Author Archives: bgwright

F17 – 12 Manifest Destiny

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, 1862. Mural, United States Capitol

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, 1862. Mural, United States Capitol.

*The American Yawp is an evolving, collaborative text. Please click here to improve this chapter.*

I. Introduction

John Louis O’Sullivan, a popular editor and columnist, articulated the long-standing American belief in the God-given mission of the United States to lead the world in the peaceful transition to democracy. In a little-read essay printed in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, O’Sullivan outlined the importance of annexing Texas to the United States:

Why, were other reasoning wanting, in favor of now elevating this question of the reception of Texas into the Union, out of the lower region of our past party dissensions, up to its proper level of a high and broad nationality, it surely is to be found, found abundantly, in the manner in which other nations have undertaken to intrude themselves into it, between us and the proper parties to the case, in a spirit of hostile interference against us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. John Louis O’Sullivan ((John O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17, no.1 (July-August 1845), 5-10.)) 

O’Sullivan and many others viewed expansion as necessary to achieve America’s destiny and to protect American interests. The quasi-religious call to spread democracy coupled with the reality of thousands of settlers pressing westward. Manifest destiny was grounded in the belief that a democratic, agrarian republic would save the world.

John O’Sullivan, shown here in a 1874 Harper’s Weekly sketch, coined the phrase “manifest destiny” in an 1845 newspaper article. Interestingly, he was not advocating using force to expand westward, arguing vehemently in those and later years against war in America and abroad. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_O%27Sullivan.jpg.

John O’Sullivan, shown here in a 1874 Harper’s Weekly sketch, coined the phrase “manifest destiny” in an 1845 newspaper article. Wikimedia.

Although called into name in 1845, manifest destiny was a widely held but vaguely defined belief that dated back to the founding of the nation. First, many Americans believed that the strength of American values and institutions justified moral claims to hemispheric leadership. Second, the lands on the North American continent west of the Mississippi River (and later into the Caribbean) were destined for American-led political and agricultural improvement. Third, God and the Constitution ordained an irrepressible destiny to accomplish redemption and democratization throughout the world. All three of these claims pushed many Americans, whether they uttered the words ‘manifest destiny’ or not, to actively seek the expansion the democracy. These beliefs and the resulting actions were often disastrous to anyone in the way of American expansion. The new religion of American democracy spread on the feet and in the wagons of those who moved west, imbued with the hope that their success would be the nation’s success.

The Young America movement, strongest among members of the Democratic Party but spanning the political spectrum, downplayed divisions over slavery and ethnicity by embracing national unity and emphasizing American exceptionalism, territorial expansion, democratic participation, and economic interdependence.1 Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson captured the political outlook of this new generation in a speech he delivered in 1844 entitled “The Young American”:

In every age of the world, there has been a leading nation, one of a more generous sentiment, whose eminent citizens were willing to stand for the interests of general justice and humanity, at the risk of being called, by the men of the moment, chimerical and fantastic. Which should be that nation but these States? Which should lead that movement, if not New England? Who should lead the leaders, but the Young American? Ralph Waldo Emerson2

However, many Americans, including Emerson, disapproved of aggressive expansion. For opponents of manifest destiny, the lofty rhetoric of the Young Americans was nothing other than a kind of imperialism that the American Revolution was supposed to have repudiated.3 Many members of the Whig Party (and later the Republican Party) argued that the United States’ mission was to lead by example, not by conquest. Abraham Lincoln summed up this criticism with a fair amount of sarcasm during a speech in 1859:

He (the Young American) owns a large part of the world, by right of possessing it; and all the rest by right of wanting it, and intending to have it…Young America had “a pleasing hope — a fond desire — a longing after” territory. He has a great passion — a perfect rage — for the “new”; particularly new men for office, and the new earth mentioned in the revelations, in which, being no more sea, there must be about three times as much land as in the present. He is a great friend of humanity; and his desire for land is not selfish, but merely an impulse to extend the area of freedom. He is very anxious to fight for the liberation of enslaved nations and colonies, provided, always, they have land…As to those who have no land, and would be glad of help from any quarter, he considers they can afford to wait a few hundred years longer. In knowledge he is particularly rich. He knows all that can possibly be known; inclines to believe in spiritual trappings, and is the unquestioned inventor of “Manifest Destiny.” Abraham Lincoln4

But Lincoln and other anti-expansionists would struggle to win popular opinion. The nation, fueled by the principles of manifest destiny, would continue westward. Along the way, Americans battled both native peoples and foreign nations, claiming territory to the very edges of the continent. But westward expansion did not come without a cost. It exacerbated the slavery question, pushed Americans toward civil war, and, ultimately, threatened the very mission of American democracy it was designed to aid.

Although the original painting was only seen by a small number of Americans, the engraving was widely distributed, reinforcing and perhaps spreading the nationalistic ideals of the “Manifest Destiny” ideology. Columbia, the central female figure representing America, leads the Americans into the West and thus into the future by carrying the values of republicanism (as seen through her Roman garb) and progress (shown through the inclusion of technological innovations like the telegraph). In the process, Columbia clears the West of any possible hindrances to this progress, including the native peoples and animals pushed into the darkness. Engraving after John Gast, Manifest Destiny, 1872. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_progress.JPG.

Artistic propaganda like this promoted the national project of manifest destiny. Columbia, the female figure of America, leads Americans into the West and into the future by carrying the values of republicanism (as seen through her Roman garb) and progress (shown through the inclusion of technological innovations like the telegraph) and clearing native peoples and animals, seen being pushed into the darkness. John Gast, American Progress, 1872. Wikimedia.

 

II. Antebellum Western Migration and Indian Removal

After the War of 1812, Americans settled the Great Lakes region rapidly thanks in part to aggressive land sales by the federal government.5 Missouri’s admission as a slave state presented the first major crisis over westward migration and American expansion in the antebellum period. Farther north, lead and iron ore mining spurred development in Wisconsin.6 By the 1830s and 1840s, increasing numbers of German and Scandinavian immigrants joined easterners in settling the Upper Mississippi watershed.7 Little settlement occurred west of Missouri as migrants viewed the Great Plains as a barrier to farming. Further west, the Rocky Mountains loomed as undesirable to all but fur traders, and all American Indians west of the Mississippi appeared too powerful to allow for white expansion.

“Do not lounge in the cities!” commanded publisher Horace Greeley in 1841, “There is room and health in the country, away from the crowds of idlers and imbeciles. Go west, before you are fitted for no life but that of the factory.”8 The New York Tribune often argued that American exceptionalism required the United States to benevolently conquer the continent as the prime means of spreading American capitalism and American democracy. However, the vast west was not empty. American Indians controlled much of the land east of the Mississippi River and almost all the West. Expansion hinged on a federal policy of Indian removal.

The harassment and dispossession of American Indians – whether driven by official U.S. government policy or the actions of individual Americans and their communities – depended on the belief in manifest destiny. Of course, a fair bit of racism was part of the equation as well. The political and legal processes of expansion always hinged on the belief that white Americans could best use new lands and opportunities. This belief rested upon the belief that only Americans embodied the democratic ideals of yeoman agriculturalism extolled by Thomas Jefferson and expanded under Jacksonian democracy.

Florida was an early test case for the Americanization of new lands. The territory held strategic value for the young nation’s growing economic and military interests in the Caribbean. The most important factors that led to the annexation of Florida included anxieties over runaway slaves, Spanish neglect of the region, and the desired defeat of Native American tribes who controlled large portions of lucrative farm territory.

During the early 19th century, Spain wanted to increase productivity in Florida and encouraged migration of mostly Southern slave owners. By the second decade of the 1800s, Anglo settlers occupied plantations along the St. Johns River, from the border with Georgia to Lake George 100 miles upstream. Spain began to lose control as the area quickly became a haven for slave smugglers bringing illicit human cargo into the U.S. for lucrative sale to Georgia planters. Plantation owners grew apprehensive about the growing numbers of slaves running to the swamps and Indian-controlled areas of Florida. American slave owners pressured the U.S. government to confront the Spanish authorities. Southern slave owners refused to quietly accept the continued presence of armed black men in Florida. During the War of 1812, a ragtag assortment of Georgia slave owners joined by a plethora of armed opportunists raided Spanish and British-owned plantations along the St. Johns River. These private citizens received U.S. government help on July 27, 1816, when U.S. army regulars attacked the Negro Fort (established as an armed outpost during the war by the British and located about 60 miles south of the Georgia border). The raid killed 270 of the fort’s inhabitants as a result of a direct hit on the fort’s gun powder stores. This conflict set the stage for General Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Florida in 1817 and the beginning of the First Seminole War.9 

Americans also held that Creek and Seminole Indians, occupying the area from the Apalachicola River to the wet prairies and hammock islands of central Florida, were dangers in their own right. These tribes, known to the Americans collectively as “Seminoles,” migrated into the region over the course of the 18th century and established settlements, tilled fields, and tended herds of cattle in the rich floodplains and grasslands that dominated the northern third of the Florida peninsula. Envious eyes looked upon these lands. After bitter conflict that often pitted Americans against a collection of Native Americans and former slaves, Spain eventually agreed to transfer the territory to the U.S. The resulting Adams-Onís Treaty exchanged Florida for $5 million and other territorial concessions elsewhere. (Francis Newton Thorpe ed., The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906  (Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909).))

After the purchase, planters from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia entered Florida. However, the influx of settlers into the Florida territory was temporarily halted in the mid-1830s by the outbreak of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Free black men and women and escaped slaves also occupied the Seminole district; a situation that deeply troubled slave owners. Indeed, General Thomas Sidney Jesup, U.S. commander during the early stages of the Second Seminole War, labeled that conflict “a negro, not an Indian War,” fearful as he was that if the revolt, “was not speedily put down, the South will feel the effect of it on their slave population before the end of the next season.”10 Florida became a state in 1845 and settlement expanded into the former Indian lands.

American action in Florida seized Indians’ eastern lands, reduced lands available for runaway slaves, and killed entirely or removed Indian peoples farther west. This became the template for future action. Presidents, since at least Thomas Jefferson, had long discussed removal, but President Andrew Jackson took the most dramatic action. Jackson believed, “It [speedy removal] will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters.”11 Desires to remove American Indians from valuable farmland motivated state and federal governments to cease trying to assimilate Indians and instead plan for forced removal.

Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, thereby granting the president authority to begin treaty negotiations that would give American Indians land in the West in exchange for their lands east of the Mississippi. Many advocates of removal, including President Jackson, paternalistically claimed that it would protect Indian communities from outside influences that jeopardized their chances of becoming “civilized” farmers. Jackson emphasized this paternalism—the belief that the government was acting in the best interest of Native peoples— in his 1830 State of the Union Address. “It [removal] will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites…and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”12

The experience of the Cherokee was particularly brutal. Despite many tribal members adopting some Euro-American ways, including intensified agriculture, slave ownership, and Christianity; state and federal governments pressured the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee nations to sign treaties and surrender land. Many of these tribal nations used the law in hopes of protecting their lands. Most notable among these efforts was the Cherokee Nation’s attempt to sue the state of Georgia.

Beginning in 1826, Georgian officials asked the federal government to negotiate with the Cherokee to secure lucrative lands. The Adams’ administration resisted the state’s request, but harassment from local settlers against the Cherokee forced the Adams and then Jackson administrations to begin serious negotiations with the Cherokees. Georgia grew impatient with the process of negotiation and abolished existing state agreements with the Cherokee that had guaranteed rights of movement and jurisdiction of tribal law. Andrew Jackson penned a letter soon after taking office that encouraged the Cherokee, among others, to voluntarily relocate to the West. The discovery of gold in Georgia in the fall of 1829 further antagonized the situation.

The Cherokee defended themselves against Georgia’s laws by citing treaties signed with the United States that guaranteed the Cherokee nation both their land and independence. The Cherokee appealed to the Supreme Court against Georgia to prevent dispossession. The Court, while sympathizing with the Cherokees’ plight, ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia – 1831). In an associated case, Worcester v. Georgia 1832, The Supreme Court ruled that Georgia laws did not apply within Cherokee territory.13 Regardless of these rulings, the state government ignored the Supreme Court and did little to prevent conflict between settlers and the Cherokee.

