Outline of the History of the United States of America

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This booklet refers to the outline of the U.S. History, describing Early Settlement, Colonial Period, Road to Independence, Forming a Government, Westward Expansion, Sectional Conflict, Civil War, Economic Growth Discontent and Reform War, Prosperity, and Depression, The New Deal and World War II, Postwar Prosperity, Civil Rights and Social Change, A New World Order, Bridge to the 21st Century, 2008 Presidential Election.
Early Settlement
Colonial Period
Road to Independence
Forming a Government
Westward Expansion
Sectional Conflict
Civil War
Economic Growth
Discontent and Reform
War, Prosperity, and Depression
The New Deal and World War II
Postwar Prosperity
Civil Rights and Social Change
A New World Order
Bridge to the 21st Century
2008 Presidential Election
Bureau of International Information Programs
U.S. Department of State
CHAPTER 1 Early America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
CHAPTER 2 The Colonial Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
CHAPTER 3 The Road to Independence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
CHAPTER 4 The Formation of a National Government . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
CHAPTER 5 Westward Expansion and Regional Differences . . . . . . . 110
CHAPTER 6 Sectional Conflict . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
CHAPTER 7 The Civil War and Reconstruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
CHAPTER 8 Growth and Transformation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
CHAPTER 9 Discontent and Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188
CHAPTER 10 War, Prosperity, and Depression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
CHAPTER 11 The New Deal and World War II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212
CHAPTER 12 Postwar America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256
CHAPTER 13 Decades of Change: 1960-1980 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 274
CHAPTER 14 The New Conservatism and a New World Order . . . . . . 304
CHAPTER 15 Bridge to the 21st Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 320
CHAPTER 16 Politics of Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340
Becoming a Nation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Transforming a Nation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Monuments and Memorials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
Turmoil and Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
21st Century Nation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349
7. 1
Mesa Verde settlement in
Colorado, 13th century.
“Heaven and Earth never
agreed better to frame a place
for man’s habitation.”
Jamestown founder John Smith, 1607
THE FIRST AMERICANS ancestors had for thousands of years,
A along the Siberian coast and then
t the height of the Ice Age, be- across the land bridge.
tween 34,000 and 30,000 B.C., much Once in Alaska, it would take
of the world’s water was locked up these first North Americans thou-
in vast continental ice sheets. As a sands of years more to work their
result, the Bering Sea was hundreds way through the openings in great
of meters below its current level, and glaciers south to what is now the
a land bridge, known as Beringia, United States. Evidence of early life
emerged between Asia and North in North America continues to be
America. At its peak, Beringia is found. Little of it, however, can be
thought to have been some 1,500 ki- reliably dated before 12,000 B.C.; a
lometers wide. A moist and treeless recent discovery of a hunting look-
tundra, it was covered with grasses out in northern Alaska, for exam-
and plant life, attracting the large ple, may date from almost that time.
animals that early humans hunted So too may the finely crafted spear
for their survival. points and items found near Clovis,
The first people to reach North New Mexico.
America almost certainly did so Similar artifacts have been found
without knowing they had crossed at sites throughout North and South
into a new continent. They would America, indicating that life was
have been following game, as their probably already well established in
much of the Western Hemisphere by ing earthen burial sites and forti-
some time prior to 10,000 B.C. fications around 600 B.C. Some
Around that time the mammoth mounds from that era are in the
began to die out and the bison took shape of birds or serpents; they
its place as a principal source of probably served religious purposes
food and hides for these early North not yet fully understood.
Americans. Over time, as more and The Adenans appear to have
more species of large game van- been absorbed or displaced by vari-
ished — whether from overhunting ous groups collectively known as
or natural causes — plants, berries, Hopewellians. One of the most im-
and seeds became an increasingly portant centers of their culture was
important part of the early Ameri- found in southern Ohio, where the
can diet. Gradually, foraging and remains of several thousand of these
the first attempts at primitive agri- mounds still can be seen. Believed
culture appeared. Native Americans to be great traders, the Hopewel-
in what is now central Mexico led lians used and exchanged tools and
the way, cultivating corn, squash, materials across a wide region of
and beans, perhaps as early as 8,000 hundreds of kilometers.
B.C. Slowly, this knowledge spread By around 500 A.D., the
northward. Hopewellians disappeared, too,
By 3,000 B.C., a primitive type of gradually giving way to a broad
corn was being grown in the river group of tribes generally known
valleys of New Mexico and Arizo- as the Mississippians or Temple
na. Then the first signs of irrigation Mound culture. One city, Ca-
began to appear, and, by 300 B.C., hokia, near Collinsville, Illinois, is
signs of early village life. thought to have had a population of
By the first centuries A.D., the about 20,000 at its peak in the early
Hohokam were living in settlements 12th century. At the center of the
near what is now Phoenix, Arizo- city stood a huge earthen mound,
na, where they built ball courts and flattened at the top, that was 30
pyramid-like mounds reminiscent meters high and 37 hectares at the
of those found in Mexico, as well as base. Eighty other mounds have
a canal and irrigation system. been found nearby.
Cities such as Cahokia depend-
MOUND BUILDERS AND ed on a combination of hunting,
PUEBLOS foraging, trading, and agriculture
T for their food and supplies. Influ-
he first Native-American group enced by the thriving societies to the
to build mounds in what is now the south, they evolved into complex hi-
United States often are called the erarchical societies that took slaves
Adenans. They began construct- and practiced human sacrifice.
In what is now the southwest the indigenous population practi-
United States, the Anasazi, ancestors cally from the time of initial con-
of the modern Hopi Indians, began tact. Smallpox, in particular, ravaged
building stone and adobe pueblos whole communities and is thought
around the year 900. These unique to have been a much more direct
and amazing apartment-like struc- cause of the precipitous decline in
tures were often built along cliff the Indian population in the 1600s
faces; the most famous, the “cliff than the numerous wars and skir-
palace” of Mesa Verde, Colorado, mishes with European settlers.
had more than 200 rooms. Another Indian customs and culture at the
site, the Pueblo Bonito ruins along time were extraordinarily diverse,
New Mexico’s Chaco River, once as could be expected, given the ex-
contained more than 800 rooms. panse of the land and the many dif-
Perhaps the most affluent of the ferent environments to which they
pre-Columbian Native Americans had adapted. Some generalizations,
lived in the Pacific Northwest, where however, are possible. Most tribes,
the natural abundance of fish and particularly in the wooded eastern
raw materials made food supplies region and the Midwest, combined
plentiful and permanent villages pos- aspects of hunting, gathering, and
sible as early as 1,000 B.C. The opu- the cultivation of maize and other
lence of their “potlatch” gatherings products for their food supplies.
remains a standard for extravagance In many cases, the women were
and festivity probably unmatched in responsible for farming and the
early American history. distribution of food, while the men
hunted and participated in war.
NATIVE-AMERICAN By all accounts, Native-American
CULTURES society in North America was closely
T tied to the land. Identification with
he America that greeted the first nature and the elements was integral
Europeans was, thus, far from an to religious beliefs. Their life was
empty wilderness. It is now thought essentially clan-oriented and com-
that as many people lived in the munal, with children allowed more
Western Hemisphere as in West- freedom and tolerance than was the
ern Europe at that time — about 40 European custom of the day.
million. Estimates of the number of Although some North Ameri-
Native Americans living in what is can tribes developed a type of hi-
now the United States at the onset of eroglyphics to preserve certain
European colonization range from texts, Native-American culture was
two to 18 million, with most histori- primarily oral, with a high value
ans tending toward the lower figure. placed on the recounting of tales
What is certain is the devastating ef- and dreams. Clearly, there was a
fect that European disease had on good deal of trade among various
groups and strong evidence exists Columbus never saw the main-
that neighboring tribes maintained land of the future United States,
extensive and formal relations — but the first explorations of it were
both friendly and hostile. launched from the Spanish posses-
sions that he helped establish. The
THE FIRST EUROPEANS first of these took place in 1513
T when a group of men under Juan
he first Europeans to arrive in Ponce de León landed on the Florida
North America — at least the first coast near the present city of St.
for whom there is solid evidence Augustine.
