompassed some nine hundred thousand
square miles, nearly 70 percent of which was west of the Proclamation Line of
1763, a vast region long inhabited by Indians and often referred to as
Transappalachia. The Indian tribes were by far the biggest losers as a result of
the treaty negotiations, which they were not allowed to participate in.
The treaty’s ambiguous refer-
ences to America’s northern and
southern borders would be dis-
puted for years. Florida, as it
turned out, passed back to Spain
from Britain. On the matter of
the prewar debts owed by Ameri-
cans to British merchants, the
U.S. negotiators promised that
British merchants should “meet
with no legal impediment” in
seeking to collect money owed
them. And on the tender point of
the thousands of Loyalists whose
homes, lands, and possessions
had been confiscated (and sold)
by state governments, the nego-
tiators agreed that Congress
would “earnestly recommend” to
the states that the confiscated
property be restored.
The Treaty of Paris

237
American Commissioners of the Prelimi-
nary Peace Negotiations with Great Britain
An unfinished painting from 1782 by
Benjamin West. From left, John Jay, John
Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens,
and Franklin’s grandson William Temple
Franklin.
238

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
THE POLI TI CAL REVOLUTI ON
The Americans had won their War of Independence. Had they under-
gone a political revolution as well? Years later, John Adams insisted that the
Revolution began before the shooting started: “The Revolution was in the
minds and hearts of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles,
opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American
Revolution.” Yet Adams’s observation ignores the fact that the Revolutionary
War itself ignited a prolonged debate about what new forms of government
would best serve the new American republic.
REPUBLI CAN I DEOLOGY Americans promoted a “republican” ideol-
ogy instead of the aristocratic or monarchical governments that had long
dominated Europe. In its simplest sense, the new republic was a nation
whose citizens (property-holding white men) were deemed equal before the
law and governed themselves through elected and appointed representatives.
To preserve the delicate balance between liberty and power, the revolution-
ary leaders believed that their new governments must be designed to protect
individual and states’ rights from being trammeled by the national govern-
ment. The conventional British model of mixed government sought to bal-
ance monarchy, aristocracy, and the common people and thereby protect
individual liberty. The new United States of America, however, professed
new political assumptions and required new governmental institutions.
America had no monarchy or formal aristocracy. Yet how could sovereignty
reside in the people? How could Americans ensure the survival of their new
republic, long assumed to be the most fragile form of government? The war
for independence thus sparked a spate of state constitution-making that
remains unique in history.
S TATE CONS TI TUTI ONS Most of the political experimentation be -
tween 1776 and 1787 occurred at the state level in the form of written con-
stitutions in which the people delegated limited authority to the government.
These state-level political innovations created a reservoir of ideas and expe-
rience that formed the basis for the creation of the federal constitution in
1787.
The first state constitutions varied mainly in detail. They formed govern-
ments much like the colonial governments, but with elected governors and
senates instead of appointed governors and councils. Generally they embod-
ied a separation of powers (legislative, executive, and judicial) as a safeguard
against abuses. Most also included a bill of rights that protected the time-
honored rights of petition, freedom of speech, trial by jury, freedom from
self-incrimination, and the like. They tended to limit the powers of gover-
nors and increase the powers of the legislatures, which had led the people in
their quarrels with the colonial governors.
THE ARTI CLES OF CONFEDERATI ON No sooner had the Ameri-
can colonies declared their independence in 1776 than the rebels faced the
challenge of forming a national government as well as state governments.
Before March 1781, the Continental Congress had exercised emergency
powers without any constitutional authority. Plans for a permanent frame
of government emerged very quickly, however. As early as July 1776, a
committee appointed by the Continental Congress had produced a draft
constitution called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.
When the Articles of Confederation became effective during the war, in
March 1781, they essentially legalized what had become the prevailing
practice. What came to be called the Confederation Congress had a multi-
tude of responsibilities but little authority to carry them out. Congress was
intended not as a legislature, nor as a sovereign entity unto itself, but as a
collective substitute for the monarch. In essence it was to be a legislative
body serving as the nation’s executive rather than a parliament. It had full
power over foreign affairs and questions of war and peace; it could decide
disputes between the states; it had authority over coinage, the postal ser-
vice, and Indian affairs as well as the western territories. But it had no
courts and no power to enforce its resolutions and ordinances. It also had
no power to levy taxes and had to rely on requisitions from the states,
which state legislatures could ignore.
The states, after their colonial battles with Parliament, were in no mood
for a strong central government. Congress in fact had less power than the
colonists had once accepted in Parliament, since it could not regulate inter-
state and foreign commerce. For certain important acts, moreover, a “special
majority” was required. Nine states had to approve measures dealing with
war, treaties, coinage, finances, and the army and navy. Unanimous approval
of the states was needed to levy tariffs (often called “duties” or taxes) on
imports. Amendments to the Articles also required unanimous ratification
by all the states. The Confederation had neither an executive nor a judicial
branch; there was no administrative head of government (only the president
of Congress, chosen annually), and there were no federal courts.
For all its weaknesses, however, the Confederation government repre-
sented the most practical structure for the new nation fighting for its very
survival. After all, the Revolution on the battlefields had yet to be won, and
The Political Revolution

239
America’s statesmen could not risk the prolonged, divisive debates over the
distribution of power that other forms of government would have entailed.
THE SOCI AL REVOLUTI ON
Political revolutions and the chaos of war often spawn social revolu-
tions. What did the Revolution mean to those workers, servants, farmers,
and freed slaves who participated in the Stamp Act demonstrations, sup-
ported the boycotts, and fought in the army, navy, and militias? Many partic-
ipants hoped that the Revolution would remove, not reinforce, the elite’s tra-
ditional political and social advantages. Many wealthy Patriots, on the other
hand, would have been content to replace royal officials with the rich, the
wellborn, and the able and let it go at that. But other revolutionaries raised
the question not only of gaining independence but also of who should rule
at home. The energy embedded in the concepts of liberty, equality, and
democracy changed the dynamics of American social and political life in
ways that people did not imagine in 1776.
THE EXODUS OF LOYALI S TS The Loyalists were the biggest losers in
the brutal civil war that was embedded within the Revolutionary war. They
suffered greatly for their stubborn loyalty to King George III and for their
refusal to pledge allegiance to the new United States. During and after the
Revolution, their property was confiscated, and many Loyalists were assaulted,
brutalized, and executed by Patriots (and vice versa). After the American vic-
tory at Yorktown, tens of thousands of panicked Loyalists made their way to
coastal seaports to board British ships to flee the new United States. Thou-
sands of African Americans, mostly runaway slaves, also flocked to New York
City, Charleston, and Savannah, with many of their angry owners in hot pur-
suit. Boston King, a runaway, said he saw white slave owners seizing upon
“their slaves in the streets of New York, or even dragging them out of their
beds.” General Guy Carleton, the commander of British forces in North
America, organized the mass evacuation of Loyalists and runaway slaves. He
intentionally violated the provisions of the Treaty of Paris by refusing to
return slaves to their owners, defiantly telling a furious George Washington
that his runaway slaves had already been embarked on British ships bound
for Canada.
Some eighty thousand desperate refugees—white Loyalists, free blacks,
freed slaves, and Indians who had allied with the British—dispersed through-
out the British Empire, changing it in the process. Some twelve thousand
240

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
Georgia and South Carolina Loyalists, including thousands of their slaves
(the British granted freedom only to the slaves of Patriots), went to British-
controlled East Florida, only to see their new home handed over to Spain in
1783. Spanish authorities gave them a hard choice: swear allegiance to the
Spanish king and convert to Catholicism or leave. Most of them left. Some of
the doubly displaced Loyalists sneaked back into the United States while
most of them went to British islands in the Caribbean. “We are all cast off,”
lamented one embittered Loyalist. “I shall ever tho’ remember with satisfac-
tion that it was not I deserted my King [George III], but my King that
deserted me.” The largest number of Loyalist exiles landed in Canada, where
royal officials wanted them to displace the earlier French presence. Among
the emigrants landing in Canada were three thousand five hundred former
slaves who had been given their freedom in exchange for their joining the
British cause.
The departure of so many Loyalists from America was one of the most
important social consequences of the Revolution. Their confiscated homes,
vast tracts of land, and vacated jobs created new social, economic, and polit-
ical opportunities for Patriots. Ironically, some of the Loyalist refugees took
The Social Revolution

241
Retribution against Loyalists
In the aftermath of the Revolution, Loyalists, or “Tories,” sought refuge from
Patriot reprisals in the Caribbean and Canada. Here, Patriots are depicted as
brutal “savages,” hanging and scalping Tories with abandon.
with them an American desire for greater political participation as they cre-
ated new lives within the British Empire. It was no coincidence that Canada
achieved self-governing powers earlier than any other territory within the
Empire—thanks in part to the ideals professed by transplanted American
Loyalists.
EQUALI TY AND I TS LI MI TS This spirit of social equality spawned
by the Revolution weakened old habits of social deference. A Virginian
remembered being in a tavern at the end of the Revolutionary war when a
group of farmers came in, spitting and pulling off their muddy boots with-
out regard for the sensibilities of the gentlemen present: “The spirit of inde-
pendence was converted into equality,” he wrote, “and every one who bore
arms, esteems himself upon a footing with his neighbors. . . . No doubt each
of these men considers himself, in every respect, my equal.” Thomas Jeffer-
son welcomed the democratizing effects of the Revolutionary War, for he
believed that the “middling” people who made their livings with their hands
were the truest republicans.
The new political opportunities afforded by the creation of state govern-
ments led more ordinary citizens to participate than ever before. The social
base of the new legislatures was thus much broader than that of the old
assemblies. The property qualifications for voting, which already admitted
an overwhelming majority of white men, were lowered after 1776. In Penn-
sylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, and Georgia, any male taxpayer could
vote, although candidates for elected offices usually had to meet more strin-
gent property requirements. Americans who had argued against taxation
without representation now questioned the denial of proportional represen-
tation for the backcountry, which generally enlarged its presence in the legis-
latures. In New Hampshire, for example, the colonial assembly in 1765 had
contained only thirty-four “gentlemen” members; by 1786 the state’s house
of representatives had eighty-eight members, most of whom were common
folk—farmers, tradesmen, and shopkeepers. More often than not, the politi-
cal newcomers were men with less property and little formal education.
New developments in land tenure that grew out of the Revolution extended
the democratic trends of suffrage requirements. All state legislatures seized
Tory estates. These properties were of small consequence, however, in con-
trast to the unsettled areas formerly at the disposal of the Crown and propri-
etors but now in the hands of popular assemblies. Much of that land was
now used for bonuses to reward veterans of the war. Moreover, western lands
across the Appalachian Mountains, formerly closed by the Royal Proclama-
tion of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774, were soon thrown open to settlers.
242

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
THE PARADOX OF SLAVERY Ironies abounded amid a revolutionary
war fought in the name of liberty. Freedom, for example, was intended for
whites only in most of the newly created states. African Americans made up
20 percent of the population in the American colonies at the time of the Rev-
olution, but their role in the conflict was long ignored until recent years. Dur-
ing 1773 and 1774, as white colonists increasingly protested the curtailment
of their “freedoms” by the British government, few of them acknowledged the
hypocrisy of Patriots maintaining the widespread practice of race-based slav-
ery in the colonies. The rhetoric of liberty circulated widely in slave commu-
nities. In 1773 slaves in Boston pleaded with the British governor to address
their “intolerable condition.” They complained of having “no Property! We
have no Wives! No Children! We have no City! No Country!” Such pleas
were largely ignored, however. In 1775 the prominent South Carolinian
William Henry Drayton expressed his horror that “impertinent” slaves were
claiming “that the present contest [with Great Britain] was for obliging us to
give them liberty.”
The sharpest irony of the Revolution is that the British offered more
enticing opportunities for freedom to enslaved blacks than did the new
United States. When the war began, the British promised freedom to slaves,
as well as indentured servants, who would bear arms for the Loyalist cause.
In December 1775, John Murray, Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of
Virginia, issued such an offer; within a month the British had attracted three
hundred former servants and slaves to what came to be called the “Ethiopian
Regiment.” Within a year the number had grown to almost a thousand males
and twice as many women and children.
Dunmore’s proclamation promising freedom for slaves who fought on the
British side had profound effects. The British recruitment of slaves stunned
whites in Virginia, where forty percent of the population was black. People
in the South had long been terrified at the prospect of armed slave insurrec-
tions; now the threat was real. Members of the all-black British regiment
wore uniforms embroidered with the motto “Liberty to Slaves.” The overseer
of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia plantation, reported that
the general’s slaves and servants would leave if they got the chance. “Liberty
is sweet,” he bitterly added. Dunmore’s effort to recruit the slaves owned by
Patriots into the “Ethiopian Regiment” infuriated Washington and other
Virginia planters. Washington predicted that if Dunmore’s efforts were “not
crushed” soon, the number of slaves joining him would “increase as a Snow
ball by Rolling.” For all of the revolutionary rhetoric about liberty as an
“inalienable right,” the American war for independence was intended to lib-
erate whites only. As a New England soldier named Josiah Atkins noticed
The Social Revolution

243
when he was sent to fight British forces in the South, the Revolution’s ideals
were “strikingly inconsistent” with the widespread practice of slavery in Vir-
ginia and the Carolinas.
In the end, the British strategy of encouraging a great black exodus from
slavery backfired to the extent that it outraged southern slaveholders, many
of whom were neutral before learning of Dunmore’s policy. The “terrifying”
news that British troops would liberate and arm their enslaved African
Americans persuaded many southerners to join the Patriot cause. For many
whites, especially in Virginia, the Revolution became primarily a war to defend
slavery. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina said that the British decision to
arm and liberate slaves did more to create “an eternal separation between
Great Britain and the colonies than any other expedient.”
In December 1775 a Patriot militia defeated Lord Dunmore and his
African American regiment and forced the British and their black recruits to
flee Norfolk, Virginia, and board scores of overcrowded ships in the Chesa-
peake Bay. No sooner had the former slaves boarded the British ships than a
smallpox epidemic raced through the fleet, eventually forcing the Loyalist
forces to disembark on an offshore island. During the winter and spring of
1776, disease and hunger devastated the primitive camp. “Dozens died daily
from Small Pox and rotten Fevers by which diseases they are infected,” wrote
a visitor. Before the Loyalists fled the island in the summer of 1776, over half
of the troops, most of them former slaves, had died.
In response to the British recruitment of enslaved African Americans,
General Washington at the end of 1775 authorized the enlistment of free
blacks into the army but not slaves. Southerners, however, convinced the
Continental Congress to instruct General Washington in February 1776 to
enlist no more African Americans, free or enslaved. But as the American war
effort struggled, the exclusionary policy was at times ignored in order to put
men in uniform. Massachusetts organized two all-black companies, and Rhode
Island organized one, which also included Indians. However, two states, South
Carolina and Georgia, refused to allow any blacks to serve in the Patriot forces.
No more than about five thousand African Americans fought on the Patriot
side, and most of them were free blacks from northern states.
Slaves who supported the cause of independence won their freedom
and, in some cases, received parcels of land as well. But the British army,
which liberated twenty thousand enslaved blacks during the war, including
many of those owned by Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George
Washington, was a far greater instrument of emancipation than the Amer-
ican forces. Most of the newly freed blacks found their way to Canada or to
British colonies on Caribbean islands. American Patriots had shown no
244

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
mercy to blacks caught aiding or abetting the British cause. In Virginia a
captured fifteen-year-old runaway was greeted by her owner with a whip-
ping of eighty lashes, after which he rubbed burning coals into her
wounds. A Charleston mob hanged and then burned Thomas Jeremiah, a
free African American who was convicted of telling slaves that the British
“were come to help the poor Negroes.” White Loyalists who were caught
encouraging slaves to join the British cause were tarred and feathered.
While thousands of free blacks and runaway slaves fought in the war, the
vast majority of African Americans did not choose sides so much as they
chose freedom. Several hundred thousand enslaved blacks, mostly in the
southern states, took advantage of the chaos of war to seize their freedom.
In the northern states, which had far fewer slaves than the southern states,
the doctrines of liberty undergirding the dispute with Great Britain led
swiftly to emancipation for all, either during the fighting or shortly after-
ward. The Vermont Constitution of 1777, for example, specifically forbade
slavery. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 proclaimed the “inherent
liberty” of all. In 1780, Pennsylvania declared that all children born there-
after to slave mothers would become free at age twenty-eight, after
enabling their owners to recover their initial cost. In 1784, Rhode Island
provided freedom to all children of slaves born thereafter, at age twenty-
one for males, eighteen for females. New York lagged until 1799 in grant-
ing freedom to mature slaves born after enactment of its constitution, but
an act of 1817 set July 4, 1827, as the date for emancipation of all remain-
ing “people in slavery.” In the states south of Pennsylvania, formal emanci-
pation was far less popular. Yet even there, slaveholders expressed moral
qualms. Thomas Jefferson confessed in 1785 that he trembled “for my
country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep for-
ever.” But he, like most other white southerners, could not bring himself to
free his enslaved African Americans.
THE S TATUS OF WOMEN The logic of liberty spawned by the Revo-
lution applied to the status of women as much as to that of African Ameri-
cans. The legal status of women in the colonies was governed by British
common law, which essentially treated them like children, limiting their
roles to the domestic sphere. They could not vote or hold office. However
pious they might be, they could not preach. Few had access to formal educa-
tion. A married woman had no right to buy, sell, or manage property. Tech-
nically, any wages earned belonged to the husband. Women could not sign
contracts or sue others or testify in court. Divorces were extremely difficult
to obtain. A wife was obliged to obey her husband.
The Social Revolution

245
Yet the Revolution offered women new opportunities outside the domes-
tic sphere. Women supported the armies in various roles: by handling sup-
plies, serving as couriers or spies, and working as camp followers—cooking,
cleaning, and nursing the soldiers. Wives often followed their husbands to
camp and on occasion took their place in the line, as Margaret Corbin did
when her husband fell at his artillery post and as Mary Ludwig Hays (better
known as Molly Pitcher) did when her husband collapsed of heat exhaus-
tion. An exceptional case was Deborah Sampson, who joined a Massachu-
setts regiment as “Robert Shurtleff ” and served from 1781 to 1783 by the
“artful concealment” of her gender.
To be sure, most women retained the constricted domestic outlook that
had long been imposed upon them by society. But a few free-spirited reform-
ers demanded equal treatment. In an essay titled “On the Equality of the
Sexes,” written in 1779 and published in 1790, Judith Sargent Murray of
Gloucester, Massachusetts, stressed that women were perfectly capable of
excelling in roles outside the home.
Early in the Revolutionary struggle, Abigail Adams, one of the most learned,
spirited, and independent women of the time, wrote to her husband, John: “In
246

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
Molly Pitcher
At Fort Washington, Molly Pitcher took her husband’s place at the cannon during
the American Revolution.
the new Code of Laws which I sup-
pose it will be necessary for you to
make I desire you would remember
the Ladies. . . . Do not put such
unlimited power into the hands of
the Husbands.” Since men were
“Naturally Tyrannical,” she wrote,
“why then, not put it out of the
power of the vicious and the Lawless
to use us with cruelty and indignity
with impunity.” Otherwise, “if par-
ticular care and attention is not paid
to the Ladies we are determined to
foment a Rebellion, and will not
hold ourselves bound by any Laws in
which we have no voice, or Repre-
sentation.” Husband John expressed
surprise that women might be
discontented, but he clearly knew
the privileges enjoyed by males
and was determined to retain
them: “Depend upon it, we know
better than to repeal our Masculine
systems.” Thomas Jefferson was of one mind with Adams on the matter.
When asked about women’s voting rights, he replied that “the tender breasts
of ladies were not formed for political convulsion.”
The legal status of women did not improve dramatically as a result of the
Revolutionary ferment. Married women in most states still forfeited control
of their own property to their husbands, and women gained no permanent
political rights. Under the 1776 New Jersey Constitu tion, which neglected to
specify an exclusively male franchise because the delegates apparently took
the distinction for granted, women who met the property qualifications for
voting exercised the right until they were denied access early in the nine-
teenth century.
I NDI ANS AND THE REVOLUTI ON The war for American indepen-
dence had profound effects on the Indians in the southern backcountry and
in the Old Northwest region west of New York and Pennsylvania. Most tribes
sought to remain neutral in the conflict, but both British and American agents
lobbied the chiefs to fight on their side. The result was the disintegration of
The Social Revolution

247
Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, in a
1766 pastel. Though an ardent patriot,
Adams and other women like her saw few
benefits from the new United States.
the alliance among the six tribes making up the Iroquois League. The
Mohawks, for example, succumbed to British promises to protect them from
encroachments by American settlers on their lands. The Oneidas, on the
other hand, fought on the side of the American Patriots. The result of such
alliances was chaos on the frontier. Indians on both sides attacked villages,
burned crops, and killed civilians. The new American government assured
its Indian allies that it would respect their lands and their rights. In Decem-
ber 1777 the Continental Congress promised Oneida leaders that “we shall
[always] love and respect you. As our trusty friends, we shall protect you;
and shall at all times consider your welfare as our own.” But in various places
local Revolutionaries adopted a very different goal: they sought to use the
turmoil of war to displace and destroy all Native Americans. In 1777 South
Carolina militiamen were ordered to “cut up every Indian cornfield, and
burn every Indian town and every Indian taken shall be slave and property
of the taker and . . . the [Indian] nation be extirpated and the lands become the
property of the public.” Once the war ended and independence was secured,
the U.S. government turned its back on most of the pledges made to Native
Americans. By the end of the eighteenth century, land-hungry American
whites were again pushing into Indian territories on the western frontier.
FREEDOM OF RELI GI ON The Revolution also tested traditional reli-
gious loyalties and set in motion a transition from the toleration of religious
dissent to a complete freedom of religion as embodied in the principle of
separation of church and state. The Anglican Church, established as the offi-
cial religion in five colonies and parts of two others, was especially vulnera-
ble. Anglicans tended to be pro-British. And non-Anglican dissenters, most
notably Baptists and Methodists, outnumbered Anglicans in all states except
Virginia. All but Virginia eliminated tax support for the church before the
fighting was over, and Virginia did so soon afterward. Although Anglicanism
survived in the form of the new Episcopal Church, it never regained its pre-
Revolutionary size or stature. Newer denominations, such as Methodists and
Baptists, as well as Presbyterians, filled the vacuum created by the shrinking
Anglican Church.
In 1776 the Virginia Declaration of Rights guaranteed the free exercise
of religion, and in 1786 the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom (written by
Thomas Jefferson) declared that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or
support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever” and “that
all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions
in matters of religion.” These statutes and the Revolutionary ideology that
justified them helped shape the course that religion would take in the new
248

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
United States: pluralistic and voluntary rather than state supported and
monolithic.
In churches as in government, the Revolution set off a period of constitu-
tion making as some of the first national church bodies emerged. In 1784 the
Methodists, who at first were an offshoot of the Anglicans, gathered for a
general conference at Baltimore under Bishop Francis Asbury. The Anglican
Church, rechristened the Episcopal Church, gathered in a series of meetings
that by 1789 had united the various dioceses in a federal union; in 1789 the
Presbyterians also held their first general assembly in Philadelphia. That
same year the Catholic Church got its first higher official in the United States
when John Carroll was named bishop of Baltimore.
THE EMERGENCE OF AN AMERI CAN CULTURE
The Revolution helped excite a sense of common nationality. One of
the first ways in which a national consciousness was forged was through the
annual celebration of the new nation’s independence from Great Britain. On
The Emergence of an American Culture

249
Religious development
The Congregational Church developed a national presence in the early nineteenth
century, and Lemuel Haynes, depicted here, was its first African American preacher.
July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress had resolved “that these
United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states,”
John Adams had written Abigail that future generations would remember
that date as their “day of deliverance.” People, he predicted, would celebrate
the occasion with “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty” and with
“pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illu-
minations [fireworks] from one end of this continent to the other, from this
time forward, forever more.”
Adams got everything right but the date. As luck would have it, July 4
became Independence Day by accident. In 1777, Congress forgot to make
any acknowledgment of the first anniversary of independence until July 3,
when it was too late to honor July 2. As a consequence, the Fourth won by
default.
The celebration of Independence Day quickly became the most important
public ritual in the United States. Huge numbers of people from all walks of
life suspended their normal routine in order to devote a day to parades, for-
mal orations, and fireworks displays. In the process the infant republic
began to create its own myth of national identity that transcended local or
regional concerns. “What a day!” exclaimed the editor of the Southern Patriot
in 1815. “What happiness, what emotion, what virtuous triumph must fill
the bosoms of Americans!”
AMERI CA’ S “DES TI NY” American nationalism embodied a stirring
idea. This new nation, unlike the Old World nations of Europe, was not
rooted in antiquity. Its people, except for the Native Americans, had not
inhabited it over many centuries, nor was there any notion of a common
ethnic descent. “The American national consciousness,” one observer wrote,
“is not a voice crying out of the depth of the dark past, but is proudly a prod-
uct of the enlightened present, setting its face resolutely toward the future.”
Many people, at least since the time of the Pilgrims, had thought of the
“New World” as singled out for a special identity, a special mission assigned
by God. John Adams proclaimed the opening of America “a grand scheme
and design in Providence for the illumination and the emancipation of the
slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” This sense of providential mis-
sion was neither limited to New England nor rooted solely in Calvinism.
From the democratic rhetoric of Thomas Jefferson to the pragmatism of
George Washington to heady toasts bellowed in South Carolina taverns,
patriots everywhere articulated a special role for American leadership in his-
tory. The mission was now a call to lead the world toward greater liberty and
250

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (CH. 5)
equality. Meanwhile, however, Americans had to address more immediate
problems created by their new nationhood. The Philadelphia doctor and sci-
entist Benjamin Rush issued a prophetic statement in 1787: “The American
war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution.
On the contrary, but the first act of the great drama is closed.”
The Emergence of an American Culture