Jackson wanted a solution that might preserve peace and his reputation. He sent Secretary of War Lewis Cass to offer title to western lands and the promise of tribal governance in exchange for relinquishing of the Cherokee’s eastern lands. These negotiations opened a rift within the Cherokee nation. Cherokee leader John Ridge believed removal was inevitable and pushed for a treaty that would give the best terms. Others, called nationalists and led by John Ross, refused to consider removal in negotiations. The Jackson administration refused any deal that fell short of large-scale removal of the Cherokee from Georgia, thereby fueling a devastating and violent intra-tribal battle between the two factions. Eventually tensions grew to the point that several treaty advocates were assassinated by members of the national faction.14 

In 1835, a portion of the Cherokee Nation led by John Ridge, hoping to prevent further tribal bloodshed signed the Treaty of New Echota. This treaty ceded lands in Georgia for five million dollars and, the signatories hoped, limiting future conflicts between the Cherokee and white settlers. However, most of the tribe refused to adhere to the terms, viewing the treaty as illegitimately negotiated. In response, John Ross pointed out the U.S. government’s hypocrisy. “You asked us to throw off the hunter and warrior state: We did so—you asked us to form a republican government: We did so. Adopting your own as our model. You asked us to cultivate the earth, and learn the mechanic arts. We did so. You asked us to learn to read. We did so. You asked us to cast away our idols and worship your god. We did so. Now you demand we cede to you our lands. That we will not do.”15

President Martin van Buren, in 1838, decided to press the issue beyond negotiation and court rulings and used the New Echota Treaty provisions to order the army to forcibly remove those Cherokee not obeying the Treaty’s cession of territory. Sixteen thousand Cherokee began the journey, but harsh weather, poor planning, and difficult travel resulted in an estimated 10,138 deaths on what became known as the Trail of Tears.16 Not every instance was as treacherous as the Cherokee example and some tribes resisted removal. But over 60,000 Indians were forced west by the opening of the Civil War.17 

The allure of manifest destiny encouraged expansion regardless of terrain or locale, and Indian removal also took place, to a lesser degree, in northern lands. In the Old Northwest, Odawa and Ojibwe communities in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, resisted removal as many lived on land north of desirable farming land. Moreover, some Ojibwe and Odawa individuals purchased land independently. They formed successful alliances with missionaries to help advocate against removal, as well as some traders and merchants who depended on trade with Native peoples. Yet, Indian removal occurred in the North as well—the “Black Hawk War” in 1832, for instance, led to the removal of many Sauk to Kansas.18 

Despite the disaster of removal, tribal nations slowly rebuilt their cultures and in some cases even achieved prosperity in Indian Territory. Tribal nations blended traditional cultural practices, including common land systems, with western practices including constitutional governments, common school systems, and creating an elite slaveholding class.

Some Indian groups remained too powerful to remove. Beginning in the late eighteenth-century, the Comanche rose to power in the Southern Plains region of what is now the southwestern United States. By quickly adapting to the horse culture first introduced by the Spanish, the Comanche transitioned from a foraging economy into a mixed hunting and pastoral society. After 1821, the new Mexican nation-state claimed the region as part of the Northern Mexican frontier, but they had little control. Instead, the Comanche remained in power and controlled the economy of the Southern Plains. A flexible political structure allowed the Comanche to dominate other Indian groups as well as Mexican and American settlers.

In the 1830s, the Comanche launched raids into northern Mexico, ending what had been an unprofitable but peaceful diplomatic relationship with Mexico. At the same time, they forged new trading relationships with Anglo-American traders in Texas. Throughout this period, the Comanche and several other independent Native groups, particularly the Kiowa, Apache, and Navajo engaged in thousands of violent encounters with Northern Mexicans. Collectively, these encounters comprised an ongoing war during the 1830s and 1840s as tribal nations vied for power and wealth. By the 1840s, Comanche power peaked with an empire that controlled a vast territory in the trans-Mississippi west known as Comancheria. By trading in Texas and raiding in Northern Mexico, the Comanche controlled the flow of commodities, including captives, livestock, and trade goods. They practiced a fluid system of captivity and captive trading, rather than a rigid chattel system. The Comanche used captives for economic exploitation but also adopted captives into kinship networks. This allowed for the assimilation of diverse peoples in the region into the empire. The ongoing conflict in the region had sweeping consequences on both Mexican and American politics. The U.S.-Mexican War, beginning in 1846, can be seen as a culmination of this violence.19 

“Map of the Plains Indians,” undated. Smithsonian Institute, http://americanhistory.si.edu/buffalo/files/pdf/TrackingTheBuffalo_Map_printable.pdf.

“Map of the Plains Indians,” undated. Smithsonian Institute.

In the Great Basin region, Mexican Independence also escalated patterns of violence. This region, on the periphery of the Spanish empire, was nonetheless integrated in the vast commercial trading network of the West. Mexican officials and Anglo-American traders entered the region with their own imperial designs. New forms of violence spread into the homelands of the Paiute and Western Shoshone. Traders, settlers, and Mormon religious refugees, aided by U.S. officials and soldiers, committed daily acts of violence and laid the groundwork for violent conquest. This expansion of the American state into the Great Basin meant groups such as the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapahoe had to compete over land, resources, captives, and trade relations with Anglo-Americans. Eventually, white incursion and ongoing Indian Wars resulted in traumatic dispossession of land and the struggle for subsistence.

The federal government attempted more than relocation of Americans Indians. Policies to “civilize” Indians coexisted along with forced removal and served an important “Americanizing” vision of expansion that brought an ever-increasing population under the American flag and sought to balance aggression with the uplift of paternal care. Thomas L. McKenney, superintendent of Indian trade from 1816 to 1822 and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1824 to 1830, served as the main architect of the “civilization policy.” He asserted that American Indians were morally and intellectually equal to whites. He sought to establish of a national Indian school system.

Congress rejected McKenney’s plan but instead passed the Civilization Fund Act in 1819. This act offered a $10,000 annual annuity to be allocated towards societies that funded missionaries to establish schools among Indian tribes. However, providing schooling for American Indians under the auspices of the Civilization program also allowed the federal government to justify taking more land. Treaties, such as the 1820 Treaty of Doak’s Stand made with the Choctaw nation, often included land cessions as requirements for education provisions. Removal and Americanization reinforced Americans sense of cultural dominance.20 

After removal in the 1830s, the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw began to collaborate with missionaries to build school systems of their own. Leaders hoped education would help ensuing generations to protect political sovereignty. In 1841, the Cherokee Nation opened a public school system that within two years included eighteen schools. By 1852, the system expanded to twenty-one schools with a national enrollment of 1,100 pupils.21 Many of the students educated in these tribally controlled schools later served their nations as teachers, lawyers, physicians, bureaucrats, and politicians.

 

III. Life and Culture in the West

The dream of creating a democratic utopia in the West ultimately rested on those who picked up their possessions and their families and moved west. Western settlers usually migrated as families and settled along navigable and potable rivers. Settlements often coalesced around local traditions, especially religion, carried from eastern settlements. These shared understandings encouraged a strong sense of cooperation among western settlers that forged communities on the frontier.

Before the Mexican War, the West for most Americans still referred to the fertile area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River with a slight amount of overspill beyond its banks. With soil exhaustion and land competition increasing in the East, most early western migrants sought a greater measure of stability and self-sufficiency by engaging in small scale farming. Boosters of these new agricultural areas along with the U.S. government encouraged perceptions of the West as a land of hard-built opportunity that promised personal and national bounty.

Women migrants bore the unique double burden of travel while also being expected to conform to restrictive gender norms. The key virtues of femininity, according to the “cult of true womanhood,” included piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. The concept of “separate spheres” expected women to remain in the home. These values accompanied men and women as they traveled west to begin their new lives.

While many of these societal standards endured, there often existed an openness of frontier society that resulted in modestly more opportunities for women. Husbands needed partners in setting up a homestead and working in the field to provide food for the family. Suitable wives were often in short supply, enabling some to informally negotiate more power in their households.22 

Americans debated the role of government in westward expansion. This debate centered on the proper role of the U.S. government in paying for the internal improvements that soon became necessary to encourage and support economic development. Some saw frontier development as a self-driven undertaking that necessitated private risk and investment devoid of government interference. Others saw the federal government’s role as providing the infrastructural development needed to give migrants the push toward engagement with the larger national economy. In the end, federal aid proved essential for the conquest and settlement of the region.

American artist George Catlin traveled west to paint Native Americans. In 1832 he painted Eeh-nís-kim, Crystal Stone, wife of a Blackfoot leader. Via Smithsonian American Art Museum.

American artist George Catlin traveled west to paint Native Americans. In 1832 he painted Eeh-nís-kim, Crystal Stone, wife of a Blackfoot leader. Via Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Economic busts constantly threatened western farmers and communities. The economy worsened after the panic of 1819. Falling prices and depleted soil meant farmers were unable to make their loan payments. The dream of subsistence and stability abruptly ended as many migrants lost their land and felt the hand of the distant market economy forcing them even farther west to escape debt. As a result, the federal government consistently sought to increase access to land in the West, including efforts to lower the amount of land required for purchase. Smaller lots made it easier for more farmers to clear land and begin farming faster.23 

More than anything else, new roads and canals provided conduits for migration and settlement. Improvements in travel and exchange fueled economic growth in the 1820s and 1830s. Canal improvements expanded in the East, while road building prevailed in the West. Congress continued to allocate funds for internal improvements. Federal money pushed the National Road, begun in 1811, farther west every year. Laborers needed to construct these improvements increased employment opportunities and encouraged non-farmers to move to the West. Wealth promised by engagement with the new economy was hard to reject. However, roads were expensive to build and maintain and some Americans strongly opposed spending money on these improvements.

The use of steamboats grew quickly throughout the 1810s and into the 1820s. As water trade and travel grew in popularity, local and state, and federal funds helped connect rivers and streams. Hundreds of miles of new canals cut through the eastern landscape. The most notable of these early projects was the Erie Canal. That project, completed in 1825, linked the Great Lakes to New York City. The profitability of the canal helped New York outpace its east coast rivals to become the center for commercial import and export in the United States.24 

Early railroads like the Baltimore and Ohio line hoped to link mid-Atlantic cities with lucrative western trade routes. Railroad boosters encouraged the rapid growth of towns and cities along their routes. Not only did rail lines promise to move commerce faster, but the rails also encouraged the spreading of towns farther away from traditional waterway locations. Technological limitations, constant repairs, conflicts with American Indians, and political disagreements, all hampered railroading and kept canals and steamboats as integral parts of the transportation system. Nonetheless, this early establishment of railroads enabled a rapid expansion after the Civil War.

Economic chains of interdependence stretched over hundreds of miles of land and through thousands of contracts and remittances. America’s manifest destiny became wedded not only to territorial expansion, but also to economic development.25 

 

IV.  Texas, Mexico and America

The debate over slavery became one of the prime forces behind the Texas Revolution and the resulting republic’s annexation to the United States. After gaining its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico hoped to attract new settlers to its northern areas to create a buffer between it and the powerful Comanche. New immigrants, mostly from the southern United States, poured into Mexican Texas. Over the next twenty-five years, concerns over growing Anglo influence and possible American designs on the area produced great friction between Mexicans and the former Americans in the area. In 1829, Mexico, hoping to quell both anger and immigration, outlawed slavery and required all new immigrants to convert to Catholicism. American immigrants, eager to expand their agricultural fortunes, largely ignored these requirements. In response, Mexican authorities closed their territory to any new immigration in 1830 – a prohibition ignored by Americans who often squatted on public lands.26 

In 1834, an internal conflict between federalists and centralists in the Mexican government led to the political ascendency of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Anna, governing as a dictator, repudiated the federalist Constitution of 1824, pursued a policy of authoritarian central control, and crushed several revolts throughout Mexico. Anglo settlers in Mexican Texas, or Texians as they called themselves, opposed Santa Anna’s centralizing policies and met in November. They issued a statement of purpose that emphasized their commitment to the Constitution of 1824 and declared Texas to be a separate state within Mexico. After the Mexican government angrily rejected the offer, Texian leaders soon abandoned their fight for the Constitution of 1824 and declared independence on March 2, 1836.27 The Texas Revolution of 1835-1836 was a successful secessionist movement in the northern district of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas that resulted in an independent Republic of Texas.

At the Alamo and Goliad, Santa Anna crushed smaller rebel forces and massacred hundreds of Texian prisoners. The Mexican army pursued the retreating Texian army deep into East Texas, spurring a mass panic and evacuation by American civilians known as the “Runaway Scrape.” The confident Santa Anna consistently failed to make adequate defensive preparations; an oversight that eventually led to a surprise attack from the outnumbered Texian army led by Sam Houston on April 21, 1836. The battle of San Jacinto lasted only eighteen minutes and resulted in a decisive victory for the Texians, who retaliated for previous Mexican atrocities by killing fleeing and surrendering Mexican soldiers for hours after the initial assault. Santa Anna was captured in the aftermath and compelled to sign the Treaty of Velasco on May 14, 1836, by which he agreed to withdraw his army from Texas and acknowledged Texas independence. Although a new Mexican government never recognized the Republic of Texas, the United States and several other nations gave the new country diplomatic recognition.28 

Texas annexation had remained a political landmine since the Republic declared independence from Mexico in 1836. American politicians feared that adding Texas to the Union would provoke a war with Mexico and re-ignite sectional tensions by throwing off the balance between free and slave states. However, after his expulsion from the Whig party, President John Tyler saw Texas statehood as the key to saving his political career. In 1842, he began work on opening annexation to national debate. Harnessing public outcry over the issue, Democrat James K. Polk rose from virtual obscurity to win the presidential election of 1844. Polk and his party campaigned on promises of westward expansion, with eyes toward Texas, Oregon, and California.  In the final days of his presidency, Tyler at last extended an official offer to Texas on March 3, 1845. The republic accepted on July 4, becoming the twenty-eighth state.

Mexico denounced annexation as “an act of aggression, the most unjust which can be found recorded in the annals of modern history.”29 Beyond the anger produced by annexation, the two nations both laid claim over a narrow strip of land between two rivers. Mexico drew the southwestern border of Texas at the Nueces River, but Texans claimed that the border lay roughly 150 miles further west at the Rio Grande. Neither claim was realistic since the sparsely populated area, known as the Nueces strip, was in fact controlled by Native Americans.