— were Norse, traveling west from With the conquest of Mexico in
Greenland, where Erik the Red 1522, the Spanish further solidi-
had founded a settlement around fied their position in the Western
the year 985. In 1001 his son Leif is Hemisphere. The ensuing discov-
thought to have explored the north- eries added to Europe’s knowledge
east coast of what is now Canada and of what was now named America
spent at least one winter there. — after the Italian Amerigo Ves-
While Norse sagas suggest that pucci, who wrote a widely popular
Viking sailors explored the Atlan- account of his voyages to a “New
tic coast of North America down World.” By 1529 reliable maps of the
as far as the Bahamas, such claims Atlantic coastline from Labrador
remain unproven. In 1963, however, to Tierra del Fuego had been drawn
the ruins of some Norse houses dat- up, although it would take more than
ing from that era were discovered at another century before hope of dis-
L’Anse-aux-Meadows in northern covering a “Northwest Passage” to
Newfoundland, thus supporting at Asia would be completely abandoned.
least some of the saga claims. Among the most significant ear-
In 1497, just five years after ly Spanish explorations was that of
Christopher Columbus landed in Hernando De Soto, a veteran con-
the Caribbean looking for a west- quistador who had accompanied
ern route to Asia, a Venetian sail- Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of
or named John Cabot arrived in Peru. Leaving Havana in 1539, De
Newfoundland on a mission for Soto’s expedition landed in Florida
the British king. Although quickly and ranged through the southeast-
forgotten, Cabot’s journey was later ern United States as far as the Missis-
to provide the basis for British claims sippi River in search of riches.
to North America. It also opened Another Spaniard, Francis-
the way to the rich fishing grounds co Vázquez de Coronado, set out
off George’s Banks, to which Eu- from Mexico in 1540 in search of
ropean fishermen, particularly the the mythical Seven Cities of Cibo-
Portuguese, were soon making reg- la. Coronado’s travels took him to
ular visits. the Grand Canyon and Kansas, but
failed to reveal the gold or treasure European settlement in what would
his men sought. However, his par- become the United States.
ty did leave the peoples of the re- The great wealth that poured into
gion a remarkable, if unintended, Spain from the colonies in Mexico,
gift: Enough of his horses escaped the Caribbean, and Peru provoked
to transform life on the Great Plains. great interest on the part of the other
Within a few generations, the Plains European powers. Emerging mari-
Indians had become masters of time nations such as England, drawn
horsemanship, greatly expanding in part by Francis Drake’s success-
the range of their activities. ful raids on Spanish treasure ships,
While the Spanish were pushing began to take an interest in the New
up from the south, the northern por- World.
tion of the present-day United States In 1578 Humphrey Gilbert, the
was slowly being revealed through author of a treatise on the search
the journeys of men such as Giovan- for the Northwest Passage, received
ni da Verrazano. A Florentine who a patent from Queen Elizabeth to
sailed for the French, Verrazano colonize the “heathen and barba-
made landfall in North Carolina in rous landes” in the New World that
1524, then sailed north along the At- other European nations had not yet
lantic Coast past what is now New claimed. It would be five years before
York harbor. his efforts could begin. When he was
A decade later, the Frenchman lost at sea, his half-brother, Walter
Jacques Cartier set sail with the hope Raleigh, took up the mission.
— like the other Europeans before In 1585 Raleigh established the
him — of finding a sea passage to first British colony in North Amer-
Asia. Cartier’s expeditions along the ica, on Roanoke Island off the coast
St. Lawrence River laid the founda- of North Carolina. It was later aban-
tion for the French claims to North doned, and a second effort two years
America, which were to last until later also proved a failure. It would
1763. be 20 years before the British would
Following the collapse of their try again. This time — at Jamestown
first Quebec colony in the 1540s, in 1607 — the colony would succeed,
French Huguenots attempted to set- and North America would enter a
tle the northern coast of Florida two new era.
decades later. The Spanish, viewing
the French as a threat to their trade EARLY SETTLEMENTS
route along the Gulf Stream, de-
stroyed the colony in 1565. Ironical- he early 1600s saw the begin-
ly, the leader of the Spanish forces, ning of a great tide of emigration
Pedro Menéndez, would soon estab- from Europe to North America.
lish a town not far away — St. Au- Spanning more than three centuries,
gustine. It was the first permanent this movement grew from a trickle
of a few hundred English colonists woods. The settlers might not have
to a flood of millions of newcomers. survived had it not been for the
Impelled by powerful and diverse help of friendly Indians, who taught
motivations, they built a new civi- them how to grow native plants —
lization on the northern part of the pumpkin, squash, beans, and corn.
continent. In addition, the vast, virgin forests,
The first English immigrants extending nearly 2,100 kilometers
to what is now the United States along the Eastern seaboard, proved
crossed the Atlantic long after thriv- a rich source of game and firewood.
ing Spanish colonies had been estab- They also provided abundant raw
lished in Mexico, the West Indies, materials used to build houses, fur-
and South America. Like all early niture, ships, and profitable items
travelers to the New World, they for export.
came in small, overcrowded ships. Although the new continent was
During their six- to 12-week voy- remarkably endowed by nature,
ages, they lived on meager rations. trade with Europe was vital for ar-
Many died of disease, ships were ticles the settlers could not produce.
often battered by storms, and some The coast served the immigrants
were lost at sea. well. The whole length of shore pro-
Most European emigrants left vided many inlets and harbors. Only
their homelands to escape political two areas — North Carolina and
oppression, to seek the freedom to southern New Jersey — lacked har-
practice their religion, or to find op- bors for ocean-going vessels.
portunities denied them at home. Majestic rivers — the Kennebec,
Between 1620 and 1635, economic Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna,
difficulties swept England. Many Potomac, and numerous others —
people could not find work. Even linked lands between the coast and
skilled artisans could earn little the Appalachian Mountains with
more than a bare living. Poor crop the sea. Only one river, however, the
yields added to the distress. In ad- St. Lawrence — dominated by the
dition, the Commercial Revolution French in Canada — offered a water
had created a burgeoning textile passage to the Great Lakes and the
industry, which demanded an ever- heart of the continent. Dense forests,
increasing supply of wool to keep the resistance of some Indian tribes,
the looms running. Landlords en- and the formidable barrier of the
closed farmlands and evicted the Appalachian Mountains discour-
peasants in favor of sheep cultiva- aged settlement beyond the coastal
tion. Colonial expansion became plain. Only trappers and traders
an outlet for this displaced peasant ventured into the wilderness. For
population. the first hundred years the colonists
The colonists’ first glimpse of built their settlements compactly
the new land was a vista of dense along the coast.
Political considerations influ- they chose a site about 60 kilometers
enced many people to move to up the James River from the bay.
America. In the 1630s, arbitrary rule Made up of townsmen and ad-
by England’s Charles I gave impetus venturers more interested in finding
to the migration. The subsequent re- gold than farming, the group was
volt and triumph of Charles’ oppo- unequipped by temperament or abil-
nents under Oliver Cromwell in the ity to embark upon a completely new
1640s led many cavaliers — “king’s life in the wilderness. Among them,
men” — to cast their lot in Virginia.Captain John Smith emerged as the
In the German-speaking regions of dominant figure. Despite quarrels,
Europe, the oppressive policies of starvation, and Native-American
various petty princes — particularly attacks, his ability to enforce disci-
with regard to religion — and the pline held the little colony together
devastation caused by a long series through its first year.
of wars helped swell the movement In 1609 Smith returned to Eng-
to America in the late 17th and 18th land, and in his absence, the colony
centuries. descended into anarchy. During the
The journey entailed careful winter of 1609-1610, the majority of
planning and management, as well the colonists succumbed to disease.
as considerable expense and risk. Only 60 of the original 300 settlers
Settlers had to be transported nearlywere still alive by May 1610. That
5,000 kilometers across the sea. Theysame year, the town of Henrico (now
needed utensils, clothing, seed, tools,
Richmond) was established farther
building materials, livestock, arms, up the James River.
and ammunition. In contrast to the It was not long, however, before
colonization policies of other coun- a development occurred that revo-
tries and other periods, the emigra- lutionized Virginia’s economy. In
tion from England was not directly 1612 John Rolfe began cross-breed-
sponsored by the government but by ing imported tobacco seed from the
private groups of individuals whose West Indies with native plants and
chief motive was profit. produced a new variety that was
pleasing to European taste. The first
JAMESTOWN shipment of this tobacco reached
T London in 1614. Within a decade it
he first of the British colonies had become Virginia’s chief source
to take hold in North America was of revenue.
