Colonial America


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University of Texas at San Antonio Lecture Series - US History 1 - Lecture by Adjunct Instructor Sara Emami

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Colonial America

  1. 1. COLONIAL AMERICA Chapter 5
  2. 2. COLONIAL AMERICA  In the 18th century, we can describe this time a being both distinctively colonial and distinctively British emerged in British society.  Tens of thousands of slaves and immigrants gave the colonies an unmistakable colonial complexion and contributed to the colonies growing population and expanding economy.  People of different ethnicities and faiths sought fortune in the colonies, where land was cheap, labor was dear, and as Benjamin Franklin once preached – work promised to be rewarding.  Indentured servants and redemptioners risked periods of bondage for reward of better opportunities in the colonies on the Atlantic’s Eastern shore.
  3. 3. COLONIAL AMERICA (cont…)  Identifiably colonial products from New England, the middle colonies, and the southern colonies flowed to the West Indies across the Atlantic. ◦ This led to British consumer goods which yielded fashions in ideas, faith, and politics. The bonds of the British empire required colonists to think of each other as British subjects while encouraging them to consider their status as colonists. ◦ By 1750, British colonists in North America could not imagine their distinctively dual identity – as British and colonists, which in turn would create conflict. ◦ By 1776, the colonists in British North America had to choose whether they were British or American.
  4. 4. 1700 (Chpt. 5, pp. 112-113)  In 1770, there were an estimated 250,000 colonists and by 1770, and expected 2 million+ dominated the colonial region.  Growth and diversity of the eighteenth century colonial population derived from two sources: immigration and natural increase (growth through reproduction.)  Expanded economy: ◦ Limitless wilderness ◦ Cheap land ◦ Land in the colonies were sold at a fraction in comparison to property value in the Old World ◦ Modest economic welfare of the vast bulk of the free population
  5. 5. Farms, Fish and Atlantic Trade New England grew food for their family ◦ Fields did not produce huge marketable crops ◦ Made fortune at sea as fish accounted for 1/3of NE’s exports. ◦ Farmers diversified in commercial economy linked to remote farms  British textiles, ceramics and metal goods  Chinese tea  West Indian sugar  Chesapeake tobacco
  6. 6. Wealth Distribution among colonists 5% of Bostonians owned about half of the entire city’s wealth; the poorest which comprised the remaining twothirds of the population owned less than 1/10th . By 1770, the population, wealth and commercial activity of New England differed from what had been in 1700. - Ministers still enjoyed high status -Yankee traders had replaced Puritan saints as symbolic New Englanders -Atlantic commerce competed with religious convictions in ordering New Englander’s daily lives.
  7. 7. German and Scot-Irish Immigrants Germans made up largest contingent of migrants. (i.e. 85,000 German had arrived in colonies by 1770). ◦ -middling folk ◦ Farmers and labors ◦ Worshipped Lutheran/German Reformed churches
  8. 8. Scot-Irish Predominantly Presbyterian Clannish Informed the British due to their poverty, tyranny to landlords and desire to do better in America, those reasons outlined their choice to move across sea.
  9. 9. Pennsylvania: “The Poor (White Man’s Country”  New settlers, whether free or in servitude, poured into the middle colonies because they perceived unparalleled opportunities, particularly in Pennsylvania.  Most servants in the middle colonies worked in Philadelphia, New York City, or one of the smaller towns or villages.  Slaves numbered 30,000 in the middle colonies by 1770 but made up a relatively small percentage of the total population of the middle colonies because only the affluent could afford them.  Small numbers of slaves managed to obtain their freedom, but free African Americans did not escape whites’ firm convictions about black inferiority and white supremacy; African Americans became scapegoats for European Americans’ suspicions and anxieties.  5.
  10. 10. Penn (cont…) Immigrants swarmed to the middle colonies because of the availability of land.  Pennsylvania’s policy of negotiating with Indian tribes to purchase additional land reduced violent frontier clashes, even though the Penn family sometimes pushed such land agreements to the limit and beyond.   Few colonists settled in New York: land in the Hudson Valley was already claimed by the owners of huge estates, and Iroquois Indians vigorously defended their territory in northern New York.  The price of farmland varied, depending on soil quality, access to water, distance from a market town, and the extent of improvements.  Wheat farming and flour milling made the standard of living in rural Pennsylvania higher than in any other agricultural region of the eighteenth-century world.
  11. 11. Penn. (cont….)  By 1776, Philadelphia was at the center of the crossroads of trade in wheat exports and English imports and boasted a population greater than any other city in the British empire, except London.  Many of Philadelphia’s wealthiest merchants were Quakers and influenced aspiring tradesmen like Benjamin Franklin, whose popular Poor Richard’s Almanack preached the likelihood of longterm rewards for tireless labor.
  12. 12. The Southern Colonies: Land of Slavery The Atlantic Slave Trade and the Growth of Slavery The number of southerners of African ancestry rocketed from just over 20,000 in 1700 to well over 400,000 in 1770. Southern colonists clustered into two distinct geographic and agricultural zones: the upper South, which specialized in growing tobacco, and the lower South, which specialized in growing rice and indigo. The enormous growth of the South’s slave population occurred through natural increase and the flourishing Atlantic slave trade, which subjected hundreds of thousands of Africans to the infamous Middle Passage. In 1789, Olaudah Equiano published his account of the Middle Passage and his experiences as a slave.
  13. 13. (Atlantic Slave Trade) Continued.      Most slaves who were brought into the southern colonies came directly from Africa, and almost all the ships that brought them belonged to British merchants. Mortality during the Middle Passage varied considerably from ship to ship, but on average about 15 percent of slaves perished during the journey. Individual planters purchased, at any one time, a relatively small number of newly arrived Africans and relied on already enslaved Africans to help acculturate or “season” new slaves to the physical as well as the cultural environment of the southern colonies. Despite their high mortality rate, the large number of newly enslaved Africans made the influence of African culture in the South stronger in the eighteenth century than ever before. The slave population soon grew due to a high rate of natural increase and, by the 1740s, the majority of southern slaves were country-born.
  14. 14. Tobacco, Rice, and Prosperity  The slavery system brought much wealth to the white plantation masters, as well as British merchants and the monarchy.  The products of slave labor made the southern colonies by far the richest in North America, with tobacco representing one-third of colonial exports.  The vast differences in wealth among white southerners engendered envy and occasional tension between rich and poor, but remarkably little open hostility.  The slaveholding gentry dominated both the politics and economy of the southern colonies and also set the cultural standards.
  15. 15. Unifying Experiences: Commerce and Consumption  The success of eighteenth-century commerce whetted the colonists’ appetite for consumer goods, thus supporting the growing Atlantic trade that took colonial goods to markets in England and brought consumer goods back to the colonies.  Despite the many differences among the colonists, the consumption of English exports built a certain material uniformity across region, religion, class, and status.  The rising tide of colonial consumption compelled colonists to think of themselves as individuals who had the power to make decisions that influenced the quality of their lives.
  16. 16. Religion, Enlightenment, and Revival Eighteenth-century colonists could choose from almost as many  religions as they could consumer goods.  The varieties of Protestant faith and practice ranged across an extremely broad spectrum.  Many educated colonists became deists, looking to nature for God’s plan rather than to the Bible.  Deists shared the ideas of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, who tended to agree that science and reason could disclose God’s laws in the natural order.  Most eighteenth-century colonists went to church seldom or not at all, although they probably considered themselves Christians.  The spread of religious indifference, of deism, of denominational rivalry, and of comfortable backsliding compelled some ministers to a new style of preaching that appealed more to the heart than to the head; historians have called this wave of revivals the “Great Awakening.”
  17. 17. Religion (cont.)  The most famous revivalist in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world was George Whitefield, whose sermons attracted tens of thousands.  Like consumption of goods, revivals contributed to a set of common experiences that bridged colonial divides of faith, region, class, and status.
  18. 18. Borderlands and Colonial Politics in the British Empire  The British Empire valued its colonies and encouraged their growth and development, keeping colonial doors open to anyone, but restricting colonial trade to British ships and traders.  Both the colonists and the competing empires of France and Spain fought for control of the North American fur trade.  Native American tribes often took advantage of this competition, promising access to territory and furs to both the French and English at and the same time; shifting alliances and complex dynamics struck a fragile balance along the frontier.  In 1754, the colonists’ endemic competition with the French flared into the Seven Years’ War, which would inflame the frontier for years.  During this period, neither the colonists nor the British developed a clear policy of dealing with the Indians, but quickly recognized the value of the tribes as allies.
  19. 19. Borderlands (cont…)  The Indians’ potential as allies prompted officials in New Spain to mount a campaign to block Russian access to present-day California by building forts (called presidios) and missions.  By 1772, the Spanish had established a trail of Catholic missions from San Diego to Monterey; for Indians, the Spaniards’ California missions had horrendous consequences, such as the spread of diseases that decimated Indian populations, as they had elsewhere in the Spanish borderlands.  British attempts to exercise political power in colonial governments met with success so long as British officials were either on or very near the sea.
  20. 20. Borderlands (cont.)  The British government envisioned colonial governors, most of whom were born in England and appointed by the king, as mini-monarchs, able to exert as much influence in the colonies as the king did in England; in reality, however, they were unable to wield absolute authority in the internal affairs of colonies.  British policies did not clearly define the powers and responsibilities of colonial assemblies, so the assemblies seized the opportunity to make their own rules.  By 1720, colonial assemblies had won the power to initiate legislations, including tax laws and authorizations to spend public funds.  The heated political struggles between royal governors and colonial assemblies that occurred throughout the eighteenth century taught colonists to employ traditional British ideas of representation, and that power in the British colonies rarely belonged to the British government.