In November of 1845, President Polk secretly dispatched John Slidell to Mexico City to purchase the Nueces strip along with large sections of New Mexico and California. The mission was an empty gesture, designed largely to pacify those in Washington who insisted on diplomacy before war. Predictably, officials in Mexico City refused to receive Slidell. In preparation for the assumed failure of the negotiations, Polk preemptively sent a 4,000 man army under General Zachary Taylor to Corpus Christi, Texas, just northeast of the Nueces River. Upon word of Slidell’s rebuff in January 1846, Polk ordered Taylor to cross into the disputed territory. The President hoped that this show of force would push the lands of California onto the bargaining table as well. Unfortunately, he badly misread the situation. After losing Texas, the Mexican public strongly opposed surrendering any more ground to the United States. Popular opinion left the shaky government in Mexico City without room to negotiate. On April 24, Mexican cavalrymen attacked a detachment of Taylor’s troops in the disputed territory just north of the Rio Grande, killing eleven U.S. soldiers.

It took two weeks for the news to reach Washington. Polk sent a message to Congress on May 11 that summed up the assumptions and intentions of the United States.

Instead of this, however, we have been exerting our best efforts to propitiate her good will. Upon the pretext that Texas, a nation as independent as herself, thought proper to unite its destinies with our own, she has affected to believe that we have severed her rightful territory, and in official proclamations and manifestoes has repeatedly threatened to make war upon us for the purpose of reconquering Texas. In the meantime we have tried every effort at reconciliation. The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war. James Knox Polk ((James K. Polk, “President Polk’s Mexican War Message,” quoted in Statemen’s Manual: The Addresses and Messages of the Presidents of the United States, Inaugural, Annual, and Special, from 1789 to 1846: With a Memoir of Each of the Presidents and a History of Their Administrations; Also the Constitution of the United States, and a Selection of Important Documents and Statistical Information, Volume 2, (New York: Edward Walker, 1847), 1489.))

The cagey Polk knew that since hostilities already existed, political dissent would be dangerous – a vote against war became a vote against supporting American soldiers under fire. Congress passed a declaration of war on May 13. Only a few members of both parties, notably John Quincy Adams and John C. Calhoun, opposed the measure. Upon declaring war in 1846, Congress issued a call for 50,000 volunteer soldiers. Spurred by promises of adventure and conquest abroad, thousands of eager men flocked to assembly points across the country. However, opposition to “Mr. Polk’s War” soon grew.

In the early fall of 1846, the U.S. Army invaded Mexico on multiple fronts and within a year’s time General Winfield Scott’s men took control of Mexico City. However, the city’s fall did not bring an end to the war. Scott’s men occupied Mexico’s capital for over four months while the two countries negotiated. In the United States, the war had been controversial from the beginning. Embedded journalists sent back detailed reports from the front lines, and a divided press viciously debated the news. Volunteers found that war was not as they expected. Disease killed seven times as many American soldiers as combat.30 Harsh discipline, conflict within the ranks, and violent clashes with civilians led soldiers to desert in huge numbers. Peace finally came on February 2, 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Entrance into Mexico City

“General Scott’s entrance into Mexico.” Lithograph. 1851. Originally published in George Wilkins Kendall & Carl Nebel, The War between the United States and Mexico Illustrated, Embracing Pictorial Drawings of all the Principal Conflicts (New York: D. Appleton), 1851. Wikimedia Commons

The new American Southwest attracted a diverse group of entrepreneurs and settlers to the commercial towns of New Mexico, the fertile lands of eastern Texas, and the famed gold deposits of California, and the Rocky Mountains. This postwar migration built earlier paths dating back to the 1820s, when the lucrative Santa Fe trade enticed merchants to New Mexico and generous land grants brought numerous settlers to Texas. The Gadsden Purchase of 1854 further added to American gains north of Mexico.

The U.S.-Mexican War had an enormous impact on both countries. The American victory helped set the United States on the path to becoming a world power. It elevated Zachary Taylor to the presidency and served as a training ground for many of the Civil War’s future commanders. Most significantly, however, Mexico lost roughly half of its territory. Yet, the United States’ victory was not without danger. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an outspoken critic, predicted ominously at the beginning of the conflict, “We will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man who swallows the arsenic which will bring him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.”31 Indeed, the conflict over whether or not to extend slavery into the newly won territory pushed the nation ever closer to disunion and civil war.

 

V. Manifest Destiny and the Gold Rush

California, belonging to Mexico prior to the war, was at least three arduous months travel from the nearest American settlements. There was some sparse settlement in the Sacramento valley and missionaries made the trip occasionally. The fertile farmland of Oregon, like the black dirt lands of the Mississippi valley, attracted more settlers than California. Dramatized stories of Indian attacks filled migrants with a sense of foreboding, although the majority of settlers encountered no violence and often no Indians at all. The slow progress, disease, human and oxen starvation, poor trails, terrible geographic preparations, lack of guidebooks, threatening wildlife, vagaries of weather, and general confusion were all more formidable and frequent than Indian attacks. Despite the harshness of the journey, by 1848 there were approximated 20,000 Americans living west of the Rockies, with about three-fourths of that number in Oregon.

The great environmental and economic potential of the Oregon Territory led many to pack up their families and head west along the Oregon Trail. The Trail represented the hopes of many for a better life, represented and reinforced by images like Bierstadt’s idealistic Oregon Trail. In reality, the Trail was violent and dangerous, and many who attempted to cross never made it to the “Promised Land” of Oregon. Albert Bierstadt, Oregon Trail (Campfire), 1863. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bierstadt_Albert_Oregon_Trail.jpg.

The great environmental and economic potential of the Oregon Territory led many to pack up their families and head west along the Oregon Trail. The Trail represented the hopes of many for a better life, represented and reinforced by images like Bierstadt’s idealistic Oregon Trail.  Albert Bierstadt, Oregon Trail (Campfire), 1863. Wikimedia.

Many who moved nurtured a romantic vision of life, attracting more Americans who sought more than agricultural life and familial responsibilities. The rugged individualism and military prowess of the West, encapsulated for some by service in the Mexican war, drew a growing new breed west of the Sierra Nevada to meet with the Californians already there; a breed of migrants different from the modest agricultural communities of the near-west.

If the great draw of the West served as manifest destiny’s kindling, then the discovery of gold in California was the spark that set the fire ablaze. The vast majority of western settlers sought land ownership, but the lure of getting rich quick drew younger single men (with some women) to gold towns throughout the West. These adventurers and fortune-seekers then served as magnets for the arrival of others providing services associated with the gold rush. Towns and cities grew rapidly throughout the West, notably San Francisco whose population grew from about 500 in 1848 to almost 50,000 by 1853. Lawlessness, predictable failure of most fortune seekers, racial conflicts, and the slavery question all threatened manifest destiny’s promises.

On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a contractor hired by John Sutter, discovered gold on Sutter’s sawmill land in the Sacramento valley area of the California Territory. Throughout the 1850s, Californians beseeched Congress for a transcontinental railroad to provide service for both passengers and goods from the Midwest and the East Coast. The potential economic benefits for communities along proposed railroads made the debate over the route rancorous. Growing dissent over the slavery issue also heightened tensions.

The great influx of diverse people clashed in a combative and aggrandizing atmosphere of individualistic pursuit of fortune. Linguistic, cultural, economic, and racial conflict roiled both urban and rural areas. By the end of the 1850s, Chinese and Mexican immigrants made up 1/5th of the mining population in California. The ethnic patchwork of these frontier towns belied a clearly defined socio-economic arrangement that saw whites on top as landowners and managers with poor whites and ethnic minorities working the mines and assorted jobs. The competition for land, resources, and riches furthered individual and collective abuses particularly against Indians and older Mexican communities. California’s towns, as well as those dotting the landscape throughout the West, such as Coeur D’Alene in Idaho and Tombstone in Arizona, struggled to balance security with economic development and the protection of civil rights and liberties.

This cartoon depicts a highly racialized image of a Chinese immigrant and Irish immigrant “swallowing” the United States–in the form of Uncle Sam. Networks of railroads and the promise of American expansion can be seen in the background. “The great fear of the period That Uncle Sam may be swallowed by foreigners : The problem solved,” 1860-1869, Library of Congress.

 

VI. The Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny.

The expansion of influence and territory off the continent became an important corollary to westward expansion. The U.S. government sought to keep European countries out of the western hemisphere and applied the principles of manifest destiny to the rest of the hemisphere. As Secretary of State for President James Monroe, John Quincy Adams held the responsibility for the satisfactory resolution of ongoing border disputes between the United States, England, Spain, and Russia. Adams’ view of American foreign policy was put into clearest practice in the Monroe Doctrine, which he had great influence in crafting.

Increasingly aggressive incursions from Russians in the Northwest, ongoing border disputes with the British in Canada, the remote possibility of Spanish reconquest of South America, and British abolitionism in the Caribbean all triggered an American response. In a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives on July 4th, 1821, Secretary of State Adams acknowledged the American need for a robust foreign policy that simultaneously protected and encouraged the nation’s growing and increasingly dynamic economy.

America…in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own…She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all…She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet on her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit. . . . Her glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice. John Quincy Adams ((John Quincy Adams, “Mr. Adams Oration, July 21, 1821,” quoted in Niles’ Weekly Register, Volume 20, (Baltimore: H. Niles, 1821), 332.))

Adams’ great fear was not territorial loss. He had no doubt that Russian and British interests in North America could be arrested. Adams held no reason to antagonize the Russians with grand pronouncements, nor was he generally called upon to do so. He enjoyed a good relationship with the Russian Ambassador and stewarded through Congress most-favored trade status for the Russians in 1824. Rather, Adams worried gravely about the ability of the United States to compete commercially with the British in Latin America and the Caribbean. This concern deepened with the valid concern that America’s chief Latin American trading partner, Cuba, dangled perilously close to outstretched British claws. Cabinet debates surrounding establishment of the Monroe Doctrine and geopolitical events in the Caribbean focused attention on that part of the world as key to the future defense of U.S. military and commercial interests; the main threat to those interests being the British. Expansion of economic opportunity and protection from foreign pressures became the overriding goals of U.S. foreign policy.32 But despite the philosophical confidence present in the Monroe administration’s decree, the reality of limited military power kept the Monroe Doctrine as an aspirational assertion. 

Bitter disagreements over the expansion of slavery into the new lands won from Mexico began even before the war ended. Many Northern businessmen and Southern slave owners supported the idea of expanding slavery into the Caribbean as a useful alternative to continental expansion, since slavery already existed in these areas. Some were critical of these attempts, seeing them as evidence of a growing slave-power conspiracy. Many others supported attempts at expansion, like those previously seen in East Florida, even if these attempts were not exactly legal. Filibustering, as it was called, involved privately financed schemes directed at capturing and occupying foreign territory without the approval of the U.S. government.

Filibustering took greatest hold in the imagination of Americans as they looked toward Cuba. Fears of racialized revolution in Cuba (as in Haiti and Florida before it) as well as the presence of an aggressive British abolitionist influence in the Caribbean energized the movement to annex Cuba and encouraged filibustering as expedient alternatives to lethargic official negotiations. Despite filibustering’s seemingly chaotic planning and destabilizing repercussions, those intellectually and economically guiding the effort imagined a willing and receptive Cuban population and expected an agreeable American business class. In Cuba, manifest destiny for the first time sought territory off the continent and hoped to put a unique spin on the story of success in Mexico. Yet, the annexation of Cuba, despite great popularity and some military attempts led by Narciso Lopez, a Cuban dissident, never succeeded.33           

Other filibustering expeditions were launched elsewhere, including two by William Walker, a former American soldier. Walker seized portions of the Baja peninsula in Mexico and then later took power and established a slaving regime in Nicaragua. Eventually Walker was executed in Honduras.34 These missions violated the laws of the United States, but wealthy Americans financed various filibusters and less-wealthy adventurers were all too happy to sign up. Filibustering enjoyed its brief popularity into the late 1850s, at which point slavery and concerns over session came to the fore. By the opening of the Civil War most saw these attempts as simply territorial theft.

 

VII. Conclusion

Debates over expansion, economics, diplomacy, and manifest destiny exposed some of the weaknesses of the American system. The chauvinism of policies like Native American removal, the Mexican War, and filibustering, existed alongside growing anxiety. Manifest destiny attempted to make a virtue of America’s lack of history and turn it into the very basis of nationhood. To locate such origins, John O’Sullivan and other champions of manifest destiny grafted biological and territorial imperatives – common among European definitions of nationalism – onto American political culture. The United States was the embodiment of the democratic ideal, they said. Democracy had to be timeless, boundless, and portable. New methods of transportation and communication, the rapidity of the railroad and the telegraph, the rise of the international market economy, and the growth of the American frontier provided shared platforms to help Americans think across local identities and reaffirm a national character.

 

VIII. Reference Material

This chapter was edited by Gregg Lightfoot, with content contributions by Ethan Bennett, Michelle Cassidy, Jonathan Grandage, Gregg Lightfoot, Jose Juan Perez Melendez, Jessica Moore, Nick Roland, Matthew K. Saionz, Rowan Steinecker, Patrick Troester, and Ben Wright.