251
End of Chapter Review
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• Military Strategies The Americans had to create an army—the Continental
army—from scratch and sustain it. To defeat the British, Washington realized
that the Americans had to wage a war of attrition, given that the British army
was fighting a war thousands of miles from its home base. To defeat the Ameri-
cans, Britain’s initial strategy was to take New York and sever the troublesome
New England colonies from the rest.
• Turning Points The American victory at Saratoga in 1777 was the first major
turning point of the war. George Washington’s ability to hold his forces together
despite daily desertions and two especially difficult winters was a second major
turning point. The British lost support from the southern colonies when they
executed the rebels they captured in backcountry skirmishing.
• Loyalists, “Tories” The American Revolution was a civil war, dividing families
and communities. There were at least one hundred thousand Tories, or Loyalists,
in the colonies. They included royal officials, Anglican ministers, wealthy
southern planters, and the elite in large seaport cities; they also included many
humble people, especially recent immigrants. After the hostilities ended, most
Loyalists, including slaves who had fled their plantations to support the British
cause, left for Canada, the West Indies, or England.
• Worldwide Conflict The French were prospective allies from the beginning
of the conflict, because they resented their losses to Britain in the Seven Years’
War. After the British defeat at Saratoga, France and the colonies agreed to fight
together until independence was won. Further agreements with Spain and the
Netherlands helped to make the Revolution a worldwide conflict. French
supplies and the presence of the French fleet ensured the Americans’ victory
at Yorktown.
• A Social Revolution The American Revolution disrupted and transformed
traditional class and social relationships. More white men gained the vote as
property requirements were removed. Northern states began to free slaves, but
southerner states were reluctant. Although many women had undertaken non-
traditional roles during the war, they remained largely confined to the domestic
sphere afterward, with no changes to their legal or political status. The Revolu-
tion had catastrophic effects on the Native Americans, regardless of which side
they had embraced. American settlers seized Native American land, often in
violation of existing treaties.
K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
General George Washington
p. 214
Continental army p. 214
General William Howe p. 214
Tories p. 215
General John Burgoyne
p. 221
Battle of Saratoga p. 224
Marquis de Lafayette p. 227
Joseph Brant p. 228
General Charles Cornwallis
p. 230
General Nathanael Greene
p. 231
Benedict Arnold p. 233
surrender at Yorktown
p. 234
John Adams p. 237
Abigail Adams p. 246

C H R O N O L O G Y
1776 General Washington’s troops cross the Delaware River; Battle of
Trenton
1776–1777 Washington’s troops winter at Morristown, New Jersey
1777 Battle of Saratoga; General Burgoyne surrenders
1777–1778 Washington’s troops winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
1778 Americans and French form an alliance
1781 Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse
1781 General Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, Virginia
1781 Articles of Confederation are ratified
1783 Treaty of Paris is signed
1786 Virginia adopts the Statute of Religious Freedom

6
SHAPING
A FEDERAL UNION
T
he new United States of America was distinctive among the
nations of the world in that it was born out of ideas and
ideals rather than from centuries-old shared racial or ances-
tral bonds. Those ideals were captured in phrases that still resonate in Amer-
ican culture: All men are created equal. Liberty and justice for all. E pluribus
unum (“Out of many, one”—the phrase on the official seal of the United
States). The development of the new nation after 1783 reflected the varied
and at times conflicting ways that Americans understood, applied, and vio-
lated these ideals over time. The ideals that led Revolutionaries to declare
their independence from Great Britain and then win an unlikely victory on
the battlefields shaped an upstart nation that had neither the luxury of time
nor the adequacy of resources to guarantee its survival.
The American Revolution created not only an independent new republic
but also a different conception of politics than prevailed in Europe. Ameri-
cans rejected the notion that nations should necessarily be divided into a
hierarchy of classes—monarchs, nobles or aristocrats, and commoners.
Instead, the United States was created to protect individual interests (“life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”) and to defend individual rights against
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What were the achievements of the Confederation government?
• What were the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation?
• Why did the delegates to the Constitutional Convention draft a
completely new constitution?
• How important was the issue of slavery in the Constitution?
• What were the main issues in the debate over ratification of the
Constitution?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
The Confederation Government

255
arbitrary government power. To do so, the Revolutionaries developed radi-
cally new forms of representative government and new models for dividing
power among the various branches of government—and the people.
THE CONFEDERATI ON GOVERNMENT
THE CRI TI CAL PERI OD In an address to his fellow graduates at the
Harvard commencement ceremony in 1787, young John Quincy Adams, a
future American president, bemoaned “this critical period” when the coun-
try was “groaning under the intolerable burden of . . . accumulated evils.”
The same phrase, “critical period,” has often been used to label the period
during which the United States was governed under the Articles of Confed-
eration, between 1781 and 1787. Fear of a powerful national government
dominated the period, and the result was fragmentation and stagnation. Yet
while the Confederation government had its weaknesses, it also generated
major achievements. Moreover, lessons learned during the “critical period”
would prompt the formulation of a new national constitution that better
balanced federal and state authority.
The Articles of Confederation established a unicameral Congress dominated
by the state legislatures that appointed its members (there was no national
executive or judiciary). The Confederation Congress had little authority. It
could ask the states for money, but could not levy taxes; it could neither regulate
national commerce nor pay off the nation’s debts; it could approve treaties with
other nations but had no power to enforce their provisions; it could call for the
raising of an army but could not fill the ranks.
After the war ended, the Confederation Congress was virtually helpless to
cope with foreign relations and a postwar economic depression that would
have challenged the resources of a much stronger government. It was not
easy to find men of stature to serve in such a weak congress, and it was often
hard to gather a quorum of those who did. Yet in spite of its handicaps, the
Confederation Congress somehow managed to survive the war years and to
lay important foundations for the new national government. It concluded
the Treaty of Paris in 1783, ending the Revolutionary War. It created the first
executive departments. And it formulated principles of land distribution
and territorial government that would guide westward expansion all the way
to the Pacific coast.
Throughout most of the War of Independence, the members of Congress
distrusted and limited executive power. They assigned administrative duties to
numerous committees and thereby imposed a painful burden on conscientious
256

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
members. John Adams, for instance, served on some eighty committees at one
time or another. In 1781, however, Congress addressed the problem by estab-
lishing three executive departments: Foreign Affairs, Finance, and War, each
with a single head responsible to Congress.
FI NANCE The closest thing to an executive leader of the Confederation
was Robert Morris, who as superintendent of finance in the final years of the
war became the most influential figure in the government. To make both him-
self and the Confederation government more powerful, Morris developed a
program of taxation and debt management to make the national government
financially stable. As he confided to a friend, “a public debt supported by
public revenue will prove the strongest cement to keep our confederacy
together.” The powerful financiers who had lent the new government funds to
buy supplies and pay its bills would, Morris believed, give stronger support to
a government committed to paying its debts. Morris therefore welcomed the
chance to issue new government bonds that would help pay off wartime debts.
With a sounder federal Treasury—certainly one with the power to raise
taxes—the bonds could be expected to rise in value, creating new capital with
which to finance banks and economic development.
To anchor his financial plan in the midst of the ongoing Revolutionary
War, Morris secured a congressional charter in 1781 for the Bank of North
America, which would hold government funds, lend money to the govern-
ment, and issue currency. Though a national bank, it was in part privately
owned and was expected to turn a profit for Morris and other shareholders,
in addition to performing a crucial public service. But Morris’s program
depended ultimately upon the government’s having a secure income, and it
foundered on the requirement of unanimous state approval for amend-
ments to the Articles of Confederation. Local interests and the fear of a cen-
tral authority—a fear strengthened by the recent quarrels with king and
Parliament—hobbled action.
THE NEWBURGH CONSPI RACY To carry their point, Morris and
his nationalist friends in 1783 risked a dangerous gamble. After the British
surrendered at Yorktown but before the peace treaty with Great Britain was
completed, George Washington’s army, encamped at Newburgh, New York,
on the Hudson River, had grown restless in the final winter of the war. The
soldiers’ pay was late as usual, and the officers feared that the land grants
promised them by the government as a reward for their service might never
be honored once the war officially ended. A delegation of concerned army
officers traveled to Philadelphia, where they soon found themselves drawn
into a scheme to line up army officers and public creditors with nationalists
in Congress and confront the states with the threat of a coup d’état unless
they yielded more power to Congress. Alexander Hamilton, congressman
from New York and former aide to General Washington, sought to bring his
beloved commander into the plan.
General Washington sympathized with the basic purpose of Hamilton’s
scheme. If congressional powers were not enlarged, he had told a friend,
“anarchy and confusion must ensue.” But Washington was just as deeply
convinced that a military coup would be both dishonorable and dangerous.
In March 1783, when he learned that some of the plotting officers had
planned an unauthorized meeting, he confronted the conspirators. He told
them that any effort to intimidate the government by threatening a muti-
nous coup violated the very purposes for which the war was being fought
and directly challenged his own integrity. While agreeing that the officers
had been poorly treated by the government and deserved their long-overdue
back pay and future pensions, Washington expressed his “horror and detes-
tation” of any effort by the officers to assume dictatorial powers. A military
revolt would open “the flood-gates of civil discord” and “deluge our rising
empire in blood.” It was a virtuoso performance. When Washington fin-
ished, his officers, many of them fighting back tears, unanimously adopted
resolutions denouncing the recent “infamous propositions,” and the so-
called Newburgh Conspiracy came to a sudden end.
In the end the Confederation government never did put its finances in
order. The currency issued by the Continental Congress had become worth-
less. It was never redeemed. The national debt, domestic and foreign, grew
from $11 million to $28 million as Congress paid off citizens’ and soldiers’
claims. Each year, Congress ran a deficit in its operating expenses.
LAND POLI CY The Confederation Congress might ultimately have
drawn a rich source of income from the sale of western lands. Thinly populated
by Indians, French settlers, and a growing number of American squatters, the
region north of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachian Mountains had
long been the site of overlapping claims by Indians, colonies, and speculators.
Under the Articles of Confederation, land not included within the boundaries
of the thirteen original states became public domain, owned and administered
by the national government.
As early as 1779, Congress had declared that it would not treat the western
lands as dependent colonies. The delegates resolved instead that western
lands “shall be . . . formed into distinct Republican states,” equal in all respects
to other states. Between 1784 and 1787 the Confederation Congress set forth
The Confederation Government

257
258

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
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WESTERN LAND CESSIONS,
1781–1802
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States with no western claims
Why were there so many overlapping claims to the western lands? What were the
terms of the Land Ordinance of 1785? How did it arrange for future states to enter
the Union?
three major ordinances for the orderly development of the West. These docu-
ments, which rank among the Confederation’s greatest achievements—and
among the most important in American history—set precedents that the
United States would follow in its expansion all the way to the Pacific. Thomas
Jefferson in fact was prepared to grant self-government to western states at an
early stage, allowing settlers to meet and choose their own officials. Under the
land ordinance that Jefferson wrote in 1784, when a territory’s population
equaled that of the smallest existing state, the territory would be eligible for
full statehood.
A year later, in the Land Ordinance of 1785, the delegates outlined a plan
of land surveys and sales that would eventually stamp a rectangular pattern
on much of the nation’s surface. Wherever Indian titles had been extin-
guished, the Northwest was to be surveyed and six-square-mile townships
established along east-west and north-south lines. Each township was in
turn divided into thirty-six lots (or sections) one square mile (or 640 acres).
The 640-acre sections were to be sold at auction for no less than $1 per acre,
or $640 total. Such terms favored land speculators, of course, since few com-
mon folk had that much money or were able to work that much land. In later
years new land laws would make smaller plots available at lower prices; but
in 1785, Congress was faced with an empty Treasury, and delegates believed
that this system would raise the needed funds most effectively. In each town-
ship, however, Congress did reserve the income from the sale of the sixteenth
section of land for the support of schools—a significant departure at a time
when public schools were rare.
THE NORTHWES T ORDI NANCE Spurred by the plans for land sales
and settlement, Congress drafted a more specific frame of territorial govern-
ment to replace Jefferson’s ordinance of 1784. The new plan backed off from
Jefferson’s recommendation of early self-government. Because of the trouble
that might be expected from squatters who were clamoring for free land, the
Northwest Ordinance of 1787 required a period of preparation for state-
hood. At first the territory fell subject to a governor, a secretary, and three
judges, all chosen by Congress. Eventually there would be three to five terri-
tories in the region, and when any one of them had a population of five
thousand free male adults, it could choose an assembly. Congress then
would name a council of five from ten names proposed by the assembly. The
governor would have a veto over actions by the territorial assembly, and so
would Congress.
The resemblance of these territorial governments to the old royal colonies
is clear, but there were three significant differences. First, the ordinance
The Confederation Government

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260

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
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THE OLD NORTHWEST, 1785
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How did the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 revise Jefferson’s plan for territorial gov-
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those on the frontier in the South? How did the United States treat Indian claims to
territory in the West?
anticipated statehood when any territory’s population reached a population
of sixty thousand “free inhabitants.” At that point a convention could be
called to draft a state constitution and apply to Congress for statehood. Ohio
was the first territory to receive statehood in this way. Second, the ordinance
included a bill of rights that guaranteed religious freedom, legislative repre-
sentation in proportion to the population, trial by jury, and the application
of common law. Finally, the ordinance excluded slavery permanently from
the Northwest—a proviso that Thomas Jefferson had failed to get accepted
in his ordinance of 1784. This proved a fateful decision. As the progress of
emancipation in the existing states gradually freed all slaves above the
Mason-Dixon line, the Ohio River boundary of the Old Northwest extended
the line between freedom and slavery all the way to the Mississippi River,
encompassing what would become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had a larger importance, beyond estab-
lishing a formal procedure for transforming territories into states. It repre-
sented a sharp break with the imperialistic assumption behind European
expansion into the Western Hemisphere: the new states were to be admit ted to
the American republic as equals rather than treated as subordinate colonies.
In seven mountain ranges to the west of the Ohio River, an area in which
recent treaties had voided Indian titles, surveying began in the mid-1780s.
But before any land sales occurred, a group of speculators from New England
presented cash-poor Congress with a seductive offer. Organized in Boston,
the group of former army officers took as its name the Ohio Company of
Associates and sent the Reverend Manasseh Cutler to present its plan. Cutler,
a former chaplain in the Continental army and a co-author of the Northwest
Ordinance, proved a persuasive lobbyist, and in 1787 Congress voted a grant
of 1.5 million acres for about $1 million in certificates of indebtedness to
Revolutionary War veterans. The arrangement had the dual merit, Cutler
argued, of reducing the national
debt and encouraging new settle-
ment and sales of federal land.
The lands south of the Ohio
River followed a different line of
development. Title to the west-
ern lands remained with Georgia,
North Carolina, and Virginia for
the time being, but settlement pro-
ceeded at a far more rapid pace
during and after the Revolution,
despite the Indians’ fierce resent-
ment of encroachments upon
their hunting grounds. The Iro-
quois and Cherokees, badly bat-
tered during the Revolution, were
in no position to resist encroach-
ments by American settlers. By
the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784),
the Iroquois were forced to cede
land in western New York and
Pennsylvania. With the Treaty of
The Confederation Government

261
Land Ordinance, 1785
Congress set out rules for settling the
Northwest territories in a series of ordi-
nances following the Revolution.
Hopewell (1785), the Cherokees gave up all claims in South Carolina, much
of western North Carolina, and large portions of present-day Kentucky and
Tennessee. Also in 1785 the major Ohio tribes dropped their claim to most
of Ohio, except for a chunk bordering the western part of Lake Erie. The
Creeks, pressed by the state of Georgia to cede portions of their lands
in 1784–1785, went to war in the summer of 1786 with covert aid from
Spanish-controlled Florida. When Spanish aid diminished, however, the
Creek chief traveled to New York and in 1791 finally struck a bargain that
gave the Creeks favorable trade arrangements with the United States but did
not restore the lost land.
TRADE AND THE ECONOMY The American economy after the Rev-
olution went through a devastating contraction. The ravages of war and the
British army’s occupation of key American cities such as New York destroyed
key industries as well as elements of the economic infrastructure. At the
same time, the new nation’s economy experienced runaway inflation of
prices. Overseas trade was disrupted by the war as the British closed lucrative
markets in the Caribbean to American commerce. The South was especially
hard hit, as its exports of tobacco, rice, and other commodities plummeted
during and after the war.
British trade with America resumed after 1783. American ships were
allowed to deliver American products to Britain and return to the United
States with British goods. American ships could not carry British goods any-
where else, however. The pent-up demand for goods imported from London
created a vigorous market in exports to America. The result was a quick cycle
of postwar boom and bust, a buying spree followed by a money shortage and
economic troubles that lasted several years. The North’s economy recovered
much more quickly than that of the South, largely because of its strength in
shipping and commerce rather than in agriculture.
In the colonial period the chronic trade deficit with Britain had been off-
set by the influx of coins from the lucrative trade with the West Indies. After
the Revolution, the British exacted their frustration at losing the colonies by
prohibiting American ships from visiting the British West Indies. The
islands, however, still needed wheat, fish, and lumber, and American ship-
pers had not lost their talent for smuggling.
By 1787 American seaports were flourishing as never before. Trade
treaties opened new markets with the Dutch (1782), the Swedes (1783), the
Prussians (1785), and the Moroccans (1787), and American shippers found
new outlets on their own in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The most spectacular
262

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
new development, if not the largest, was trade with China. It began in
1784–1785, when the Empress of China sailed from New York to Canton
(Kuang-Chou)* and back, around the tip of South America. Profits from its
cargo of silks and tea encouraged the outfitting of other ships, which carried
American goods to exchange for the luxury goods of east Asia.
By 1790 the dollar value of American commerce and exports had far
exceeded the amount of trade generated by the colonies before the Revolu-
tion. Merchants owned more ships than they had had before the war. Farm
exports were twice what they had been. Although most of the exports were
the products of forests, fields, and fisheries, during and after the war more
Americans had turned to small-scale manufacturing, mainly for domestic
markets.
DI PLOMACY Yet while postwar trade flourished, the shortcomings of
the Articles of Confederation prompted a growing chorus of complaints. In
the diplomatic arena, there remained the nagging problems of relations with
Great Britain and Spain, both of which still kept military posts on American
soil and conspired with Indians to foment unrest. The British, despite
pledges made in the peace treaty of 1783, held on to a string of forts along
the Canadian border. They argued that their continued occupation was jus-
tified by the failure of Americans to pay their prewar debts to British credi-
tors. According to one Virginian, a common question in his state was, “If we
are now to pay the debts due to British merchants, what have we been fight-
ing for all this while?”
Another major irritant in U.S.-British relations was the American confis-
cation of Loyalist property. The Treaty of Paris had encouraged Congress to
end confiscations of Tory property, to guarantee immunity to Loyalists for
twelve months, during which they could return from Canada or Great
Britain and wind up their affairs, and to recommend that the states give back
confiscated property. Persecutions, even lynchings, of Loyalists occurred
after the end of the war. Some Loyalists who had fled returned unmolested,
however, and resumed their lives in their former homes. By the end of 1787,
moreover, at the request of Congress, all the states had rescinded any laws
that were in conflict with the peace treaty.
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263
*The traditional (Wade-Giles) spelling is used here. Nearly two centuries after these events,
the Chinese government adopted pinyin transliterations, which became more widely used
after 1976, so that, for example, Peking became Beijing and, in this case, Kuang-Chou became
Guanzhou.
With Spain the chief issues were the disputed southern boundary of the
United States and the right of Americans to navigate the Mississippi River.
According to the preliminary treaty with Britain, the United States claimed
a southern boundary line as far south as the 31st parallel; Spain held out for
the line running eastward from the mouth of the Yazoo River (at 32°28'N),
which it claimed as the traditional boundary. The Treaty of Paris had also
given the Americans the right to ship goods by barge and boat down the
Mississippi River to its mouth. Still, the international boundary ran down
the middle of the river for most of its length, and the Mississippi was
entirely within Spanish Louisiana in its lower reaches. The right to send
boats or barges down the Mississippi was crucial to the growing American
settlements in Kentucky and Tennessee, but in 1784 Louisiana’s Spanish
governor closed the river to American commerce and began to conspire
with Indians against the American settlers and with settlers against the
United States.
THE CONFEDERATI ON’ S PROBLEMS The tensions between land-
hungry trans-Appalachian settlers and the British and the Spanish seemed
remote from the everyday concerns of most Americans, however. Most people
were more affected by economic troubles and the acute currency shortage
after the war. Merchants who found themselves prevented from reviving old
trade relationships with the island economies in the British West Indies
called for trade reprisals against
the British. State governments, in
response, imposed special taxes
on British vessels and special
tariffs on the goods they brought
to the United States. State action
alone, however, failed to work
because of a lack of uniformity
among the states. British ships
simply diverted their ports of
call to states whose import duties
were less restrictive. The other
states tried to meet this problem
by taxing British goods that
flowed across state lines, creating
the impression that states were
involved in commercial war with
each other. Chaos ensued. By
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SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
Domestic industry
American craftsmen, such as this cabinet-
maker, favored tariffs on foreign goods that
competed with their own products.
1787 there was a clear need for the national government to regulate inter-
state trade.
After the Revolution, mechanics (skilled workers who made, used, or repaired
tools and machines) and artisans (skilled workers who made products) devel-
oped an array of new industries. Their products ranged from crude iron
nails to fine silver bowls and flatware. These skilled workers wanted reprisals
against British goods as well as British ships. They sought, and to various
degrees obtained from the states, tar iffs (taxes) on imported foreign goods
that competed with theirs. Nearly all the states gave some preference to
American goods, but again the lack of uniformity in their laws put them at
cross-purposes, and so urban artisans along with merchants were drawn
into the movement calling for a stronger central government in the interest
of uniform trade regulations.
The shortage of cash and other postwar economic difficulties gave rise to
more immediate demands for paper currency, for postponement of tax and
debt payments, and for laws to “stay” (delay) the foreclosure of mortgages.
Farmers who had profited during the war found themselves squeezed after-
ward by depressed crop prices and mounting debts. Creditors demanded
that borrowers pay back their loans in gold or silver coins, but such “hard
money” was in short supply—and paper money was almost nonexistent
after the depreciation of the wartime currency. By 1785 the demand for new
paper money became the most divisive issue in state politics. In a drama that
would be replayed many times over the next century, debtors promoted the
use of paper money as a means of easing repayment, and farmers saw paper
money as an inflationary means of raising commodity prices.
In 1785–1786 seven states (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey,
South Carolina, Rhode Island, Georgia, and North Carolina) began issuing
paper money to help hard-pressed farmers and to pay the bonuses earned by
war veterans. In spite of the cries of calamity at the time, the money never
seriously depreciated in Pennsylvania, New York, and South Carolina. In
Rhode Island, however, the debtor party ran wild. In 1786 the Rhode Island
legislature issued more paper money than any other state in proportion to
its population. Creditors fled the state to avoid being paid in worthless
paper.
S HAYS’ S REBELLI ON Newspapers throughout the nation followed the
chaotic developments in Rhode Island. The little commonwealth, stub-
bornly independent since its founding, became the prime example of
democracy run riot—until its riotous neighbor, Massachusetts, provided
the final proof (some said) that the new nation was poised on the brink of
The Confederation Government

265
anarchy: Shays’s Rebellion. There the trouble was not too much paper
money but too little, as well as high taxation.
After 1780, Massachusetts had remained in the grip of a rigidly conserva-
tive state government, which levied ever-higher taxes to pay off a massive
war debt held mainly by wealthy creditors in Boston. The taxes fell most
heavily upon beleaguered farmers and the poor in general. When the Massa-
chusetts legislature adjourned in 1786 without providing paper money or
any other relief from taxes and debts, three western agricultural counties
erupted in revolt.
Armed bands of angry farmers closed the courts and prevented farm fore-
closures. A ragtag “army” of some one thousand two hundred unruly farmers
led by Daniel Shays, a destitute war veteran, advanced upon the federal arsenal
at Springfield in 1787. Shays and his followers sought a more flexible mone-
tary policy, laws allowing them to use corn and wheat as money, and the right
to postpone paying taxes until the postwar agricultural depression lifted.
The state government re sponded to the uprising by sending 4,400 militia-
men armed with cannons. The soldiers scattered the debtor army with a sin-
gle volley that left four farmers dead. The rebels nevertheless had a victory of
sorts. The new state legislature decided to relieve the agricultural crisis by
eliminating some of the taxes on farmers. But a more important conse-
quence was the impetus that Shays’s Rebellion gave to conservatism and
nationalism across the new United States.
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SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
Shays’s Rebellion
Shays and his followers demanded a more flexible mone-
tary policy and the right to postpone paying taxes until the
postwar agricultural depression lifted.
Rumors greatly exaggerated, at times deliberately, the extent of Shays’s
Rebellion. The Shaysites were rumored to be linked to the conniving British
and were accused of seeking to pillage the wealthy. Panic set in among the
Republic’s elite. “Good God!” George Washington exclaimed when he heard
of the incident. He worried that the rebellion might tempt other disgruntled
groups around the country to violate the law. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson,
Abigail Adams tarred the Shaysites as “ignorant, restless desperadoes, with-
out conscience or principles, . . . mobbish insurgents [who] are for sapping
the foundation” of the struggling young government. Jefferson disagreed. If
Abigail Adams and others were overly critical of Shays’s Rebellion, Jefferson
was, if anything, too complacent. From his post as the American minister in
Paris (the term ambassador was not used until the 1890s), he wrote to a
friend back home, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time
with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Abigail Adams was so infuriated by
Jefferson’s position that she stopped corresponding with him.
CALLS FOR A S TRONGER GOVERNMENT Well before the Shaysite
turmoil in New England, concerned Americans had been calling for a special
convention of the states to strengthen the national government by revising
the Articles of Confederation. Many bankers, merchants, and mechanics pro-
moted a stronger central government as the only alternative to anarchy.
Americans were gradually losing the fear of a strong central government as
they saw evidence that tyranny might come from other quarters, including
the common people themselves. During the 1780s the newspapers as well as
public speeches were filled with dire warnings that the fragile new nation’s
situation “is critical and dangerous”; the nation’s “vices” were threatening
“national ruin.”
Such concerns led many of the Founding Fathers to revise their assess-
ment of the American character. “We have, probably,” concluded George
Washington in 1786, “had too good an opinion of human nature in forming
our confederation.” Washington and other so-called Federalists concluded
that the new republic must now depend for its success upon the constant
virtue of the few rather than the public-spiritedness of the many.
CREATI NG THE CONS TI TUTI ON
THE CONS TI TUTI ONAL CONVENTI ON After stalling for several
months, Congress in 1787 called for a special convention of the states in
Philadelphia “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of
Creating the Constitution

