Between the 1640’s and 1650’s there was a profitable tobacco industry in Chesapeake colonies. With it came the opportunity for a dependent British servant, to immigrate and obtain the independence. Immigration also enabled them the possibility of owning land and obtaining wives, children, and servants of their own. This began to fade out during the 1660’s and 1670’s as prices of Tobacco fell and new settlers were forced to encroach further and further into Indian territory. Very different from any other European colonies, the American Colonies enjoyed individual liberties, having elected assemblies.
In 1635 the Virginia assembly and council even removed, arrested, and sent back a confrontational governor to Europe. Chesapeake had only two small towns, James town, and St. Mary’s City. With only two towns the colonists used larger geographic counties as local government. The County courts held trials, licensed taverns and ferries, established and maintained roads, set and collected local taxes, supervised the militia, conducted elections, and enforced legislation. Governors appointed the judges, sheriff, and county clerk. Most English settlers believed in interworking both the church and state.
The political System in Chesapeake had four tiers: the King of England, the governor, the elected county court, and the “little commonwealth”. The commonwealth or head of household was usually the man of the house but it in some cases was a widow. Because most immigrants were young males only 10% were women, many men were never able to form a family. In the early Chesapeake colonies there was too much demand for work and too few colonists. African American slaves were introduced in 1619 but very little. Most planters bought instead English indentures.
Most English immigrants were too poor to afford the cost of travel to America. They would mortgage years of their life for someone to transport them to Chesapeake and at the end of their obligation they would be free. Once free the master was supposed to provide “freedom dues”; and during the first half of the seventeenth century every free man was entitled to 50 acres of land. The freedom dues were a means to obtain the supplies needed to develop the land granted and for those that were lucky, obtain wives, children, and even servants of their own. Prior to about 1640, indentured servants endured harsh treatment and short lives. Until their obligation was up they were considered property.
Many cases of abuse, neglect and murder of servants were tried before the county courts. However they usually sided with the land owner. Indentured women that had children had to compensate for expenses and lost work time. The courts disciplined defiant and runaway servants by increasing their obligation. Not all immigrants were indentured, about a quarter of the immigrants were able to pay their own transport and work their own land right away. These free immigrants though not necessarily wealthy in England became the councilors, assemblymen, and justices.
In New England the settlers were determined to transform the American landscape to resemble England because they believed it was gods “blueprint” for the perfect nature “improved” by mankind. They also had an underlying fear that their own would revert to Indian ways surrounded by nature. By transforming their landscape and converting the Indians to Christianity they elevate this fear.
The Indians were fractured into many tribes based on language and ancestry. The tribes were further subdivided into bands of a few hundred. Each band had a sachem leader, assisted by a council. With the council the chief sachem assigns cornfields, mediates disputes, and supervised trade, diplomacy, and war. Although war was ramped it produced few casualties and captives rather than annihilation. One of the many differences in European and Indian culture was the notion of private property. In 1640 colonists in Connecticut courts Indians to sign deeds of land in trade. The Indians had no idea the implications of this action and were arrested for trespassing while hunting.
Our thanksgiving holiday allures to the Plymouth colony as having a peaceful relationship with Indians, however that was not the case. In 1623 the Plymouth colonist they lured their would be friends into a trap, killed seven, and displayed their chiefs head on top of their fort as a warning. In 1636 a major conflict erupted between Puritans from Connecticut and the Pequot tribe. In 1637, Narragansett and Mohegan warriors guided the puritans to the Pequot tribe. The tribe was surrounded, set ablaze, and all were shot that tried to leave. The Narragansett and Mohegan were discussed with the brutality.
The next big war, from 1675-1676 the Pequot helped the colonist attack the Narragansett. In 1642 a Narragansett sachem Miantonomi urged the Indians to unite against there a common whit enemy invader but was taken prisoner and executed by Uncas. Unable to unite the Indians shrank in numbers. By 1670 the English in Southern New England outnumbered the Indians nearly 3 to 1. In the 1640’s the colonist began to missionize the Indians. Stronger tribes resisted but weaker tribes conceded.