Recommended citation: Ethan Bennett et al., “Manifest Destiny,” Gregg Lightfoot, ed., in The American Yawp, Joseph Locke and Ben Wright, eds., last modified August 1, 2016, http://www.AmericanYawp.com.

 

Recommended Reading

  • Blackhawk, Ned. Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • Brooks, James F. Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2003.
  • Cusick, James G. The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007.
  • DeLay, Brian. War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
  • Exley, Jo Ella Powell, Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005. 
  • Gómez, Laura E. Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race. New York: New York University Press, 2008.
  • Gordon, Sarah Barringer. The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2001.
  • Greenberg, Amy S. Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Haas, Lisbeth. Conquest and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. 
  • Hämäläinen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
  • Holmes, Kenneth L. Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
  • Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.
  • Hyde, Anne F. Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.
  • Johnson, Susan Lee. Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. 
  • Larson, John Lauritz. Internal Improvement: National Public Works and the Promise of Popular Government in the Early United States. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2001.
  • Lazo, Rodrigo. Writing to Cuba: Filibustering and Cuban Exiles in the United States. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2006.
  • May, Robert E. Manifest Destiny’s Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2002.
  • Merry, Robert W. A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009.
  • Namias, June. White Captives: Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. 
  • Perdue, Theda. “Mixed Blood” Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005. 
  • Peters, Virginia Pergman. Women of the Earth Lodges: Tribal Life on the Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. 
  • Peterson, Dawn. Indians in the Family: Adoption and the Politics of Antebellum Expansion. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017. 
  • Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.
  • Wilkins, David E. Hollow Justice: A History of Indigenous Claims in the United States. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
  • Yarbrough, Faye, Race and the Cherokee Nation: Sovereignty in the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. 

 

Notes

  1. Yonatan Eyal, The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007). []
  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Young American: A Lecture read before the Mercantile Library Association, Boston, February 7, 1844,” accessed May 18, 2015, http://www.emersoncentral.com/youngam.htm. []
  3. See Peter S. Onuf, “Imperialism and Nationalism in the Early American Republic,” in Empire’s Twin: U.S. Anti-imperialism from the Founding Era to the Age of Terrorism, Ian Tyrell and Jay Sexton, eds. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015), 21-40. []
  4. Abraham Lincoln, “Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions: First Delivered April 6, 1858,” accessed May 18, 2015, http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/discoveries.htm. []
  5. Edmund Jefferson Danziger, Great Lakes Indian Accommodation and Resistance During the Early Reservation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 11-13. []
  6. Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Third Edition: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), 474-479. []
  7. Mark Wyman, Immigrants in the Valley: Irish, Germans, and Americans in the Upper Mississippi Country, 1830-1860 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), 128, 148-149. []
  8. Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, 1841. Although the phrase, “Go West, Young Man,” is often attributed to Greeley, the exhortation was most likely only popularized by the newspaper editor in numerous speeches, letters, and editorials and always in the larger context of the comparable and superior health, wealth, and advantages to be had in the West. []
  9. Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977/1998), 344-355. []
  10. Thomas Sidney Jesup quoted in Kenneth Wiggins Porter, “Negroes and the Seminole War, 1835-1842,” The Journal of Southern History Vol. 30, No. 4 (November 1964), 427-450, quote on 427. []
  11. “President Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress ‘On Indian Removal’ (1830),” accessed May 26, 2015, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=25&page=transcript. []
  12. Ibid. []
  13. Tim A. Garrison, “Worcester v. Georgia (1832).” New Georgia Encyclopedia, available online at http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/worcester-v-georgia-1832. []
  14. Fay A. Yarbrough, Race and the Cherokee Nation: Sovereignty in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 15-21. []
  15. John Ross quoted in Brian Hicks, Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears, (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011), 210. []
  16. Russell Thornton, The Cherokees: A Population History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 76. []
  17. Senate Document # 512, 23 Cong., 1 Sess. Vol. IV, p. x. Available online at https://books.google.com/books?id=KSTlvxxCOkcC&dq=60,000+removal+indian&source=gbs_navlinks_s. []
  18. John P. Bowes, Land Too Good for Indians: Northern Indian Removal (Normal: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016). []
  19. Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). []
  20. Samuel J. Wells, “Federal Indian Policy: From Accommodation to Removal,” in Carolyn Reeves, ed., The Choctaw Before Removal (Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi, 1985), 181-211. []
  21. William C. Sturtevant, Handbook of North American Indians: History of Indian-White Relations, Vol. 4 (Smithsonian Institution, 1988), 289. []
  22. Adrienne Caughfield, True Women and Westward Expansion (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005). []
  23. Murray Newton Rothbard, Panic of 1819: Reactions and Policies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962). []
  24. Carol Sheriff, The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996). []
  25. For more on the technology and transportation revolutions see Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). []
  26. David Reimers, Other Immigrants: The Global Origins of the American People (New York: New York University Press, 2005), 27. []
  27. H. P. N. Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 Volume 1 (Austin: 1898), 1063. Available online at https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5872/m1/1071/. []
  28. Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). []
  29. Quoted in, The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History and Politics of the Year 1846, Volume 88, (Washington: J.G. & F. Rivington, 1847), 377. []
  30. James M. Mccaffrey, Army of Manifest Destiny: The American Soldier in the Mexican War, 1846-1848 (New York: New York University Press, 1992), 53. []
  31. Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 51. []
  32. Gretchen Murphy, Hemispheric Imaginings: The Monroe Doctrine and Narratives of U.S. Empire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009). []
  33. Tom Chaffin, Fatal Glory: Narciso López and the First Clandestine U.S. War against Cuba (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996). []
  34. Anne F. Hyde, Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), 471. []

F17 – 3 British North America

Unidentified artist, “The Old Plantation,” ca. 1790-1800, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, via Wikimedia

*The American Yawp is an evolving, collaborative text. Please click here to improve this chapter.*

I. Introduction

Whether they came as servants, slaves, free farmers, religious refugees, or powerful planters, the men and women of the American colonies created new worlds. Native Americans saw fledgling settlements grow into unstoppable beachheads of vast new populations that increasingly monopolized resources and remade the land into something else entirely. Meanwhile, as colonial societies developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fluid labor arrangements and racial categories solidified into the race-based, chattel slavery that increasingly defined the economy of the British Empire. The North American mainland originally occupied a small and marginal place in that broad empire, as even the output of its most prosperous colonies paled before the tremendous wealth of Caribbean sugar islands. And yet the colonial backwaters on the North American mainland, ignored by many imperial officials, were nevertheless deeply tied into these larger Atlantic networks. A new and increasingly complex Atlantic World connected the continents of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Events across the ocean continued to influence the lives of American colonists. Civil war, religious conflict, and nation building transformed seventeenth-century Britain and remade societies on both sides of the ocean. At the same time, colonial settlements grew and matured, developing into powerful societies capable of warring against Native Americans and subduing internal upheaval. Patterns and systems established during the colonial era would continue to shape American society for centuries. And none, perhaps, would be as brutal and destructive as the institution of slavery.

 

II. Slavery and the Making of Race

After his arrival as a missionary in Charles Town, Carolina, in 1706, Reverend Francis Le Jau quickly grew disillusioned by the horrors of American slavery. He met enslaved Africans ravaged by the Middle Passage, Indians traveling south to enslave enemy villages, and colonists terrified of invasions from French Louisiana and Spanish Florida. Slavery and death surrounded him.

Le Jau’s strongest complaints were reserved for his own countrymen, the English. English traders encouraged wars with Indians in order to purchase and enslave captives, and planters justified the use of an enslaved workforce by claiming white servants were “good for nothing at all.” Although the minister thought otherwise and baptized and educated a substantial number of slaves, he was unable to overcome masters’ fear that Christian baptism would lead to slave emancipation.1

The 1660s marked a turning point for black men and women in English colonies like Virginia in North American and Barbados in the West Indies. New laws gave legal sanction to the enslavement of people of African descent for life. The permanent deprivation of freedom and the separate legal status of enslaved Africans facilitated the maintenance of strict racial barriers. Skin color became more than superficial difference; it became the marker of a transcendent, all-encompassing division between two distinct peoples, two races, white and black.2 

All seventeenth-century racial thought did not point directly toward modern classifications of racial hierarchy. Captain Thomas Phillips, master of a slave ship in 1694, did not justify his work with any such creed: “I can’t think there is any intrinsic value in one color more than another, nor that white is better than black, only we think it so because we are so.”3 For Phillips, the profitability of slavery was the only justification he needed.

Wars offered the most common means for colonists to acquire Native American slaves. Seventeenth-century European legal thought held that enslaving prisoners of war was not only legal, but more merciful than killing the captives outright. After the Pequot War (1636-1637), Massachusetts Bay colonists sold hundreds of North American Indians into slavery in the West Indies. A few years later, Dutch colonists in New Netherland (New York and New Jersey) enslaved Algonquian Indians during both Governor Kieft’s War (1641-1645) and the two Esopus Wars (1659-1663). The Dutch sent these war captives to English-settled Bermuda as well as Curaçao, a Dutch plantation-colony in the southern Caribbean. An even larger number of Indian slaves were captured during King Phillip’s War (1675-1676), a pan-Indian uprising against the encroachments of the New England colonies. Hundreds of Indians were bound and shipped into slavery. The New England colonists also tried to send Indian slaves to Barbados, but the Barbados Assembly refused to import the New England Indians for fear they would encourage rebellion.

In the eighteenth century, wars in Florida, South Carolina, and the Mississippi Valley produced even more Indian slaves. Some wars emerged from contests between Indians and colonists for land, while others were manufactured as pretenses for acquiring captives. Some were not wars at all, but merely illegal raids performed by slave traders. Historians estimate that between 24,000 and 51,000 Native Americans were forced into slavery throughout the southern colonies between 1670 and 1715.  ((Alan Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670–1717 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 299.)) While some of the enslaved Indians remained in the region, many were exported through Charlestown, South Carolina, to other ports in the British Atlantic—most likely to Barbados, Jamaica, and Bermuda. Many of the English colonists who wished to claim land in frontier territories were threatened by the violence inherent in the Indian slave trade. By the eighteenth century, colonial governments often discouraged the practice, although it never ceased entirely as long as slavery was, in general, a legal institution.

Native American slaves died quickly, mostly from disease, but others were murdered or died from starvation. The demands of growing plantation economies required a more reliable labor force, and the transatlantic slave trade provided such a workforce. European slavers transported millions of Africans across the ocean in a terrifying journey known as the Middle Passage. Writing at the end of the eighteenth century, Olaudah Equiano recalled the fearsomeness of the crew, the filth and gloom of the hold, the inadequate provisions allotted for the captives, and the desperation that drove some slaves to suicide. (Equiano claimed to have been born in Igboland in modern-day Nigeria, but he may have been born in colonial South Carolina, where he collected memories of the Middle Passage from African-born slaves.) In the same time period, Alexander Falconbridge, a slave ship surgeon, described the sufferings of slaves from shipboard infections and close quarters in the hold. Dysentery, known as “the bloody flux,” left captives lying in pools of excrement. Chained in small spaces in the hold, slaves could lose so much skin and flesh from chafing against metal and timber that their bones protruded. Other sources detailed rapes, whippings, and diseases like smallpox and conjunctivitis aboard slave ships.4

“Middle” had various meanings in the Atlantic slave trade. For the captains and crews of slave ships, the Middle Passage was one leg in the maritime trade in sugar and other semi-finished American goods, manufactured European commodities, and African slaves. For the enslaved Africans, the Middle Passage was the middle leg of three distinct journeys from Africa to the Americas. First was an overland journey in Africa to a coastal slave-trading factory, often a trek of hundreds of miles. Second—and middle—was an oceanic trip lasting from one to six months in a slaver. Third was acculturation (known as “seasoning”) and transportation to the American mine, plantation, or other location where new slaves were forced to labor.

“Stowage of the British slave ship Brookes under the regulated slave trade act of 1788,” 1789, via Wikimedia. Slave ships transported 11-12 million Africans to destinations in North and South America, but it was not until the end of the 18th century that any regulation was introduced. The Brookes print dates to after the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788, but still shows enslaved Africans chained in rows using iron leg shackles. The slave ship Brookes was allowed to carry up to 454 slaves, allotting 6 feet (1.8 m) by 1 foot 4 inches (0.41 m) to each man; 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) by 1 foot 4 inches (0.41 m) to each women, and 5 feet (1.5 m) by 1 foot 2 inches (0.36 m) to each child, but one slave trader alleged that before 1788, the ship carried as many as 609 slaves.

“Slave ships transported 11-12 million Africans to destinations in North and South America, but it was not until the end of the 18th century that any regulation was introduced. The Brookes print dates to after the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788, but still shows enslaved Africans chained in rows using iron leg shackles. The slave ship Brookes was allowed to carry up to 454 slaves, allotting 6 feet (1.8 m) by 1 foot 4 inches (0.41 m) to each man; 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) by 1 foot 4 inches (0.41 m) to each women, and 5 feet (1.5 m) by 1 foot 2 inches (0.36 m) to each child, but one slave trader alleged that before 1788, the ship carried as many as 609 slaves.Stowage of the British slave ship Brookes under the regulated slave trade act of 1788,” 1789, via Wikimedia.