Jamestown. On the basis of a char- Prosperity did not come quickly,
ter which King James I granted to however, and the death rate from
the Virginia (or London) Company, disease and Indian attacks remained
a group of about 100 men set out for extraordinarily high. Between 1607
the Chesapeake Bay in 1607. Seeking and 1624 approximately 14,000 peo-
to avoid conflict with the Spanish, ple migrated to the colony, yet only
1,132 were living there in 1624. On nized government, the men drafted
recommendation of a royal commis- a formal agreement to abide by “just
sion, the king dissolved the Virginia and equal laws” drafted by leaders
Company, and made it a royal colony of their own choosing. This was the
that year. Mayflower Compact.
In December the Mayflower
MASSACHUSETTS reached Plymouth harbor; the Pil-
D grims began to build their settle-
uring the religious upheavals ment during the winter. Nearly half
of the 16th century, a body of men the colonists died of exposure and
and women called Puritans sought disease, but neighboring Wampa-
to reform the Established Church of noag Indians provided the informa-
England from within. Essentially, tion that would sustain them: how
they demanded that the rituals and to grow maize. By the next fall, the
structures associated with Roman Pilgrims had a plentiful crop of corn,
Catholicism be replaced by simpler and a growing trade based on furs
Calvinist Protestant forms of faith and lumber.
and worship. Their reformist ideas, A new wave of immigrants ar-
by destroying the unity of the state rived on the shores of Massachusetts
church, threatened to divide the Bay in 1630 bearing a grant from
people and to undermine royal King Charles I to establish a colony.
authority. Many of them were Puritans whose
In 1607 a small group of Sepa- religious practices were increasingly
ratists — a radical sect of Puritans prohibited in England. Their leader,
who did not believe the Established John Winthrop, urged them to cre-
Church could ever be reformed — ate a “city upon a hill” in the New
departed for Leyden, Holland, where World — a place where they would
the Dutch granted them asylum. live in strict accordance with their
However, the Calvinist Dutch re- religious beliefs and set an example
stricted them mainly to low-paid la- for all of Christendom.
boring jobs. Some members of the The Massachusetts Bay Colony
congregation grew dissatisfied with was to play a significant role in the
this discrimination and resolved to development of the entire New Eng-
emigrate to the New World. land region, in part because Win-
In 1620, a group of Leyden Puri- throp and his Puritan colleagues
tans secured a land patent from the were able to bring their charter with
Virginia Company. Numbering 101, them. Thus the authority for the col-
they set out for Virginia on the May- ony’s government resided in Massa-
flower. A storm sent them far north chusetts, not in England.
and they landed in New England Under the charter’s provisions,
on Cape Cod. Believing themselves power rested with the General
outside the jurisdiction of any orga- Court, which was made up of “free-
men” required to be members of the deep, rich soil. These new commu-
Puritan, or Congregational, Church. nities often eliminated church mem-
This guaranteed that the Puritans bership as a prerequisite for voting,
would be the dominant political as thereby extending the franchise to
well as religious force in the colony. ever larger numbers of men.
The General Court elected the gov- At the same time, other settle-
ernor, who for most of the next gen- ments began cropping up along the
eration would be John Winthrop. New Hampshire and Maine coasts,
The rigid orthodoxy of the Pu- as more and more immigrants
ritan rule was not to everyone’s lik- sought the land and liberty the New
ing. One of the first to challenge the World seemed to offer.
General Court openly was a young
clergyman named Roger Williams, NEW NETHERLAND AND
who objected to the colony’s seizure MARYLAND
of Indian lands and advocated sepa-
ration of church and state. Another ired by the Dutch East India
dissenter, Anne Hutchinson, chal- Company, Henry Hudson in 1609
lenged key doctrines of Puritan the- explored the area around what is
ology. Both they and their followers now New York City and the river
were banished. that bears his name, to a point prob-
Williams purchased land from ably north of present-day Albany,
the Narragansett Indians in what is New York. Subsequent Dutch voy-
now Providence, Rhode Island, in ages laid the basis for their claims
1636. In 1644, a sympathetic Puri- and early settlements in the area.
tan-controlled English Parliament As with the French to the north,
gave him the charter that established the first interest of the Dutch was the
Rhode Island as a distinct colony fur trade. To this end, they cultivated
where complete separation of church close relations with the Five Nations
and state as well as freedom of reli- of the Iroquois, who were the key to
gion was practiced. the heartland from which the furs
So-called heretics like Williams came. In 1617 Dutch settlers built a
were not the only ones who left Mas- fort at the junction of the Hudson
sachusetts. Orthodox Puritans, seek- and the Mohawk Rivers, where Al-
ing better lands and opportunities, bany now stands.
soon began leaving Massachusetts Settlement on the island of Man-
Bay Colony. News of the fertility of hattan began in the early 1620s. In
the Connecticut River Valley, for in- 1624, the island was purchased from
stance, attracted the interest of farm- local Native Americans for the re-
ers having a difficult time with poor ported price of $24. It was promptly
land. By the early 1630s, many were renamed New Amsterdam.
ready to brave the danger of Indian In order to attract settlers to the
attack to obtain level ground and Hudson River region, the Dutch en-
couraged a type of feudal aristocra- and to avoid trouble with the British
cy, known as the “patroon” system. government, they also encouraged
The first of these huge estates were Protestant immigration.
established in 1630 along the Hud- Maryland’s royal charter had
son River. Under the patroon sys- a mixture of feudal and modern
tem, any stockholder, or patroon, elements. On the one hand the
who could bring 50 adults to his es- Calvert family had the power to
tate over a four-year period was giv- create manorial estates. On the oth-
en a 25-kilometer river-front plot, er, they could only make laws with
exclusive fishing and hunting privi- the consent of freemen (property
leges, and civil and criminal juris- holders). They found that in order
diction over his lands. In turn, he to attract settlers — and make a
provided livestock, tools, and build- profit from their holdings — they
ings. The tenants paid the patroon had to offer people farms, not just
rent and gave him first option on tenancy on manorial estates. The
surplus crops. number of independent farms grew
Further to the south, a Swedish in consequence. Their owners de-
trading company with ties to the manded a voice in the affairs of the
Dutch attempted to set up its first colony. Maryland’s first legislature
settlement along the Delaware Riv- met in 1635.
er three years later. Without the re-
sources to consolidate its position, COLONIAL-INDIAN
New Sweden was gradually absorbed RELATIONS
into New Netherland, and later,
Pennsylvania and Delaware. y 1640 the British had solid
In 1632 the Catholic Calvert fam- colonies established along the New
ily obtained a charter for land north England coast and the Chesapeake
of the Potomac River from King Bay. In between were the Dutch and
Charles I in what became known as the tiny Swedish community. To the
Maryland. As the charter did not ex- west were the original Americans,
pressly prohibit the establishment of then called Indians.
non-Protestant churches, the colony Sometimes friendly, sometimes
became a haven for Catholics. Mary- hostile, the Eastern tribes were no
land’s first town, St. Mary’s, was longer strangers to the Europeans.
established in 1634 near where the Although Native Americans ben-
Potomac River flows into the Chesa- efited from access to new technol-
peake Bay. ogy and trade, the disease and thirst
While establishing a refuge for for land that the early settlers also
Catholics, who faced increasing per- brought posed a serious challenge to
secution in Anglican England, the their long-established way of life.