267
Confederation.” By then five states had already named delegates; before the
meeting, called to begin on May 14, 1787, six more states had acted. New
Hampshire delayed until June, its delegates arriving in July. Fearful of con-
solidated power, tiny Rhode Island kept aloof throughout. (Critics labeled
the fractious little state “Rogue Island.”) Virginia’s Patrick Henry, an
implacable foe of centralized government, claimed to “smell a rat” and
refused to represent his state. Twenty-nine delegates from nine states began
work on May 25. Fifty-five men attended at one time or another, and after
four months of deliberations in stifling summer heat, thirty-nine signed the
new federal constitution they had drafted. Only three of the delegates
refused to sign.
The durability and flexibility of that document testify to the remarkable
men who made it. The delegates were surprisingly young: forty-two was the
average age. They were farmers, merchants, lawyers, and bankers, many of
them widely read in history, law, and political philosophy. Yet they were also
practical men of experience, tested in the fires of the Revolution. Twenty-
one had served in the military during the conflict, seven had been state gov-
ernors, most had been members of the Continental Congress, and eight had
signed the Declaration of Independence.
The magisterial George Washington served as presiding officer but par-
ticipated little in the debates. Eighty-one-year-old Benjamin Franklin, the
oldest delegate, also said little from the floor but provided a wealth of expe-
268

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
Drafting the Constitution
George Washington presides over a session of the Constitutional Convention in
Philadelphia.
rience, wit, and common sense behind the scenes. More active in the
debates were James Madison, the ablest political philosopher in the group;
Massachusetts’s dapper Elbridge Gerry, a Harvard graduate who earned the
nickname Old Grumbletonian because, as John Adams once said, he “opposed
everything he did not propose”; George Mason, the author of the Virginia
Declaration of Rights and a slaveholding planter with a deep-rooted
suspicion of all government; the witty, eloquent, arrogant New York aristo-
crat Gouverneur Morris, who harbored a venomous contempt for the com-
mon people; Scottish-born James Wilson of Pennsylvania, one of the ablest
lawyers in the new nation and next in importance at the convention only to
Washington and Madison; and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, a self-
trained lawyer adept at negotiating compromises. John Adams, like Thomas
Jefferson, was serving abroad on a diplomatic mission. Also conspicuously
absent during most of the convention was Alexander Hamilton, the staunch
nationalist who regretfully went home when the other two New York dele-
gates walked out to protest what they saw as the loss of states’ rights.
James Madison emerged as the central figure at the constitutional con-
vention. He was one of only two delegates to attend every session. Small of
stature—barely over five feet tall and weighing only one hundred thirty
pounds—and frail in health, the thirty-six-year-old bookish bachelor was
descended from wealthy slaveholding
Virginia planters. He suffered from
chronic headaches and was painfully
shy. Crowds made him nervous, and
he hated to use his high-pitched voice
in public, much less in open debate.
But the Princeton graduate possessed
an agile mind and had a voracious
appetite for learn ing. The convincing
eloquence of his arguments—and his
repeated willingness to embrace
compromises—proved decisive. “Every
person seems to acknowledge his
greatness,” wrote one delegate. Madi-
son had arrived in Philadelphia with
trunks full of books and a head full of
ideas. He had been preparing for the
convention for months and probably
knew more about historical forms of
government than any other delegate.
Creating the Constitution

269
James Madison
Madison was only thirty-six when he
assumed a major role in the drafting of
the Constitution. This miniature
(1783) is by Charles Willson Peale.
For the most part the delegates’ differences on political philosophy fell
within a narrow range. On certain fundamentals they generally agreed: that
government derives its just powers from the consent of the people but that
society must be protected from the tyranny of the majority; that the people at
large must have a voice in their government but that any one group must be
kept from abusing power; that a stronger central authority was essential but
that all power is subject to abuse. Most of the delegates assumed, with Madi-
son, that even the best people are naturally selfish. Government, therefore,
could not be founded altogether upon a trust in the citizenry’s goodwill and
virtue. By a careful arrangement of checks and balances within and among
three and only three branches of government—executive, legislative, and
judicial—the Founding Fathers hoped to devise institutions that could con-
strain individual sinfulness and channel self-interest to benefit the public good.
THE VI RGI NI A AND NEW J ERSEY PLANS At the outset of the
Constitutional Convention, James Madison drafted the framework of the dis-
cussions. His proposals, which came to be called the Virginia Plan, embodied
a revolutionary idea: that the delegates scrap their instructions to revise the
Articles of Confederation and instead submit an entirely new document to the
states. Madison’s plan proposed separate legislative, executive, and judicial
branches and a truly national government to make laws binding upon individ-
ual citizens as well as states. The new Congress would be divided into two
houses: a lower house chosen by the citizenry and an upper house of senators
elected by the state legislatures. Congress could disallow state laws under the
plan and would itself define the extent of its and the states’ authority.
On June 15, delegates critical of some aspects of Madison’s proposals sub-
mitted an alternative: the New Jersey Plan, which sought to keep the existing
structure of equal representation of the states in a unicameral Congress but
give Congress the power to levy taxes and regulate commerce and the
authority to name an executive (with no veto) and a supreme court.
The two competing plans presented the convention with two major
issues: (1) whether simply to amend the Articles of Confederation or to draft
a new document; and, (2) whether to determine congressional representa-
tion by state or by population. On the first point the convention voted to
work toward establishing a new national government as envisioned by
Madison and the other Virginians. Regarding the powers of this govern-
ment, there was little disagreement except in the details. Experience with the
Articles of Confederation had persuaded the delegates that an effective cen-
tral government, as distinguished from a confederation of equal states,
needed the power to levy taxes, regulate commerce, fund an army and navy,
and make laws binding upon individual citizens. The painful lessons of the
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SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
1780s suggested to them, moreover, that in the interest of order and unifor-
mity the states must be denied certain powers: to issue money, make treaties,
wage war, and levy tariffs.
These issues sparked furious disagreements. The first clash in the con-
vention involved congressional representation, and it was resolved by the
Great Compromise (sometimes called the Connecticut Compromise, as it
was proposed by Roger Sherman), which gave both groups their way: the
more populous states won apportionment by population in the proposed
House of Representatives, whereas the states that sought to protect states
power won equality of representation in the Senate, with the vote by indi-
viduals, not by state legislatures.
An equally contentious struggle ensued between northern and southern
delegates over race-based slavery and the regulation of trade, an omen of
sectional controversies to come. Of all the issues that emerged during the
Constitutional Convention of 1787, none was more volatile than the ques-
tion of slavery and its future. During the eighteenth century the agricultural
economies of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia had become dependent
upon enslaved workers, and delegates from those states were determined to
protect the future of slavery as they drafted the new federal constitution.
A third of the people living in the southern states were enslaved blacks.
A South Carolinian stressed that his delegation and the Georgians would
oppose any new constitution that failed to protect slavery. The threat
worked. James Madison reported that “the real difference of interests” at the
Constitutional Convention “lies not between the large and small [states] but
between the Northern and Southern states. The institution of slavery and its
consequences form the [dividing] line.” The framers of the Constitution did
not even consider the possibility of abolishing slavery, nor did they view the
enslaved peoples as human beings whose rights should be protected by the
constitution. In this they reflected the prevailing attitudes among white
Americans. Most agreed with South Carolina’s John Rutledge when he
asserted, “Religion and humanity [have] nothing to do with this [slavery]
question. Interest alone is the governing principle of nations.”
The “interest” of southern delegates, with enslaved African Americans so
numerous in their states and so crucial to the plantation economy, dictated
that slaves be counted as part of the population in determining the number
of a state’s congressional representatives. Northerners were willing to count
slaves when deciding each state’s share of taxes but not for purposes of rep-
resentation. The delegates finally compromised on this issue by adding the
number of “free persons” to three fifths of “all other persons” [the enslaved]
as a basis for apportioning both representatives and direct taxes to those
states with slaves.
Creating the Constitution

271
A more sensitive issue for the delegates involved an effort to prevent the
federal government from stopping the slave trade with Africa. Virginia’s
George Mason, himself a slaveholder, condemned the “infernal traffic,”
which his state had already outlawed. He argued that the issue concerned
“not the importing states alone but the whole union.” People in the western
territories were “already calling out for slaves for their new lands.” He feared
that they would “fill the country” with enslaved Africans if the transatlantic
traffic in slaves were not prohibited. Such a development would bring forth
“the judgment of Heaven” on the country. Southern delegates rejected
Mason’s reasoning. They argued that the continued importation of African
slaves was vital to their states’ economies.
To resolve the question, the delegates established a time limit: Congress
could not forbid the transatlantic slave trade before 1808, but it could levy
a tax of $10 a head on all imported Africans. In both provisions a sense of
delicacy—and hypocrisy—dictated the use of euphemisms. The Constitution
never explicitly mentions the word slavery. Instead it speaks of “free persons”
and “all other persons,” of “such persons as any of the states now existing shall
think proper to admit,” and of persons “held to service of labor.” The odious
word slavery did not appear in the Constitution until the Thirteenth Amend-
ment (1865) abolished the “peculiar institution.” The success of southern
delegates in getting slaves counted for purposes of calculating a state’s repre-
sentation in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College, coupled
with the decision not to prohibit American involvement with the African
slave trade, would prompt the fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to
declare in the 1830s that the drafters of the Constitution had forged a
“covenant with death and an agreement with hell.”
If the delegates found the slavery issue fraught with peril, they considered
irrelevant any discussion of the legal or political role of women under the
new constitution. The Revolutionary rhetoric of liberty had excited some
women to demand political equality for themselves. “The men say we have
no business [with politics],” Eliza Wilkinson of South Carolina observed as
the Constitution was being framed, “but I won’t have it thought that because
we are the weaker sex as to bodily strength we are capable of nothing more
than domestic concerns.” Her complaint, however, fell on deaf ears. There
was never any formal discussion of women’s rights at the constitutional con-
vention. The framers of the constitution still defined politics and govern-
ment as realms for men only.
The Constitution also said little about the processes of immigration and
naturalization, and most of what it said was negative. In Article II, Section 1,
the Constitution prohibits any future immigrant from becoming president,
272

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
limiting that office to a “natural born Citizen.” In Article I, Sections 2 and 3,
respectively, it stipulates that no person can serve in the House of Representa-
tives who has not “been seven Years a Citizen of the United States” or in the
Senate who has not “been nine Years a Citizen.” On the matter of defining cit-
izenship, the Constitution gives Congress the authority “to establish a uni-
form Rule of Naturalization” but offers no further guidance on the matter. As
a result, naturalization policy (citizenship for immigrants) has changed sig-
nificantly over the years in response to fluctuating social attitudes and politi-
cal moods. In 1790 the first Congress passed a naturalization law that allowed
“free white persons” who had been in the United States for as few as two years
to be made naturalized citizens in any court. This meant that persons of
African descent were denied citizenship by the federal government; it was left
to individual states to determine whether free blacks were citizens. And
because Indians were not “free white persons,” they were also treated as aliens
rather than citizens. Not until 1924 would Native Americans be granted
citizenship—by an act of Congress rather than a constitutional amendment.
THE SEPARATI ON OF POWERS The details of the government
structure embedded in the Constitution aroused less debate than the basic
issues pitting the large states against the small and the northern states
against the southern. Existing state constitutions, several of which already
separated powers among legislative, executive, and judicial branches, set an
example that reinforced the convention’s resolve to counter centralized
power with checks and balances. Although the Founding Fathers hated royal
tyranny, most of them also feared rule by the people and favored various
mechanisms to check the possible tyrannies of majority rule. Most of them
feared what James Madison called the “passions” of the people; they worried
that majorities might tyrannize minorities. Some delegates displayed a
thumping disdain for any democratizing of the political system. Elbridge
Gerry asserted that most of the nation’s problems “flow from an excess of
democracy.” Alexander Hamilton once called the people “a great beast.”
Those elitist views were accommodated by the Constitution’s mixed leg-
islative system. The United States was to be a representative, not a literal,
democracy. “Pure democracies,” Madison explained, “have ever been specta-
cles of turbulence and contention.” He and others designed the lower house
of Congress to be closer to the voters, who elected its delegates every two
years. It would be, according to Virginia’s George Mason, “the grand repository
of the democratic principle of the Government.” The upper house, or Sen-
ate, its members elected by the state legislatures, was intended to be more
detached from the voters. Staggered six-year terms for senators prevent the
Creating the Constitution

273
choice of a majority in any given year and thereby further isolate senators
from acting on the passions of moment.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention struggled over issues
related to the new executive branch. The decision that a single person be
made the chief executive caused the delegates “considerable pause,” accord-
ing to James Madison. George Mason protested that this would create a
“fetus of monarchy.” Indeed, several of the chief executive’s powers actually
exceeded those of the British monarch. This was the sharpest departure from
the recent experience in state government, where the office of governor had
commonly been diluted because of the recent memory of struggles with
royal governors during the colonial period. The new president would have a
veto over acts of Congress, subject to being overridden by a two-thirds vote
in each house, whereas in England the royal veto had long since fallen into
complete disuse. The president was named commander in chief of the
armed forces and responsible for the execution of the laws. The chief execu-
tive could make treaties with the advice and consent of two thirds of the
Senate and had the power to appoint diplomats, judges, and other officers
with the consent of a majority of the Senate. The president was instructed to
report annually on the state of the nation and was authorized to recommend
legislation, a provision that presidents eventually would take as a mandate to
present extensive legislative programs to the Congress for approval.
But the president’s powers were limited in certain key areas. The chief execu-
tive could neither declare war nor make peace; those powers were reserved for
Congress. Unlike the British monarch, moreover, the president could be
removed from office. The House could impeach (indict) the chief executive—
and other civil officers—on charges of treason, bribery, or “other high crimes
and misdemeanors.” Upon the conviction of an impeached president, the Sen-
ate could remove the president by a two-thirds vote. The presiding officer at the
trial of a president would be the chief justice, since the usual presiding officer of
the Senate (the vice president) would have a personal stake in the outcome.
The leading nationalists at the constitutional convention—men such
as James Madison, James Wilson, and Alexander Hamilton—wanted to
strengthen the independence of the president by entrusting the choice to
popular election. But an elected executive was still too far beyond the Amer-
ican experience. Besides, a national election would have created enormous
problems of organization and voter qualification. Wilson suggested instead
that the people of each state choose presidential electors equal to the
number of their senators and representatives. Others proposed that the
legislators make the choice. Finally, the convention voted to let the legisla-
ture decide the method in each state. Before long nearly all the states were
choosing the presidential electors by popular vote, and the electors were
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SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
casting their votes as they had pledged them before the election. This
method diverged from the original expectation that the electors would
deliberate and make their own choices.
The third branch of government, the judiciary, provoked surprisingly lit-
tle debate. Both the Virginia and the New Jersey Plans had called for a
supreme court, which the Constitution established, providing specifically
for a chief justice of the United States and leaving up to Congress the num-
ber of other justices. Although the Constitution nowhere authorizes the
courts to declare laws void when they conflict with the Constitution, the power
of the Supreme Court to review congressional actions is implied. The new
court soon exercised such “judicial review” in cases involving both state and
federal laws. Article VI declares the federal Constitution, federal laws, and
treaties to be “the supreme Law of the Land,” state laws or constitutions “to
the Contrary notwithstanding.” The advocates of states’ rights thought this a
victory, since it eliminated the proviso in the Virginia Plan for Congress to
settle all conflicts between the federal government and individual states. As
it turned out, however, the clause became the basis for an important expan-
sion of judicial review of legislative actions.
Although the Constitution extended vast new powers to the national gov-
ernment, the delegates’ mistrust of unchecked power is apparent in repeated
examples of countervailing forces: the separation of the three branches of gov-
ernment, the president’s veto, the congressional power of impeachment and
removal, the Senate’s power to approve or reject treaties and appointments,
Creating the Constitution

275
Signing the Constitution, September 17, 1787
Thomas Pritchard Rossiter’s painting shows George Washington presiding over
what Thomas Jefferson called “an assembly of demi-gods” in Philadelphia.
and the courts’ implied right of judicial review. In addition, the new form of
government specifically forbade Congress to pass bills of attainder (criminal
condemnation by a legislative act) or ex post facto laws (laws adopted after an
event to criminalize deeds that have already been committed). It also reserved
to the states large areas of sovereignty—a reservation soon made explicit by
the Tenth Amendment. By dividing sovereignty between the people and the
government, the framers of the Constitution provided a distinctive contribu-
tion to political theory. That is, by vesting ultimate authority in the people,
they divided sovereignty within the government. This constituted a dramatic
break with the colonial tradition. The British had always insisted that the sov-
ereignty of the king in Parliament was indivisible.
The most glaring defect of the Articles of Confederation was the rule
requiring that any amendments must gain the unanimous approval of the
states before being adopted. The delegates in Philadelphia therefore sought
to provide a less forbidding, though still difficult, method of amending the
Constitution. Amendments can be proposed either by a two-thirds vote of
each house in the national Congress or by a convention specially called,
upon application of two thirds of the state legislatures. Amendments can be
ratified by approval of three fourths of the states acting through their legis-
latures or in special conventions. The national convention has never been
used, however, and state conventions have been called only once—in 1933 to
ratify the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, which had prohibited “the
manufacture, sale, or transportation of ” alcoholic beverages.
THE FI GHT FOR RATI FI CATI ON The final article of the Constitu-
tion provided that it would become effective upon ratification not by the
unanimous consent of the thirteen state legislatures but by at least nine state-
ratifying conventions specially elected for that purpose. The Confederation
Congress submitted the draft of the Constitution to the states on
September 28, 1787. For the first time in world history the diverse peoples
making up a large nation were able to discuss, debate, and decide by a peace-
ful vote how they would be governed.
In the fierce political debate that ensued, advocates of the Constitution
assumed the name Federalists. Opponents, who favored a more decentral-
ized federal system, became anti-Federalists. The debate over ratification of
the constitution was heated; at times it boiled over into violence. New Yorker
Gilbert Livingstone spoke for many when he called the debate the “greatest
transaction” of their lives. Newspapers aggressively took sides in the dispute,
and readership soared, leading one New Englander to argue that the newspa-
pers were being “read more than the Bible.” Mobs in Philadelphia, Albany,
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SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
and New York City rioted as a result of disputes over the new constitution. In
the prolonged debate, the Federalists had several advantages. Their leaders
had been members of the constitutional convention and were already famil-
iar with the disputed issues in the document. They were not only better pre-
pared but also better organized and, on the whole, made up of the more able
leaders in the political community.
The anti-Federalist leaders—Patrick Henry, George Mason, Richard
Henry Lee, and future president James Monroe of Virginia, George Clinton
of New York, Samuel Adams and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Luther
Martin and Samuel Chase of Maryland—were often men whose careers and
reputations had been established well before the Revolution. The Federalist
leaders were more likely to be younger men whose public careers had begun
during the Revolution—men such as Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.
The two groups fiercely disagreed more over means than ends, however.
Both sides, for the most part, acknowledged that a stronger national authority
was needed and that such an authority required an independent source
of revenue to function properly. Both sides were convinced that the people
must erect safeguards against tyranny, even the tyranny of the majority. Fewof
the Constitution’s supporters liked it in its entirety, but most believed that it
was the best document obtainable; few of its opponents found it unacceptable
in its entirety. Once the new government had become an accomplished fact,
few wanted to undo the work of the Philadelphia convention. The losers in the
debate—the anti-Federalists—graciously accepted defeat; they did not resort
to violence, and many of them went on to become prominent leaders in the
federal government: James Monroe became the fifth presi dent; George Clin-
ton and Elbridge Gerry became vice presidents; and Samuel Chase served on
the Supreme Court. For their part, the winners in the debate over the new con-
stitution acknowledged that the document could be im proved by the addition
of amendments that came to be called the “Bill of Rights.”
THE FEDERALI ST Among the supreme legacies of the debate over the
Constitution is The Federalist, a collection of essays originally published in
New York newspapers between 1787 and 1788. Instigated by Alexander
Hamilton, the eighty-five articles published under the name Publius include
about fifty by Hamilton, thirty by James Madison, and five by New Yorker
John Jay. Written in support of ratification, the essays defended the principle
of a supreme national authority while reassuring doubters that the people
and the states had little reason to fear tyranny in the new federal government.
In perhaps the most famous Federalist essay, Number 10, Madison argued
that the very size and diversity of the expanding United States would make it
Creating the Constitution

277
impossible for any single faction to
form a majority that could dominate
the government. This contradicted
the conventional wisdom of the time,
which insisted that republics could
survive only in small, homogeneous
countries like Switzerland and the
Netherlands. Large republics, on the
other hand, would fragment, dissolv-
ing into anarchy and tyranny
through the influence of factions.
Quite the contrary, Madison insisted.
Given a balanced federal govern-
ment, a republic could work in large,
diverse nations probably better than
in smaller nations. “Extend the
sphere,” he wrote, “and you take in
a greater variety of parties and inter-
ests; you make it less probable that a
majority of the whole will have a
common motive to invade the rights
of other citizens.”
Madison and the other Federalists also insisted that the new constitution
would promote prosperity by reducing taxes, paying off the war bonds, and
expand ing the money supply. The anti-Federalists, however, highlighted the
dangers of placing more power in the hands of the central government. Mercy
Otis Warren of Massachusetts, the most prominent woman in the new nation
to write regular political commentary, compared the constitution to “shackles
on our own necks.” She and other anti-Federalists highlighted the absence of a
bill of rights to protect the rights of individuals and states. They also found the
process of ratification highly irregular, as it was—indeed, it was illegal under
the Articles of Confederation.
THE DECI S I ON OF THE S TATES Ratification of the new constitu-
tion gained momentum before the end of 1787, and several of the smaller
states were among the first to act, apparently satisfied that they had gained
all the safeguards they could hope for in equality of representation in the
Senate. Delaware, New Jersey, and Georgia voted unanimously in favor.
Massachusetts, still sharply divided in the aftermath of Shays’s Rebellion,
was the first state in which the outcome was close. Massachusetts barely
approved the Constitution by 187 to 168 on February 6, 1788.
The Federalist
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison,
and John Jay published this series of
essays in 1788 defending the concept of
strong central government and urging
ratification of the Constitution.
278

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, allowing
it to be put into effect, but the Union could hardly succeed without the
approval of Virginia, the most populous state, or New York, which had
the third highest population and occupied a key position geographically.
Both states harbored strong opposition groups. In Virginia, Patrick Henry
became the chief spokesman for backcountry farmers who feared the powers
of the new government, but wavering delegates were won over by the same
stratagem as in Massachusetts. When it was proposed that the convention
should recommend a bill of rights, Edmund Randolph, who had refused to
sign the finished document, announced his conversion to the cause.
Upon notification that New Hampshire had become the ninth state to rat-
ify the Constitution, the Confederation Congress began to draft plans for
the transfer of power to the new federal government created by the Consti-
tution. On September 13, 1788, it selected New York City as the initial capital
of the new government and fixed the date for the first elections. On
October 10, 1788, the Confederation Congress transacted its last business
and passed into history. Both sides in the ratification debate could claim vic-
tory. The Constitution was adopted, but the spirited resistance to it con-
vinced the first new Congress under the constitution to propose the first
amendments now known as the Bill of Rights.
“Our constitution is in actual operation,” the elderly Benjamin Franklin
wrote to a friend; “everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this
world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” George Washington was even
more uncertain about the future under the new plan of government. He had
told a fellow delegate as the convention adjourned, “I do not expect the Con-
stitution to last for more than twenty years.”
Creating the Constitution

279
RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION
Order of Ratification State Date of Ratification
1 Delaware December 7, 1787
2 Pennsylvania December 12, 1787
3 New Jersey December 18, 1787
4 Georgia January 2, 1788
5 Connecticut January 9, 1788
6 Massachusetts February 6, 1788
7 Maryland April 28, 1788
8 South Carolina May 23, 1788
9 New Hampshire June 21, 1788
10 Virginia June 25, 1788
11 New York July 26, 1788
12 North Carolina November 21, 1789
13 Rhode Island May 29, 1790
The Constitution has lasted much longer, of course, and in the process it
has provided a model of resilient republican government whose features
have been repeatedly borrowed by other nations through the years. Yet what
makes the U.S. Constitution so distinctive is not its specific provisions or
many compromises but its remarkable harmony with the particular “genius
of the people” it governs. The Constitution has provided a flexible system of
government that presidents, legislators, judges, and the people have adjusted
to changing social, economic, and political circumstances.
280

SHAPING A FEDERAL UNION (CH. 6)
0 100 200 Miles
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SOUTH
CAROLINA
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NEW
HAMPSHIRE
MASSACHUSETTS
NEW
YORK
PENNSYLVANIA
VIRGINIA
KENTUCKY
DISTRICT
TENNESSEE
DISTRICT
GEORGIA
NORTH CAROLINA
RHODE
ISLAND
CONNECTICUT
NEW JERSEY
DELAWARE
MARYLAND
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Federalist majority
THE VOTE ON THE
CONSTITUTION,
1787–1790
Anti-Federalist majority
Evenly divided
Who were the leading Federalists and anti-Federalists? Why
were the anti-Federalists opposed to the Constitution? How
did the Federalists win the ratification of the Constitution?
Creating the Constitution

281
The tension between preserving states’ rights and expanding federal
authority embedded in the debate over ratification of the Constitution did
not end in 1787; it became the defining drama of American history there-
after. In this sense the Founding Fathers not only created “a more perfect
Union” in 1787; they also engineered a frame of government whose resilience
(and ambiguities) enabled later generations to continue to perfect their
republican experiment. But the framers of the Constitution failed in one sig-
nificant respect: in skirting the issue of slavery so as to cement the Union,
they unknowingly allowed tensions over the “peculiar institution” to reach
the point where there would be no political solution—only civil war.
Sixth pillar
An engraving published in 1788 in The Massachusetts Centinel after Massachusetts
became the sixth state to ratify the Constitution. By the end of 1788, five more states
would approve and the Constitution would go into effect. The last two states to rat-
ify were North Carolina in 1789 and Rhode Island in 1790.
The Constitution
Many local newspapers published the Constitution in 1787,
allowing Americans across the country to read and discuss it.
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• Confederation Government Despite the weak form of government deliberately
crafted under the Articles of Confederation, the Confederation government
managed to construct alliances, wage the Revolutionary War to a successful con-
clusion, and negotiate the Treaty of Paris. It created executive departments and
established the way in which western lands would be organized and govern-
ments would be formed in the territories.
• Articles of Confederation Postwar economic conditions were difficult because
British markets were closed to the new nation and the Articles had not provided
for a means to raise taxes or stimulate economic recovery. Shays’s Rebellion
made many Americans fear that anarchy would destroy the new republic and led
them to clamor for a stronger national government.
• Constitutional Convention Delegates gathered at the convention in Philadel-
phia to revise the existing government, but almost immediately they proposed
scrapping the Articles of Confederation. An entirely new document emerged,
delineating separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Argument
about representation was resolved by establishing a two-house Congress, with
equal representation by state in the Senate and by population in the House of
Representatives.
• Slavery and the Constitution Southern delegates would not support a consti-
tution that failed to protect the institution of slavery and provide for the inter-
national slave trade. In determining how enslaved people would be counted for
the sake of apportioning direct taxes and representation in the lower house, the
framers decided that three fifths of the enslaved population would be counted.
It was also agreed that Congress would not forbid participation in the trans -
atlantic slave trade before 1808. Nevertheless, the framers of the Constitution
avoided using the word slavery in the Constitution.
• Ratification of the Constitution Ratification of the Constitution was difficult,
especially in the key states of Virginia and New York. Anti-Federalists such as
Virginia’s Patrick Henry favored a decentralized federal system and feared that
the absence of a bill of rights would lead to a loss of individual and states’ rights.
To sway New York State toward ratification, Alexander Hamilton, James Madi-
son, and John Jay wrote The Federalist, a series of articles defending a strong
national authority. Ratification became possible only with the promise of a bill
of rights.
End of Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
Robert Morris p. 256
Alexander Hamilton p. 257
Northwest Ordinance p. 259
Shays’s Rebellion p. 266
James Madison p. 269
Virginia Plan p. 270
New Jersey Plan p. 270
separation of powers p. 273
Federalists p. 276
anti-Federalists p. 276
Bill of Rights p. 277
The Federalist p. 277
C H R O N O L O G Y
1781 Articles of Confederation take effect
1783 General Washington puts an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy
1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix forces the Iroquois to give up land in
New York and Pennsylvania
1785 Land Ordinance outlines a plan for surveying and selling
government lands
1786 Delegates decide to call for a constitutional convention
1786–1787 Shays’s Rebellion
1787 Northwest Ordinance outlines a detailed plan for organizing
western territories
1787 The Constitutional Convention is held in Philadelphia
1787–1788 The Federalist Papers are published
1788 Confederation government is phased out
1790 Rhode Island becomes the last state to ratify the Constitution