The impact of the Middle Passage on the cultures of the Americas remains evident today. Many foods associated with Africans, such as cassava, were originally imported to West Africa as part of the slave trade and were then adopted by African cooks before being brought to the Americas, where they are still consumed. West African rhythms and melodies live in new forms today in music as varied as religious spirituals and synthesized drumbeats. African influences appear in the basket making and language of the Gullah people on the Carolina Coastal Islands.

Recent estimates count between 11 and 12 million Africans forced across the Atlantic between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, with about 2 million deaths at sea as well as an additional several million dying in the trade’s overland African leg or during seasoning.5 Conditions in all three legs of the slave trade were horrible, but the first abolitionists focused especially on the abuses of the Middle Passage.

Southern European trading empires like the Catalans and Aragonese were brought into contact with a Levantine commerce in sugar and slaves in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Europeans made the first steps toward an Atlantic slave trade in the 1440s when Portuguese sailors landed in West Africa in search of gold, spices, and allies against the Muslims who dominated Mediterranean trade. Beginning in the 1440s, ship captains carried African slaves to Portugal. These Africans were valued primarily as domestic servants, as peasants provided the primary agricultural labor force in Western Europe.6 European expansion into the Americas introduced both settlers and European authorities to a new situation—an abundance of land and a scarcity of labor. Portuguese, Dutch, and English ships became the conduits for Africans forced to America. The western coast of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, and the west-central coast were the sources of African captives. Wars of expansion and raiding parties produced captives who could be sold in coastal factories. African slave traders bartered for European finished goods such as beads, cloth, rum, firearms, and metal wares.

The first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea and the oldest European building southern of the Sahara,  Elmina Castle was established as a trade settlement by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The fort became one of the largest and most important markets for African slaves along the Atlantic slave trade. “View of the castle of Elmina on the north-west side, seen from the river. Located on the gold coast in Guinea,” in Atlas Blaeu van der Hem, c. 1665-1668. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ElMina_AtlasBlaeuvanderHem.jpg.

The first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea and the oldest European building southern of the Sahara, Elmina Castle was established as a trade settlement by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The fort became one of the largest and most important markets for African slaves along the Atlantic slave trade. “View of the castle of Elmina on the north-west side, seen from the river. Located on the gold coast in Guinea,” in Atlas Blaeu van der Hem, c. 1665-1668. Wikimedia.

Slavers often landed in the British West Indies, where slaves were seasoned in places like Barbados. Charleston, South Carolina, became the leading entry point for the slave trade on the mainland. The founding of Charleston (“Charles Town” until the 1780s) in 1670 was viewed as a serious threat by the Spanish in neighboring Florida, who began construction of Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine as a response. In 1693 the Spanish king issued the Decree of Sanctuary, which granted freedom to slaves fleeing the English colonies if they converted to Catholicism and swore an oath of loyalty to Spain.7 The presence of Africans who bore arms and served in the Spanish militia testifies to the different conceptions of race among the English and Spanish in America.

About 450,000 Africans landed in British North America, a relatively small portion of the 11 to 12 million victims of the trade.8 As a proportion of the enslaved population, there were more enslaved women in North America than in other colonial slave populations. Enslaved African women also bore more children than their counterparts in the Caribbean or South America, facilitating the natural reproduction of slaves on the North American continent.9 A 1662 Virginia law stated that an enslaved woman’s children inherited the “condition” of their mother; other colonies soon passed similar statutes.10 This economic strategy on the part of planters created a legal system in which all children born to slave women would be slaves for life, whether the father was white or black, enslaved or free.

Most fundamentally, the emergence of modern notions of race was closely related to the colonization of the Americas and the slave trade. African slave traders lacked a firm category of race that might have led them to think that they were selling their own people, in much the same way that Native Americans did not view other Indian groups as part of the same “race.” Similarly, most English citizens felt no racial identification with the Irish or the even the Welsh. The modern idea of race as an inherited physical difference (most often skin color) that is used to support systems of oppression was new in the early modern Atlantic world.

In the early years of slavery, especially in the South, the distinction between indentured servants and slaves was initially unclear. In 1643, however, a law was passed in Virginia that made African women “tithable.”11 This, in effect, associated African women’s work with difficult agricultural labor. There was no similar tax levied on white women; the law was an attempt to distinguish white from African women. The English ideal was to have enough hired hands and servants working on a farm so that wives and daughters did not have to partake in manual labor. Instead, white women were expected to labor in dairy sheds, small gardens, and kitchens. Of course, due to the labor shortage in early America, white women did participate in field labor. But this idealized gendered division of labor contributed to the English conceiving of themselves as better than other groups who did not divide labor in this fashion, including the West Africans arriving in slave ships to the colonies. For many white colonists, the association of a gendered division of labor with Englishness provided a further justification for the enslavement and subordination of Africans.

Ideas about the rule of the household were informed by legal and customary understandings of marriage and the home in England. A man was expected to hold “paternal dominion” over his household, which included his wife, children, servants, and slaves. In contrast, slaves were not legally masters of a household, and were therefore subject to the authority of the white master. Slave marriages were not recognized in colonial law. Some enslaved men and women married “abroad”; that is, they married individuals who were not owned by the same master and did not live on the same plantation. These husbands and wives had to travel miles at a time, typically only once a week on Sundays, to visit their spouses. Legal or religious authority did not protect these marriages, and masters could refuse to let their slaves visit a spouse, or even sell a slave to a new master hundreds of miles away from their spouse and children. Within the patriarchal and exploitative colonial environment, enslaved men and women struggled to establish families and communities.

 

III. Turmoil in Britain

Religious conflict plagued sixteenth-century England. While Spain plundered the New World and built an empire, Catholic and Protestant English monarchs vied for supremacy and attacked their opponents as heretics. Queen Elizabeth cemented Protestantism as the official religion of the realm, but questions endured as to what kind of Protestantism would hold sway. Many radical Protestants (often called “Puritans” by their critics) looked to the New World as an opportunity to create a beacon of Calvinist Christianity, while others continued the struggle in England. By the 1640s, political and economic conflicts between Parliament and the Crown merged with long-simmering religious tensions, made worse by a King who seemed sympathetic to Catholicism. The result was a bloody civil war. Colonists reacted in a variety of ways as England waged war on itself, but all were affected by these decades of turmoil.

Between 1629 and 1640 the absolute rule of Charles I caused considerable friction between the English Parliament and the King. Conflict erupted in 1640 when a parliament called by Charles refused to grant him subsidies to suppress a rebellion in Scotland. The Irish rebelled the following year, and by 1642 strained relations between Charles and Parliament led to civil war in England. In 1649 Parliament won, Charles I was executed, and England became a republic and protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. These changes redefined England’s relationship with its American colonies, as the new government under Cromwell attempted to consolidate its hold over its overseas territories.

In 1642, no permanent British North American colony was more than 35 years old. The Crown and various proprietors controlled most of the colonies, but settlers from Barbados to Maine enjoyed a great deal of independence. This was especially true in Massachusetts Bay, where Puritan settlers governed themselves according to the colony’s 1629 charter. Trade in tobacco and naval stores tied the colonies to England economically, as did religion and political culture, but in general the English government left the colonies to their own devices.

The English Revolution of the 1640s forced settlers in America to reconsider their place within the empire. Older colonies like Virginia and proprietary colonies like Maryland sympathized with the Crown. Newer colonies like Massachusetts Bay, populated by religious dissenters taking part in the Great Migration of the 1630s, tended to favor Parliament. Yet during the war the colonies remained neutral, fearing that support for either side could involve them in war. Even Massachusetts Bay, which nurtured ties to radical Protestants in Parliament, remained neutral.

King Charles I, pictured with the blue sash of the Order of the Garter, listens to his commanders detail the strategy for what would be the first pitched battle of the First English Civil War. As all previous constitutional compromises between King Charles and Parliament had broken down, both sides raised large armies in the hopes of forcing the other side to concede their position. The Battle of Edgehill ended with no clear winner, leading to a prolonged war of over four years and an even longer series of wars (known generally as the English Civil War) that eventually established the Commonwealth of England in 1649. Charles Landseer, The Eve of the Battle of Edge Hill, 1642, 1845. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Landseer_-_The_Eve_of_the_Battle_of_Edge_Hill,_1642_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.

King Charles I, pictured with the blue sash of the Order of the Garter, listens to his commanders detail the strategy for what would be the first pitched battle of the First English Civil War. As all previous constitutional compromises between King Charles and Parliament had broken down, both sides raised large armies in the hopes of forcing the other side to concede their position. The Battle of Edgehill ended with no clear winner, leading to a prolonged war of over four years and an even longer series of wars (known generally as the English Civil War) that eventually established the Commonwealth of England in 1649. Charles Landseer, The Eve of the Battle of Edge Hill, 1642, 1845. Wikimedia.

Charles’s execution in 1649 challenged American neutrality. Six colonies, including Virginia and Barbados, declared allegiance to the dead monarch’s son, Charles II. Parliament responded with an Act in 1650 that leveled an economic embargo on the rebelling colonies, forcing them to accept Parliament’s authority. Parliament argued that America had been “planted at the Cost, and settled” by the English nation, and that it, as the embodiment of that commonwealth, possessed ultimate jurisdiction over the colonies.12 It followed up the embargo with the Navigation Act of 1651, which compelled merchants in every colony to ship goods directly to England in English ships. Parliament sought to bind the colonies more closely to England and deny other European nations, especially the Dutch, from interfering with its American possessions.

England found itself in crisis after the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, leading in time to the reestablishment of the monarchy. On his 30th birthday (May 29, 1660), Charles II sailed from the Netherlands to his restoration after nine years in exile. He was received in London to great acclaim, as depicted in his contemporary painting. Lieve Verschuler, The arrival of King Charles II of England in Rotterdam, 24 May 1660. c. 1660-1665. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_arrival_of_King_Charles_II_of_England_in_Rotterdam,_may_24_1660_%28Lieve_Pietersz._Verschuier,_1665%29.jpg.

England found itself in crisis after the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, leading in time to the reestablishment of the monarchy. On his 30th birthday (May 29, 1660), Charles II sailed from the Netherlands to his restoration after nine years in exile. He was received in London to great acclaim, as depicted in his contemporary painting. Lieve Verschuler, The arrival of King Charles II of England in Rotterdam, 24 May 1660. c. 1660-1665. Wikimedia.

The monarchy was restored with Charles II, but popular suspicions of the Crown’s Catholic and French sympathies lingered. Charles II’s suppression of the religious and press freedoms that flourished during the civil war years demonstrated the Crown’s desire to re-impose order and royal rule. But it was the openly Catholic and pro-French policies of his successor, James II, that once again led to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1688. In that year a group of bishops and Parliamentarians offered the English throne to the Dutch Prince William of Holland and his English bride, Mary, the daughter of James II. This relatively peaceful coup was called the Glorious Revolution.

In the decades before the Glorious Revolution English colonists experienced religious and political conflict that reflected transformations in Europe as well as distinctly colonial conditions. In the 1670s and early 1680s King Charles II tightened English control over North America and the West Indies through the creation of new colonies, the imposition of new Navigation Acts, and the establishment of a new executive Council called the Lords of Trade and Plantations.13 As imperial officials attempted to curb colonists’ autonomy, threats from Native Americans and New France on the continent led many colonists to believe Indians and Catholics sought to destroy English America. In New England an uprising beginning in 1675 led by the Wampanoag leader Metacom, or King Philip as the English called him, seemed to confirm these fears. Indian conflicts helped trigger the revolt against royal authorities known as Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia the following year.

James II worked to place the colonies on firmer administrative and defensive footing by creating the Dominion of New England in 1686. The Dominion consolidated the New England colonies, New York, and New Jersey into one administrative unit to counter French Canada, but colonists strongly resented the loss of their individual provinces. The Dominion’s governor, Sir Edmund Andros, did little to assuage fears of arbitrary power when he forced colonists into military service for a campaign against Maine Indians in early 1687. Impressment into military service was a longstanding grievance among English commoners that was transplanted to the colonies.

In England, James’s push for religious toleration of Catholics and Dissenters brought him into conflict with Parliament and the Anglican establishment in England. After the 1688 invasion by the Protestant William of Orange, James fled to France. When colonists learned imperial officials in Boston and New York City attempted to keep news of the Glorious Revolution secret, simmering hostilities toward provincial leaders burst into the open. In Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland colonists overthrew colonial governments as local social antagonisms fused with popular animosity towards imperial rule. Colonists in America quickly declared allegiance to the new monarchs. They did so in part to maintain order in their respective colonies. As one Virginia official explained, if there was “no King in England, there was no Government here.”14 A declaration of allegiance was therefore a means toward stability.

More importantly, colonists declared for William and Mary because they believed their ascension marked the rejection of absolutism and confirmed the centrality of Protestantism and liberty in English life. Settlers joined in the revolution by overthrowing the Dominion government, restoring the provinces to their previous status, and forcing out the Catholic-dominated Maryland government. They launched several assaults against French Canada as part of “King William’s War,” and rejoiced in Parliament’s 1689 passage of a Bill of Rights, which curtailed the power of the monarchy and cemented Protestantism in England. For English colonists, it was indeed a “glorious” revolution as it united them in a Protestant empire that stood counter to Catholic tyranny, absolutism, and French power.