Calverts were also interested in cre- At first, trade with the European
ating profitable estates. To this end, settlers brought advantages: knives,
axes, weapons, cooking utensils, The steady influx of settlers into
fishhooks, and a host of other goods. the backwoods regions of the Eastern
Those Indians who traded initial- colonies disrupted Native-American
ly had significant advantage over life. As more and more game was
rivals who did not. In response to killed off, tribes were faced with the
European demand, tribes such as the difficult choice of going hungry, go-
Iroquois began to devote more at- ing to war, or moving and coming
tention to fur trapping during the into conflict with other tribes to the
17th century. Furs and pelts pro- west.
vided tribes the means to purchase The Iroquois, who inhabited the
colonial goods until late into the area below lakes Ontario and Erie
18th century. in northern New York and Pennsyl-
Early colonial-Native-American vania, were more successful in re-
relations were an uneasy mix of co- sisting European advances. In 1570
operation and conflict. On the one five tribes joined to form the most
hand, there were the exemplary rela- complex Native-American nation
tions that prevailed during the first of its time, the “Ho-De-No-Sau-
half century of Pennsylvania’s exis- Nee,” or League of the Iroquois. The
tence. On the other were a long series league was run by a council made
of setbacks, skirmishes, and wars, up of 50 representatives from each of
which almost invariably resulted in the five member tribes. The council
an Indian defeat and further loss of dealt with matters common to all the
land. tribes, but it had no say in how the
The first of the important Native- free and equal tribes ran their day-
American uprisings occurred in Vir- to-day affairs. No tribe was allowed
ginia in 1622, when some 347 whites to make war by itself. The council
were killed, including a number of passed laws to deal with crimes such
missionaries who had just recently as murder.
come to Jamestown. The Iroquois League was a strong
White settlement of the Con- power in the 1600s and 1700s. It
necticut River region touched off the traded furs with the British and
Pequot War in 1637. In 1675 King sided with them against the French
Philip, the son of the native chief in the war for the dominance of
who had made the original peace America between 1754 and 1763.
with the Pilgrims in 1621, attempted The British might not have won that
to unite the tribes of southern New war otherwise.
England against further Europe- The Iroquois League stayed
an encroachment of their lands. In strong until the American Revolu-
the struggle, however, Philip lost tion. Then, for the first time, the
his life and many Indians were sold council could not reach a unani-
into servitude. mous decision on whom to support.
Member tribes made their own de-
cisions, some fighting with the Brit- established in the Carolinas and the
ish, some with the colonists, some Dutch driven out of New Nether-
remaining neutral. As a result, ev- land. New proprietary colonies were
eryone fought against the Iroquois. established in New York, New Jersey,
Their losses were great and the Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
league never recovered. The Dutch settlements had been
ruled by autocratic governors ap-
SECOND GENERATION OF pointed in Europe. Over the years,
BRITISH COLONIES the local population had become
T estranged from them. As a result,
he religious and civil conflict in when the British colonists began en-
England in the mid-17th century croaching on Dutch claims in Long
limited immigration, as well as the Island and Manhattan, the unpopu-
attention the mother country paid lar governor was unable to rally the
the fledgling American colonies. population to their defense. New
In part to provide for the defense Netherland fell in 1664. The terms
measures England was neglect- of the capitulation, however, were
ing, the Massachusetts Bay, Plym- mild: The Dutch settlers were able to
outh, Connecticut, and New Haven retain their property and worship as
colonies formed the New England they pleased.
Confederation in 1643. It was the As early as the 1650s, the Albe-
European colonists’ first attempt at marle Sound region off the coast of
regional unity. what is now northern North Caroli-
The early history of the British na was inhabited by settlers trickling
settlers reveals a good deal of con- down from Virginia. The first pro-
tention — religious and political — prietary governor arrived in 1664.
as groups vied for power and posi- The first town in Albemarle, a re-
tion among themselves and their mote area even today, was not estab-
neighbors. Maryland, in particular, lished until the arrival of a group of
suffered from the bitter religious ri- French Huguenots in 1704.
valries that afflicted England during In 1670 the first settlers, drawn
the era of Oliver Cromwell. One of from New England and the Carib-
the casualties was the state’s Tolera- bean island of Barbados, arrived
tion Act, which was revoked in the in what is now Charleston, South
1650s. It was soon reinstated, howev- Carolina. An elaborate system of
er, along with the religious freedom government, to which the British
it guaranteed. philosopher John Locke contribut-
With the restoration of King ed, was prepared for the new colony.
Charles II in 1660, the British once One of its prominent features was a
again turned their attention to failed attempt to create a hereditary
North America. Within a brief span, nobility. One of the colony’s least ap-
the first European settlements were pealing aspects was the early trade in
Indian slaves. With time, however, refuge where the poor and former
timber, rice, and indigo gave the col- prisoners would be given new
ony a worthier economic base. opportunities.
In 1681 William Penn, a wealthy
Quaker and friend of Charles II, re- SETTLERS, SLAVES, AND
ceived a large tract of land west of SERVANTS
the Delaware River, which became
known as Pennsylvania. To help en and women with little active
populate it, Penn actively recruited interest in a new life in America were
a host of religious dissenters from often induced to make the move to
England and the continent — Quak- the New World by the skillful per-
ers, Mennonites, Amish, Moravians, suasion of promoters. William Penn,
and Baptists. for example, publicized the oppor-
When Penn arrived the follow- tunities awaiting newcomers to the
ing year, there were already Dutch, Pennsylvania colony. Judges and
Swedish, and English settlers liv- prison authorities offered convicts
ing along the Delaware River. It was a chance to migrate to colonies like
there he founded Philadelphia, the Georgia instead of serving prison
“City of Brotherly Love.” sentences.
In keeping with his faith, Penn But few colonists could finance
was motivated by a sense of equal- the cost of passage for themselves and
ity not often found in other Amer- their families to make a start in the
ican colonies at the time. Thus, new land. In some cases, ships’ cap-
women in Pennsylvania had rights tains received large rewards from the
long before they did in other parts sale of service contracts for poor mi-
of America. Penn and his deputies grants, called indentured servants,
also paid considerable attention to and every method from extravagant
the colony’s relations with the Del- promises to actual kidnapping was
aware Indians, ensuring that they used to take on as many passengers
were paid for land on which the Eu- as their vessels could hold.
ropeans settled. In other cases, the expenses of
Georgia was settled in 1732, transportation and maintenance
the last of the 13 colonies to be were paid by colonizing agencies like
established. Lying close to, if not the Virginia or Massachusetts Bay
actually inside the boundaries of Companies. In return, indentured
Spanish Florida, the region was servants agreed to work for the agen-
viewed as a buffer against Spanish cies as contract laborers, usually for
incursion. But it had another unique four to seven years. Free at the end of
quality: The man charged with this term, they would be given “free-
Georgia’s fortifications, General dom dues,” sometimes including a
James Oglethorpe, was a reformer small tract of land.
who deliberately set out to create a
Perhaps half the settlers living in There was one very important
the colonies south of New England exception to this pattern: African
came to America under this system. slaves. The first black Africans were
Although most of them fulfilled brought to Virginia in 1619, just 12
their obligations faithfully, some ran years after the founding of James-
away from their employers. Never- town. Initially, many were regarded
theless, many of them were eventu- as indentured servants who could
ally able to secure land and set up earn their freedom. By the 1660s,
homesteads, either in the colonies in however, as the demand for planta-
which they had originally settled or tion labor in the Southern colonies
in neighboring ones. No social stig- grew, the institution of slavery be-
ma was attached to a family that had gan to harden around them, and Af-
its beginning in America under this ricans were brought to America in
semi-bondage. Every colony had its shackles for a lifetime of involuntary
share of leaders who were former in- servitude.  9
dentured servants.
Time-worn pueblos and dramatic cliff towns, set amid the stark, rugged me-
sas and canyons of Colorado and New Mexico, mark the settlements of some of
the earliest inhabitants of North America, the Anasazi (a Navajo word meaning
“ancient ones”).
By 500 A.D. the Anasazi had established some of the first villages in
the American Southwest, where they hunted and grew crops of corn, squash,
and beans. The Anasazi flourished over the centuries, developing sophisticated
dams and irrigation systems; creating a masterful, distinctive pottery tradi-
tion; and carving multiroom dwellings into the sheer sides of cliffs that remain
among the most striking archaeological sites in the United States today.
Yet by the year 1300, they had abandoned their settlements, leaving their
pottery, implements, even clothing — as though they intended to return — and
seemingly vanished into history. Their homeland remained empty of human
beings for more than a century — until the arrival of new tribes, such as the
Navajo and the Ute, followed by the Spanish and other European settlers.