7
THE FEDERALIST ERA
T
he Constitution was ratified in 1788 because it promised to
create a more powerful central government better capable of
managing a sprawling—and rapidly growing—new repub-
lic. Although the U.S. Constitution has become the world’s most enduring
national charter, skeptics in the late eighteenth century doubted that it
would survive more than a few years. A Massachusetts anti-Federalist said
that governing such an “extensive empire . . . upon republican principles”
was impossible. It was one thing to draft a new constitution but quite
another to exercise the expanded powers it allowed. Creating a “more perfect
union” would prove to be a long, complicated, and painful process. With
each passing year the new United States witnessed growing political faction-
alism. During the 1790s, the new federal government would confront civil
rebellions, threats of secession, international intrigues, and foreign wars.
In 1789, Americans wildly celebrated the inauguration of George Washing-
ton as the nation’s first president just as chaos was erupting in France
because of a violent revolution against the monarchy. But amid the excite-
ment was a turbulent undercurrent of uncertainty, suspicion, and anxiety.
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What were the main challenges facing Washington’s
administration?
• What was Hamilton’s vision of the new republic?
• How did religious freedom become a reality for the new country?
• How did European affairs complicate the internal political and
diplomatic problems of the new country?
• Why did Madison and Jefferson lead the opposition to Hamilton’s
policies?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
A New Nation

285
The new Constitution provided a framework for nationhood but not a blue-
print; it left unanswered many questions about the actual structure and con-
duct of the new government. As James Madison had acknowledged, “We are
in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us.”
A NEW NATI ON
In 1789 the United States and its western territories reached from the
Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and hosted almost 4 million people.
The vast new republic, much larger than any in Europe, harbored distinct
regional differences. A southerner stressed that “men who come from New
England are different from us.” Although still characterized by small farms
and bustling seaports, New England was on the verge of developing a manu-
facturing sector. The middle Atlantic states—New York, New Jersey, Delaware,
Pennsylvania, and Maryland—boasted the most well-balanced economy, the
largest cities, and the most diverse collection of ethnic and religious groups.
New beginnings
An engraving from the title page of The Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine
(published in Philadelphia in 1790). America is represented as a woman laying
down her shield to engage in education, art, commerce, and agriculture.
286

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
The South was an agricultural region increasingly dependent upon enslaved
laborers. By 1790 the southern states were exporting as much tobacco as they
had been before the Revolution. Most important, however, was the surge in
southern cotton enabled by new technology. Between 1790 and 1815 the
annual production of cotton soared from less than 3 million pounds to 93 mil -
lion pounds.
Overall, the United States in 1790 was predominantly a rural society. Eighty
percent of households were involved in agricultural production. Only a few
cities had more than five thousand residents. The first national census, com-
pleted in 1790, counted seven hundred fifty thousand African Americans,
almost a fifth of the population. Most of them lived in the five southernmost
states; less than 10 percent lived outside the South. Most African Americans, of
course, were enslaved, but there were many more free blacks as a result of the
social turmoil during the Revolutionary War. In fact, the proportion of free to
enslaved blacks was never higher before the Civil War than it was in 1790.
The 1790 census did not even count the many Indians still living east of
the Mississippi River. Most Americans viewed the Native Americans as those
people whom the Declaration of Independence had dismissed as “merciless
Indian Savages.” There were over eighty tribes totaling perhaps as many as
one hundred fifty thousand people in 1790. In the Old Northwest along the
Great Lakes, the British continued to arm the Indians and encouraged them
to resist American encroachments. Between 1784 and 1790, Indians killed
or captured some one thousand five hundred settlers in Kentucky alone.
Such bloodshed generated a ferocious reaction. “The people of Kentucky,”
observed an official frustrated by his inability to negotiate a treaty between
whites and Indians, “will carry on private expeditions against the Indians
and kill them whenever they meet them, and I do not believe there is a
jury in all Kentucky that will punish a man for it.” In the South the five
most powerful tribes—the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and
Seminoles—numbered between fifty thousand and one hundred thousand.
They steadfastly refused to recognize U.S. authority and used Spanish-supplied
weapons to thwart white settlement on their lands.
Only about one hundred twenty-five thousand whites and blacks lived
west of the Appalachian Mountains in 1790. But that was soon to change.
The great theme of nineteenth-century American history would be the
ceaseless stream of migrants flowing westward from the Atlantic seaboard.
By foot, horse, boat, and wagon, pioneers and adventurers headed west. Ken-
tucky, still part of Virginia but destined for statehood in 1792, harbored
seventy-five thousand settlers in 1790; in 1776 there had been only one hun-
dred fifty pioneers there. Rapid population growth, cheap land, and new
economic opportunities fueled the western migration. The average white
woman gave birth to eight children, and the white population doubled
approximately every twenty-two years. This made for a very young popula-
tion on average. In 1790 almost half of all white Americans were under the
age of sixteen.
A NEW GOVERNMENT On March 4, 1789, the new Congress of the
United States convened its first meeting in New York City. Only eight sena-
tors and thirteen representatives attended. It would be another month
before both chambers could gather a quorum. Only then could the presiding
officer of the Senate certify the foregone conclusion that George Washing-
ton, with 69 votes, was the unanimous choice of the Electoral College for
president. John Adams, with 34 votes, the second-highest number, became
vice president.
Washington was a reluctant first president. He greeted the news of his
election with “a heart filled with distress” because he imagined “the ten
thousand embarrassments, perplexities and troubles to which I must again
be exposed.” He told a friend as he prepared to assume office in New York
City that he felt like a “culprit who is going to the place of his execution.” Yet
Washington agreed to serve because he had been “summoned by my coun-
try.” A self-made man who lost his father at age eleven and had little formal
education, he had never visited Europe. The acidic John Adams once
declared that Washington was “too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his sta-
tion and reputation.” But Washington had virtues that Adams lacked. He was
a military hero and prosperous planter who brought to his new office a
remarkable capacity for moderation and mediation that helped keep the
infant republic from disintegrating. As a military strategist, statesman, and
inspirational leader, Washington had influenced every phase of the Revolu-
tionary War. While learning how to defeat the British army, he also displayed
great political skills in convincing the Continental Congress (and the states)
to keep his army supplied. Although at times stern and hot tempered, Wash-
ington was remarkably self-disciplined; he possessed extraordinary stamina
and patience, integrity and resolve, courage and resilience. Few doubted that
he was the best person to lead the new nation.
In his inaugural address, Washington appealed for national unity, plead-
ing with the new Congress to abandon “local prejudices” and “party ani-
mosities” in order to create the “national” outlook necessary for the fledgling
republic to thrive. Within a few months the new president would see his
hopes dashed. Personal rivalries, sectional tensions, and partisan conflict
dominated political life in the 1790s.
A New Nation

287
THE GOVERNMENT’ S S TRUCTURE President Washington had a
larger staff at his plantation in northern Virginia than he did as the first presi-
dent of the United States. During the summer of 1789, Congress created exec-
utive departments corresponding to those formed under the Confederation.
The only department head held over from the Confederation government was
Secretary of War Henry Knox, a shrewd Bostonian who had commanded the
American artillery during the Revolutionary War before succeeding Washing-
ton as the army’s commander in chief. To head the Department of State,
Washington named Thomas Jefferson, recently back from his diplomatic
duties in France. To head the Department of the Treasury, Washington picked
his brilliant thirty-four-year-old wartime aide, Alexander Hamilton, now a
prominent New York lawyer. Edmund Randolph, former governor of Virginia,
filled the new position of attorney general.
George Washington routinely called his chief staff members together to
discuss matters of policy. This was the origin of the president’s cabinet, an
advisory body for which the Constitution made no formal provision. The
office of vice president also took on what would become its typical character.
“The Vice-Presidency,” John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, was the most
“insignificant office . . . ever . . . contrived.”
The structure of the federal court system, like that of the executive depart-
ments, was left to Congress, except for a chief justice and the Supreme
Court. Congress set the membership of the highest court at six (now
nine)—the chief justice and five
associates—and created thirteen fed-
eral district courts. From these, appeals
might go to one of three circuit courts,
composed of two Su preme Court jus-
tices and the district judge, who met
twice a year in each district. Members
of the Supreme Court, therefore, were
initially itinerant judges “riding the
circuit” during a good part of the year.
All federal cases originated in a dis-
trict court and, if appealed on issues
of procedure or legal interpretation,
went to the circuit courts and from
there to the Supreme Court.
Washington named New Yorker
John Jay as the first chief justice of the
Supreme Court, a post Jay held until
288

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
John Jay
Chief justice of the Supreme Court. Jay
favored a strong union and emphati-
cally supported the Constitution.
1795. His reputation as the state’s finest lawyer had led New York to send
him as its representative to the First and Second Continental Congresses.
After serving as president of the Continental Congress in 1778–1779, Jay
became the American minister (ambassador) in Spain. While in Europe, he
helped John Adams and Benjamin Franklin negotiate the Treaty of Paris in
1783. After the Revolution, Jay served as secretary of foreign affairs. He
joined James Madison and Alexander Hamilton as co-author of the The Fed-
eralist and became one of the most effective champions of the Constitution.
THE BI LL OF RI GHTS The ratification of the Constitution did not end
the debate about the centralization of power in the federal government. Amid
the debates over ratification of the Constitution, four statesMassachusetts,
New York, Virginia, and North Carolina—requested that a “bill of rights” be
added to protect individual freedoms, states’ rights, and civil liberties. To
address such concerns, Congressman James Madison presented to Congress
in May 1789 a cluster of constitutional amendments that have since become
known as the Bill of Rights. After considerable discussion and debate, Con-
gress approved the amendments in September 1789, and a few days later
President George Washington officially transmitted the amendments to the
states for ratification. By the end of 1791, the necessary three fourths of the
states had approved ten of the twelve proposed amendments.
The first eight Amendments to the Constitution were modeled after the
Virginia Declaration of Rights that George Mason had written in 1776. They
provide safeguards for specified rights of individuals: freedom of religion,
press, speech, and assembly; the right to own firearms; the right to refuse to
house soldiers in a private home; protection against unreasonable searches
and seizures; the right to refuse to testify against oneself; the right to a
speedy public trial, with legal counsel present, before an impartial jury; and
protection against “cruel and unusual” punishment.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments address the demand for specific state-
ments that the enumeration of rights in the Constitution “shall not be con-
strued to deny or disparage others retained by the people” and that “powers
not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it
to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The ten
amendments constituting the Bill of Rights became effective on Decem ber 15,
1791. The Bill of Rights, it should be noted, provided no rights or legal
protection to women, African Americans, or Indians.
RELI GI OUS FREEDOM The debates over the Constitution and the Bill
of Rights generated a religious revolution as well as a political revolution.
A New Nation

289
Unlike the New England Puritans who sought to ensure that colonial gov-
ernments explicitly supported their particular religious beliefs, the men who
drafted and amended the Constitution made no direct mention of God.
Unlike their counterparts in Europe, they were determined to protect free-
dom of religion from government interference and coercion. The First
Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an estab-
lishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This statement
has since become one of the most important—and most disputed—principles
of American government.
In the late eighteenth century, the United States was virtually alone among
nations in refusing to enforce a single government-mandated and tax-
supported religion. In addition, at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified, all
but two states—New York and Virginia—still sponsored some form of official
religion or maintained a religious requirement for holding political office. In
1789 many people feared that the new national government might impose a
particular religious faith on the people. The First Amendment was intended
to create a pluralistic framework within which people of all religious persua-
sions could flourish. It prohibits the federal government from endorsing or
supporting any particular religion or interfering with the religious choices
that people make. As Thomas Jefferson later explained, the First Amend-
ment was intended to erect a “wall of separation between church and State.”
HAMI LTON’ S FI NANCI AL VI S I ON
Raising money to operate its affairs was the new federal government’s
most critical task. Governments have three basic ways to raise money to pay
their bills: they can impose taxes, they can borrow money by selling interest-
paying government bonds, and they can print money. When George Wash-
ington was elected president, the federal treasury was virtually empty. To
raise necessary funds, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in the sum-
mer of 1789 proposed a modest federal tariff (a tax on imports) to generate
revenue. In passing the Tariff and Tonnage Acts, the Congress created tariffs
on a variety of goods and required American ships to pay a fee of 6¢ a ton
upon entering a port; foreign vessels had to pay 50¢ a ton. Tariffs, then and
since, benefit American industries by making their foreign competitors
charge higher prices. But they thereby penalize consumers by causing higher
pri ces on imported goods bought by Americans. In essence, tariffs subsidized
the nation’s infant manufacturing sector at the expense of the agricultural
290

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
sector. This issue of tariff policy
became a volatile political question
pitting South against North through-
out the nineteenth century.
RAI SI NG REVENUE The levying
of tariffs marked but the beginning of
the effort to get the new country on
sound fiscal footing. In 1789 Alexan-
der Hamilton seized the initiative.
The first secretary of the Treasury was
an unlikely protégé of the childless
President Washington. Born out of
wedlock on Nevis, a Caribbean island,
and deserted by his ne’er-do-well
Scottish father, he was left an orphan
at thirteen by the death of his mother.
With the help of friends and relatives,
he found his way, at seventeen, to New
York City, attended King’s College,
and entered the Continental army,
where he became Washington’s favorite aide. After the war he established a
thriving legal practice in New York City, and he became a self-made aristo-
crat, serving as a collector of revenues and as a member of the Confedera-
tion Congress. An early convert to nationalism, Hamilton played a major
role in promoting the new federal constitution. Shrewd, energetic, deter-
mined, charismatic, and combative, the red-haired, blue-eyed attorney was
consumed with social and political ambition and blessed with powerful
analytical skills.
During the Revolutionary War, Hamilton had witnessed the near-fatal
weaknesses of the Confederation Congress. Its lack of authority and money
almost lost the war. Now, as the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury, he
was determined to transform an economically weak cluster of states into a
powerful nation and global power comparable to Great Britain. To do so,
Hamilton believed, the United States needed to unleash the energy and
ambition of its citizens so as to create a vibrant economy driven by the
engines of capitalism. He wanted to nurture the hustling, bustling, aspiring
spirit that he believed distinguished Americans from other peoples. Just as
he himself had risen from poverty to success, he wanted to ensure that
Hamilton’s Financial Vision

291
Alexander Hamilton
Secretary of the treasury from 1789 to
1795.
Americans would always have such opportunities. To that end he envisioned
an active federal government that encouraged new fields of enterprise and
fostered investment and entrepreneurship. Thriving markets and new
industries would best ensure the fate of the Republic.
ES TABLI S HI NG THE PUBLI C CREDI T In a series of brilliant reports
submitted to Congress between January 1790 and December 1791, Hamil-
ton outlined his visionary program for government finances and the eco-
nomic development of the United States. His success in creating a budget, a
funded government debt, a federal tax system, a national bank, a customs
service, and a coast guard provided the foundations for American commer-
cial capitalism.
The first of two “Reports on Public Credit” dealt with the $79 million debt
that state and federal governments had incurred during the War for Inde-
pendence. France, Spain, and Holland had loaned the United States money
and supplies to fight the war, and Congress had incurred more debt by
printing paper money and selling government bonds to investors. State gov-
ernments had also accumulated huge debts. The Constitution required the
new federal government to assume the debts of the Confederation govern-
ment. How that should be done was a source of heated debate.
Some argued that many of the debts should not be repaid. Hamilton dis-
agreed, insisting that not paying war debts was unjust and dishonorable.
Only by paying its debts in full could the new nation gain credibility in the
world of finance. He also explained that the state debts from the Revolution
were a national responsibility because all Americans had benefited from the
war for independence. He claimed that the federal government’s willingness
to pay off the state debts would help the people see the benefits of a strong
central government. Hamilton also believed that a government commitment
to repay its debts would give investors a direct stake in the success of the new
national government, as had been the case in Great Britain. A federal debt,
he claimed, would serve as a “mechanism for national unity” and prosperity.
Hamilton’s controversial first report on public credit made two key
recommendations: first, it called for funding the federal debt at face value,
which meant that citizens holding deflated war bonds could exchange them
for new interest-bearing bonds; and, second, it declared that the federal gov-
ernment should assume state debts from the Revolution. Holders of state
bonds would exchange them for new national bonds. Hamilton wanted
investors to be focused on the prosperity of the national government rather
than that of the states.
292

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
The debt-funding scheme was controversial because many farmers and
former soldiers in immediate need of money had recently sold their govern-
ment bonds for a fraction of their value to speculators. The original bond-
holders argued that they should be reimbursed for their losses; otherwise,
the speculators would gain a windfall from the new government’s decision to
fund bonds at face value. Hamilton sternly resisted their pleas. The specula-
tors, he argued, had “paid what the commodity was worth in the market, and
took the risks.” Therefore, they should reap the profits. In fact, Hamilton
insisted, the government should favor the speculative investors because they
represented the bedrock of a successful capitalist economy.
THE EMERGENCE OF S ECTI ONAL DI FFERENCES Hamilton’s
sophisticated financial proposals created a political firestorm. The Virginian
James Madison, who had been Hamilton’s close ally in promoting ratifica-
tion of the Constitution, broke with him over the merits of a national debt.
Madison did not question whether the war-related debt should be paid; he
was troubled, however, that speculative investors would become the chief
beneficiaries. That far more debt was owed to northerners than to southern-
ers further troubled him. Madison’s opposition to Hamilton’s plan ignited a
vigorous debate, but Hamilton carried his point by a margin of 3 to 1 when
the House brought it to a vote.
Madison’s opposition to Hamilton’s plan to have the federal government
assume responsibility for state debts got more support, however, and clearly
signaled a growing political division along geographic lines. The southern
states, with the exception of South Carolina, had whittled down their war
debts. New England, with the largest unpaid debts, stood to be the greatest
beneficiary of Hamilton’s plan for the federal government to pay off the state
debts. Rather than see Virginia victimized, Madison held out yet another
alternative. Why not, he suggested, have the government assume state debts
as they stood in 1783, at the conclusion of the peace treaty? Debates on this
point deadlocked the whole question of debt funding, and Hamilton grew so
frustrated with the legislative stalemate that he considered resigning.
The gridlock ended in the summer of 1790, when Jefferson, Hamilton,
and Madison agreed to a famous compromise. In return for northern votes
in favor of locating the permanent national capital on the Potomac River,
Madison pledged to seek enough southern votes to pass the debt assumption
plan. This Compromise of 1790 secured enough votes to carry Hamilton’s
funding and assumption proposals. The national capital would be moved
from New York City to Philadelphia for ten years, after which it would be
settled at a new federal city (called Washington) on the Potomac River.
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Hamilton’s debt-financing scheme was an immediate success. The new
bonds issued by the federal government were snatched up by eager investors
within a few weeks. By 1794 the young United States had the highest finan-
cial credit rating among all the nations of Europe. A leading French official
explained why: the American government bonds were “safe and free from
reverses. They have been funded in such a sound manner and the prosperity
of this country is growing so rapidly that there can be no doubt of their sol-
vency.” Of course, the fact that war had erupted in Europe as a result of the
French Revolution also played a role in the success of Hamilton’s plans,
because American exports to the warring nations soared.
A NATI ONAL BANK Part of the opposition to Hamilton’s debt-
financing scheme grew out of opposition to Hamilton himself. The young
but confident Hamilton viewed himself as President Washington’s prime
minister. As a Congressman admitted in 1791, Hamilton “is all powerful and
fails in nothing which he attempts.” That the new Department of Treasury
had forty staff members at the same time that Thomas Jefferson’s State
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The Bank of the United States
Proposed by Alexander Hamilton, the bank opened in Philadelphia in 1791.
Department had five demonstrated the priority that President Washington
gave to the new nation’s financial situation.
After securing Congressional approval of his debt funding scheme,
Hamilton authored three more crucial economic reports: the second of the
“Reports on Public Credit,” which included a proposal for a liquor tax to
raise revenue to help repay the nation’s debts; a report recommending the
establishment of a national bank and a national mint (to provide coins and
currency), which were set up in 1791–1792; and the “Report on Manufac-
tures,” which proposed an extensive program of government aid and other
encouragement to stimulate the development of manufacturing enterprises
so as to reduce America’s dependence on imported goods.
Hamilton’s proposed Bank of the United States would have three pri-
mary responsibilities: (1) to serve as a secure repository for government
funds and facilitate the transfer of monies to other nations; (2) to provide
loans to the federal government and to other banks to facilitate economic
development; and (3) to manage the nation’s money supply by regulating
the money- issuing activities of state-chartered banks. By holding govern-
ment bonds and using them for collateral, the national bank could issue
banknotes (paper money), thereby providing a national currency that would
address the chronic shortage of gold and silver coins. Government bonds
held by the national bank would back up the value of its new banknotes. The
national bank, chartered by Congress, would remain under government
control, but private investors would supply four fifths of the $10 million
capital and name twenty of the twenty-five directors; the government would
provide the other fifth of the capital and name five directors.
Once again, Congressman James Madison rose to lead the opposition to
Hamilton, arguing that he could find no basis in the Constitution for a national
bank. Nevertheless, Congress approved the bank bill. The vote revealed the
growing sectional division in the young United States. Representatives from the
northern states voted 33 to 1 in favor of the national bank; southern congress-
men opposed the bank 19 to 6.
Before signing the controversial bill, President Washington sought the
advice of his cabinet, where he found an equal division of opinion. The
result was the first great debate on constitutional interpretation. Should
there be a strict or a broad construction of the Constitution? Were the pow-
ers of Congress only those explicitly stated, or were others implied? The
argument turned chiefly on Article I, Section 8, which authorizes Congress
to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Exe-
cution the foregoing Powers.”
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295
Such language left room for disagreement and led to a confrontation
between Jefferson and Hamilton. Secretary of State Jefferson, who despised
banks, pointed to the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, which reserves
to the states and the people powers not delegated to Congress. “To take a sin-
gle step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of
Congress,” he wrote, “is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no
longer susceptible of any definition.” A bank might be a convenient aid to
Congress in collecting taxes and regulating the currency, but it was not, as
Article I, Section 8, specified, necessary.
In a lengthy report to the president, Hamilton countered that the power
to charter corporations was included (“implied”) in the sovereignty of any
government, whether or not explicitly stated. He then expressed his opinion
on the proposed bank’s constitutionality:
This criterion is the end, to which the measure relates as a mean. If the end
be clearly comprehended within any of the specified powers, collecting
taxes and regulating the currency, and if the measure have an obvious
relation to that end, and is not forbidden by any particular provision of
the Constitution, it may safely be deemed to come within the compass of
the national authority.
Hamilton’s sharp analysis convinced Washington to sign the bank bill. In
doing so, the president had, in Jefferson’s words, opened up “a boundless field
of power,” which in the coming years would lead to a further broadening of
the president’s implied powers with the approval of the Supreme Court.
Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Court would eventu-
ally adopt Hamilton’s words almost verbatim. On July 4, 1791, stock in the
new Bank of the United States was put up for sale, and it sold out within
an hour.
ENCOURAGI NG MANUFACTURES Hamilton’s audacious economic
vision for the new republic was not yet complete. In the last of his celebrated
reports, the “Report on Manufactures,” he set in place the capstone of his
design for a modern national economy: the active governmental encourage-
ment of manufacturing enterprises. Hamilton believed that several advan-
tages would flow from the aggressive development of an industrial sector. It
would bring diversification to an economy dominated by agriculture;
improve productivity through greater use of machinery; provide paid work
for those not ordinarily employed outside the home, such as women and
children; encourage immigration to provide industrial workers; create more
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opportunities for entrepreneurial activity; and expand the domestic market
for agricultural products.
To nurture industrial development, Hamilton endorsed the imposition
of federal tariffs (taxes) on foreign imports to make American products
more competitive with European manufactures. He also recommended that
the federal government provide financial incentives to encourage capitalists
to launch new industries and to encourage inventions and new technolo-
gies. Finally, Hamilton urged the federal government to fund improve-
ments in transportation, including the development of roads, canals, and
rivers for commercial traffic. Some of Hamilton’s tariff proposals were
enacted in 1792. Otherwise the program was filed away—but not forgotten.
It provided an arsenal of arguments for the advocates of manufactures in
years to come.
HAMI LTON’ S ACHI EVEMENT Largely owing to the skillful Hamil-
ton, the Treasury Department during the early 1790s began to retire the
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297
Certificate of the New York Mechanick Society
An illustration of the growing diversification of labor, by Abraham Godwin
(ca. 1785).
Revolutionary War debt, and foreign capital began to flow in once again.
Economic growth, so elusive in the 1780s, flourished by the end of the cen-
tury. A Bostonian reported in late 1790 that the United States had never “had
a brighter sunshine of prosperity. . . . Our agricultural interest smiles, our
commerce is blessed, our manufactures flourish.” But Hamilton’s policies
had done much more than revive the economy. Against fierce opposition,
Hamilton had established the foundations for what would become the
world’s most powerful capitalist republic. In the process, he helped Ameri-
cans see beyond their local interests. Hamilton was a consummate national-
ist. He was determined to make the United States a commercial and
industrial giant remarkable for its ability to balance individual freedom with
government power. As he recognized, “Liberty may be endangered by the
abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.”
Yet however beneficial Hamilton’s policies were to the nation’s long-term
economic development, they provoked fierce opposition. By championing
industry and commerce as well as the expansion of federal authority at the
expense of the states, Hamilton infuriated a growing number of people,
especially in the agricultural South. Competition between the agrarian Jef-
ferson and the urban-industrial Hamilton boiled over into a nasty feud
between the government’s two most talented men. The concerted opposition
to Hamilton’s politics and policies soon fractured Washington’s cabinet and
spawned the nation’s first political parties.
THE REPUBLI CAN ALTERNATI VE
Hamilton’s controversial financial ideas provided the economic foun-
dation of the political party known as the Federalists; in opposition, Madi-
son and Jefferson led those who took the name Republicans (also called the
Democratic Republicans or Jeffersonian Republicans), thereby implying
that the Federalists aimed at a monarchy. The Federalists agreed with Hamil-
ton about the need for a stronger national government with sound credit
and currency managed by a national bank in order to ensure prosperity and
security. Republicans worried about the threats to individual freedoms and
states’ rights posed by a strong central government. Republicans also ques-
tioned the legitimacy of a national bank, arguing that the Constitution did
not empower the government to create such a bank. On the whole, Jefferson-
ian Republicans promoted a strict interpretation of the Constitution while
the Federalists believed that the Constitution should be interpreted broadly
whenever the national interest dictated such flexibility.
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Neither side in the disagreement
over national policy deliberately set
out to create organized political par-
ties. But there were growing differences
of both philosophy and self-interest
that would not subside. At the outset,
James Madison assumed leadership
of Hamilton’s opponents in Congress.
Madison, like Thomas Jefferson, was
rooted in Virginia, where opposition
to Hamilton’s economic policies pre-
dominated. Patrick Henry, for exam-
ple, proclaimed that Hamilton’s poli-
cies were “dangerous to the rights
and subversive of the interests of the
people.”
After the Compromise of 1790,
which enabled the nationalizing of
state debts, Madison and Jefferson ever more resolutely opposed Hamilton’s
policies: his effort to place a tax on whiskey, which laid a burden especially
on the trans-Appalachian farmers, whose livelihood depended upon the
production and sale of the beverage; his proposal for the national bank; and
his “Report on Manufactures.” Hostility between Jefferson and Hamilton
festered within the cabinet, much to the distress of President Washington.
Like Hamilton, Jefferson was brilliant. He developed a breadth of culti-
vated interests that ranged widely in science, the arts, and the humanities.
He read or spoke seven languages. He was an architect of distinction (his
home at Monticello, the Virginia state capitol, and the University of Virginia
are monuments to his talent), an intellectually curious gentleman who
understood mathematics and engineering, an inventor, and an agronomist.
He knew music and practiced the violin, although one wit remarked that
only Patrick Henry played it worse.
Hamilton and Jefferson represented contrasting visions of the character
of the Union. Their differing philosophical and political issues still echo
more than two centuries later. Thomas Jefferson, twelve years Hamilton’s
senior, was in most respects his opposite. Jefferson was an aristocrat and at
times a radical utopian. He was by nature an optimist and a visionary.
Hamilton was a hardheaded urban realist who foresaw a diversified capitalist
economy, with agriculture balanced by commerce and industry, and was thus
the better prophet. Jefferson was an agrarian idealist who feared that the
The Republican Alternative