 

IV. New Colonies

Despite the turmoil in Britain, colonial settlement grew considerably throughout the seventeenth century, and several new settlements joined the two original colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts.

In 1632, Charles I set a tract of about 12 million acres of land at the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay aside for a second colony in America. Named for the new monarch’s queen, Maryland was granted to Charles’s friend and political ally, Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. Calvert hoped to gain additional wealth from the colony, as well as to create a haven for fellow Catholics. In England, many of that faith found themselves harassed by the Protestant majority and more than a few considered migrating to America. Charles I, a Catholic sympathizer, was in favor of Lord Baltimore’s plan to create a colony that would demonstrate that Catholics and Protestants could live together peacefully.

In late 1633, both Protestant and Catholic settlers left England for the Chesapeake, arriving in Maryland in March 1634. Men of middling means found greater opportunities in Maryland, which prospered as a tobacco colony without the growing pains suffered by Virginia.

Unfortunately, Lord Baltimore’s hopes of a diverse Christian colony were thwarted. Most colonists were Protestants relocating from Virginia. Many of these Protestants were radical Quakers and Puritans who were frustrated with Virginia’s efforts to force adherence to the Anglican Church, also known as the Church of England. In 1650, Puritans revolted, setting up a new government that prohibited both Catholicism and Anglicanism. Governor William Stone attempted to put down the revolt in 1655, but would not be successful until 1658. Two years after the Glorious Revolution (1688-1689), the Calverts lost control of Maryland and the province became a royal colony. 

Religion was a motivating factor in the creation of several other colonies as well, including the New England colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The settlements that would eventually comprise Connecticut grew out of settlements in Saybrook and New Haven. Thomas Hooker and his congregation left Massachusetts for Connecticut because the area around Boston was becoming increasingly crowded. The Connecticut River Valley was large enough for more cattle and agriculture. In June 1636, Hooker led one hundred people and a variety of livestock in settling an area they called Newtown (later Hartford).

New Haven Colony had a more directly religious origin, as the founders attempted a new experiment in Puritanism. In 1638, John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton, and other supporters of the Puritan faith settled in the Quinnipiac (New Haven) area of the Connecticut River Valley. In 1643 New Haven Colony was officially organized with Eaton named governor. In the early 1660s, three men who had signed the death warrant for Charles I were concealed in New Haven. This did not win the colony any favors, and it became increasingly poorer and weaker. In 1665, New Haven was absorbed into Connecticut, but its singular religious tradition endured with the creation of Yale College.

Religious radicals similarly founded Rhode Island. After his exile from Massachusetts, Roger Williams created a settlement called Providence in 1636. He negotiated for the land with the local Narragansett sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi. Williams and his fellow settlers agreed on an egalitarian constitution and established religious and political freedom in the colony. The following year, another Massachusetts exile, Anne Hutchinson, and her followers settled near Providence. Others soon arrived, and the colony was granted a charter by Parliament in 1644. Persistently independent and with republican sympathies, the settlers refused a governor and instead elected a president and council. These separate communities passed laws abolishing witchcraft trials, imprisonment for debt and, in 1652, chattel slavery. Because of the colony’s policy of toleration, it became a haven for Quakers, Jews, and other persecuted religious groups. In 1663, Charles II granted the colony a royal charter establishing the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Until the middle of the seventeenth century, the English neglected the area between Virginia and New England despite obvious environmental advantages. The climate was healthier than the Chesapeake and more temperate than New England. The mid-Atlantic had three highly navigable rivers: the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Hudson. The Swedes and Dutch established their own colonies in the region: New Sweden in the Delaware Valley and New Netherland in the Hudson Valley.

Compared to other Dutch colonies around the globe, the settlements on the Hudson River were relatively minor. The Dutch West India Company realized that in order to secure its fur trade in the area, it needed to establish a greater presence in New Netherland. Toward this end, the company formed New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island in 1625.

Although the Dutch extended religious tolerance to those who settled in New Netherland, the population remained small. This left the colony vulnerable to English attack during the 1650s and 1660s, resulting in the hand-over of New Netherland to England in 1664. The new colony of New York was named for the proprietor, James, the Duke of York, brother to Charles II and funder of the expedition against the Dutch in 1664. New York was briefly reconquered by the Netherlands in 1667, and class and ethnic conflicts in New York City contributed to the rebellion against English authorities during the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89. Colonists of Dutch ancestry resisted assimilation into English culture well into the eighteenth century, prompting New York Anglicans to note that the colony was “rather like a conquered foreign province.”15

After the acquisition of New Netherland, Charles II and the Duke of York wished to strengthen English control over the Atlantic seaboard. In theory, this was to better tax the colonies; in practice, the awarding of the new proprietary colonies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas was a payoff of debts and political favors.

In 1664, the Duke of York granted the area between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to two English noblemen. These lands were split into two distinct colonies, East Jersey and West Jersey. One of West Jersey’s proprietors included William Penn. The ambitious Penn wanted his own, larger colony, the lands for which would be granted by both Charles II and the Duke of York. Pennsylvania consisted of about 45,000 square miles west of the Delaware River and the former New Sweden. Penn was a member of the Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers, and he intended his colony to be a “colony of Heaven for the children of Light.”16 Like New England’s aspirations to be a City Upon a Hill, Pennsylvania was to be an example of godliness. But Penn’s dream was to create not a colony of unity, but rather a colony of harmony. He noted in 1685 that “the people are a collection of diverse nations in Europe, as French, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, Danes, Finns, Scotch, and English; and of the last equal to all the rest.”17 Because Quakers in Pennsylvania extended to others in America the same rights they had demanded for themselves in England, the colony attracted a diverse collection of migrants. Slavery was particularly troublesome for some pacifist Quakers of Pennsylvania on the grounds that it required violence. In 1688, members of the Society of Friends in Germantown, outside of Philadelphia, signed a petition protesting the institution of slavery among fellow Quakers.

The Pennsylvania soil did not lend itself to the slave-based agriculture of the Chesapeake, but other colonies would depend heavily on slavery from their very foundations. The creation of the colony of Carolina, later divided into North and South Carolina and Georgia, was part of Charles II’s scheme to strengthen the English hold on the eastern seaboard and pay off political and cash debts. The Lords Proprietor of Carolina—eight very powerful favorites of the king—used the model of the colonization of Barbados to settle the area. In 1670, three ships of colonists from Barbados arrived at the mouth of the Ashley River, where they founded Charles Town. This defiance of Spanish claims to the area signified England’s growing confidence as a colonial power.

To attract colonists, the Lords Proprietor offered alluring incentives: religious tolerance, political representation by assembly, exemption from fees, and large land grants. These incentives worked, and Carolina grew quickly, attracting not only middling farmers and artisans but also wealthy planters. Colonists who could pay their own way to Carolina were granted 150 acres per family member. The Lords Proprietor allowed for slaves to be counted as members of the family. This encouraged the creation of large rice and indigo plantations along the coast of Carolina, which were more stable commodities than the deerskin and Indian slave trades. Because of the size of Carolina, the authority of the Lords Proprietor was especially weak in the northern reaches on the Albemarle Sound. This region had been settled by Virginians in the 1650s and was increasingly resistant to Carolina authority. As a result, the Lords Proprietor founded the separate province of North Carolina in 1691.18 

Henry Popple, “A map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish settlements adjacent thereto,” 1733 via Library of Congress.

Henry Popple, “A map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish settlements adjacent thereto,” 1733 via Library of Congress.

 

V. Riot, Rebellion, and Revolt

The seventeenth century saw the establishment and solidification of the British North American colonies, but this process did not occur peacefully. English settlements on the continent were rocked by explosions of violence, including the Pequot War, the Mystic massacre, King Philip’s War, the Susquehannock War, Bacon’s Rebellion, and the Pueblo Revolt.    

In May 1637, an armed contingent of English Puritans from Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut colonies trekked into Indian country in territory claimed by New England. Referring to themselves as the “Sword of the Lord,” this military force intended to attack “that insolent and barbarous Nation, called the Pequots.” In the resulting violence, Puritans put the Mystic community to the torch, beginning with the north and south ends of the town. As Pequot men, women, and children tried to escape the blaze, other soldiers waited with swords and guns. One commander estimated that of the “four hundred souls in this Fort…not above five of them escaped out of our hands,” although another counted near “six or seven hundred” dead. In a span of less than two months, the English Puritans boasted that the Pequot “were drove out of their country, and slain by the sword, to the number of fifteen hundred.”19

The foundations of the war lay within the rivalry between the Pequot, the Narragansett, and the Mohegan, who battled for control of the fur and wampum trades in the northeast. This rivalry eventually forced the English and Dutch to choose sides. The war remained a conflict of Native interests and initiative, especially as the Mohegan hedged their bets on the English and reaped the rewards that came with displacing the Pequot.

Victory over the Pequots not only provided security and stability for the English colonies, but also propelled the Mohegan to new heights of political and economic influence as the primary power in New England. Ironically, history seemingly repeated itself later in the century as the Mohegan, desperate for a remedy to their diminishing strength, joined the Wampanoag war against the Puritans. This produced a more violent conflict in 1675 known as King Philip’s War, bringing a decisive end to Indian power in New England.

In the winter of 1675, the body of John Sassamon, a Christian, Harvard-educated Wampanoag, was found under the ice of a nearby pond. A fellow Christian Indian informed English authorities that three warriors under the local sachem named Metacom, known to the English as King Philip, had killed Sassamon, who had previously accused Metacom of planning an offensive against the English. The three alleged killers appeared before the Plymouth court in June 1675. They were found guilty of murder, and executed. Several weeks later, a group of Wampanoags killed nine English colonists in the town of Swansea.

Metacom—like most other New England sachems—had entered into covenants of “submission” to various colonies, viewing the arrangements as relationships of protection and reciprocity rather than subjugation. Indians and English lived, traded, worshiped, and arbitrated disputes in close proximity before 1675; but the execution of three of Metacom’s men at the hands of Plymouth Colony epitomized what many Indians viewed as the growing inequality of that relationship. The Wampanoags who attacked Swansea may have sought to restore balance, or to retaliate for the recent executions. Neither they nor anyone else sought to engulf all of New England in war, but that is precisely what happened. Authorities in Plymouth sprung into action, enlisting help from the neighboring colonies of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Metacom and his followers eluded colonial forces in the summer of 1675, striking more Plymouth towns as they moved northwest. Some groups joined his forces, while others remained neutral or supported the English. The war badly divided some Indian communities. Metacom himself had little control over events, as panic and violence spread throughout New England in the autumn of 1675. English mistrust of neutral Indians, sometimes accompanied by demands they surrender their weapons, pushed many into open war. By the end of 1675, most of the Indians of present-day western and central Massachusetts had entered the war, laying waste to nearby English towns like Deerfield, Hadley, and Brookfield. Hapless colonial forces, spurning the military assistance of Indian allies such as the Mohegans, proved unable to locate more mobile native communities or intercept Indian attacks.

The English compounded their problems by attacking the powerful and neutral Narragansetts of Rhode Island in December 1675. In an action called the Great Swamp Fight, 1,000 Englishmen put the main Narragansett village to the torch, gunning down as many as 1,000 Narragansett men, women, and children as they fled the maelstrom. The surviving Narragansetts joined the Indians already fighting the English. Between February and April 1676, Native forces devastated a succession of English towns closer and closer to Boston.

In the spring of 1676, the tide turned. The New England colonies took the advice of men like Benjamin Church, who urged the greater use of Native allies, including Pequots and Mohegans, to find and fight the mobile warriors. Unable to plant crops and forced to live off the land, Indians’ will to continue the struggle waned as companies of English and Native allies pursued them. Growing numbers of fighters fled the region, switched sides, or surrendered in the spring and summer. The English sold many of the latter group into slavery. Colonial forces finally caught up with Metacom in August 1676, and the sachem was slain by a Christian Indian fighting with the English.

The war permanently altered the political and demographic landscape of New England. Between 800 and 1,000 English and at least 3,000 Indians perished in the 14-month conflict. Thousands of other Indians fled the region or were sold into slavery. In 1670, Native Americans comprised roughly 25 percent of New England’s population; a decade later, they made up perhaps 10 percent.20 The war’s brutality also encouraged a growing hatred of all Indians among many New England colonists. Though the fighting ceased in 1676, the bitter legacy of King Philip’s War lived on. 

Sixteen years later, New England faced a new fear: the supernatural. Beginning in early 1692 and culminating in 1693, Salem Town, Salem Village, Ipswich, and Andover all tried women and men as witches. Paranoia swept through the region, and fourteen women and six men were executed. Five other individuals died in prison. The causes of the trials are numerous and include local rivalries, political turmoil, enduring trauma of war, faulty legal procedure where accusing others became a method of self-defense, or perhaps even low-level environmental contamination. Enduring tensions with Indians framed the events, however, and an Indian or African woman named Tituba enslaved by the local minister was at the center of the tragedy.21 

Native American communities in Virginia had already been decimated by wars in 1622 and 1644. But a new clash arose in Virginia the same year that New Englanders crushed Metacom’s forces. This conflict, known as Bacon’s Rebellion, grew out of tensions between Native Americans and English settlers as well as tensions between wealthy English landowners and the poor settlers who continually pushed west into Indian territory.