The story of the Anasazi is tied inextricably to the beautiful but harsh
environment in which they chose to live. Early settlements, consisting of simple
pithouses scooped out of the ground, evolved into sunken kivas (underground
rooms) that served as meeting and religious sites. Later generations developed
the masonry techniques for building square, stone pueblos. But the most dra-
matic change in Anasazi living was the move to the cliff sides below the flat-
topped mesas, where the Anasazi carved their amazing, multilevel dwellings.
The Anasazi lived in a communal society. They traded with other peoples
in the region, but signs of warfare are few and isolated. And although the Ana-
sazi certainly had religious and other leaders, as well as skilled artisans, social
or class distinctions were virtually nonexistent.
Religious and social motives undoubtedly played a part in the building
of the cliff communities and their final abandonment. But the struggle to raise
food in an increasingly difficult environment was probably the paramount fac-
tor. As populations grew, farmers planted larger areas on the mesas, causing
some communities to farm marginal lands, while others left the mesa tops for
the cliffs. But the Anasazi couldn’t halt the steady loss of the land’s fertility
from constant use, nor withstand the region’s cyclical droughts. Analysis of tree
rings, for example, shows that a drought lasting 23 years, from 1276 to 1299,
finally forced the last groups of Anasazi to leave permanently.
Although the Anasazi dispersed from their ancestral homeland, their
legacy remains in the remarkable archaeological record that they left behind,
and in the Hopi, Zuni, and other Pueblo peoples who are their descendants. 
Major Native American cultural groupings, A.D. 500-1300.
25. 2
Pilgrims signing the
Mayflower Compact
aboard ship, 1620.
“What then is the American,
this new man?”
American author and agriculturist
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1782
NEW PEOPLES were even more so among the three
M regional groupings of colonies.
ost settlers who came to Amer-
ica in the 17th century were English, NEW ENGLAND
but there were also Dutch, Swedes,
and Germans in the middle region, he northeastern New England
a few French Huguenots in South colonies had generally thin, stony
Carolina and elsewhere, slaves from soil, relatively little level land, and
Africa, primarily in the South, and a long winters, making it difficult to
scattering of Spaniards, Italians, and make a living from farming. Turn-
Portuguese throughout the colonies. ing to other pursuits, the New Eng-
After 1680 England ceased to be the landers harnessed waterpower and
chief source of immigration, sup- established grain mills and saw-
planted by Scots and “Scots-Irish” mills. Good stands of timber en-
(Protestants from Northern Ire- couraged shipbuilding. Excellent
land). In addition, tens of thousands harbors promoted trade, and the
of refugees fled northwestern Eu- sea became a source of great wealth.
rope to escape war, oppression, and In Massachusetts, the cod industry
absentee-landlordism. By 1690 the alone quickly furnished a basis for
American population had risen to prosperity.
a quarter of a million. From then With the bulk of the early settlers
on, it doubled every 25 years until, living in villages and towns around
in 1775, it numbered more than 2.5 the harbors, many New England-
million. Although families occa- ers carried on some kind of trade or
sionally moved from one colony to business. Common pastureland and
another, distinctions between indi- woodlots served the needs of towns-
vidual colonies were marked. They people, who worked small farms
nearby. Compactness made possible Under William Penn, Pennsylvania
the village school, the village church,
functioned smoothly and grew rap-
and the village or town hall, whereidly. By 1685, its population was al-
citizens met to discuss matters of most 9,000. The heart of the colony
common interest. was Philadelphia, a city of broad,
The Massachusetts Bay Colony tree-shaded streets, substantial brick
continued to expand its commerce. and stone houses, and busy docks.
From the middle of the 17th centuryBy the end of the colonial period,
onward it grew prosperous, so that nearly a century later, 30,000 people
Boston became one of America’s lived there, representing many lan-
greatest ports. guages, creeds, and trades. Their tal-
Oak timber for ships’ hulls, tall
ent for successful business enterprise
pines for spars and masts, and pitch
made the city one of the thriving
for the seams of ships came from the
centers of the British Empire.
Northeastern forests. Building their Though the Quakers dominated
own vessels and sailing them to ports
in Philadelphia, elsewhere in Penn-
all over the world, the shipmasterssylvania others were well represent-
of Massachusetts Bay laid the foun-ed. Germans became the colony’s
dation for a trade that was to growmost skillful farmers. Important,
steadily in importance. By the end too, were cottage industries such as
of the colonial period, one-third of
weaving, shoemaking, cabinetmak-
all vessels under the British flag were
ing, and other crafts. Pennsylvania
built in New England. Fish, ship’s was also the principal gateway into
stores, and woodenware swelled the the New World for the Scots-Irish,
exports. New England merchants who moved into the colony in the
and shippers soon discovered that early 18th century. “Bold and indi-
rum and slaves were profitable com-gent strangers,” as one Pennsylvania
modities. One of their most enter- official called them, they hated the
prising — if unsavory — trading English and were suspicious of all
practices of the time was the “trian-
government. The Scots-Irish tended
gular trade.” Traders would purchase
to settle in the backcountry, where
slaves off the coast of Africa for New
they cleared land and lived by hunt-
England rum, then sell the slaves in
ing and subsistence farming.
the West Indies where they would New York best illustrated the
buy molasses to bring home for salepolyglot nature of America. By 1646
to the local rum producers. the population along the Hudson
River included Dutch, French, Danes,
THE MIDDLE COLONIES Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots,
S Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohemians,
ociety in the middle colonies Portuguese, and Italians. The Dutch
was far more varied, cosmopolitan, continued to exercise an important
and tolerant than in New England. social and economic influence on
the New York region long after the the world. Not bound to a single
fall of New Netherland and their in- crop as was Virginia, North and
tegration into the British colonial South Carolina also produced and
system. Their sharp-stepped gable exported rice and indigo, a blue dye
roofs became a permanent part of obtained from native plants that was
the city’s architecture, and their used in coloring fabric. By 1750 more
merchants gave Manhattan much than 100,000 people lived in the two
of its original bustling, commercial colonies of North and South Caroli-
atmosphere. na. Charleston, South Carolina, was
the region’s leading port and trading
Ithen middle In the southernmost colonies, as
contrast to New England and everywhere else, population growth
colonies, the Southern in the backcountry had special sig-
colonies were predominantly rural nificance. German immigrants
settlements. and Scots-Irish, unwilling to live in
By the late 17th century, Virgin- the original Tidewater settlements
ia’s and Maryland’s economic and where English influence was strong,
social structure rested on the great pushed inland. Those who could not
planters and the yeoman farmers. secure fertile land along the coast, or
The planters of the Tidewater re- who had exhausted the lands they
gion, supported by slave labor, held held, found the hills farther west a
most of the political power and the bountiful refuge. Although their
best land. They built great houses, hardships were enormous, restless
adopted an aristocratic way of life, settlers kept coming; by the 1730s
and kept in touch as best they could they were pouring into the Shenan-
with the world of culture overseas. doah Valley of Virginia. Soon the in-
The yeoman farmers, who worked terior was dotted with farms.
smaller tracts, sat in popular assem- Living on the edge of Native
blies and found their way into political American country, frontier families
office. Their outspoken independence built cabins, cleared the wilderness,
was a constant warning to the oligar- and cultivated maize and wheat.
chy of planters not to encroach too The men wore leather made from
far upon the rights of free men. the skin of deer or sheep, known
The settlers of the Carolinas as buckskin; the women wore gar-
quickly learned to combine agricul- ments of cloth they spun at home.
ture and commerce, and the mar- Their food consisted of venison,
ketplace became a major source of wild turkey, and fish. They had their
prosperity. Dense forests brought own amusements: great barbecues,
revenue: Lumber, tar, and resin from dances, housewarmings for newly
the longleaf pine provided some of married couples, shooting matches,
the best shipbuilding materials in and contests for making quilted
blankets. Quilt-making remains an land colonies, except for Rhode Is-
American tradition today. land, followed its example.
The Pilgrims and Puritans had
SOCIETY, SCHOOLS, AND brought their own little librar-
CULTURE ies and continued to import books
A from London. And as early as the
significant factor deterring the 1680s, Boston booksellers were do-
emergence of a powerful aristocratic ing a thriving business in works of
or gentry class in the colonies was classical literature, history, politics,
the ability of anyone in an estab- philosophy, science, theology, and
lished colony to find a new home on belles-lettres. In 1638 the first print-
the frontier. Time after time, domi- ing press in the English colonies and
nant Tidewater figures were obliged the second in North America was in-
to liberalize political policies, land- stalled at Harvard College.
grant requirements, and religious The first school in Pennsylvania
practices by the threat of a mass exo- was begun in 1683. It taught reading,
dus to the frontier. writing, and keeping of accounts.
Of equal significance for the Thereafter, in some fashion, every
future were the foundations of Quaker community provided for the
American education and culture es- elementary teaching of its children.
tablished during the colonial period. More advanced training — in classi-
Harvard College was founded in cal languages, history, and literature
1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. — was offered at the Friends Public
Near the end of the century, the School, which still operates in Phila-
College of William and Mary was delphia as the William Penn Charter
established in Virginia. A few School. The school was free to the
years later, the Collegiate School of poor, but parents were required to
Connecticut, later to become Yale pay tuition if they were able.
University, was chartered. In Philadelphia, numerous private
Even more noteworthy was the schools with no religious affiliation
growth of a school system main- taught languages, mathematics, and
tained by governmental authority. natural science; there were also night
The Puritan emphasis on reading schools for adults. Women were not
directly from the Scriptures under- entirely overlooked, but their edu-
scored the importance of literacy. In cational opportunities were limited
1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony to training in activities that could
enacted the “ye olde deluder Satan” be conducted in the home. Private
Act, requiring every town having teachers instructed the daughters
more than 50 families to establish of prosperous Philadelphians in
a grammar school (a Latin school to French, music, dancing, painting,
prepare students for college). Shortly singing, grammar, and sometimes
thereafter, all the other New Eng- bookkeeping.
In the 18th century, the intel- primitive cabins, were firm devotees
lectual and cultural development of scholarship, and they made great
of Pennsylvania reflected, in large efforts to attract learned ministers to
measure, the vigorous personalities their settlements.
of two men: James Logan and Benja- Literary production in the colo-
min Franklin. Logan was secretary nies was largely confined to New
of the colony, and it was in his fine li- England. Here attention concen-
brary that young Franklin found the trated on religious subjects. Ser-
latest scientific works. In 1745 Logan mons were the most common
erected a building for his collection products of the press. A famous Pu-
and bequeathed both building and ritan minister, the Reverend Cot-
books to the city. ton Mather, wrote some 400 works.
Franklin contributed even more His masterpiece, Magnalia Chris-
to the intellectual activity of Phila- ti Americana, presented the pag-
delphia. He formed a debating club eant of New England’s history. The
that became the embryo of the most popular single work of the day
American Philosophical Society. His was the Reverend Michael Wiggles-
endeavors also led to the founding worth’s long poem, “The Day of
of a public academy that later devel- Doom,” which described the Last
oped into the University of Penn- Judgment in terrifying terms.
sylvania. He was a prime mover in In 1704 Cambridge, Massachu-
the establishment of a subscription setts, launched the colonies’ first
library, which he called “the mother successful newspaper. By 1745 there
of all North American subscription were 22 newspapers being published
libraries.” in British North America.
In the Southern colonies, wealthy In New York, an important step
planters and merchants imported pri- in establishing the principle of free-
vate tutors from Ireland or Scotland dom of the press took place with the
to teach their children. Some sent case of John Peter Zenger, whose
their children to school in England. New York Weekly Journal, begun in
Having these other opportunities, the 1733, represented the opposition to
upper classes in the Tidewater were the government. After two years of
not interested in supporting pub- publication, the colonial governor
lic education. In addition, the diffu- could no longer tolerate Zenger’s sa-
sion of farms and plantations made tirical barbs, and had him thrown
the formation of community schools into prison on a charge of seditious
difficult. There were only a few free libel. Zenger continued to edit his
schools in Virginia. paper from jail during his nine-
The desire for learning did not month trial, which excited intense
stop at the borders of established interest throughout the colonies.
communities, however. On the fron- Andrew Hamilton, the prominent
tier, the Scots-Irish, though living in lawyer who defended Zenger, argued
that the charges printed by Zenger Christian churches that believe in
were true and hence not libelous. personal conversion and the iner-
The jury returned a verdict of not rancy of the Bible) and the spirit of
guilty, and Zenger went free. revivalism, which continue to play
The increasing prosperity of the significant roles in American reli-
towns prompted fears that the dev- gious and cultural life. It weakened
il was luring society into pursuit of the status of the established clergy
worldly gain and may have contrib- and provoked believers to rely on
uted to the religious reaction of the their own conscience. Perhaps most
1730s, known as the Great Awaken- important, it led to the proliferation
ing. Its two immediate sources were of sects and denominations, which
George Whitefield, a Wesleyan re- in turn encouraged general accep-
vivalist who arrived from England tance of the principle of religious
in 1739, and Jonathan Edwards, who toleration.
served the Congregational Church
in Northampton, Massachusetts. EMERGENCE OF COLONIAL
Whitefield began a religious re- GOVERNMENT
vival in Philadelphia and then moved
on to New England. He enthralled n the early phases of colonial de-
audiences of up to 20,000 people at a striking feature was the
a time with histrionic displays, ges- lack of controlling influence by the
tures, and emotional oratory. Reli- English government. All colonies ex-
gious turmoil swept throughout New cept Georgia emerged as companies
England and the middle colonies as of shareholders, or as feudal propri-
ministers left established churches to etorships stemming from charters
preach the revival. granted by the Crown. The fact that
Edwards was the most prominent the king had transferred his immedi-
of those influenced by Whitefield ate sovereignty over the New World
and the Great Awakening. His most settlements to stock companies and
memorable contribution was his proprietors did not, of course, mean
1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands that the colonists in America were
of an Angry God.” Rejecting theat- necessarily free of outside control.
rics, he delivered his message in a Under the terms of the Virginia
quiet, thoughtful manner, arguing Company charter, for example, full
that the established churches sought governmental authority was vested
to deprive Christianity of its func- in the company itself. Nevertheless,
tion of redemption from sin. His the crown expected that the com-
magnum opus, Of Freedom of Will pany would be resident in England.
(1754), attempted to reconcile Cal- Inhabitants of Virginia, then, would
vinism with the Enlightenment. have no more voice in their govern-
The Great Awakening gave rise ment than if the king himself had
to evangelical denominations (those retained absolute rule.
Still, the colonies considered Calverts in Maryland, William Penn
themselves chiefly as common- in Pennsylvania, the proprietors in
wealths or states, much like England North and South Carolina, and the
itself, having only a loose association proprietors in New Jersey specified
with the authorities in London. In that legislation should be enacted
one way or another, exclusive rule with “the consent of the freemen.”
from the outside withered away. The In New England, for many years,
colonists — inheritors of the long there was even more complete self-
English tradition of the struggle government than in the other col-
for political liberty — incorporated onies. Aboard the Mayflower, the
concepts of freedom into Virginia’s Pilgrims adopted an instrument for
first charter. It provided that Eng- government called the “Mayflower
lish colonists were to exercise all Compact,” to “combine ourselves to-
liberties, franchises, and immuni- gether into a civil body politic for our
ties “as if they had been abiding and better ordering and preservation ...
born within this our Realm of Eng- and by virtue hereof [to] enact, con-
land.” They were, then, to enjoy the stitute, and frame such just and equal
benefits of the Magna Carta — the laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions,
charter of English political and civ- and offices ... as shall be thought most
il liberties granted by King John in meet and convenient for the general
1215 — and the common law — the good of the colony. ...”
English system of law based on legal Although there was no legal basis
precedents or tradition, not statutory for the Pilgrims to establish a system
law. In 1618 the Virginia Company of self-government, the action was
issued instructions to its appointed not contested, and, under the com-
governor providing that free inhab- pact, the Plymouth settlers were able
itants of the plantations should elect for many years to conduct their own
representatives to join with the gov- affairs without outside interference.
ernor and an appointive council in A similar situation developed in
passing ordinances for the welfare of the Massachusetts Bay Company,
the colony. which had been given the right to
These measures proved to be govern itself. Thus, full authority
some of the most far-reaching in the rested in the hands of persons re-
entire colonial period. From then siding in the colony. At first, the
on, it was generally accepted that the dozen or so original members of the
colonists had a right to participate in company who had come to America
their own government. In most in- attempted to rule autocratically. But
stances, the king, in making future the other colonists soon demanded
grants, provided in the charter that a voice in public affairs and indi-
the free men of the colony should cated that refusal would lead to a
have a voice in legislation affecting mass migration.
them. Thus, charters awarded to the The company members yield-
ed, and control of the government the settlers had come to a land of
passed to elected representatives. seemingly unending reach. On such
Subsequently, other New England a continent, natural conditions pro-
colonies — such as Connecticut and moted a tough individualism, as
Rhode Island — also succeeded in people became used to making their
becoming self-governing simply by own decisions. Government pene-
asserting that they were beyond any trated the backcountry only slowly,
governmental authority, and then and conditions of anarchy often pre-
setting up their own political sys- vailed on the frontier.
tem modeled after that of the Pil- Yet the assumption of self-gov-
grims at Plymouth. ernment in the colonies did not go
In only two cases was the self- entirely unchallenged. In the 1670s,
government provision omitted. the Lords of Trade and Plantations,
These were New York, which was a royal committee established to en-
granted to Charles II’s brother, the force the mercantile system in the
Duke of York (later to become King colonies, moved to annul the Massa-
James II), and Georgia, which was chusetts Bay charter because the col-
granted to a group of “trustees.” In ony was resisting the government’s
both instances the provisions for economic policy. James II in 1685
governance were short-lived, for the approved a proposal to create a Do-
colonists demanded legislative rep- minion of New England and place
resentation so insistently that the au- colonies south through New Jersey
thorities soon yielded. under its jurisdiction, thereby tight-
In the mid-17th century, the ening the Crown’s control over the
English were too distracted by whole region. A royal governor, Sir
their Civil War (1642-49) and Edmund Andros, levied taxes by ex-
Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Com- ecutive order, implemented a num-
monwealth to pursue an effective ber of other harsh measures, and
colonial policy. After the restora- jailed those who resisted.
tion of Charles II and the Stuart When news of the Glorious Rev-
dynasty in 1660, England had more olution (1688-89), which deposed
opportunity to attend to colonial James II in England, reached Boston,
administration. Even then, how- the population rebelled and impris-
ever, it was inefficient and lacked oned Andros. Under a new charter,
a coherent plan. The colonies were Massachusetts and Plymouth were
left largely to their own devices. united for the first time in 1691 as
The remoteness afforded by a vast the royal colony of Massachusetts
ocean also made control of the colo- Bay. The other New England colo-
nies difficult. Added to this was the nies quickly reinstalled their previ-
character of life itself in early Amer- ous governments.
ica. From countries limited in space The English Bill of Rights and
and dotted with populous towns, the Toleration Act of 1689 affirmed
freedom of worship for Christians in stand the importance of what the
the colonies as well as in England colonial assemblies were doing and
and enforced limits on the Crown. simply neglected them. Nonetheless,
Equally important, John Locke’s Sec- the precedents and principles estab-
ond Treatise on Government (1690), lished in the conflicts between as-
the Glorious Revolution’s major semblies and governors eventually
theoretical justification, set forth became part of the unwritten “con-
a theory of government based not stitution” of the colonies. In this way,
on divine right but on contract. It the colonial legislatures asserted the
contended that the people, endowed right of self-government.
with natural rights of life, liberty,
and property, had the right to reb- THE FRENCH AND
el when governments violated their INDIAN WAR
By the early 18th century, almost rance and Britain engaged in a
all the colonies had been brought succession of wars in Europe and
under the direct jurisdiction of the the Caribbean throughout the 18th
British Crown, but under the rules century. Though Britain secured
established by the Glorious Revolu- certain advantages — primarily in
tion. Colonial governors sought to the sugar-rich islands of the Carib-
exercise powers that the king had bean — the struggles were generally
lost in England, but the colonial as- indecisive, and France remained in a
semblies, aware of events there, at- powerful position in North Ameri-
tempted to assert their “rights” and ca. By 1754, France still had a strong
“liberties.” Their leverage rested on relationship with a number of Na-
two significant powers similar to tive American tribes in Canada and
those held by the English Parlia- along the Great Lakes. It controlled
ment: the right to vote on taxes and the Mississippi River and, by estab-
expenditures, and the right to ini- lishing a line of forts and trading
tiate legislation rather than merely posts, had marked out a great cres-
react to proposals of the governor. cent-shaped empire stretching from
The legislatures used these rights Quebec to New Orleans. The British
to check the power of royal gover- remained confined to the narrow
nors and to pass other measures to belt east of the Appalachian Moun-
expand their power and influence. tains. Thus the French threatened
The recurring clashes between gov- not only the British Empire but also
ernor and assembly made colonial the American colonists themselves,
politics tumultuous and worked in- for in holding the Mississippi Valley,
creasingly to awaken the colonists to France could limit their westward
the divergence between American expansion.
and English interests. In many cases, An armed clash took place in
the royal authorities did not under- 1754 at Fort Duquesne, the site where
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is now lo- conflict with France, known as the
cated, between a band of French reg- French and Indian War in Ameri-
ulars and Virginia militiamen under ca and the Seven Years’ War in Eu-
the command of 22-year-old George rope. Only a modest portion of it was
Washington, a Virginia planter and fought in the Western Hemisphere.
surveyor. The British government In the Peace of Paris (1763),
attempted to deal with the conflict France relinquished all of Canada,
by calling a meeting of representa- the Great Lakes, and the territory
tives from New York, Pennsylvania, east of the Mississippi to the Brit-
Maryland, and the New England ish. The dream of a French empire in
colonies. From June 19 to July 10, North America was over.
1754, the Albany Congress, as it Having triumphed over France,
came to be known, met with the Iro- Britain was now compelled to face
quois in Albany, New York, in order a problem that it had hitherto ne-
to improve relations with them and glected, the governance of its em-
secure their loyalty to the British. pire. London thought it essential to
But the delegates also declared a organize its now vast possessions to
union of the American colonies “ab- facilitate defense, reconcile the diver-
solutely necessary for their preserva- gent interests of different areas and
tion” and adopted a proposal drafted peoples, and distribute more evenly
by Benjamin Franklin. The Albany the cost of imperial administration.
Plan of Union provided for a pres- In North America alone, British
ident appointed by the king and a territories had more than doubled.
grand council of delegates chosen by A population that had been predom-
the assemblies, with each colony to inantly Protestant and English now
be represented in proportion to its included French-speaking Catholics
financial contributions to the gen- from Quebec, and large numbers of
eral treasury. This body would have partly Christianized Native Ameri-
charge of defense, Native American cans. Defense and administration
relations, and trade and settlement of the new territories, as well as of
of the west. Most importantly, it the old, would require huge sums of
would have independent authority to money and increased personnel. The
levy taxes. But none of the colonies old colonial system was obviously
accepted the plan, since they were inadequate to these tasks. Measures
not prepared to surrender either the to establish a new one, however,
power of taxation or control over the would rouse the latent suspicions
development of the western lands to of colonials who increasingly would
a central authority. see Britain as no longer a protector
England’s superior strategic posi- of their rights, but rather a danger
tion and her competent leadership to them.  9
ultimately brought victory in the
The United States of America did not emerge as a nation until about 175
years after its establishment as a group of mostly British colonies. Yet from the
beginning it was a different society in the eyes of many Europeans who viewed
it from afar, whether with hope or apprehension. Most of its settlers — whether
the younger sons of aristocrats, religious dissenters, or impoverished inden-
tured servants — came there lured by a promise of opportunity or freedom not
available in the Old World. The first Americans were reborn free, establishing
themselves in a wilderness unencumbered by any social order other than that
of the primitive aboriginal peoples they displaced. Having left the baggage of
a feudal order behind them, they faced few obstacles to the development of a
society built on the principles of political and social liberalism that emerged
with difficulty in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. Based on the thinking of the
philosopher John Locke, this sort of liberalism emphasized the rights of the
individual and constraints on government power.
Most immigrants to America came from the British Isles, the most
liberal of the European polities along with The Netherlands. In religion, the
majority adhered to various forms of Calvinism with its emphasis on both
divine and secular contractual relationships. These greatly facilitated the
emergence of a social order built on individual rights and social mobility. The
development of a more complex and highly structured commercial society in
coastal cities by the mid-18th century did not stunt this trend; it was in these
cities that the American Revolution was made. The constant reconstruction
of society along an ever-receding Western frontier equally contributed to a
liberal-democratic spirit.
In Europe, ideals of individual rights advanced slowly and unevenly; the
concept of democracy was even more alien. The attempt to establish both in
continental Europe’s oldest nation led to the French Revolution. The effort to
destroy a neofeudal society while establishing the rights of man and democrat-
ic fraternity generated terror, dictatorship, and Napoleonic despotism. In the
end, it led to reaction and gave legitimacy to a decadent old order. In America,
the European past was overwhelmed by ideals that sprang naturally from the
process of building a new society on virgin land. The principles of liberalism
and democracy were strong from the beginning. A society that had thrown off
the burdens of European history would naturally give birth to a nation that
saw itself as exceptional.  
In 1692 a group of adolescent girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, became
subject to strange fits after hearing tales told by a West Indian slave. They
accused several women of being witches. The townspeople were appalled but
not surprised: Belief in witchcraft was widespread throughout 17th-century
America and Europe. Town officials convened a court to hear the charges of
witchcraft. Within a month, six women were convicted and hanged.
The hysteria grew, in large measure because the court permitted wit-
nesses to testify that they had seen the accused as spirits or in visions. Such
“spectral evidence” could neither be verified nor made subject to objective
examination. By the fall of 1692, 20 victims, including several men, had been
executed, and more than 100 others were in jail (where another five victims
died) — among them some of the town’s most prominent citizens. When the
charges threatened to spread beyond Salem, ministers throughout the colony
called for an end to the trials. The governor of the colony agreed. Those still
in jail were later acquitted or given reprieves.
Although an isolated incident, the Salem episode has long fascinated
Americans. Most historians agree that Salem Village in 1692 experienced a
kind of public hysteria, fueled by a genuine belief in the existence of witch-
craft. While some of the girls may have been acting, many responsible adults
became caught up in the frenzy as well.
Even more revealing is a closer analysis of the identities of the ac-
cused and the accusers. Salem Village, as much of colonial New England,
was undergoing an economic and political transition from a largely agrarian,
Puritan-dominated community to a more commercial, secular society. Many
of the accusers were representatives of a traditional way of life tied to farming
and the church, whereas a number of the accused witches were members of a
rising commercial class of small shopkeepers and tradesmen. Salem’s obscure
struggle for social and political power between older traditional groups and a
newer commercial class was one repeated in communities throughout Ameri-
can history. It took a bizarre and deadly detour when its citizens were swept
up by the conviction that the devil was loose in their homes.
The Salem witch trials also serve as a dramatic parable of the deadly
consequences of making sensational, but false, charges. Three hundred years
later, we still call false accusations against a large number of people a
“witch hunt.”  
Map depicting the English colonies and western territories, 1763-1775.
40. John Smith,
the stalwart
English explorer
and settler whose
leadership helped
save Jamestown from
collapse during its critical
early years.
The United States of America was transformed in the two centuries
from the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 to the
beginning of the 19th century. From a series of isolated colonial
settlements hugging the Atlantic Coast, the United States evolved
into a new nation, born in revolution, and guided by a Constitution
embodying the principles of democratic self-government.
41. Detail from a painting by American artist Benjamin West
(1738-1820), which depicts William Penn’s treaty with the
Native Americans living where he founded the colony of
Pennsylvania as a haven for Quakers and others seeking
religious freedom. Penn’s fair treatment of the Delaware
Indians led to long-term, friendly relations, unlike the conflicts
between European settlers and Indian tribes in other colonies.
42. A devout Puritan elder (right) confronts patrons drinking ale outside a
tavern. Tensions between the strictly religious Puritans, who first settled
the region, and the more secular population were characteristic of the
colonial era in New England.
Cotton Mather was one of
the leading Puritan figures
of the late 17th and early
18th centuries. His massive
Ecclesiastical History of
New England (1702) is an
exhaustive chronicle of the
settlement of New England
and the Puritan effort to
establish a kingdom of God
in the wilderness of the
New World.
43. Statue of Roger Williams, early champion of religious freedom
and the separation of church and state. Williams founded the colony of
Rhode Island after leaving Massachusetts because of his disapproval
of its religious ties to the Church of England.
44. Drawing of revolutionary firebrand Patrick Henry (standing
to the left) uttering perhaps the most famous words of the
American Revolution — “Give me liberty or give me death!”
— in a debate before the Virginia Assembly in 1775.
45. Benjamin Franklin: scientist, inventor, writer,
newspaper publisher, city father of Philadelphia,
diplomat, and signer of both the Declaration of
Independence and the Constitution. Franklin
embodied the virtues of shrewd practicality and
the optimistic belief in self-improvement often
associated with America itself.
James Madison, fourth president of
the United States, is often regarded
as the “Father of the Constitution.”
His essays in the debate over
ratification of the Constitution were
collected with those of Alexander
Hamilton and John Jay as The
Federalist Papers. Today, they are
regarded as a classic defense of
republican government, in which the
executive, legislative, and judicial
branches check and balance each
other to protect the rights and
freedoms of the people.
46. Artist’s depiction of the first shots of the American
Revolution, fired at Lexington, Massachusetts,
on April 19, 1775. Local militia confronted British
troops marching to seize colonial armaments
in the nearby town of Concord.
48. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration
of Independence and third president of
the United States. Jefferson also founded
the University of Virginia and built one
of America’s most celebrated houses,
Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
49. Above: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the British army to American
and French forces commanded by George Washington at Yorktown,
Virginia, on October 19, 1781. The battle of Yorktown led to the end of the
war and American independence, secured in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Left: U.S. postage stamp commemorating the bicentennial of the Lewis
and Clark expedition, one of Thomas Jefferson’s visionary projects.
Meriwether Lewis, Jefferson’s secretary, and his friend, William Clark,
accompanied by a party of more than 30 persons, set out on a journey into
the uncharted West that lasted four years. They traveled thousands of
miles, from Camp Wood, Illinois, to Oregon, through lands that eventually
became 11 American states.
50. Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury in the administration of
President George Washington. Hamilton advocated a strong federal government
and the encouragement of industry. He was opposed by Thomas Jefferson,
a believer in decentralized government, states’ rights, and the virtues of
the independent farmers and land owners.
51. John Marshall, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835, in a portrait
by Alonzo Chappel. In a series of landmark cases, Marshall established the principle
of judicial review — the right of the courts to determine if any act of Congress or the
executive branch is constitutional, and therefore valid and legal.
53. 3
The protest against British
taxes known as the “Boston
Tea Party,” 1773.
“The Revolution was effected
before the war commenced.
The Revolution was in
the hearts and minds of
the people.”
Former President John Adams, 1818
Throughout the 18th century, the spread the costs of empire more eq-
maturing British North American uitably, and speak to the interests of
colonies inevitably forged a distinct both French Canadians and North
identity. They grew vastly in eco- American Indians. The colonies, on
nomic strength and cultural attain- the other hand, long accustomed to
ment; virtually all had long years a large measure of independence, ex-
of self-government behind them. pected more, not less, freedom. And,
In the 1760s their combined pop- with the French menace eliminated,
ulation exceeded 1,500,000 — a they felt far less need for a strong
six-fold increase since 1700. None- British presence. A scarcely compre-
theless, England and America did hending Crown and Parliament on
not begin an overt parting of ways the other side of the Atlantic found
until 1763, more than a century itself contending with colonists
and a half after the founding of the trained in self-government and im-
first permanent settlement at James- patient with interference.
town, Virginia. The organization of Canada
and of the Ohio Valley necessitated
A NEW COLONIAL SYSTEM policies that would not alienate the
IIndian French and Indian inhabitants. Here
n the aftermath of the French and London was in fundamental conflict
War, London saw a need for with the interests of the colonies.
a new imperial design that would Fast increasing in population, and
involve more centralized control, needing more land for settlement,