299
Thomas Jefferson
A portrait by Charles Willson Peale
(1791).
growth of crowded cities would divide society into a capitalist aristocracy on
the one hand and a deprived proletariat on the other. Hamilton feared anar-
chy and loved stability; Jefferson feared tyranny and loved liberty.
Hamilton was a pro-British champion of a strong central government that
would encourage urban-industrial growth. Jefferson was a devout admirer of
French culture who wanted to preserve a decentralized agrarian republic made
up primarily of small farmers. “Those who labor in the earth,” he wrote, “are
the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts He has
made His peculiar deposit for genuine and substantial virtue.” Jefferson did
not oppose all forms of manufacturing; he simply feared that the unlimited
expansion of commerce and industry would produce a growing class of wage
laborers who were dependent upon others for their livelihood and therefore
subject to political manipulation and economic exploitation.
By mid-1792, Hamilton and Jefferson could no longer disguise their dis-
dain for each other. Hamilton was convinced that Jefferson was “bent upon
my subversion.” And he was. Jefferson told a friend that the two rivals “daily
pitted in the cabinet like two cocks.” The Virginian believed that Hamilton’s
British-inspired policies would “undermine and abolish the republic.” Presi-
dent Washington grew so frustrated by the political infighting within his
cabinet that he begged his chief officers to put an end to the “wounding sus-
picions and irritating charges.”
Still, amid the rising political tensions, there was little opposition in either
party to George Washington, who longed to retire from politics to his
beloved plantation at Mount Vernon and had even begun drafting a farewell
address but was urged by both Hamilton and Jefferson to continue in public
life. Secretary of State Jefferson told Washington that the unstable new
nation needed him: “North and South will hang together if they have you to
hang on.” In the fragile infancy of the new nation, Washington was the only
man able to transcend party differences and hold things together with his
unmatched prestige. In 1792, Washington was unanimously reelected to
serve a second term.
CRI S ES FOREI GN AND DOMES TI C
During George Washington’s second term, the problems of foreign
relations surged to center stage as the result of the cascading consequences
of the French Revolution, which had begun in 1789, during the first months
of his first presidential term. Americans followed the tumultuous events in
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France with almost universal sympathy, for in the early months the French
idealists seemed to be emulating the American Revolution. In July 1789
French rebels stormed the Bastille, the Parisian prison that had long been a
symbol of monarchical tyranny; in August revolutionary leaders penned the
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen; and, the following year the
French republicans drafted their own constitution. Even Federalists such as
John Marshall, the future chief justice of the Supreme Court, were excited by
the first phase of the French revolution against the king. “We were all
strongly attached to France. . . . I sincerely believed human liberty to depend
in a great measure on the success of the French Revolution.”
By early 1793, however, the most radical of the French revolutionaries, hav-
ing abolished the monarchy and declared a republic, executed the king and
queen as well as hundreds of aristocrats and priests. Then the revolutionary
government declared war on Great Britain on February 1, 1793. The much-
celebrated French experiment in liberty, equality, and fraternity began to
transform itself into a monster. As the new French government plunged into
war with Austria and Prussia, the Revolution began devouring its own chil-
dren, along with its enemies, during the Terror of 1793–1794. The revolution-
ary rulers used guillotines to execute thousands of political prisoners, and
barbarism ruled the streets of Paris and other major cities. Secretary of State
Thomas Jefferson, who had served as U.S. minister to France during the
1780s and was an ardent Francophile (he had sought to recreate his Parisian
lifestyle in Philadelphia, hiring French staff, serving only French wine, and
collecting French paintings and furniture), wholeheartedly endorsed the
efforts of French Revolutionaries to replace the monarchy with a republican
form of government. By contrast, Vice President John Adams decided that the
French Revolution had run amok; it had become barbarous and godless. Such
conflicting attitudes toward the French Revolution transformed the first
decade of American politics into one of the most fractious periods in the
nation’s history.
The French Revolution also transformed international relations and set in
motion a series of complex European alliances and prolonged wars that
would frustrate the desire of the young United States to remain neutral in
world affairs. After the execution of King Louis XVI, early in 1793, Great
Britain and Spain entered into the coalition of European monarchies at war
with the chaotic French republic. For the next twenty-two years, Britain and
France were at war, with only a brief respite, until the final defeat of the
French forces under Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815. The European war pre-
sented George Washington, just beginning his second term in 1793, with an
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301
awkward decision. By the 1778 Treaty of Alliance, the United States was a
perpetual ally of France, obligated to defend the European nation’s posses-
sions in the West Indies.
But Americans wanted no part of the European war. They were deter-
mined to maintain their lucrative trade with both sides. And besides, the
Americans had no navy with which to wage a war. Neutrality was the only
sensible policy. For their part, Hamilton and Jefferson found in the neutral-
ity policy one issue on which they could agree. Where they differed was in
how best to implement it. Hamilton had a simple answer: declare the French
alliance formed during the American Revolution invalid because it had been
made with a French government that no longer existed. Jefferson preferred
to delay and use the alliance as a bargaining point with the British. In the
end, however, Washington followed the advice of neither. Taking a middle
course, the president issued a neutrality proclamation on April 22, 1793, that
declared the United States “friendly and impartial toward the belligerent
powers” and warned U.S. citizens that they might be prosecuted for “aiding
or abetting hostilities” or taking part in other un-neutral acts. Instead of set-
tling matters in his cabinet, however, Washington’s proclamation brought to
a boil the feud between Hamilton and Jefferson. Jefferson dashed off an
angry letter to James Madison, urging his ally to “take up your pen” and cut
Hamilton “to pieces” in the newspapers.
CI TI ZEN GENET At the same time, President Washington accepted Jef-
ferson’s argument that the United States should recognize the new French
revolutionary government (becoming the first nation to do so) and welcome
its new ambassador to the United States, the headstrong, indiscreet twenty-
nine-year-old Edmond-Charles-Édouard Genet. Early in 1793, Citizen
Genet landed at Charleston, South Carolina to a hero’s welcome. Along the
route to Philadelphia, the enthusiasm of his American sympathizers gave the
swaggering Genet an inflated notion of his influence. In Charleston he had
recruited privateers to capture British ships. He also conspired with fron-
tiersmen and land speculators to organize an attack on Spanish Florida and
Louisiana.
Genet quickly became an embarrassment even to his Republican friends.
The cabinet unanimously agreed that the French troublemaker had to go; in
August 1793, President Washington demanded his recall. Meanwhile, a new
party of radicals had gained power in France and sent agents to America to
arrest Genet. Instead of returning to Paris and risk the guillotine, Genet
sought asylum in the United States.
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Genet’s foolishness and the growing excesses of the radicals in France
were fast cooling U.S. support for France’s wayward revolution. The war
between France and Great Britain deeply divided public opinion in the
United States. The division gave rise to curious loyalties: slaveholding
planters like Thomas Jefferson joined the cheers for radical Revolutionaries
who confiscated the lands of aristocrats in France, and they supported the
protest against British seizures of New England ships; Massachusetts ship-
pers still profited from the British trade and kept quiet. Boston, once a
hotbed of revolution itself, became a bastion of Federalism. Jefferson was so
disgusted by President Washington’s refusal to support the French Revolu-
tion and by his own ideological warfare with Hamilton that he resigned as
secretary of state at the end of 1793. Vice President Adams greeted the news
by saying “good riddance.”
J AY’ S TREATY By 1794 a
prolonged foreign-policy crisis
between the United States and
Great Britain threatened to
renew warfare between the old
enemies. The 1783 Peace of Paris
that ended the Revolutionary
War had left the western and
southern boundaries of the new
United States in dispute. In addi-
tion, in late 1793 British warships
violated international law by
seizing any American ship that
carried French goods or was sail-
ing for a French port. By early
1794 several hundred American
ships in the West Indies had been
confiscated. Their crews were
given the terrible choice of joining
the British navy or being impris-
oned. At the same time, British
troops in the Ohio River valley
were arming Indians who in turn
attacked American settlers. Early
in 1794 the Republican leaders
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303
Jay’s Treaty
A firestorm of controversy greeted Jay’s
treaty in America. Opponents of the treaty
rioted and burned Jay in effigy.
in Congress were gaining support for commercial retaliation to end British
trade abuses when the British gave President Washington a timely opening
for a settlement. They stopped seizing American ships, and on April 16,
1794, Washington asked Chief Justice John Jay to go to London to settle the
major issues between the two nations: to get British troops out of their forts
along the Great Lakes and to secure reparations for the losses of American
shippers, compensation for southern slaves carried away by British ships in
1783, and a new commercial treaty that would legalize American trade with
the British West Indies.
To win his objectives, Jay accepted the British definition of neutral
rights—that exports of tar, pitch, and other products needed for warships
were contraband (war supplies) and that such military products could not
go in neutral ships to enemy ports. Through Jay’s negotiations, Britain also
gained advantages in its trade with the United States and a promise that
French privateers would not be outfitted in American ports. Finally, Jay con-
ceded that the British need not compensate U.S. citizens for the enslaved
African Americans who had escaped during the Revolutionary War and that
the pre- Revolutionary American debts to British merchants would be paid
by the U.S. government. In return for these concessions, the chief justice
won three important promises from the British: they would evacuate their
six northwestern forts by 1796; reimburse Americans for the seizures of
ships and cargo in 1793–1794; and grant American merchants the right to
trade with the British West Indies. But the last of these (Article XII) was
hedged with restrictions.
Public outrage greeted the terms of Jay’s Treaty (also known as the Treaty
of London of 1794). The debate was so intense that some Americans feared
civil war might erupt. Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans
who favored France in its war with Britain were furious; they wanted no
concessions to the hated British. Jefferson dismissed Jay’s Treaty as an “infa-
mous act.” Opponents of the treaty took to the streets, hanged John Jay in
effigy, and claimed that the treaty was unconstitutional. The heated dispute
helped to crystallize the differences between the nation’s first competing
political parties, the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists.
The uproar over the treaty created the gravest crisis of Washington’s pres-
idency. He worried that his opponents were prepared to separate “the Union
into Northern & Southern.” After he officially endorsed Jay’s Treaty, there
were even calls for his impeachment. Yet the president, while acknowledging
that the proposed agreement was imperfect, concluded that adopting it was
the only way to avoid a war with Britain that America was bound to lose. In
the end, Jay’s Treaty barely won the necessary two-thirds majority in the
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Senate on June 24, 1795. Some 80 percent of the votes for the treaty came
from New England or the middle Atlantic states; 74 percent of those voting
against the treaty were southerners.
FRONTI ER TENS I ONS Other events also had an important bearing on
Jay’s Treaty, adding force to the importance of its settlement of the Canadian
frontier and strengthening Spain’s conviction that it needed to settle long-
festering problems along America’s southwestern frontier. While Jay was
haggling in London, frontier conflict with Indians escalated, with U.S. troops
twice crushed by northwestern tribes. At last, President Washington named
General Anthony Wayne to head a military expedition into the Northwest
Territory. In the fall of 1793, Wayne marched into Indian country with some
two thousand six hundred men, built Fort Greenville, and went on the
offensive in 1794.
In August some two thousand Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi
warriors, reinforced by Canadian militias, engaged Wayne’s troops in the
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Fort Greenville
Why did General Wayne build Fort Greenville? What happened at
the Battle of Fallen Timbers? What were the terms of the Treaty of
Greenville?
Battle of Fallen Timbers, south of Detroit. The Americans repulsed them
and then destroyed their fields and villages. The Indians, frustrated by their
inability to stop the relentless waves of white settlers encroaching upon their
tribal lands, finally agreed to the Treaty of Greenville, signed in August 1795.
According to the terms of the treaty, the United States bought from twelve
tribes the rights to the southeastern quarter of the Northwest Territory (now
Ohio and Indiana) and enclaves at the sites of Detroit, Chicago, and Vin-
cennes, Indiana.
THE WHI S KEY REBELLI ON Soon after the Battle of Fallen Timbers,
the Washington administration resolved on another show of strength in the
backcountry, this time against the so-called Whiskey Rebellion. Alexander
Hamilton’s federal tax on liquor, levied in 1791, had outraged frontier farm-
ers because it taxed their most profitable commodity. During the eighteenth
and early nineteenth centuries nearly all Americans drank alcoholic bever-
ages: beer, hard cider, ale, wine, rum, brandy, or whiskey. Alcoholic beverages
were safer to drink than the often-contaminated water and were cheaper
than tea. In the areas west of the Appalachian Mountains, the primary cash
commodity was liquor distilled from grain or fruit. Such emphasis on distill-
ing reflected a practical problem. Many farmers could not afford to transport
bulky crops of corn and rye across the mountains or down the Mississippi
River to the seaboard markets. Instead, it was much more profitable to distill
liquor from corn and rye or apples and peaches. Unlike grain crops, distilled
spirits could be easily stored, shipped, or sold—and at higher profits.
A bushel of corn worth 25¢ could yield two and a half gallons of liquor,
worth ten times as much.
Backcountry farmers were also suspicious of the new federal government
in Philadelphia. The frontiersmen considered the whiskey tax another part
of Hamilton’s scheme to pick the pockets of the poor to enrich the urban
rich. Throughout the backcountry, from Georgia to Pennsylvania and
beyond, the whiskey tax provoked resistance and evasion.
In the summer of 1794, discontent exploded into open rebellion in west-
ern Pennsylvania. A mob of five hundred armed men burned the house of
the federal tax collector. Other rebels destroyed the stills of those who paid
the whiskey tax, robbed the mails, stopped court proceedings, and threat-
ened an assault on Pittsburgh. On August 7, 1794, President Washington
issued a proclamation ordering the insurgents home and calling out twelve
thousand nine hundred militiamen from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
and New Jersey. Getting no response from the “Whiskey boys,” he ordered
the army to suppress the rebellion.
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Under the command of General Henry Lee, thirteen thousand soldiers
marched out from Harrisburg across the Alleghenies. George Washington
himself accompanied the troops during the first few days, the only American
president to lead troops in the field while in office. The massive show of fed-
eral force worked. The whiskey rebels vanished into the hills, and the troops
met with little opposition. They finally rounded up twenty barefoot, ragged
prisoners, whom they paraded down Market Street in Philadelphia and
clapped into prison. The government had made its point and gained “repu-
tation and strength,” claimed Alexander Hamilton, by suppressing the elu-
sive rebellion—one that, according to Jefferson, “could never be found.” The
use of such excessive force, however, led many who sympathized with the
frontiersmen to become Republicans, and Jefferson’s party scored heavily in
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307
Whiskey Rebellion
George Washington as commander in chief reviews the troops mobilized to quell
the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.
the next Pennsylvania elections. Nor was it the end of whiskey rebellions,
which continued in an unending war of wits between moonshiners and fed-
eral tax officers, known as revenuers.
PI NCKNEY’ S TREATY While these turbulent events were unfolding in
Pennsylvania, the Spanish were encouraging the Creeks, Choctaws, Chicka-
saws, and Cherokees in the Old Southwest to create the same turmoil that
the British had fomented along the Ohio River. In Tennessee white settlers
reacted by burning and leveling Indian villages. The defeat of Spain’s Indian
allies, combined with Britain’s concessions in the North and worries about
possible American intervention in Louisiana, led the Spanish to enter into
treaty negotiations with the Americans. U.S. negotiator Thomas Pinckney
pulled off a diplomatic triumph in 1795 when he won acceptance of a
308

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
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31
31
Area claimed by Spain after 1793
PINCKNEY’S TREATY, 1795
Line of Pinckney’s Treaty, 1795
Why did settlers in Tennessee start destroying Indian villages?
What were the terms of Pinckney’s Treaty? Why was the treaty
popular?
boundary at the 31st parallel, open access for Americans to ship goods on
the Mississippi River, the right to transport goods to Spanish-controlled
New Orleans, and a promise by each side to refrain from inciting Indian
attacks on the other side. Senate ratification of Pinckney’s Treaty came
quickly. In fact, it was immensely popular, especially among westerners eager
to use the Mississippi River to transport their crops to market.
SETTLEMENT OF NEW LAND
The treaties signed by John Jay and Thomas Pinckney triggered a
renewed surge of settlers headed into the western territories. Their lust for
land ignited a fierce debate in Congress over the issue of federal land policy.
There were two basic viewpoints on the matter: some held that federal land
should serve mainly as a source of revenue, whereas others thought it was
more important to get the new country settled quickly, an endeavor that
required low land prices. In the long run, the evolution of policy would be
from the first to the second viewpoint, but for the time being the federal
government’s need for revenue took priority.
LAND POLI CY Opinions on land policy, like opinions on other issues,
separated Federalists from Republicans. Influential Federalists, like Hamil-
ton and Jay, preferred to build the population of the eastern states first, lest
the East lose both political influence and a labor force important to the
growth of manufactures. Men of their persuasion favored high prices for
federal land to enrich the Treasury, and they preferred that federal lands be
sold in large parcels to speculators rather than small plots to settlers. Jeffer-
son and Madison were reluctantly prepared to go along for the sake of
reducing the national debt, but Jefferson expressed the hope for a plan by
which the lands could be more readily settled by the masses. In any case, he
suggested, frontiersmen would do as they had done before: “They will settle
the lands in spite of everybody.”
For the time being, however, Federalist policy prevailed. With the Land
Act of 1796, Congress extended the rectangular surveys ordained in 1785 but
doubled the price to $2 per acre, with only one year in which to complete
payment. Half the townships would be sold in 640-acre sections, making the
minimum cost $1,280, and alternate townships would be sold in blocks of
eight sections, or 5,120 acres, making the minimum cost $10,240. Either
price was well beyond the means of ordinary settlers and a bit much even for
speculators, who could still pick up state-owned lands at lower prices. By
Settlement of New Land

309
1800 federal land offices had sold fewer than 50,000 acres under the act.
Continuing criticism in the West led to the Land Act of 1800, which reduced
the minimum unit to 320 acres and spread payments over four years. Thus,
with a down payment of $160, one could buy a farm. Under the Land Act of
1804, the minimum unit was reduced to 160 acres, which became the tradi-
tional homestead, and the price per acre went down to $1.64.
THE WI LDERNES S ROAD The lure of western lands led thousands of
settlers to follow pathfinder Daniel Boone along the Wilderness Road into
the territory known as Kentucky, or Kaintuck, from the Cherokee name
Ken-Ta-Ke (Great Meadow). In the late eighteenth century, the Indian-held
lands in Kentucky were a farmer’s fantasy and a hunter’s paradise; the vast
310

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
The prevalence of agriculture
This American folk painting by Edward Hicks shows the residence of David Twin-
ing, a Pennsylvania farmer, as it appeared in 1787.
area boasted fertile soil and abundant forests teeming with buffalo, deer,
and wild turkeys. Over the years, Boone and other whites bought or stole the
Indians’ ancestral lands.
Boone himself was the product of a pioneer background. Born on a small
farm in 1734 in central Pennsylvania, he was a deadeye marksman by the age
of twelve and would soon become an experienced farmer and an accom-
plished woodsman. In 1750 the Boone family moved to western North Car-
olina. There Boone excelled at hunting, trading animal skins for salt and
other household needs. After hearing numerous reports about the territory
over the mountains, Boone set out alone in 1769 to find a trail into Ken-
tucky. Armed with a long rifle, tomahawk, and hunting knife, he found what
was called the Warriors’ Path, a narrow foot trail that buffalo, deer, and Indi-
ans had worn along the steep ridges. It took him through the Cumberland
Gap in southwestern Virginia.
In 1773, Boone led the first group of settlers through the Appalachian
Mountains at the Cumberland Gap. Two years later he and thirty woodsmen
used axes to widen the Warriors’ Path into what became known as the Wilder-
ness Road, a passage that more than three hundred thousand settlers would
use over the next twenty-five years. At a point where a branch of the Wilder-
ness Road intersected with the Kentucky River, near what is now Lexington,
Boone built the settlement of Boonesborough in an area called Transylvania.
A steady stream of settlers, mostly Scots-Irish migrants from Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and North Carolina, poured into Kentucky during the last quarter of
the eighteenth century. That they
were trespassing on Indian lands
did not faze them. The backcoun-
try pioneers came on foot or
horseback, often leading a mule
or a cow that carried their few
tools and other possessions. On
a good day they might cover
fifteen miles. Near a creek or
spring they would buy a parcel
or stake out a claim and mark its
boundaries by chopping notches
into “witness trees.” They would
then build a lean-to for tempo-
rary shelter and clear the land
for planting. The larger trees,
those that could not be felled
Settlement of New Land

311
The Wilderness Road
Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the
Cumberland Gap by George Caleb Bingham.
with an ax, were girdled: a cut would be made around the trunk, and the tree
would be left to die. Because the process often took years, a farmer had to
hoe and plant a field filled with stumps. The pioneers grew melons, beans,
turnips, and other vegetables, but corn was the preferred crop because it
kept well and had so many uses. Ears were roasted and eaten on the cob, and
kernels were ground into meal for making mush, hominy grits, and hoe-
cakes, or johnnycakes (dry flour cakes, suitable for travelers, that were origi-
nally called journeycakes). Pigs provided pork, and cows supplied milk, but-
ter, and cheese. Many frontier families also built crude stills to manufacture
a potent whiskey they called corn likker.
TRANSFER OF POWER
By 1796, President Washington had decided that two terms in office
were enough. Weary of the increasingly bitter political quarrels and the
venom of the partisan newspapers, he was ready to retire at last to his
beloved home in northern Virginia, Mount Vernon. He would leave behind
a formidable record of achievement: the organization of a new national
government with demonstrated power, a secure national credit, the recov-
ery of territory from Britain and Spain, a stable northwestern frontier, and
the admission of three new states: Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), and
Tennessee (1796).
WAS HI NGTON’ S FAREWELL With the considerable help of Alexan-
der Hamilton, Washington drafted a valedictory speech to the nation. His
farewell address, dated September 17, 1796, called for unity among the peo-
ple in backing their new government. Washington decried the rising spirit of
partisanship and sectionalism; he feared the emergence of regional political
parties promoting local interests. In foreign relations, Washington said, the
United States should avoid both “an habitual hatred” and “an habitual fond-
ness” for other countries. Europe, he noted, “has a set of primary interests
which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged
in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our
concerns.” The United States should keep clear of those quarrels. It was,
moreover, “our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any por-
tion of the foreign world.” A key word here is permanent. Washington
opposed permanent alliances like the one with France, still technically in
effect, but he endorsed “temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”
Washington’s warning against permanent foreign entanglements served as a
fundamental principle in U.S. foreign policy until the early twentieth century.
312