Bacon’s Rebellion began, appropriately enough, with an argument over a pig. In the summer of 1675, a group of Doeg Indians visited Thomas Mathew on his plantation in northern Virginia to collect a debt that he owed them. When Mathew refused to pay, they took some of his pigs to settle the debt. This “theft” sparked a series of raids and counter-raids. The Susquehannock Indians were caught in the crossfire when the militia mistook them for Doegs, leaving fourteen dead. A similar pattern of escalating violence then repeated: the Susquehannocks retaliated by killing colonists in Virginia and Maryland, and the English marshaled their forces and laid siege to the Susquehannocks. The conflict became uglier after the militia executed a delegation of Susquehannock ambassadors under a flag of truce. A few parties of warriors intent on revenge launched raids along the frontier and killed dozens of English colonists.

The sudden and unpredictable violence of the Susquehannock War triggered a political crisis in Virginia. Panicked colonists fled en masse from the vulnerable frontiers, flooding into coastal communities and begging the government for help. But the cautious governor, Sir William Berkeley, did not send an army after the Susquehannocks. He worried that a full-scale war would inevitably drag other Indians into the conflict, turning allies into deadly enemies. Berkeley therefore insisted on a defensive strategy centered around a string of new fortifications to protect the frontier and strict instructions not to antagonize friendly Indians. It was a sound military policy but a public relations disaster. Terrified colonists condemned Berkeley. Building contracts for the forts went to Berkeley’s wealthy friends, who conveniently decided that their own plantations were the most strategically vital. Colonists denounced the government as a corrupt band of oligarchs more interested in lining their pockets than protecting the people.

By the spring of 1676, a small group of frontier colonists took matters into their own hands. Naming the charismatic young Nathaniel Bacon as their leader, these self-styled “volunteers” proclaimed that they took up arms in defense of their homes and families. They took pains to assure Berkeley that they intended no disloyalty, but Berkeley feared a coup and branded the volunteers as traitors. Berkeley finally mobilized an army—not to pursue Susquehannocks, but to crush the colonists’ rebellion. His drastic response catapulted a small band of anti-Indian vigilantes into full-fledged rebels whose survival necessitated bringing down the colonial government.

Bacon and the rebels stalked the Susquehannock as well as friendly Indians like the Pamunkeys and the Occaneechis. The rebels became convinced that there was a massive Indian conspiracy to destroy the English. Berkeley’s stubborn persistence in defending friendly Indians and destroying the Indian-fighting rebels led Bacon to accuse the governor of conspiring with a “powerful cabal” of elite planters and with “the protected and darling Indians” to slaughter his English enemies.22

In the early summer of 1676, Bacon’s neighbors elected him their burgess and sent him to Jamestown to confront Berkeley. Though the House of Burgesses enacted pro-rebel reforms like prohibiting the sale of arms to Indians and restoring suffrage rights to landless freemen, Bacon’s supporters remained unsatisfied. Berkeley soon had Bacon arrested and forced the rebel leader into the humiliating position of publicly begging forgiveness for his treason. Bacon swallowed this indignity, but turned the tables by gathering an army of followers and surrounding the State House, demanding that Berkeley name him the General of Virginia and bless his universal war against Indians. Instead, the 70-year old governor stepped onto the field in front of the crowd of angry men, unafraid, and called Bacon a traitor to his face. Then he tore open his shirt and dared Bacon to shoot him in the heart, if he was so intent on overthrowing his government. “Here!” he shouted before the crowd, “Shoot me, before God, it is a fair mark. Shoot!” When Bacon hesitated, Berkeley drew his sword and challenged the young man to a duel, knowing that Bacon could neither back down from a challenge without looking like a coward nor kill him without making himself into a villain. Instead, Bacon resorted to bluster and blasphemy. Threatening to slaughter the entire Assembly if necessary, he cursed, “God damn my blood, I came for a commission, and a commission I will have before I go.”23 Berkeley stood defiant, but the cowed burgesses finally prevailed upon him to grant Bacon’s request. Virginia had its general, and Bacon had his war.

After this dramatic showdown in Jamestown, Bacon’s Rebellion quickly spiraled out of control. Berkeley slowly rebuilt his loyalist army, forcing Bacon to divert his attention to the coasts and away from the Indians. But most rebels were more interested in defending their homes and families than in fighting other Englishmen and deserted in droves at every rumor of Indian activity. In many places, the “rebellion” was less an organized military campaign than a collection of local grievances and personal rivalries. Both rebels and loyalists smelled the opportunities for plunder, seizing their rivals’ estates and confiscating their property.

For a small but vocal minority of rebels, however, the rebellion became an ideological revolution: Sarah Drummond, wife of rebel leader William Drummond, advocated independence from England and the formation of a Virginian Republic, declaring “I fear the power of England no more than a broken straw.” Others struggled for a different kind of independence: white servants and black slaves fought side by side in both armies after promises of freedom for military service. Everyone accused everyone else of treason, rebels and loyalists switched sides depending on which side was winning, and the whole Chesapeake disintegrated into a confused melee of secret plots and grandiose crusades, sordid vendettas and desperate gambits, with Indians and English alike struggling for supremacy and survival. One Virginian summed up the rebellion as “our time of anarchy.”24

The rebels steadily lost ground and ultimately suffered a crushing defeat. Bacon died of typhus in the autumn of 1676, and his successors surrendered to Berkeley in January 1677. Berkeley summarily tried and executed the rebel leadership in a succession of kangaroo courts-martial. Before long, however, the royal fleet arrived, bearing over 1,000 red-coated troops and a royal commission of investigation charged with restoring order to the colony. The commissioners replaced the governor and dispatched Berkeley to London, where he died in disgrace.

But the conclusion of Bacon’s Rebellion was uncertain, and the maintenance of order remained precarious for years afterward. The garrison of royal troops discouraged both incursion by hostile Indians and insurrection by discontented colonists, allowing the king to continue profiting from tobacco revenues. The end of armed resistance did not mean a resolution to the underlying tensions destabilizing colonial society. Indians inside Virginia remained an embattled minority and Indians outside Virginia remained a terrifying threat. Elite planters continued to grow rich by exploiting their indentured servants and marginalizing small farmers. The vast majority of Virginians continued to resent their exploitation with a simmering fury. Virginia legislators did recognize the extent of popular hostility towards colonial rule, however, and improved the social and political conditions of poor white Virginians in the years after the rebellion. During the same period, the increasing availability of enslaved workers through the Atlantic slave trade contributed to planters’ large-scale adoption of slave labor in the Chesapeake.

Just a few years after Bacon’s Rebellion, the Spanish experienced their own tumult in the area of contemporary New Mexico. The Spanish had been maintaining control partly by suppressing Native American beliefs. Friars aggressively enforced Catholic practice, burning native idols and masks and other sacred objects and banishing traditional spiritual practices. In 1680 the Pueblo religious leader Popé, who had been arrested and whipped for “sorcery” five years earlier, led various Puebloan groups in rebellion. Several thousand Pueblo warriors razed the Spanish countryside and besieged Santa Fe. They killed 400, including 21 Franciscan priests, and allowed 2,000 other Spaniards and Christian Pueblos to flee. It was perhaps the greatest act of Indian resistance in North American history.

Built sometime between 1000 and 1450 AD, the Taos Pueblo located near modern-day Taos, New Mexico, functioned as a base for the leader Popé during the Pueblo Revolt. Luca Galuzzi (photographer), Taos Pueblo, 2007. Wikimedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USA_09669_Taos_Pueblo_Luca_Galuzzi_2007.jpg.

Built sometime between 1000 and 1450 AD, the Taos Pueblo located near modern-day Taos, New Mexico, functioned as a base for the leader Popé during the Pueblo Revolt. Luca Galuzzi (photographer), Taos Pueblo, 2007. Wikimedia.

In New Mexico, the Pueblos eradicated all traces of Spanish rule. They destroyed churches and threw themselves into rivers to wash away their Christian baptisms. “The God of the Christians is dead,” Popé proclaimed, and the Pueblo resumed traditional spiritual practices.25 The Spanish were exiled for twelve years. They returned in 1692, weakened, to reconquer New Mexico.

The late seventeenth century was a time of great violence and turmoil. Bacon’s Rebellion turned white Virginians against one another, King Philip’s War shattered Indian resistance in New England, and the Pueblo Revolt struck a major blow to Spanish power. It would take several more decades before similar patterns erupted in Carolina and Pennsylvania, but the constant advance of European settlements provoked conflict in these areas as well.

In 1715, the Yamasees, Carolina’s closest allies and most lucrative trading partners, turned against the colony and nearly destroyed it entirely. Writing from Carolina to London, the settler George Rodd believed the Yamasees wanted nothing less than “the whole continent and to kill us or chase us all out.”26 Yamasees would eventually advance within miles of Charles Town.

The Yamasee War’s first victims were traders. The governor had dispatched two of the colony’s most prominent men to visit and pacify a Yamasee council following rumors of native unrest. Yamasees quickly proved the fears well founded by killing the emissaries and every English trader they could corral.

Yamasees, like many other Indians, had come to depend on English courts as much as the flintlock rifles and ammunition traders offered them for slaves and animal skins. Feuds between English agents in Indian country had crippled the court of trade and shut down all diplomacy, provoking the violent Yamasee reprisal. Most Indian villages in the southeast sent at least a few warriors to join what quickly became a pan-Indian cause against the colony.

Yet Charles Town ultimately survived the onslaught by preserving one crucial alliance with the Cherokees. By 1717, the conflict had largely dried up, and the only remaining menace was roaming Yamasee bands operating from Spanish Florida. Most Indian villages returned to terms with Carolina and resumed trading. The lucrative trade in Indian slaves, however, which had consumed 50,000 souls in five decades, largely dwindled after the war. The danger was too high for traders, and the colonies discovered even greater profits by importing Africans to work new rice plantations. Herein lies the birth of the “Old South,” that expanse of plantations that created untold wealth and misery. Indians retained the strongest militaries in the region, but they never again threatened the survival of English colonies.

If a colony existed where peace with Indians might continue, it would be Pennsylvania. At the colony’s founding William Penn created a Quaker religious imperative for the peaceful treatment of Indians. While Penn never doubted that the English would appropriate Native lands, he demanded his colonists obtain Indian territories through purchase rather than violence. Though Pennsylvanians maintained relatively peaceful relations with Native Americans, increased immigration and booming land speculation increased the demand for land. Coercive and fraudulent methods of negotiation became increasingly prominent. The Walking Purchase of 1737 was emblematic of both colonists’ desire for cheap land and the changing relationship between Pennsylvanians and their Native neighbors.

Through treaty negotiation in 1737, native Delaware leaders agreed to sell Pennsylvania all of the land that a man could walk in a day and a half, a common measurement utilized by Delawares in evaluating distances. John and Thomas Penn, joined by the land speculator and longtime friend of the Penns James Logan, hired a team of skilled runners to complete the “walk” on a prepared trail. The runners traveled from Wrightstown to present-day Jim Thorpe and proprietary officials then drew the new boundary line perpendicular to the runners’ route, extending northeast to the Delaware River. The colonial government thus measured out a tract much larger than Delawares had originally intended to sell, roughly 1,200 square miles. As a result, Delaware-proprietary relations suffered. Many Delawares left the lands in question and migrated westward to join Shawnees and other Delawares already living in the Ohio Valley. There, they established diplomatic and trade relationships with the French. Memories of the suspect purchase endured into the 1750s and became a chief point of contention between the Pennsylvanian government and Delawares during the upcoming Seven Years War.27 

 

VI. Conclusion

The seventeenth century saw the creation and maturation of Britain’s North American colonies. Colonists endured a century of struggle against unforgiving climates, hostile natives, and imperial intrigue. They did so largely through ruthless expressions of power. Colonists conquered Native Americans, attacked European rivals, and joined a highly lucrative transatlantic economy rooted in slavery. After surviving a century of desperation and war, British North American colonists fashioned increasingly complex societies with unique religious cultures, economic ties, and political traditions. These societies would come to shape not only North America, but soon the entirety of the Atlantic World.

 

VII. Reference Material

This chapter was edited by Daniel Johnson, with content contributions by Gregory Ablavsky, James Ambuske, Carolyn Arena, L.D. Burnett, Lori Daggar, Daniel Johnson, Hendrick Isom, D. Andrew Johnson, Matthew Kruer, Joseph Locke, Samantha Miller, Melissa Morris, Bryan Rindfleisch, Emily Romeo, John Saillant, Ian Saxine, Marie Stango, Luke Willert, and Ben Wright.

Recommended citation: Gregory Ablavsky et al., “British North America,” Daniel Johnson, ed., in The American Yawp, Joseph Locke and Ben Wright, eds., last modified August 1, 2016, http://www.AmericanYawp.com.

 

Recommended Reading

  • Blackburn, Robin. The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800. London and New York: Verso, 1997.
  • Braddick, Michael. God’s Fury, England’s Fire: A New History of the English Civil Wars. New York: Penguin, 2008.
  • Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Williamsburg, Va.: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • Chaplin, Joyce. Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.
  • Donoghue, John. Fire Under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
  • Gallay, Alan. The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Goodfriend, Joyce D. Before the Melting Pot: Society and Culture in Colonial New York City, 1664-1730. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • Landsman, Ned C. Crossroads of Empire: The Middle Colonies in British North America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
  • Heywood, Linda M. and John K. Thornton. Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585-1660. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Lepore, Jill. The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing, 2009.
  • Little, Ann M. Many Captives of Esther Wheelright. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.
  • Mustakeem, Sowande’ M. Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016.
  • O’Malley, Gregory E. Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807. Williamsburg, Va.: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  • Merrell, James H. Into the American Woods: Negotiations on the Pennsylvania Frontier. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.
  • Parent, Anthony S. Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740. Williamsburg, Va.: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Parrish, Susan Scott. American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
  • Pestana, Carla Gardina. The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640–1661. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • Pulsipher, Jenny Hale. Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.
  • Roney, Jessica Choppin. Governed by a Spirit of Opposition: The Origins of American Political Practice in Colonial Philadelphia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.
  • Ramsey, William L. The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
  • Rice, James D. Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Smallwood, Stephanie E. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • Stanwood, Owen. The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
  • Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Viking, 2002.
  • Wood, Peter H. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion. New York: Norton, 1975.

 

Notes

  1. Edgar Legare Pennington, “The Reverend Francis Le Jau’s Work Among Indians and Negro Slaves,” Journal of Southern History, 1, no. 4 (November 1935): 442-458. []
  2. William Waller Hening, Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia (Richmond, Va, 1809-23), Vol. 11, pp. 170, 260, 266, 270. []
  3. Captain Thomas Phillips, “A Journal of a Voyage Made in the Hannibal of London, 16” in Elizabeth Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade to America: Volume 1, 1441-1700 (New York: Octagon Books, 1969), 403. []
  4. Alexander Falconbridge, An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa (London: 1788). []
  5. Phillip Curtin estimated 9 million Africans were carried across the Atlantic. Joseph E. Inikori’s figure estimated 15 million, and Patrick Manning estimated 12 million transported with 10.5 million surviving the voyage. See. Phillip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969); Joseph E. Inikori, “Measuring the Atlantic slave trade: An assessment of Curtin and Anstey,” Journal of Africa, 17 (1976): 197-223; and Patrick Manning, “Historical datasets on Africa and the African Atlantic,” Journal of Comparative Economics, 40 (2012): 604–607. []
  6. Paul E. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983/2000), 36. []
  7. Jane Landers, “Slavery in the Lower South,” OAH Magazine of History, 17:3 (2003): 23-27. []
  8. Lynn Dumenil, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 512. []
  9. “Facts about the Slave Trade and Slavery,” The Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History. Available online at https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/slavery-and-anti-slavery/resources/facts-about-slave-trade-and-slavery. []
  10. Willie Lee Nichols Rose, ed. A Documentary History of Slavery in North America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 19. []
  11. Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 63-64. []
  12. John H. Elliot, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 148-49. []
  13. Paul Kléber Monod, Imperial Island: A History of Britain and Its Empire, 1660-1837 (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 80. []
  14. Owen Stanwood, “Rumours and Rebellions in the English Atlantic World, 1688-9,” in Tim Harris and Steven Taylor, eds., The Final Crisis of the Stuart Monarchy: The Revolutions of 1688-91 in Their British, Atlantic and European Contexts (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2013), 214. []
  15. Joyce D. Goodfriend, Before the Melting Pot: Society and Culture in Colonial New York City, 1664-1730 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991), 54. []
  16. Quoted in David Hacket Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 459. []
  17. Albert Cook Myers, ed., Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware, 1630-1707 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912), 260. []
  18. Noeleen McIlvenna, A Very Mutinous People: The Struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009). []
  19. John Mason, A Brief History of the Pequot War (1736), (Boston: 1736), available online through [email protected] of Nebraska-Lincoln: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1042&context=etas. []
  20. James David Drake, King Philip’s War: Civil War in New England, 1675-1676 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 169. []
  21. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993). For more on Tituba, see Elaine G. Breslaw, Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies (New York: New York University Press, 1996). []
  22. Nathaniel Bacon, “Manifesto (1676),” in Myra Jehlen and Michael Warner, eds., The English Literatures of America: 1500-1800 (Routledge, 1996), 226. []
  23. Mary Newton Stanard, The Story of Bacon’s Rebellion (New York: 1907), 77-78. []
  24. Quoted in April Lee Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 286 n27. []
  25. Robert Silverberg, The Pueblo Revolt (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 131. []
  26. Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, August 1714-December 1715 (London: Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1928), 168-69. []
  27. Steven Craig Harper, Promised Land: Penn’s Holy Experiment, The Walking Purchase, and the Dispossession of Delawares, 1600-1763 (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2006). []

F17 – 2 Colliding Cultures

Negotiating Peace With the Indians

Theodor de Bry, “Negotiating Peace With the Indians,” 1634, Virginia Historical Society.

*The American Yawp is an evolving, collaborative text. Please click here to improve this chapter.*

I. Introduction

The Columbian Exchange transformed both sides of the Atlantic, but with dramatically disparate outcomes. New diseases wiped out entire civilizations in the Americas, while newly imported nutrient-rich foodstuffs enabled a European population boom. Spain benefited most immediately as the wealth of the Aztec and Incan Empires strengthened the Spanish monarchy. Spain used its new riches to gain an advantage over other European nations, but this advantage was soon contested.

Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and England all raced to the New World, eager to match the gains of the Spanish. Native peoples greeted the new visitors with responses ranging from welcoming cooperation to aggressive violence, but the ravages of disease and the possibility of new trading relationships enabled Europeans to create settlements all along the western rim of the Atlantic world. New empires would emerge from these tenuous beginnings, and by the end of the seventeenth century, Spain would lose its privileged position to its rivals. An age of colonization had begun and, with it, a great collision of cultures commenced.

 

II. Spanish America

Spain extended its reach in the Americas after reaping the benefits of its colonies in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Expeditions slowly began combing the continent and bringing Europeans into the modern-day United States in the hopes of establishing religious and economic dominance in a new territory.

Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in the area named “La Florida” in 1513. He found between 150,000 and 300,000 Native Americans. But then two-and-a-half centuries of contact with European and African peoples–whether through war, slave raids, or, most dramatically, foreign disease–decimated Florida’s indigenous population. European explorers, meanwhile, had hoped to find great wealth in Florida, but reality never aligned with their imaginations.

1513 Atlantic map from cartographer Martin Waldseemuller. Via Wikimedia.

1513 Atlantic map from cartographer Martin Waldseemuller. Via Wikimedia.

In the first half of the sixteenth century, Spanish colonizers fought frequently with Florida’s native peoples as well as with other Europeans. In the 1560s Spain expelled French Protestants, called Huguenots, from the area near modern-day Jacksonville in northeast Florida. In 1586 English privateer Sir Francis Drake burned the wooden settlement of St. Augustine. At the dawn of the seventeenth century, Spain’s reach in Florida extended from the mouth of the St. Johns River south to the environs of St. Augustine—an area of roughly 1,000 square miles. The Spaniards attempted to duplicate methods for establishing control used previously in Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Andes. The Crown granted missionaries the right to live among Timucua and Guale villagers in the late 1500s and early 1600s and encouraged settlement through the encomienda system (grants of Indian labor).1 

In the 1630s, the mission system extended into the Apalachee district in the Florida panhandle. The Apalachee, one of the most powerful tribes in Florida at the time of contact, claimed the territory from the modern Florida-Georgia border to the Gulf of Mexico. Apalachee farmers grew an abundance of corn and other crops. Indian traders carried surplus products east along the Camino Real (the royal road) that connected the western anchor of the mission system with St. Augustine. Spanish settlers drove cattle eastward across the St. Johns River and established ranches as far west as Apalachee. Still, Spain held Florida tenuously.

Further west, in 1598, Juan de Oñate led 400 settlers, soldiers, and missionaries from Mexico into New Mexico. The Spanish Southwest had brutal beginnings. When Oñate sacked the Pueblo city of Acoma, the “sky city,” the Spaniards slaughtered nearly half of its roughly 1,500 inhabitants, including women and children. Oñate ordered one foot cut off of every surviving male over 15 and he enslaved the remaining women and children.2

Santa Fe, the first permanent European settlement in the Southwest, was established in 1610. Few Spaniards relocated to the southwest due to the distance from Mexico City and the dry and hostile environment. Thus, the Spanish never achieved a commanding presence in the region. By 1680, only about 3,000 colonists called Spanish New Mexico home.3 There, they traded with and exploited the local Puebloan peoples. The region’s Puebloan population had plummeted from as many as 60,000 in 1600 to about 17,000 in 1680.4 

Spain shifted strategies after the military expeditions wove their way through the southern and western half of North America. Missions became the engine of colonization in North America. Missionaries, most of whom were members of the Franciscan religious order, provided Spain with an advance guard in North America. Catholicism had always justified Spanish conquest, and colonization always carried religious imperatives. By the early seventeenth century, Spanish friars established dozens of missions along the Rio Grande, in New Mexico, and in California.

 

III. Spain’s Rivals Emerge

The earliest plan of New Amsterdam (now Manhattan). 1660. Wikimedia.

The earliest plan of New Amsterdam (now Manhattan). 1660. Wikimedia.

While Spain plundered the New World, unrest plagued Europe. The Reformation threw England and France, the two European powers capable of contesting Spain, into turmoil. Long and expensive conflicts drained time, resources, and lives. Millions died from religious violence in France alone. As the violence diminished in Europe, however, religious and political rivalries continued in the New World.

The Spanish exploitation of New Spain’s riches inspired European monarchs to invest in exploration and conquest. Reports of Spanish atrocities spread throughout Europe and provided a humanitarian justification for European colonization. An English reprint of the writings of Bartolomé de las Casas bore the sensational title: “Popery Truly Display’d in its Bloody Colours: Or, a Faithful Narrative of the Horrid and Unexampled Massacres, Butcheries, and all manners of Cruelties that Hell and Malice could invent, committed by the Popish Spanish.” An English writer explained that the Indians “were simple and plain men, and lived without great labour,” but in their lust for gold the Spaniards “forced the people (that were not used to labour) to stand all the daie in the hot sun gathering gold in the sand of the rivers. By this means a great number of them (not used to such pains) died, and a great number of them (seeing themselves brought from so quiet a life to such misery and slavery) of desperation killed themselves. And many would not marry, because they would not have their children slaves to the Spaniards.”5 The Spanish accused their critics of fostering a “Black Legend.” The Black Legend drew on religious differences and political rivalries. Spain had successful conquests in France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands and left many in those nations yearning to break free from Spanish influence. English writers argued that Spanish barbarities were foiling a tremendous opportunity for the expansion of Christianity across the globe and that a benevolent conquest of the New World by non-Spanish monarchies offered the surest salvation of the New World’s pagan masses. With these religious justifications, and with obvious economic motives, Spain’s rivals arrived in the New World.

 

The French

The French crown subsidized exploration in the early sixteenth century. Early French explorers sought a fabled Northwest Passage, a mythical waterway passing through the North American continent to Asia. Despite the wealth of the New World, Asia’s riches still beckoned to Europeans. Canada’s Saint Lawrence River appeared to be such a passage, stretching deep into the continent and into the Great Lakes. French colonial possessions centered on these bodies of water (and, later, down the Mississippi River to the port of New Orleans).

French colonization developed through investment from private trading companies. Traders established Port-Royal in Acadia (Nova Scotia) in 1603 and launched trading expeditions that stretched down the Atlantic coast as far as Cape Cod. The needs of the fur trade set the future pattern of French colonization. Founded in 1608 under the leadership of Samuel de Champlain, Quebec provided the foothold for what would become New France. French fur traders placed a higher value on cooperating with the Indians than on establishing a successful French colonial footprint. Asserting dominance in the region could have been to their own detriment, as it might have compromised their access to skilled Indian trappers, and therefore wealth. Few Frenchmen traveled to the New World to settle permanently. In fact, few traveled at all. Many persecuted French Protestants (Huguenots) sought to emigrate after France criminalized Protestantism in 1685, but all non-Catholics were forbidden in New France.6 

Jean-Pierre Lassus, “Veüe et Perspective de la Nouvelle Orleans,” 1726, Centre des archives d’outre-mer, France via Wikimedia. This depiction of New Orleans in 1726 when it was an 8-year-old French frontier settlement.

Jean-Pierre Lassus, “Veüe et Perspective de la Nouvelle Orleans,” 1726, Centre des archives d’outre-mer, France via Wikimedia. This depiction of New Orleans in 1726 when it was an 8-year-old French frontier settlement.

The French preference for trade over permanent settlement fostered more cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships with Native Americans than was typical among the Spanish and English. Perhaps eager to debunk the anti-Catholic elements of the Black Legend, the French worked to cultivate cooperation with Indians. Jesuit missionaries, for instance, adopted different conversion strategies than the Spanish Franciscans. Spanish missionaries brought Indians into enclosed missions, whereas Jesuits more often lived with or alongside Indian groups. Many French fur traders married Indian women.7 The offspring of Indian women and French men were so common in New France that the French developed a word for these children, