History of the United States
first English attempt to establish a colony in what is now the United
States took place in 1585. Sir Walter Raleigh sent settlers to Roanoke
Island, off the coast of North Carolina. But this attempt at
The colonial heritage (1607-1753)
1607, a small band of about 100 English colonists reached the coast near
Chesapeake Bay. They founded Jamestown, the first permanent English
settlement in North America. During the next 150 years, a steady stream
of colonists went to America and settled near the coast.
earliest colonists faced great hardship and danger. They suffered from
lack of food and from disease, and they were sometimes attacked by
Indians. But the colonists soon established productive farms and
plantations; built towns, roads, churches, and schools; and began many
American colonists also developed political practices and social beliefs
that have had a major influence on the history of the United
States. They made strides toward democratic government, and they placed
a high value on individual freedom and on hard work.
The thirteen colonies
the early 1600's, the English king began granting charters for the
purpose of establishing colonies in America. By the mid-1700's, most of
the settlements had been formed into 13 British colonies. Each colony
had a governor and legislature, but each was under the ultimate control
of the British government.
13 colonies stretched from what is now Maine in the north to Georgia in
the south. They included the New England Colonies of Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire in the far north; the
Middle Colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware;
Virginia and Maryland along Chesapeake Bay; and the Southern Colonies of
North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in the far south.
Virginia and Maryland were among the earliest English colonies. Virginia
began with the Jamestown settlement of 1607. The London Company, an
organization of English merchants, sent the settlers to America, hoping
that they would find gold and other treasures. But the settlers found no
treasures at Jamestown, and they faced great hardships. In about 1612,
some Jamestown colonists began growing tobacco, which the London Company
sold in Europe.
Maryland was founded by the Calverts, a family of wealthy English Roman
Catholics. Catholics were persecuted in England, and the Calverts wanted
to provide a place where Catholics could enjoy freedom. Colonists
established the first Maryland settlement in 1634.
Puritans, originally financed by English merchants, founded the
New England Colonies. Puritans were English Protestants who faced
persecution because of their opposition to the Church of England, the
official church in England.
1620, a group of Separatists (Puritans who had separated from the Church
of England) and other colonists settled in New England. Called Pilgrims,
they founded the Plymouth Colony along Cape Cod Bay. It was the second
permanent British settlement in North America. Between 1628 and 1630,
Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony at what are now Salem and
Boston. Plymouth became part of Massachusetts Colony in 1691.
Connecticut was first settled in 1633 and became a colony in
1636. Colonists settled in Rhode Island in 1636. Rhode Island became a
colony in 1647. New Hampshire, first settled in 1623, became a colony in
Middle Colonies. Soon after English settlement started, the Dutch
founded New Netherland, a trading post and colony that included what are
now New York and northern New Jersey. They began a permanent settlement
in New York in 1624, and in New Jersey in 1660. In 1638, the Swedes
established a trading post and settlement called New Sweden in
present-day Delaware and southern New Jersey. The Dutch claimed New
Sweden in 1655. But in 1664, the English--far better established in
America than the Dutch--took over New Netherland and New Sweden.
Swedes established a small settlement in what is now Pennsylvania in
1643. In 1681, William Penn of England received a charter that made him
proprietor of Pennsylvania. Penn was a Quaker--a religious group that
was persecuted in many countries. At Penn's urging, Quakers and other
settlers who sought freedom flocked to Pennsylvania. Penn carefully
planned settlements in his colony, and Pennsylvania thrived.
In 1663, King Charles II gave the land between
Virginia and Florida, called Carolina, to eight proprietors. Virginians
had set up a settlement in the northern part of Carolina about 10 years
earlier. After 1663, Carolina attracted English settlers, French
Protestants called Huguenots, and Americans from other colonies. In
1712, the northern two-thirds of the region was divided into two
colonies, North Carolina and South Carolina. The southern one-third of
Carolina remained largely unsettled until 1733. Then, James Oglethorpe
of England founded Georgia there.
Life in colonial America
Reports of the economic success and religious and political freedom of
the early colonists attracted a steady flow of new settlers. Through
immigration and natural growth, the colonial population rose to 11/3
million by 1753. Most of the settlers came from Britain, but the
colonies also drew newcomers from almost every other country of Western
Europe. In addition, the slave trade brought in so many Africans that,
by the 1750's, blacks made up about 20 per cent of the population.
Europeans knew that a person who went to America faced great
hardship and danger. But the New World also offered people the
opportunity for a new start in life. Some Europeans went to America
seeking religious freedom. In
addition to the Puritans, Roman Catholics, Quakers, and Huguenots, they
included Jews and members of German Protestant sects.
people who went to America had no choice in the matter. They included
prisoners from overcrowded English jails, Irishmen captured by the
English in battle, and black Africans captured in intertribal warfare
and sold to European traders. The prisoners and captives were sold into
service in America.
The earliest colonists had to struggle to produce enough food
to stay alive. But before long, colonial America had a thriving
economy. Planters grew large crops of rice, indigo, and tobacco. Small
farmers raised livestock and grew such crops as maize and wheat. When
not busy in their fields, many farmers fished or hunted. Some cut timber
from forests to provide the materials for such products as barrels and
ships. The colonists used part of what they produced, but they exported
large quantities of goods.
traded chiefly with Britain, whose manufacturing firms depended on raw
materials from its colonies. In
return, they received manufactured goods. The colonies also traded with
the French, Dutch, and Spanish.
colonists and government.
The colonists rejected the old idea that
government was an institution inherited from the past. Instead, they
regarded it as something they themselves had created for their own
use. The colonists lived under British rule. But to them, laws made in
Britain meant little until they were enforced on the spot. They often
ignored British laws. This independent attitude would soon lead to a
clash between the Americans and the British.