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
THE ELECTI ON OF 1796 With George Washington out of the race,
the United States had its first partisan election for president. The logical
choice of the Federalists would have been Washington’s protégé, Alexander
Hamilton, the chief architect of their programs. But Hamilton’s policies had
left scars and made enemies. In Philadelphia a caucus of Federalist congress-
men passed over Hamilton and chose John Adams of Massachusetts as their
heir apparent, with Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, fresh from his
diplomatic triumph in Spain, as the nominee for vice president. As expected,
the Republicans drafted Thomas Jefferson and added geographic balance to
the ticket with Senator Aaron Burr of New York.
The campaign of 1796 was intensely partisan. Republicans caricatured
John Adams as “His Rotundity” because of his short, paunchy body. They
also labeled him a pro-British monarchist. The Federalists countered that
Jefferson was a French-loving atheist eager to incite another war with Great
Britain. They also charged that the philosophical Jefferson was unsuited to
executive leadership; he was not decisive enough. The increasing strength of
the Republicans, fueled by the smoldering resentment of Jay’s Treaty, very
nearly swept Jefferson into office and perhaps would have but for the French
ambassador’s public appeals for his election—an action that backfired.
Then, despite a Federalist majority among the electors, Hamilton hatched an
Transfer of Power

313
Mount Vernon
George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Mount Vernon in 1784.
Washington enlarged the estate, which overlooks the Potomac River, to nearly eight
thousand acres, dividing it among five farms.
impulsive scheme that very nearly threw the election away after all. Hamil-
ton decided that Pinckney would be more subject to his influence than
would the strong-minded Adams. He therefore sought to have the South
Carolina Federalists withhold a few votes for Adams and bring Pinckney in
first. The Carolinians more than cooperated—they divided their vote
between Pinckney and Jefferson—but the New Englanders got wind of the
scheme and dropped Pinckney. The upshot of Hamilton’s scheme was to cut
Pinckney out of both the presidency and the vice presidency and elect Jeffer-
son as vice president with 68 electoral votes to Adams’s 71.
THE ADAMS ADMI NI STRATI ON
Vain and cantankerous, John Adams had crafted a distinguished career
as a Massachusetts lawyer, as a leader in the Revolutionary movement, as the
hardest-working member of the Continental Congress, as a diplomat in
France, Holland, and Britain, and as George Washington’s vice president. His
political philosophy fell somewhere between Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s. He
shared neither the one’s faith in the common people nor the other’s fondness
for a financial aristocracy of “paper
wealth.” Adams feared the concept of
democracy and considered equality a
fanciful notion. He favored the classic
mixture of aristocratic, democratic,
and monarchical elements, though
his use of monarchical interchangeably
with executive ex posed him to the
attacks of Republicans who saw a
monarchist in every Federalist. Adams
was always haunted by a feeling that he
was never properly appreciated—and
he may have been right. Yet on the
overriding issue of his administration,
war and peace, he kept his head when
others about him were losing theirs—
probably at the cost of his reelection.
THE WAR WI TH FRANCE As
America’s second president, Adams
faced the daunting task of succeeding
314

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
John Adams
Political philosopher and politician,
Adams was the first president to take
up residence in the White House, in
early 1801.
the most popular man in the nation. He also inherited an undeclared naval
war with France, a by-product of Jay’s Treaty. When Jay accepted the British
demand that food supplies and naval products, as well as war matériel, be
treated as contraband subject to seizure, the French reasoned that Ameri-
can cargo headed for British ports was subject to the same interpretation.
The French loosed their corsairs in the British West Indies, with an even
more devastating effect on American shipping than the British had had in
1793–1794. By the time of Adams’s inauguration, in 1797, the French had
plundered some three hundred American ships and broken diplomatic
relations with the United States. As ambassador to Paris, Monroe had
become so pro-French and so hostile to Jay’s Treaty that George Washing-
ton had removed him for his indiscretions. France, grown haughty and
contemptuous with Napoléon’s military conquests, had then refused to
accept Monroe’s replacement, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (brother of
Thomas), and ordered him out of the country.
The Adams Administration

315
Conflict with France
A cartoon indicating the anti-French sentiment generated by the XYZ affair. The
three American negotiators (at left) reject the Paris Monster’s demand for money.
John Adams immediately acted to restore relations with France in the face
of an outcry for war from the “high Federalists,” including Secretary of State
Timothy Pickering. Alexander Hamilton agreed with Adams on this point
and approved his last-ditch effort for a diplomatic settlement. In 1797,
Pinckney returned to Paris with John Marshall, a Virginia Federalist, and
Elbridge Gerry, a Massachusetts Republican, for further negotiations. After
nagging delays the three commissioners were accosted by three French offi-
cials (whom Adams labeled X, Y, and Z in his report to Congress). The
French diplomats confided to the Americans that negotiations could begin
only if the United States paid a bribe of $250,000.
Such bribes were common eighteenth-century diplomatic practice, but
the answer from the American side, according to the commissioners’ report,
was “no, no, not a sixpence.” When the so-called XYZ affair was reported in
Congress and the public press, the response was translated into the more
stirring slogan “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.” There-
after, the expressions of hostility toward France rose in a crescendo and even
the most partisan Republicans—with the exception of Thomas Jefferson—
quit making excuses for the French, and many of them joined the cry for
war. Yet President Adams resisted a formal declaration of war; the French
would have to bear the onus for that. Congress, however, authorized the cap-
ture of armed French ships, suspended commerce with France, and
renounced the 1778 Treaty of Alliance, which was already a dead letter.
In 1798, George Logan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and Republican sympa-
thizer, visited Paris at his own expense, hoping to head off war. He secured
the release of some American seamen and won assurances that a new U.S.
minister to France would be welcomed. The fruit of his mission, otherwise,
was passage of the Logan Act (1799), still in effect, which forbids private cit-
izens to negotiate with foreign governments without official authorization.
Amid a nation churning with patriotism and war fever, Adams strength-
ened American defenses. Militias marched and mobilized, and a navy began
to emerge. An American navy had ceased to exist at the end of the Revolu-
tion. No armed ships were available when Algerian brigands began to prey
on American commerce in the Mediterranean in 1794. As a result, Congress
had authorized the arming of six ships. The job was still incomplete in 1796,
however, when President Washington bought peace with the Algerians, but
Congress allowed work on three of the ships to continue: the Constitution,
the United States, and the Constellation, all completed in 1797. In 1798, Con-
gress authorized a Department of the Navy, and by the end of the year, an
undeclared naval war had begun in the West Indies with the French capture
of an American schooner.
316

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
While the naval war was being fought, Congress, in 1798, authorized an
army of ten thousand men to serve three years. Adams called George Washing-
ton from retirement to be its commander, and Washington agreed only on con-
dition that Alexander Hamilton be named his second in command. Adams
relented but expressed his disgust at naming Hamilton a general, for he was
“the most restless, indefatigable and unprincipled Intriguer in the United
States, if not in the world.” The rift among the Federalists thus widened further.
Peace overtures began to come from the French by the autumn of 1798,
before the naval war was fully under way. In 1799, Adams dispatched a team
of three Americans to negotiate with a new French government under First
Consul Napoléon Bonaparte. By the Convention of 1800, they won the best
terms they could from the triumphant Napoléon. In return for giving up all
claims of indemnity for American losses, they got official suspension of the
1778 perpetual alliance with France and an end to the naval conflict with
France. The Senate ratified the agreement, contingent upon outright abro-
gation of the alliance, and it became effective on December 21, 1801.
THE WAR AT HOME The simmering naval conflict with France
mirrored a ferocious ideological war at home between Federalists and
Republicans. The rhetoric grew so personal and tempers grew so short that
opponents commonly resorted to duels. Federalists and Republicans saw
each other as traitors to the principles of the American Revolution. Jeffer-
son, for example, decided that Hamilton, Washington, Adams, and other
Federalists were suppressing individual liberty in order to promote selfish
interests. He adamantly opposed Jay’s Treaty because it was pro-British and
anti-French, and he was disgusted by the army’s forceful suppression of the
Whiskey Rebellion.
Such combustible issues forced Americans to take sides, and the Revolu-
tionary generation of leaders, a group that John Adams had earlier called the
“band of brothers,” began to fragment into die-hard factions. Long-standing
political friendships disintegrated amid the partisan attacks, and sectional
divisions between North and South grew more fractious. Jefferson observed
that a “wall of separation” had come to divide the nation’s political leaders.
“Politics and party hatreds,” he told his daughter, “destroy the happiness of
every being here.”
Ironically, Jefferson’s combative tac tics contributed directly to the partisan
tensions. He frequently planted rumors about his opponents in the press,
wrote anonymous newspaper attacks, and asked others to disparage his
opponents. As vice president under Adams, he displayed a gracious devious-
ness. Instead of supporting the president, he led the Republican faction
The Adams Administration

317
opposed to Adams and ac ti vely
schemed to embarrass him. The vice
president told a French official that
President Adams was “a vain, irrita-
ble, stubborn” man. In 1797, Jeffer-
son secretly hired a rogue journalist,
James Callender, to produce a scur-
rilous pamphlet that described Presi-
dent Adams as a deranged monar chist
intent upon naming himself king. By
the end of the century, Jefferson had
become an ardent advocate of polar-
ized party politics: “I hold it as
immoral to pursue a middle line, as
between parties of Honest men and
Rogues, into which every country
has divided.”
For his part, John Adams refused to
align himself completely with the
Federalists, preferring instead to mimic George Washington and retain his
independence as chief executive. He was too principled and too prickly to
toe a party line. Soon after his election, he invited Jefferson to join him in
creating a bipartisan administration. After all, they had worked well together
in the Continental Congress and in France, and they had great respect for
each other. After consulting with James Madison, however, Jefferson refused
to accept the new president’s offer. Within a year he and Adams were at each
other’s throats. Adams expressed regret at losing Jefferson as a friend but
“felt obliged to look upon him as a man whose mind is warped by preju-
dice.” Jefferson, he claimed, had become “a child and the dupe” of the
Republican faction in Congress, which was led by Madison.
The conflict with France only deepened the partisan divide emerging in
the young United States. The real purpose of the French crisis all along, the
more ardent Republicans suspected, was to provide Federalists with an
excuse to suppress their American critics. The infamous Alien and Sedition
Acts of 1798 lent credence to the Republicans’ suspicions. These and two
other acts, passed in the wave of patriotic war fever, limited freedom of
speech and the press and the liberty of aliens. Proposed by extreme Federal-
ists in Congress, the acts did not originate with Adams but had his blessing.
Goaded by his wife, Abigail, his primary counselor, Adams signed the contro-
versial statutes and in doing so made the greatest mistake of his presidency.
Timothy Pickering, his secretary of state, claimed that Adams had acted
318

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
The partisan divide
The war with France deepened the
division between the Federalists and
Republicans.
without consulting “any member of the government and for a reason truly
remarkable—because he knew we should all be opposed to the measure.”
By succumbing to the partisan hysteria and enacting the vindictive acts,
Adams seemed to bear out what Benjamin Franklin had said about him
years before: he “means well for his country, is always an honest man, often
a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.”
Three of the four repressive acts engineered by the Federalists reflected
hostility to foreigners, especially the French and the Irish, a large number of
whom had become active Republicans and were suspected of revolutionary
intent. The Naturalization Act lengthened from five to fourteen years the
residency requirement for citizenship. The Alien Act empowered the presi-
dent to deport “dangerous” aliens. The Alien Enemies Act authorized the
president in time of declared war to expel or imprison enemy aliens at will.
Finally, the Sedition Act defined as a high misdemeanor any conspiracy
against legal measures of the government, including interference with
federal officers and insurrection or rioting. What is more, the law forbade
writing, publishing, or speaking anything of “a false, scandalous and mali-
cious” nature against the government or any of its officers.
The Sedition Act was designed to punish Republicans, whom Federalists
lumped together with French revolutionary radicals and American traitors.
To be sure, partisan Republican journalists published scandalous lies and
misrepresentations, but so did Federalists; it was a time when both sides
seemed afflicted with paranoia. But the fifteen indictments brought under
the Sedition Act, with ten convictions, were all directed at Republicans.
The most conspicuous targets of prosecution were Republican editors and
a Republican congressman, Matthew Lyon of Vermont, a rough-and-tumble
Irishman who castigated Adams’s “continual grasp for power” and “unbounded
thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice.” Lyon was
imprisoned for four months and fined $1,000, but from his cell he continued
to write articles and letters for the Republican papers. The few convictions
under the act only created martyrs to the cause of freedom of speech and the
press and exposed the vindictiveness of Federalist judges.
Lyon and the others based their defense on the unconstitutionality of the
Sedition Act, but Federalist judges dismissed the notion. It ran against the
Republican grain, anyway, to have federal courts assume the authority to
declare laws unconstitutional. To offset the “reign of witches” unleashed by the
Alien and Sedition Acts, therefore, Jefferson and Madison drafted what came
to be known as the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, passed by the legisla-
tures of their respective states in 1798. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions,
much alike in their arguments, denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts as
“alarming infractions” of constitutional rights. Since the Constitution arose as
The Adams Administration

319
a compact among the states, the resolutions argued, the states should decide
when Congress had exceeded its powers. The Virginia Resolutions, drafted by
James Madison, declared that states “have the right and are in duty bound to
interpose for arresting the progress of the evil.” The second set of Kentucky
Resolutions, in restating the states’ right to judge violations of the Constitu-
tion, added, “That a nullification of those sovereignties, of all unauthorized
acts done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.”
These doctrines of interposition and nullification, reworked and edited
by later theorists, were destined to be used for causes unforeseen by their
authors. (Years later, Madison would disclaim the doctrine of nullification as
developed by John C. Calhoun, but his own doctrine of interposition would
resurface as late as the 1950s as a device to oppose racial integration.) At the
time, it seems, both men intended the resolutions to serve chiefly as propa-
ganda, the opening guns in the political campaign of 1800. Neither Ken-
tucky nor Virginia took steps to nullify or interpose its authority in the
enforcement of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Instead, both called upon the
other states to help them win a repeal. In Virginia, citizens talked of armed
resistance to the federal government. Jefferson counseled against any
thought of violence: it was “not the kind of opposition the American people
320

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
Dispute in the House
Republican representative Matthew Lyon and Connecticut Federalist Roger Gris-
wold attack each other on the floor of the House (1798). Lyon soon became a target
of the Sedition Act.
will permit.” He assured a fellow Virginian that the Federalist “reign of
witches” would soon end, that it would be discredited by the arrival of the
tax collector more than anything else.
REPUBLI CAN VI CTORY As the presidential election of 1800
approached, civil unrest boiled over. Grievances mounted against Federalist
policies: taxation to support an unneeded army; the Alien and Sedition
Acts, which cast the Federalists as anti-liberty; the lingering fears of
“monarchism”; the hostilities aroused by Alexander Hamilton’s economic
programs; the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion; and Jay’s Treaty. When
Adams opted for peace with France in 1800, he probably doomed his one
chance for reelection—a wave of patriotic war fever with a united party
behind him. His decision gained him much goodwill among Americans at
large but left the Hamiltonians angry and his party divided. In 1800 the
Federalists summoned enough unity to name as their candidates Adams
and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; they agreed to cast all their electoral
votes for both. But the Hamiltonian Federalists continued to snipe at
Adams and his policies, and soon after his renomination Adams removed
two of them from his cabinet. A furious Hamilton struck back with a pam-
phlet questioning Adams’s fitness to be president, citing his “disgusting
egotism.” Intended for private distribution among Federalist leaders, the
pamphlet reached the hands of New York Republican Aaron Burr, who put
it in general circulation.
Jefferson and Burr, as the Republican presidential candidates, once again
represented the alliance of Virginia and New York. Jefferson, perhaps even
more than Adams, was attacked by Federalists as a supporter of the radical
French revolutionaries and an atheist. His election would supposedly bring
civil war—“dwellings in flames, hoary hairs bathed in blood, female
chastity violated . . . children writhing on the pike and halberd.” Jefferson
kept quiet, refused to answer the attacks, and directed the campaign by mail
from his home at Monticello. His supporters portrayed him as the farmers’
friend, the champion of states’ rights, frugal government, liberty, and peace.
Adams proved more popular than his party, whose candidates generally
fared worse than the president, but the Republicans edged him out by 73 elec-
toral votes to 65. The decisive states were New York and South Carolina,
either of which might have given the victory to Adams. But in New York for-
mer senator Aaron Burr’s organization won control of the legislature, which
cast the electoral votes. In South Carolina, Charles Pinckney (cousin of the
Federalist Pinckneys) won over the legislature by well-placed promises of
Republican patronage. Still, the result was not final, for Jefferson and Burr
had tied with 73 votes each, and the choice of the president was thrown into
The Adams Administration

321
the House of Representatives (a constitutional defect corrected by the Twelfth
Amendment), where Federalist diehards tried vainly to give the election to
Burr. This was too much for Hamilton, who opposed Jefferson but held a
much lower opinion of Burr. Jefferson, Hamilton wrote to a fellow Federalist,
at least had “pretensions to character,” but Burr had “nothing in his favor.”
The stalemate in the House continued for thirty-five ballots. The deadlock
was broken only when a confidant of Jefferson’s assured a Delaware congress-
man that Jefferson, if elected, would refrain from the wholesale removal of
Federalists appointed to federal offices and would uphold Hamilton’s finan-
cial policies. The representative resolved to vote for Jefferson, and several
other Federalists agreed simply to cast blank ballots, permitting Jefferson to
win without any of them having to vote for him.
Before the Federalists relinquished power to the Jeffersonian Republicans
on March 4, 1801, their lame-duck Congress passed the Judiciary Act of
1801. Intended to ensure Federalist control of the judicial system, this act
provided that the next vacancy on the Supreme Court would not be filled,
created sixteen federal circuit courts with a new judge for each, and
increased the number of federal attorneys, clerks, and marshals. Before he
322

THE FEDERALIST ERA (CH. 7)
SC
8
NC
8 4
GA
4
VA
21
KY 4
INDIANA
TERR.
TERR.
NW OF
OHIO
R.
TN 3
PA
8 7
NY 12
VT 4
NH 6
MA 16
RI 4
CT 9
NJ 7
DE 3
MD R
F
5
5
Thomas Jefferson
Aaron Burr
73

73

Electoral Vote THE ELECTION OF 1800
(Republican)
(Republican)
John Adams
Charles C. Pinckney
65
64*
(Federalist)
(Federalist)
One Rhode Island elector cast one of his ballots for John Jay.
Tie resolved by House of Representatives; Jefferson elected.
*

Why was the election of 1800 a key moment in American history? How did the
Republicans win New York and South Carolina? How did Congress break the tie
between Jefferson and Burr?
left office, Adams named John Marshall to the vacant office of chief justice
and appointed Federalists to all the new positions, including forty-two jus-
tices of the peace for the new District of Columbia. The Federalists, defeated
and destined never to regain national power, had in the words of Jefferson
“retired into the judiciary as a stronghold.”
The election of 1800 harshly divided the young republic and marked a
major turning point in American political history. It was the first time that
one political party, however ungracefully, relinquished power to the opposi-
tion party. Jefferson’s hard-fought victory signaled the emergence of a new,
more democratic political system, dominated by parties, partisanship, and
wider public participation—at least by white men. Before and immediately
after independence, politics was popular but not democratic: people took a
keen interest in public affairs, but socially prominent families, the “rich, the
able, and the wellborn,” dominated political life. However, the fierce political
battles of the late 1790s, culminating in 1800 with Jefferson’s election as the
nation’s third president, wrested control of politics from the governing elite
and established the right of more people to play an active role in governing
the young republic. With the gradual elimination of property qualifications
for voting and the proliferation of newspapers, pamphlets, and other publi-
cations, the “public sphere” in which political issues were debated and
decided expanded enormously in the early nineteenth century.
The Republican victory in 1800 also marked the political triumph of the
slaveholding South. The population of the southern states was growing
rapidly at the end of the eighteenth century, and the burgeoning presence of
enslaved Africans increasingly distinguished the region from the rest of the
nation. Three Virginia slaveholders—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and
James Monroe—would control the White House for the next twenty-four
years. While Republicans celebrated democracy, many of them also pros-
pered because of slavery. The tensions between republican ideals and planta-
tion slavery would eventually lead to civil war.
John Adams regretted the democratization of politics and the rise of frac-
tious partisanship. “Jefferson had a party, Hamilton had a party, but the com-
monwealth had none,” he sighed. The defeated president was so distraught at
the turn of events that he decided not to participate in Jefferson’s inauguration
in the new capital, Washington, D.C. Instead, he boarded a stagecoach for the
five-hundred-mile trip to his home in Quincy, Massachusetts. He and Jefferson
would not communicate for the next twelve years. As Adams returned to work
on his Massachusetts farm, he reported that he had exchanged “honors and
virtue for manure.” He told his son John Quincy, who would become president
himself, that the American president “has a hard, laborious, and unhappy life.”
The Adams Administration

323
End of Chapter Review
C H A P T E R S U M M A R Y
• Formation of the Government The Constitution left many questions unan-
swered about the structure and conduct of the government. Congress had to
create executive departments and organize the federal judiciary. The ratification
of the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, was a leading issue; however,
strengthening the economy was the highest priority.
• Hamiltonian Vision Alexander Hamilton wanted to create a vibrant economy.
He succeeded in establishing a sound foundation for American capitalism by
crafting a budget with a funded national debt, a federal tax system, a national
bank, and a customs service.
• Religious Freedom In terms of religion, the Constitution does not mention a
deity and the First Amendment guarantees people the right to worship freely,
regardless of their religious persuasion.
• Neutrality With the outbreak of European-wide war during the French Revolu-
tion, George Washington’s policy of neutrality violated the terms of the 1778
treaty with France, which had established a perpetual alliance. The French began
seizing British and American ships and an undeclared war was under way. The
resulting unrest contributed to the creation of the first two political parties:
Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans.
• Jeffersonian Vision James Madison and Thomas Jefferson became increasingly
critical of Hamilton’s policies, which favored a strong federal government and
weaker state governments. Jefferson, on the other hand, championed an agrarian
vision, in which independent small farmers were the backbone of American
society. He feared that the growth of cities would enrich the aristocracy and
widen divisions between the rich and the poor.
K E Y T E R M S & N A M E S
Alexander Hamilton’s
“Report on Manufactures”
p. 295
Bank of the United States
p. 295
Republicans p. 298
Citizen Genet p. 302
Jay’s Treaty p. 304
Whiskey Rebellion p. 306
Daniel Boone p. 310
XYZ affair p. 316
Alien and Sedition Acts
p. 318
Kentucky and Virginia
Resolutions p. 319

C H R O N O L O G Y
1789 President George Washington is inaugurated
1789 French Revolution begins
1791 Bill of Rights is ratified
1791 Bank of the United States is created
1793 Washington issues a proclamation of neutrality
1794 Jay’s Treaty is negotiated with England
1794 Whiskey Rebellion
1795 By the Treaty of Greenville, the United States purchases western
lands from Native Americans
1795 Pinckney’s Treaty is negotiated with Spain
1796 President Washington delivers his farewell address
1797 XYZ affair
1798 Alien and Sedition Acts are passed
1800 Thomas Jefferson is elected president

8
THE EARLY REPUBLIC
R
ip Van Winkle, the easygoing farmer in Washington
Irving’s popular 1819 tale, supposedly fell asleep before
the American Revolution and did not awaken for twenty
years. When he rose from his “drowsy tranquility,” he was bewildered to
find himself in a transformed society that he hardly recognized. “Every
thing’s changed,” he said in astonishment. “The very village was altered—
it was larger and more populous.” Everyone was busily working, and they
were speaking a language filled with words such as the “rights of citizens—
elections—members of Congress—liberty.” The decades after the Revolu-
tion were indeed years of dynamic change as Americans laid the foundation
for the nation’s development as the first society in the world organized by
the principle of democratic capitalism and its promise of equal opportunity
for all—except African Americans, Native Americans, and women. As Thomas
Jefferson said, America was becoming an “empire of liberty” in which all
facets of society—politics, education, science, religion, and livelihoods—
were experiencing dynamic change.
F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S
• What were the main achievements of Jefferson’s administration?
• What was the impact of the Marshall court on the U.S.
government?
• How did the Louisiana Purchase change the United States?
• What were the causes and effects of the War of 1812?
wwnorton.com/studyspace
The New American Nation

327
THE NEW AMERI CAN NATI ON
In 1800 there were 5,300,000 people living in the United States, a fifth
of whom were enslaved blacks. Americans in the fifty years after indepen-
dence were in perpetual motion: they were on the move and on the make.
“The woods are full of new settlers,” marveled a traveler in upstate New York
in 1805. “Axes were resounding, and the trees literally were falling about us
as we passed.” Many Americans believed that they were a nation of destiny.
Their prospects seemed unlimited, their optimism unrestrained. The oppor-
tunity to pursue one’s dreams animated the drama of American life. As John
Adams observed, “There is no people on earth so ambitious as the people of
America . . . because the lowest can aspire as freely as the highest.”
Land sales west of the Appalachian Mountains soared in the early nine-
teenth century as aspiring farmers shoved Indians aside in order to establish
homesteads of their own. Enterprising, mobile, and increasingly diverse
in religion and national origin, tens of thousands of people uprooted
themselves from settled communities and went west in search of personal
advancement, occupying more territory in a single generation than had been
settled in the 150 years of colonial history. Between 1800 and 1820 the trans-
Appalachian population soared from 300,000 to 2 million. By 1840, over
40 percent of Americans lived west of the Appalachians in eight new states.
The spirit of opportunistic independence affected free African Americans
as well as whites, Indians as well as immigrants. Free blacks were the fastest-
growing segment of the population during the early nineteenth century.
Many enslaved Americans had gained their freedom during the Revolution-
ary War by escaping, joining the British forces, or serving in American mili-
tary units. Every state except South Carolina and Georgia promised freedom
to slaves who fought the British. Afterward, state after state in the North out-
lawed slavery, and anti-slavery societies blossomed, exerting increasing pres-
sure on the South to end the degrading practice. Pressure of another sort
affected the besieged Indian tribes. The westward migration of Americans
brought incessant conflict with Native Americans. Indians fiercely resisted
the invasion of their ancestral lands but ultimately succumbed to a federal
government and a federal army determined to displace them.
Most whites, however, were less concerned about Indians and slavery than
they were about seizing their own opportunities. Politicians north and south
suppressed the volatile issue of slavery; their priorities were elsewhere. West-
ward expansion, economic growth, urban-industrial development, and the
democratization of politics preoccupied a generation of Americans born after
1776—especially outside the South. In 1790 nine out of ten Americans lived
328

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
on the land and engaged in household rather than commercial production;
their sphere of activity was local. But with each passing year, more and more
farmers focused on producing surplus crops and livestock to sell in regional
markets. Such commercial agriculture was especially evident in the South,
where European demand for cotton caused prices to soar. The phenomenal
profits generated by “King Cotton” led the Deep South to become ever more
dependent on a plantation economy dependent upon three elements: enslaved
labor, New England merchants and shippers (“middlemen”), and worldwide
demand for cotton. The burgeoning market economy produced boom-and-
bust cycles, but overall the years from 1790 to 1830 were quite prosperous,
with young Americans experiencing unprecedented opportunities for eco-
nomic gain and geographic mobility.
ECONOMI C GROWTH The colonial American economy had been
organized according to what Great Britain demanded from its New World
possessions. This dependency brought the hated imperial restrictions on
manufactur ing, commerce, and shipping. With independence, however,
Americans could create new industries and exploit new markets. It was not
simply Alexander Hamilton’s financial initiatives and the capitalistic ener-
gies of wealthy investors and speculators that sparked America’s dramatic
commercial growth in these years. It was also the strenuous efforts of ordi-
nary men and women who were willing to take risks, uproot families, use
unstable paper money issued by unregulated local banks, purchase factory-
made goods, and tinker with new machines and tools. Free enterprise was
the keynote of the era.
While most Americans continued to work as farmers, a growing number
found employment in new or greatly expanded enterprises: textiles, bank-
ing, transportation, publishing, retailing, teaching, preaching, medicine, law,
construction, and engineering. Technological innovations (steam power,
power tools, and new modes of transportation) and their social applications
(mass communication, turnpikes, the postal service, banks, and corpora-
tions) fostered an array of new industries and businesses. The emergence of
a factory system transformed the nature of work for many Americans. Proud
apprentices, journeymen, and master craftsmen, who controlled their labor
and invested their work with an individualistic emphasis on quality rather
than quantity, resented the proliferation of mills and factories populated by
masses of “half-trained” workers dependent upon an hourly wage and sub-
ject to the sharp fluctuations of the larger economy.
In short, the decentralized agrarian republic of 1776, nestled along
the Atlantic seaboard, had by 1830 become a sprawling commercial nation
connected by networks of roads and canals and cemented by economic
relationships—all animated by a restless spirit of enterprise, experimenta-
tion, and expansion.
J EFFERS ONI AN SI MPLI CI TY
Political life in the new republic was also transformed during the early
nineteenth century, as a greater proportion of white males gained the right
to vote when property qualifications were reduced. The first president of the
nineteenth century promoted such democratization. On March 4, 1801, the
fifty-seven-year-old Thomas Jefferson, tall and thin, with red hair and a
ruddy complexion, became the first president to be inaugurated in the new
national capital named Washington, District of Columbia. The new city was
still a motley array of buildings clustered around two centers, Capitol Hill
and the executive mansion. Congress, having met in eight towns and cities
Jeffersonian Simplicity

329
The new federal city
Plan of Washington, D.C., from 1792.
since 1774, had at last found a permanent home but enjoyed few amenities.
There were only two places of amusement—one a racetrack, the other a the-
ater thick with “tobacco smoke, whiskey breaths, and other stenches.”
Jefferson’s informal inauguration befitted the primitive surroundings.
The new president left his lodgings and walked down a stump-strewn Penn-
sylvania Avenue to the unfinished Capitol. He entered the Senate chamber,
took the oath administered by Chief Justice John Marshall, read his inaugural
address in a barely audible voice, and returned to his boardinghouse for din-
ner. A tone of simplicity and conciliation ran through his inaugural speech.
The campaign between Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans had been so
fierce that some had predicted civil war. Jefferson now appealed for unity.
“We are all Republicans—we are all Federalists,” he said. “If there be any
among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican
form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which
error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” Jef-
ferson concluded with a summary of the “essential principles” that would
guide his administration: “Equal and exact justice to all men . . . ; peace,
commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with
none . . . ; freedom of religion; freedom of the press; and freedom of person,
under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially
selected. . . . The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been
devoted to their attainment.”
J EFFERS ON I N OFFI CE The deliberate display of republican simplic-
ity at Jefferson’s inauguration set the style of his administration. Although a
cosmopolitan man with expensive personal tastes, especially in land, wine,
and books, he took pains to avoid the “monarchical” occasions of pomp and
circumstance that had characterized the Federalist administrations. Jeffer-
son’s political platform called for shrinking the infant federal government
by slashing its budget and strictly interpreting the Constitution so as not to
infringe upon states’ rights.
Jefferson called his election the “revolution of 1800,” but the electoral mar-
gin had been razor thin, and the policies that he followed were more concil-
iatory than revolutionary. His overwhelming reelection in 1804 attested to
the popularity of his philosophy. Jefferson placed in policy-making posi-
tions men of his own party, and he was the first president to pursue the role
of party leader, cultivating congressional support at his dinner parties and
elsewhere. In the cabinet the leading figures were Secretary of State James
Madison, a longtime neighbor and political ally, and Secretary of the Trea-
sury Albert Gallatin, a Swiss-born Pennsylvania Republican whose financial
330

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
skills had won him the respect of the Federalists. In an effort to cultivate
Federalist-controlled New England, Jefferson chose men from that region for
the positions of attorney general, secretary of war, and postmaster general.
In lesser offices, however, Jefferson often succumbed to pressure from the
Republicans to remove Federalists. In one area he removed the offices alto-
gether. In 1802, the Republican-controlled Congress repealed the Judiciary
Act of 1801 and so abolished the circuit judgeships and other offices to
which John Adams had made his “midnight appointments.”
MARBURY V. MADI SON The midnight judicial appointments that
John Adams made just before leaving office sparked the pathbreaking case of
Marbury v. Madison (1803), the first in which the Supreme Court declared a
federal law unconstitutional. The case involved the appointment of the
Maryland Federalist William Marbury, a prominent land speculator, as jus-
tice of the peace in the District of Columbia. Marbury’s letter of appoint-
ment, or commission, signed by President Adams two days before he left
office, was still undelivered when Madison took office as secretary of state,
and Jefferson directed him to withhold it. Marbury then sued for a court
order directing Madison to deliver his commission.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion, written by Chief Justice John
Marshall, a brilliant Virginia Federalist and ardent critic of Jefferson, his
distant relative, held that Marbury deserved his commission but denied that
the Court had jurisdiction in the case. Section 13 of the Federal Judiciary Act
Jeffersonian Simplicity

331
The executive mansion
A watercolor of the president’s house during Jefferson’s term in office. Jefferson
described it as “big enough for two emperors, one pope, and the grand lama in
the bargain.”
of 1789, which gave the Court original jurisdiction in such proceedings, was
unconstitutional, the Court ruled, because the Constitution specified that
the Court should have original jurisdiction only in cases involving foreign
ambassadors or states. The Court, therefore, could issue no order in the
case. With one bold stroke the Federalist Marshall had chastised the Jeffer -
sonian Republicans while subtly avoiding an awkward confrontation with an
administration that might have defied his order. At the same time, he estab-
lished a stunning precedent: the Court declared a federal law invalid on
the grounds that it violated provisions of the Constitution. The tall, gaunt
Marshall stressed that it “is emphatically the province and duty of the judi-
cial department to say what the law is.” In other words, the Supreme Court
was assuming the right of judicial review, meaning that it would decide
whether acts of Congress were constitutional. So even though Marbury
never gained his judgeship, Marshall established the Supreme Court as the
final judge of constitutional interpretation. Since the Marbury decision, the
Court has struck down over 150 acts of Congress and over 1,100 acts of state
legislatures.
The Marbury decision, about which President Jefferson could do noth-
ing, confirmed his fear of judicial partisanship, and he resolved to counter
the Federalist influence in the federal court system. In 1804, Jeffersonian
Republicans used the impeachment power against two of the most parti -
san Federalist judges and succeeded in ousting one of them, District Judge
John Pickering of New Hampshire. Pickering was clearly insane, which was
not a “high crime or misdemeanor,” but he also delivered profane, drunken
harangues from the bench, which the Senate quickly decided was an impeach-
able offense.
The bitter feud between Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall over the
Marbury case revealed fundamental divisions over the nature of the new
nation. Jefferson and other Republicans asserted that individual states
should remain the primary agents of political power. In contrast, Marshall
and the Federalists insisted that modern nationhood required a powerful
central government capable of creating and enforcing laws for all American
people. Marshall got the better of the argument. During his long tenure as
chief justice (1801–1835), which spanned the administrations of five presi-
dents, he established the foundations for American jurisprudence, the author-
ity of the Supreme Court, and the constitutional supremacy of the national
government over the states.
DOMES TI C REFORMS Although Marshall got the better of Jefferson in
court, the president’s first term produced a succession of triumphs in both
332

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
domestic and foreign affairs. Jefferson did not set out to dismantle Alexander
Hamilton’s economic program, despite his harsh criticism of it. Under the
tutelage of Treasury Secretary Gallatin, he learned to accept the national
bank as an essential convenience. Jefferson detested Hamilton’s belief that a
federal debt was a national “blessing” because it gave the bankers and investors
who lent money to the U.S. government a direct financial stake in the success
of the new republic. Jefferson believed that a large federal debt would bring
only high taxes and government corruption, so he set about reducing gov-
ernment expenses and paying down the debt. At the same time, he won the
repeal of the whiskey tax, much to the relief of backwoods distillers, drinkers,
and grain farmers.
Without the income from such taxes, frugality was all the more necessary
to a federal government dependent for its revenues chiefly upon tariffs on
imports and the sale of government-owned western lands. Fortunately, how-
ever, both sources of income flourished during Jefferson’s presidency. The
continuing wars in Europe increased American shipping traffic and thus
padded the federal Treasury. Commercial prosperity was directly linked to
the ability of Americans to trade with both sides in the European wars. At the
same time, settlers flocked to land in the western territories they purchased
from the government. Ohio’s admission to the Union in 1803 increased to
seventeen the number of states.
Jefferson’s commitment to “wise and frugal government” enabled the
United States to live within its income, like a prudent farmer. The basic for-
mula was simple: cut back on military expenses. A large peacetime army
menaced a free society anyway, Jefferson believed. National defense should
be left to state militias. The navy, which the Federalists had already reduced,
ought to be reduced further. Coastal defense, Jefferson argued, should rely
upon land-based fortifications and a “mosquito fleet” of small gunboats.
While reducing the expense of the federal government, Jefferson in 1807
signed a landmark bill—long overdue—that outlawed the importation of
enslaved Africans into the United States. The new law took effect on January
1, 1808, the earliest date possible under the Constitution. At the time, South
Carolina was the only state that still permitted the foreign slave trade, having
reopened it in 1803. But for years to come, an illegal traffic in slaves would con-
tinue. By one informal estimate perhaps three hundred thousand enslaved
blacks were smuggled into the United States between 1808 and 1861.
THE BARBARY PI RATES Issues of foreign relations emerged early in
Jefferson’s first term, when events in the distant Mediterranean Sea gave
him second thoughts about the need for a navy. On the Barbary Coast of
Jeffersonian Simplicity

333
North Africa, the Islamic rulers of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli had
for years promoted piracy and extortion, preying upon European and Amer-
ican merchant ships in the Mediterranean Sea. After the Revolution,
Mediterranean pirates in small, fast ships called corsairs captured American
vessels and enslaved the crews. The U.S. government made blackmail pay-
ments, first to Morocco in 1786, then to the others in the 1790s. In 1801,
however, the pasha (ruler) of Tripoli upped his demands and declared war
on the United States by the symbolic gesture of chopping down the flagpole
at the U.S. consulate. Jefferson sent warships to blockade Tripoli. A weari-
some naval war dragged on until 1805, punctuated in 1804 by the notable
exploit of Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, who slipped into Tripoli Harbor by
night and set fire to the frigate Philadelphia, which had been captured (along
with its crew) after it ran aground. The pasha finally settled for a $60,000
ransom and released the Philadelphia’s crew, whom he had held hostage for
334

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia
Lieutenant William Decatur set fire to the captured Philadelphia during the United
States’ standoff with Tripoli over the enslavement of American sailors.
more than a year. It was still blackmail (called “tribute” in the nineteenth
century), but less than the $300,000 the pasha had demanded at first and
much less than the cost of war.
THE LOUI S I ANA PURCHAS E While the conflict with the Barbary
pirates continued, events elsewhere led to the greatest single achievement of
the Jefferson administration. The vast Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was a bril-
liant diplomatic coup that more than doubled the territory of the United
States. The purchase included territory extending far beyond the boundaries
of present-day Louisiana. Its estimated 875,000 square miles, from which
would be formed six states in their entirety and most or part of nine more,
comprised the entire Mississippi River valley west of the river itself. The
Louisiana territory, initially populated by Indians, then settled by the
French, had been ceded to Spain in 1763, following the Seven Years’ War,
with Great Britain receiving Florida from Spain in an exchange of sorts.
Since that time the dream of retaking Louisiana had stirred the French, and
the audacious general Napoléon Bonaparte had retrieved it for France from
his Spanish allies in 1800. Spain had decided, under French pressure, that the
region was too costly to administer—and defend.
When word of the deal transferring the Louisiana Territory from Spain to
France reached Washington in 1801, an alarmed President Jefferson sent
Robert R. Livingston to Paris as the new U.S. minister to France. Spain in
control of the Mississippi River outlet was bad enough, but the power-hungry
Napoléon in control could only mean serious trouble. “The day that France
takes possession of New Orleans,” Jefferson wrote Livingston, “we must marry
ourselves to the British fleet and nation,” an unhappy prospect for the French-
loving Jefferson.
Negotiations with the French dragged into 1803 while Spanish forces
remained in control in Louisiana, awaiting the arrival of the French. Early
that year, Jefferson sent his trusted Virginia friend James Monroe to assist
Livingston in Paris. Their goal was to purchase New Orleans from France.
No sooner had Monroe arrived than the French surprised Livingston by ask-
ing if the United States would like to buy the whole of the Louisiana Territory.
Livingston snapped up the offer. Napoléon was willing to sell the Louisiana
Territory because his French army in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) had been dec-
imated not only by a massive slave revolt but also by yellow fever. Some three
hundred fifty thousand Haitians and twenty-four thousand French soldiers
had died in Haiti. Concerned about financing another round of warfare in
Europe, Napoléon decided to cut French losses in the Americas by selling the
Jeffersonian Simplicity

335
entire Louisiana Territory and thereby gaining cash for his ongoing war with
Great Britain.
By the Treaty of Cession, dated April 30, 1803, the United States obtained
the Louisiana Territory for about $15 million. The surprising turn of events
presented President Jefferson with a “noble bargain,” but also with a consti-
tutional dilemma. Nowhere did the Constitution mention the purchase of
territory. Jefferson acknowledged that the purchase was “beyond the Consti-
tution.” He first suggested a constitutional amendment, but his advisers
argued against delay lest Napoléon change his mind. The power to purchase
territory, they reasoned, resided in the power to make treaties. Like a velvet
hypocrite, Jefferson, the champion of states’ rights and “strict construction”
of the Constitution, allowed his desire for empire to trump his legal scru-
ples. He lamely expressed the hope “that the good sense of our country will
correct the evil of loose construction [of the Constitution] when it shall pro-
duce ill effects.”
Jefferson and other Republicans supported the Louisiana Purchase for sev-
eral reasons. Acquiring the immense territory, the president explained, would
be “favorable to the immediate interests of our Western citizens” and would
promote “the peace and security of the nation in general” by removing
French power from the region and by creating a protective buffer separating
the United States from the rest of the world. Jefferson also hoped that the
new territory might become a haven for free blacks and thereby diminish
racial tensions along the Atlantic seaboard. New England Federalists, how-
ever, were not convinced by such arguments. Many of them worried that the
growing westward exodus was driving up wages on the Atlantic coast by
reducing the workforce and lowering the value of real estate in their region.
They also boggled at the prospect of new western states that would likely be
settled by southern slaveholders who were Jeffersonian Republicans. In a
reversal that anticipated many more reversals on constitutional issues, Fed-
eralists found themselves arguing for strict construction of the Constitution
in opposing the Louisiana Purchase, while Jefferson and the Republicans
brushed aside Federalist reservations. The opportunity to double the size of
the United States trumped any legal reservations.
The Senate ratified the treaty by an overwhelming vote of 26 to 6, and on
December 20, 1803, U.S. officials took formal possession of the sprawling
Louisiana Territory. For the time being the Spanish kept West Florida, but
within a decade that area would be ripe for the plucking. In 1808, Napoléon
put his brother on the throne of Spain. With the Spanish colonial adminis-
tration in disarray, American settlers in 1810 staged a rebellion in Baton Rouge
and proclaimed the republic of West Florida, which was quickly annexed
336

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
and occupied by the United States as far east as the Pearl River. In 1812, upon
becoming the Union’s eighteenth state, Louisiana absorbed the Florida
parishes. In 1813, with Spain itself a battlefield for French and British forces,
Americans took over the rest of West Florida, the Gulf coast of the future
states of Mississippi and Alabama. Legally, as the U.S. government has claimed
ever since, all these areas were included in the Louisiana Purchase.
Jefferson’s decision to swallow his constitutional reservations and acquire
the vast territory proved to be one of the most important factors shaping
America’s development. It was by far the most popular and significant event
of his presidency. His decision was also embedded with irony. By adding
the Louisiana Territory, Jefferson, the lover of liberty and owner of slaves,
helped expand the sphere of slavery, an institution that anguished him all
the while he reinforced it. As a newspaper editor asked in 1803, “Will Repub-
licans, who glory in their sacred regard to the rights of human nature, pur-
chase an immense wilderness for the purpose of cultivating it with the labor
of slaves?” The answer was a resounding yes.
LEWI S AND CLARK Thomas Jefferson was fascinated by the mysteri-
ous region he had purchased west of the Mississippi River. To learn more
about its geography, its flora and fauna, and its prospects for trade and agri-
culture, he asked Congress in 1803 to fund a mapping and scientific expedi-
tion to the far Northwest, beyond the Mississippi River, in what was still
foreign territory. Congress approved, and Jefferson assigned as the com -
manders of the expedition two former army officers: Meriwether Lewis and
William Clark.
In 1804 the “Corps of Discovery,” numbering nearly fifty, set out from a
small village near St. Louis to ascend the muddy Missouri River. Forced to live
off the land, they quickly adapted to the new environment. Local Indians
showed them how to fashion clothes from deer hides, taught them hunting
techniques, and traded horses. Lewis and Clark kept detailed journals of their
travels and drew maps of the unexplored regions. As they moved up the Mis-
souri, the landscape changed from forest to prairie grass. They saw immense
herds of bison and other animals, and they passed trappers and traders
headed south with rafts and boats laden with furs. Six months after leaving
St. Louis, near the Mandan Sioux villages in what would become North
Dakota, they built Fort Mandan and wintered in relative comfort, sending
downriver a barge loaded with maps, soil samples, and live specimens, such as
the prairie dog and the magpie, previously unknown in America.
In the spring, Lewis and Clark added to their main party a remarkable
young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, who proved an enormous help
Jeffersonian Simplicity

337
as a guide, translator, and negotiator
as the group headed westward into
uncharted territory. At the head of the
Missouri River, they took the north
fork, which they named the Jefferson
River, crossed the Rocky Mountains,
and in canoes descended the Snake
and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific.
Near the future site of Astoria, Ore-
gon, at the mouth of the Columbia
River, they built Fort Clatsop, where
they spent the winter, struggling to
find enough to eat. The following
spring they split into two parties, with
Lewis’s group backtracking by almost
the same route and Clark’s band going
by way of the Yellowstone River.
Remarkably, they reunited at the junc-
ture of the Missouri and Yellowstone
Rivers, returning together to St. Louis
in 1806, having been gone nearly two
and a half years. Along the way they
had been chased by grizzly bears,
attacked and aided by Indians, buf-
feted by blizzards and illness, and
forced by starvation to eat their own
horses. “I have been wet and as cold in
every part as I ever was in my life,”
William Clark wrote in his journal.
“Indeed I was at one time fearful my
feet would freeze in the thin moc-
casins which I wore.” But the intrepid
discoverers had, in their own words,
“proceeded on” day after day against
the odds.
No longer was the Far West unknown
country. It would be nearly a century
before a good edition of the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expe -
dition appeared in print; many of the explorers’ findings came out piece-
meal, however, including an influ ential map in 1814. Their reports of
338

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
One of Lewis and Clark’s maps
In their journals, Lewis and Clark
sketched detailed maps of unex-
plored regions.
Jeffersonian Simplicity

339
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Lewis and Clark,
1804–1806
EXPLORATIONS OF
THE LOUISIANA
PURCHASE, 1804–1807
Lemhi
Pass
C A N A D A
M E X I C O
How did the United States acquire the Louisiana Purchase? What was the mission of
Lewis and Clark’s expedition? What were the consequences of Lewis and Clark’s
reports about the western territory?
friendly Indians and abundant beaver pelts quickly attracted traders and
trappers to the region and gave the United States a claim to the Oregon
Country by right of discovery and exploration.
POLI TI CAL S CHEMES Thomas Jefferson’s decisions and policies,
including the Louisiana Purchase, brought him solid support in the South and
the West. Even New Englanders were moving to his side. By 1809, John Quincy
Adams, the son of the second president, would become a Republican. Other
New England Federalists, however, panicked at the implications of the
Louisiana Purchase. The acquisition of a vast new empire in the West would
reduce New England and the Federalist party to insignificance in political
affairs. Under the leadership of Thomas Pickering, secretary of state under
presidents Washington and Adams and now a U.S. senator, a group of ardent
Massachusetts Federalists, called the Essex Junto, considered seceding from the
Union, an idea that would simmer in New England circles for another decade.
Federalists also hatched a scheme to link New York to New England. To
that end, they contacted Vice President Aaron Burr, a prominent New
Yorker who had been on the outs with the Jeffersonians. Their plan, which
depended upon Burr’s election as governor of New York, could not win the
support of even the extreme Federalists: Alexander Hamilton bitterly
opposed it on the grounds that Burr was “a dangerous man, and one who
ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.”
Those remarks led to Hamilton’s famous duel with Burr, in July 1804 at
Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City.
Hamilton’s sense of honor compelled him to meet the vice president’s chal-
lenge and demonstrate his courage—yet he was determined not to fire at his
opponent. Burr had no such scruples; he shot and killed Hamilton. The
killing of Hamilton ended both Pickering’s secessionist threat and Burr’s
political career. Burr would lose the gubernatorial election, but his defeat
did not end his secret schemes to garner wealth and stature for himself.
In the meantime, the presidential campaign of 1804 began when a con-
gressional caucus of Republicans renominated Jefferson and chose the New
Yorker George Clinton for vice president. (By then, to avoid the problems
associated with parties running multiple candidates for the presidency, Con-
gress had passed, and the states would soon ratify, the Twelfth Amendment,
stipulating that electors use separate ballots to vote for the president and
vice president.) Opposed by the Federalists Charles C. Pinckney and Rufus
King, Jefferson and Clinton won 162 of the 176 electoral votes. It was the
first landslide election in American history.
DI VI SI ONS I N THE REPUBLI CAN PARTY
Freed from a strong opposition—Federalists made up only a quarter of
the new Congress—the dominant Republican majority began to fragment
into warring factions during the first decade of the nineteenth century. The
Virginian John Randolph—known also as John Randolph of Roanoke—was
initially a loyal Jeffersonian, but over time he became the most conspicuous
of the Republican dissidents. He was a powerful combination of principle,
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THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
eccentricity, and rancor. Famous for his venomous assaults delivered in a
shrill soprano, the colorful congressman strutted about the House floor with
a whip in his hand, a symbol of his relish for contrarian positions. Few col-
leagues had the stomach for his tongue-lashings.
Randolph became the feisty spokesman for a shifting group of “Old
Republicans,” whose adherence to party principles had rendered them more
Jeffersonian than Jefferson himself. The Old Republicans were mostly south-
erners who defended states’ rights and strict construction of the Constitu-
tion. They opposed any compromise with the Federalists and promoted an
agrarian way of life. The Jeffersonian Republicans tended to be more moder-
ate, pragmatic, and nationalistic in their orientation. As Thomas Jefferson
himself demonstrated, they were willing to go along with tariffs on imports
and a national bank, and to stretch the “implied powers” of the Constitution
to accommodate the Louisiana Purchase.
THE BURR CONSPI RACY For all of his popularity, Jefferson in some
quarters aroused intense opposition. Aaron Burr, for example, despised the
president. Sheer brilliance and oppor-
tunism had carried Burr to the vice
presidency in 1800. He might easily
have become Jefferson’s heir apparent,
but a taste for backroom deal making
was his tragic flaw. After the contro-
versy over his mortal duel with Alexan-
der Hamilton subsided, Burr focused
his attention on a cockeyed scheme to
get the Louisiana Territory to secede
from the Union and set up an inde-
pendent republic. Earlier Burr had
solicited British support for his scheme
to separate “the western part of the
United States in its whole extent.”
Burr learned in early 1807 that Jeffer-
son had ordered his arrest for trea -
son. He tried to flee to Florida but was
caught and brought for trial before
Chief Justice John Marshall.
The case established two major
constitutional precedents. First, Jef-
ferson ignored a subpoena requiring
Divisions in the Republican Party

341
Aaron Burr
Burr graduated from what is now
Princeton University, where he
changed his course of study from
theology to law.
him to appear in court with certain papers in his possession. He refused, as
had George Washington, to submit the papers to Congress on the grounds
that the independence of the executive branch would be compromised if the
president were subject to a court writ. The second major precedent was Mar-
shall’s rigid definition of treason. Treason under the Constitution, Marshall
wrote, consists of “levying war against the United States or adhering to their
enemies” and requires “two witnesses to the same overt act” for conviction.
Since the prosecution failed to produce two witnesses to an overt act of trea-
son by Burr, the jury found him not guilty.
Whether or not Burr escaped his just deserts, Marshall’s strict construction
of the Constitution protected the United States, as its framers clearly intended,
from the capricious judgments of “treason” that governments through the
centuries have used to terrorize dissenters. As for Burr, with further charges
pending, he skipped bail and took refuge in France, but he returned unmo-
lested in 1812 to practice law in New York. He survived to a virile old age.
At seventy-eight, shortly before his death in 1836, he was divorced on the
grounds of adultery.
WAR I N EUROPE
Thomas Jefferson learned a hard lesson that would affect most presi-
dents of the United States: rarely did their second terms garner as much
success as their first terms. During Jefferson’s second term he ran afoul of
intractable problems created by the renewal of the European war pitting
Napoleonic France against Great Britain—and most of Europe—in 1803,
which tested Jefferson’s desire to avoid “entangling alliances” with Euro-
pean nations. In 1805, Napoléon’s crushing defeat of Russian and Austrian
forces left him in control of Europe. The same year, the British defeat of the
French and Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar secured control of the
seas for Great Britain. The war then turned into a battle of elephant and
whale, with Napoléon’s French armies dominant on land, the British navies
dominant on the water, neither able to strike a decisive blow at the other
and neither restrained by concerns over neutral shipping rights or interna-
tional law.
HARASSMENT BY BRI TAI N AND FRANCE For two years after the
renewal of European warfare, American shippers reaped the financial bene-
fits, taking over trade with the French and Spanish West Indies. But the war-
ring powers soon started limiting the freedom of neutral nations to trade
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THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
with their enemies. In the case of the Essex (1805), a British court ruled
that the practice of shipping French and Spanish goods through U.S. ports on
their way elsewhere did not “neutralize” enemy goods from being sub ject to
seizure. The practice violated the British Rule of 1756, under which trade
closed in time of peace remained closed in time of war. Goods shipped in
violation of the rule would be seized. In 1807 the commercial provisions of
Jay’s Treaty expired, and the British interference with American shipping
increased, not just in a desperate effort to keep supplies from Napoléon’s con-
tinent but also to hobble U.S. competition with British merchant ships.
In a series of decrees in 1806 and 1807, the British government set up a
“paper blockade” of Europe. Vessels headed for European ports were
required to get British licenses and were subject to British inspection. It was
a paper blockade because even the powerful British navy was not large
enough to monitor every European port. Napoléon retaliated with his “Con-
tinental System,” as set forth in the Berlin Decree of 1806 and the Milan
Decree of 1807. In the Berlin Decree, Napoléon declared his own blockade
of the British Isles and barred British ships from ports under French control.
In the Milan Decree, he ruled that neutral ships that complied with British
regulations were subject to seizure when they reached European ports. The
situation presented American shippers with a dilemma: if they complied
with the demands of one of the warring sides, they were subject to seizure by
the other. In the meantime, British warships stopped, searched, and seized a
growing number of American merchant ships crossing the Atlantic.
The prospects for profits were so great, however, that American shippers
ran the risk. For seamen the danger was heightened by the British renewal
of the practice of impressment. Great Britain, locked in a global struggle
with Napoleonic France, needed twelve thousand new sailors each year to
man its warships. The use of armed “press-gangs” to kidnap men in British
(and colonial) ports was a long-standing method of recruitment used by
the British navy. The seizure of British subjects from American vessels pro-
vided a new source of recruits, justified on the principle that British citi -
zens remained British subjects for life: “Once an Englishman, always an
Englishman.” As a British naval captain admitted, “It is my duty to keep my
ship manned, & I will do so wherever I find men that speak the same lan-
guage as me.” The unwillingness of Great Britain to recognize its former sub-
jects as rightful citizens of the United States became one of the primary
threats to Anglo-American relations. To Amer icans, the British practice of
impressment assaulted the honor and dignity of the new nation.
On June 22, 1807, the British warship Leopard accosted a U.S. naval vessel,
the Chesapeake, on its maiden voyage, about eight miles off the Virginia
War in Europe

343
coast. After the Chesapeake’s
captain refused to be searched
for British deserters, the Leop-
ard opened fire, killing three
Americans and wounding eigh-
teen. The Chesapeake, unready
for battle, was forced to strike
its colors (to lower the flag as a
sign of surrendering). A British
search party seized four men,
one of whom was later hanged
for desertion from the British
navy. Soon after the Chesapeake
limped back into Norfolk, the
Washington Federalist editorial-
ized: “We have never, on any
occasion, witnessed . . . such a
thirst for revenge.” Public wrath
was so aroused by the Chesapeake
incident that Jefferson could have
declared war on the spot. Had Congress been in session, he might have
been forced into one. But Jefferson, like John Adams before him, resisted war
fever—and suffered politically as a result. Jefferson ordered all British war-
ships out of U.S. ports on July 12, 1807. But such a timid response angered
many Americans. One Federalist called Jefferson a “dish of skim milk cur-
dling at the head of our nation.”
THE EMBARGO Congress decided to go beyond Jefferson’s effort at
“peaceable coercion.” In 1807 legislators passed the unprecedented—and
ill-conceived—Embargo Act, which stopped all exports of American goods
and prohibited American ships from leaving for foreign ports. The U.S. Navy
was deployed to enforce the embargo. In effect, the United States blockaded
its own shipping. Congress was empowered to declare an embargo by its
constitutional authority to regulate commerce, which in this case Republi-
cans interpreted broadly as the power to prohibit commerce altogether.
Jefferson supported the foolish embargo, which failed from the begin-
ning because few Americans were willing to make the necessary sacrifices
required by the shutting off of foreign trade. Merchants in New England
howled at the loss of their greatest industry: oceangoing commerce. The
value of American exports plummeted from $48 million in 1807 to $9 million
Preparation for war to defend commerce
In 1806 and 1807, American shipping was
caught in the crossfire of the war between
Britain and France.
344

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
a year later. Meanwhile, smuggling grew rampant, especially along the bor-
der with Canada. The idealistic spirit that had made economic pressures
effective in the pre-Revolutionary crises was lacking. Illegal trade with
Britain and France flourished despite the risks, and violation of Jefferson’s
embargo was almost laughably easy. While American ships sat idle in ports,
their crews laid off and unpaid, the British enjoyed a near monopoly on trade
with Canada and the West Indies. As it turned out, France was little hurt by
the embargo, which led some Americans to argue that Jefferson intended the
embargo to aid the French in the war against Britain. The loss of access to
American cotton pinched some British manufacturers and workers, but
British shippers benefited. With American ports closed, they found a new
trade in Latin American ports thrown open by the colonial authorities when
Napoléon’s armies occupied the mother countries of Spain and Portugal.
American resistance to the embargo revived the Federalist party in New
England, which charged that Jefferson was in league with the French. At the
same time, commercial farmers and planters in the South and West suffered
for want of foreign outlets for their grain, cotton, and tobacco. After fifteen
months, Jefferson accepted failure and repealed the ineffective embargo in
1809, shortly before he relinquished the “splendid misery” of the presidency.
War in Europe

345
The election of 1808
This 1807 Federalist cartoon compares Washington and Jefferson. Washington (left)
is flanked by the British lion and the American eagle, while Jefferson (right) is
flanked by a snake and a lizard. Below Jefferson are volumes by French philosophers.
In the election of 1808 the presidential succession passed to another Vir-
ginian, Secretary of State James Madison. The Federalists, backing Charles C.
Pinckney of South Carolina and Rufus King of New York, revived enough as
a result of the public backlash against the embargo to win 47 electoral votes
to Madison’s 122.
THE DRI FT TO WAR The brilliant Madison may have been the “Father
of the Constitution,” but he proved a mediocre chief executive. From the
beginning his presidency was entangled in foreign affairs and crippled by
naïveté. Madison and his advisers repeatedly overestimated the young
republic’s diplomatic leverage and military strength. The result was humilia-
tion. Like Jefferson, Madison insisted on upholding the principle of freedom
of the seas for neutral nations, but he was unwilling to create a navy strong
enough to support it. He continued Jefferson’s policy of “peaceable coer-
cion” by different but no more effective means. In place of the embargo,
Congress reopened trade with all countries except France and Great Britain
and authorized the president to reopen trade with whichever of these gave
up its restrictions on American trade. The British minister in Washington,
David Erskine, assured Madison’s secretary of state that Britain would revoke
its restrictions in 1809. With that assurance, Madison reopened trade with
Britain, but Erskine had acted on his own, and his superiors repudiated his
action and recalled him. Madison’s trade restrictions proved as ineffective as
the embargo. The president’s policies sparked an economic recession and
brought no change in British behavior. In the vain search for an alterna -
tive, Congress in 1810 reversed itself and adopted a measure introduced by
Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina. Called Macon’s Bill number 2, it reopened
trade with the warring powers but provided that if either Great Britain or
France dropped its restrictions on American trade, the United States would
embargo trade with the other.
This time, Napoléon took a turn at trying to bamboozle Madison. The
French foreign minister, the Duke de Cadore, informed the U.S. minister in
Paris that Napoléon had withdrawn the Berlin and Milan Decrees, but the
carefully worded Cadore letter had strings attached: revocation of the decrees
depended upon the British doing likewise. The strings were plain to see, but
Madison either misunderstood or, more likely, foolishly went along in the
hope of putting pressure on the British. The British initially refused to give
in, and on June 1, 1812, Madison reluctantly asked Congress to declare war.
On June 5, the House of Representatives voted for war by 79 to 49. Two
weeks later, the Senate concurred by a narrower vote, 19 to 13. The southern
and western states wanted war; the Northeast, fearful of losing its maritime
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THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
trade across the Atlantic, opposed war. Every Federalist in Congress opposed
the war; 80 percent of Republicans supported it.
On June 16, however, the British foreign minister, facing an economic cri-
sis, ended restraints on U.S. trade. Britain preferred not to risk war with the
United States on top of its war with Napoléon. But on June 18, not having
heard of the British action, Madison signed the declaration of war. He did so
for three reasons: (1) to protest the British Orders in Council, which allowed
the Royal Navy to interfere with American shipping; (2) to stop the British
impressments of sailors from American ships; and (3) to end British encour-
agement of Indian attacks on Americans living along the western and north-
ern frontiers. With more time or more patience, Madison’s policy would
have been vindicated without resort to war. By declaring war, Republicans
hoped to unite the nation and discredit the Federalists. To generate popular
support for the war, Jefferson advised Madison that he needed, above all, “to
stop Indian barbarities. The conquest of Canada will do this.”
THE WAR OF 1812
In 1812 the United States found itself embroiled in another war against
Great Britain, barely thirty years after the Revolutionary War had ended.
How that happened remains contested terrain among historians.
CAUS ES The main cause of the war—the violation of American shipping
rights—dominated President Madison’s war message and provided the most
evident reason for a mounting American hostility toward the British. Yet the
geographic distribution of the congressional vote for war raises a troubling
question. The preponderance of the vote came from members of Congress
representing the farm regions from Pennsylvania southward and westward.
The maritime states of New York and New England, the region that bore
the brunt of British attacks on U.S. shipping, voted against the declaration of
war. One explanation for this seeming anomaly is simple enough: the farm-
ing regions suffered damage to their markets for grain, cotton, and tobacco
while New England shippers made profits from smuggling in spite of the
British restrictions.
Other plausible explanations for the sectional vote, however, include fron-
tier Indian attacks in the Old Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky)
that were blamed on British agents, competition with the British over the
profitable fur trade in the Great Lakes region, and the desire among Ameri-
cans for new land in Canada and the Floridas (West and East). Conflicts with
The War of 1812

347
Indians were endemic to a rapidly
expanding West. Land-hungry settlers
and speculators kept moving out ahead
of government surveys and sales in
search of fertile acres. The constant
pressure to sell tribal lands repeatedly
forced or persuaded Indians to sign
treaties they did not always understand.
It was an old story, dating from the
Jamestown settlement, but one that took
a new turn with the rise of two Shawnee
leaders, Tecumseh and his twin brother,
Tenskwatawa, “the Prophet.”
THE BATTLE OF TI PPECANOE
Tecumseh saw with blazing clarity the
consequences of Indian disunity. From
his base on the Tippecanoe River in
northern Indiana, he traveled from
Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to form
a confederation of tribes to defend
Indian hunting grounds, insisting that
no land cession to whites was valid with-
out the consent of all tribes, since they held the land in common. In October
1811 the charismatic Tecumseh called on a council meeting of Creeks and
other southern tribes to “let the white race perish!” Tecumseh told them that
nothing good would come of continued treaty negotiations with whites. His
language was earnest, bellicose, and brutal: “They seize your land; they cor-
rupt your women; they trample on the bones of your dead! Back whence
they came, upon a trail of blood, they must be driven. . . . Burn their
dwellings—destroy their livestock—slay their wives and children, and the
very breed may perish. War now! War always!”
William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana Territory, learned of
Tecumseh’s plans, met with him twice, and pronounced him “one of those
uncommon geniuses who spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and
overturn the established order of things.” In the fall of 1811, Harrison decided
that Tecumseh’s effort to organize a massive anti-American tribal confeder-
acy must be stopped. He gathered one thousand troops and advanced on
Tecumseh’s capital, Prophetstown, on the Tippecanoe River, while the leader
was away. Tecumseh’s followers attacked Harrison’s encampment on the
348

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
Tecumseh
The Shawnee leader who tried to
unite Indian tribes in defense of their
lands. Tecumseh was killed in 1813 at
the Battle of the Thames.
river, but the Shawnees lost a bloody engagement that left about a quarter of
Harrison’s men dead or wounded. Harrison’s troops burned the town and
destroyed its supplies. Tecumseh’s dreams of an Indian confederacy went up
in smoke, and Tecumseh himself fled to British protection in Canada.
THE AS S AULT ON CANADA The Battle of Tippecanoe reinforced
suspicions that British agents in the Great Lakes region were inciting the
Indians. Actually the incident was mainly Harrison’s doing. With little hope
of help from war-torn Europe, British officials in Canada had steered a careful
course, discouraging warfare but seeking to keep the Indians’ friendship and
fur trade. The British treated the Indians as independent peoples living
between British Canada and the United States. By contrast, most Americans
on the northern border loathed and feared Indians, deeming them murder-
ous, heathen savages deserving of extinction. Not surprisingly, most of the
Indians preferred the British and Canadians to the Americans.
To eliminate the Indian menace, Americans reasoned, they needed to
remove its foreign support, and they saw the British Canadian province of
Ontario as a pistol pointing at the United States. Conquest of Canada would
accomplish a twofold purpose: it would eliminate British influence among
the Indians and open a new empire for land-hungry Americans. Canada was
also one place where the British, in case of war, were vulnerable to an Amer-
ican attack. Madison and others acted on the mistaken assumption that many
Canadians were eager to be liberated from British control. That there were
nearly 8 million Americans in 1812 and only 300,000 Canadians led many
bellicose Americans to believe the conquest of Canada would be quick and
easy. New York alone had a million in habitants compared to just 75,000 in
neighboring Upper Canada.
Thomas Jefferson had told President Madison that the American “acquisi-
tion of Canada” was simply a “matter of marching” north with a military
force. To the far south, the British were also vulnerable. East Florida, still
under Spanish control, posed a similar threat to the Americans. Spain was
too weak or simply unwilling to prevent sporadic Indian attacks across the
border with Georgia. In addition, the British were suspected of smuggling
goods through Florida and conspiring with Indians along the coast of the
Gulf of Mexico.
Such concerns helped generate war fever. In the Congress that assembled
in late 1811, new members from southern and western districts clamored for
war in defense of “national honor” and to rid the Northwest of the “Indian
problem.” Among them were Henry Clay and Richard Mentor Johnson
of Kentucky, Felix Grundy of Tennessee, and John C. Calhoun of South
The War of 1812

349
Carolina. John Randolph of Roanoke christened these “new boys” the “war
hawks.” After they entered the House, Randolph said, “We have heard but
one word—like the whip-poor-will, but one eternal monotonous tone—
Canada! Canada! Canada!” The new speaker of the house, young Henry
Clay, a tall, rawboned westerner who, like Andrew Jackson, was known for
his combative temperament and propensity for dueling, yearned for war.
“I am for resistance by the sword,” he vowed. He promised that the Kentucky
militia stood ready to march on Canada to acquire its lucrative fur trade and
to suppress the British effort to incite Indian attacks along the American
frontier. “I don’t like Henry Clay,” Calhoun said. “He is a bad man, an
imposter, a creator of wicked schemes. I wouldn’t speak to him, but, by God,
I love him.” When then Congressman Calhoun heard the news of the out-
break of war, he threw his arms around House Speaker Henry Clay’s neck
and led his war-hawk colleagues in an Indian war dance.
WAR PREPARATI ONS As it turned out, the war hawks would get nei-
ther Canada nor Florida, for James Madison had carried into war a nation
that was ill prepared both financially and militarily. The Jeffersonian Repub-
lican emphasis on small federal budgets and military cutbacks was not an
effective way to win a war. And Madison, a studious, soft-spoken man, lacked
the martial qualities needed to inspire national confidence and resolve. He
was no George Washington.
Moreover, the national economy was not prepared for war. In 1811, despite
earnest pleas from Treasury Secretary Gallatin, Congress had let the twenty-
year charter of the Bank of the United States expire. In addition, once war
began, the British navy blockaded American ports, thereby cutting off imports,
a major source of national revenue. By March 1813, Gallatin warned Presi-
dent Madison that: “We have hardly enough money to last till the end of the
month.” Furthermore, the extinction of the Bank of the United States brought
chaos to the nation’s financial system. The number of state banks more than
doubled after 1811. Many of them were unregulated and mismanaged.
A Rhode Island bank, for example, issued $800,000 worth of banknotes even
though it only had $45 in gold. Trade had dried up, and tariff revenues had
declined. Loans were now needed to cover about two thirds of the war costs,
and northeastern opponents of the war were reluctant to lend money to the
federal government.
The military situation was almost as bad. War had become more and more
likely for nearly a decade, but the Jeffersonian defense cutbacks had pre-
vented preparations. When the War of 1812 began, the army numbered only
3,287 men, ill trained, poorly equipped, and miserably led by aging officers
past their prime and with little combat experience. A young Virginia officer
350

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
named Winfield Scott, destined for military distinction, commented that
most of the veteran commanders “had very generally slunk into sloth, igno-
rance, or habits of intemperate drinking.” He dismissed most of his fellow offi-
cers as “imbeciles and ignoramuses.” In January 1812 Congress authorized an
army of 35,000 men, but a year later, only 18,500 had been recruited—only
by enticing them with promises of land and cash bounties. The British, on
the other hand, had nearly 250,000 men in uniform worldwide.
The U.S. Navy was in comparatively good shape, with able officers and
trained men whose seamanship had been tested in the fighting against France
and Tripoli. Its ships were well outfitted and seaworthy—all sixteen of them
(the British had six hundred warships). In the first year of the war, it was the
navy that produced the only U.S. victories, in isolated duels with British ves-
sels, but their effect was mainly an occasional boost to morale. Within a year
the British had blockaded the U.S. coast, except for New England, where they
hoped to cultivate anti-war feeling, and most of the little American fleet was
bottled up in port.
The War of 1812

351
The U.S. Navy
John Bull (the personification of England) “stung to agony” by Wasp and Hornet,
two American ships that won early victories in the War of 1812.
A CONTI NENTAL WAR The War of 1812 ended up involving three
wars fought on three separate fronts. One conflict occurred on the waters of
the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay and along the middle Atlantic coast. The
second war occurred in the south, in Alabama, Mississippi, and West and East
Florida, culminating in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. In that theater,
American forces led by General Andrew Jackson invaded lands owned by the
Creeks and other Indians as well as the Spanish. The third war might be more
accurately called the Canadian-American War. It began in what was then
called the Old Northwest, in what is now northern Indiana and Ohio, south-
eastern Michigan, and regions around Lakes Huron and Michigan. There the
fighting raged back and forth along the ill-defined border between the
United States and British Canada.
THE WAR I N THE NORTH The only place where the United States
could effectively strike at the British was Canada. There the war essentially
became a civil war, very much like the American Revolution, in which one
side (Canadians—many of whom were former American Loyalists who had
fled north in 1783) remained loyal to the British Empire while the other
side (Americans) sought to continue the continental revolution against
the empire. On both sides of the border the destruction and bloodshed
embittered the combatants as well as civilians. Indians dominated the heav-
ily wooded area around the Great Lakes, using British-supplied weapons and
ammunition to resist the steady advance of American settlers into the con-
tested region. At the same time, the British authorities had grown dependent
on the Indians to help them defend Canada from attack. Michigan’s gover-
nor recognized the reciprocal relationship: “The British cannot hold Upper
Canada without the assistance of the Indians,” but the “Indians cannot con-
duct a war without the assistance of a civilized nation [Great Britain].”
The Madison administration opted for a three-pronged assault on British
Canada: along the Lake Champlain route toward Montreal, with General
Henry Dearborn in command; along the Niagara River, with forces under
General Stephen Van Rensselaer; and into Upper Canada (today called Ontario)
from Detroit, with General William Hull and some two thousand men.
In 1812, Hull marched his troops across the Detroit River but was pushed
back by the British. Sickly and senile, the indecisive Hull procrastinated in
cramped, dirty Detroit while his position worsened. The British commander
cleverly played upon Hull’s worst fears. Gathering what redcoats he could to
parade in view of Detroit’s defenders, he announced that thousands of
Indian allies were at the rear and that once fighting began, he would be
unable to control them. Fearing a massacre of Detroit’s civilians, Hull sur-
352

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
rendered his entire force to British bluff and bravado. The shocking surren-
der stunned the nation and opened the entire Northwest to raids by British
troops and their Indian allies. Republicans felt humiliated. The American
soldiers appeared to be cowards. In Kentucky a Republican said General Hull
must be a “traitor” or “nearly an idiot.” He was eventually court-martialed
for cowardice and sentenced to death, only to be pardoned.
In the especially porous northern borderland between the United States
and Canada, a powerful combination of British regular troops and their
Indian allies repeatedly defeated U.S. invasion efforts. The botched Ameri-
can attempts revived the British contempt for the American soldiers as
The War of 1812

353
0 100 200 Miles
0 100 200 Kilometers
Pittsburgh
Baltimore
Plattsburgh
Washington, D.C.
Queenston
Heights
York (Toronto)
Montreal
Quebec
Detroit
Presque Isle
Thames
Fort Niagara
Fort McHenry
Fort
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Fort
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Lake
Champlain
Chesapeake
Bay
Aug.
1814
Perry, Sept. 1813
Van Rensselaer,
Oct. 1812
Dearborn,
Nov. 1812
Macdonough,
Sept. 1814
Aug.–Sept.
1814
KENTUCKY
CANADA
MICHIGAN
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INDIANA
TERRITORY
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PENNSYLVANIA
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American forces
MAJOR NORTHERN CAMPAIGNS
OF THE WAR OF 1812
British forces
Battle site
How did the War of 1812 begin? What was the American strategy in regard to
Canada? Describe the battle that is the subject of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
inept, unreliable, and cowardly. As one American complained, “the taunts
and sarcasms of the Tories on both sides of the river are not to be endured.”
Madison’s navy secretary now pushed vigorously for American naval control
of the Great Lakes and other inland waterways along the Canadian border. If
the Americans could break the British naval supply line and secure Lake
Erie, they could erect a barrier between the British and their Indian allies. At
Presque Isle (near Erie), Pennsylvania, in 1813, twenty-eight-year-old Oliver
Hazard Perry, already a fourteen-year veteran, was building ships from timber
cut in nearby forests. By the end of the summer, Commodore Perry set out in
search of the British, whom he found at Lake Erie’s Put-in-Bay on Septem-
ber 10. After completing the preparations for battle, Perry told an aide, “This
is the most important day of my life.”
Two British warships used their superior weapons to pummel the
Lawrence, Perry’s flagship. After four hours of intense shelling, none of
the Lawrence’s guns was working, and most of the crew was dead or wounded.
The British expected the Americans to flee, but Perry refused to quit. He had
himself rowed to another vessel, carried the battle to the enemy, and finally
accepted the surrender of the entire British squadron. Hatless and bloodied,
Perry sent to General William Henry Harrison the long-awaited message:
“We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
American naval control of Lake Erie forced the British to evacuate Upper
Canada. They gave up Detroit, and an American army defeated them at the
Battle of the Thames on October 5. British power in Upper Canada was
eliminated. In the course of the battle, Tecumseh fell, his dream of Indian
unity dying with him. Perry’s victory on Lake Erie and Harrison’s defeat of
Tecumseh enabled the Americans to recover control of Michigan and seize
the Western District of Upper Canada.
THE WAR I N THE SOUTH In the South, too, the war flared up in
1813. On August 30, so-called “Red Stick” Creeks allied with the British
attacked Fort Mims, on the Alabama River thirty miles above the Gulf coast
town of Mobile, killing 553 men, women, and children, butchering and scalp-
ing half of them. The news of the massacre outraged Americans, especially
those eager to remove the Creeks from the Mississippi Territory (which then
included Alabama). When word of the Fort Mims slaughter reached Andrew
Jackson at his home in Tennessee, he was in bed recovering from a Nashville
street brawl with Thomas Hart Benton, later a senator from Missouri. As the
commanding general of the Army of West Tennessee, the flinty Jackson, his
injured arm still in a sling, summoned about 2,500 volunteer state militia-
men (including Private David Crockett). Jackson told all “brave Tennesseans”
that their “frontier [was] threatened with invasion by the savage foe” and
354

THE EARLY REPUBLIC (CH. 8)
that the Indians were advancing “towards your frontier with scalping knives
unsheathed, to butcher your wives, your children, and your helpless babes.
Time is not to be lost.”
Jackson’s volunteers then set out on a vengeful campaign southward across
Alabama that crushed the Creek resistance, village by village. David Crockett
remembered that the Americans, eager to exact revenge for the massacre
at Fort Mims, surrounded one Creek village and attacked at dawn. Dozens of
“Red Sticks” sought safety in a house, whereupon Crockett and the Ameri-
cans “shot them like dogs; and then set the house on fire, and burned it up
with the forty-six Creek warriors in it.”
The decisive battle in the “Creek War” occurred on March 27, 1814, at
Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa River, in the heart of Upper Creek coun-
try in east-central Alabama. Jackson’s Cherokee allies played a crucial role in
The War of 1812

355
0
0 100 Kilometers 50
100 Miles 50
Huntsville
Tuscaloosa
Horseshoe Bend
Pensacola
Mobile
New Orleans
Fort Mims
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Perdido River
MISSISSIPPI
TERRITORY
MISSOURI
TERRITORY
LOUISIANA
TENNESSEE
GEORGIA
FLORIDA
(Spanish)
G U L F
O F
M E X I C O
American forces
MAJOR SOUTHERN CAMPAIGNS
OF THE WAR OF 1812
British forces
Battle site
Why did Jackson march into Florida on his way to New Orleans?
Why did he have the advantage in the Battle of New Orleans?
Why was the Battle of New Orleans important to the Treaty
of Ghent?
the assault against an elaborate Creek fort harboring 1,100 men, women,
and children. Jackson’s forces surrounded the fort, set fire to it, and shot the
Creeks as they tried to escape. Nine hundred of them were killed, including
three hundred who were slaughtered as they struggled to cross the river.
Jackson reported to his wife that the “carnage was dreadful.” His men had
“regained all the scalps taken from Fort Mims.” Fewer than fifty of Jackson’s
men and Indian allies were killed. The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was the
worst defeat ever inflicted upon Native Americans. With the Treaty of Fort
Jackson, signed in August 1814, the devastated Creeks were forced to cede
two thirds of their land to the United States, some twenty-three million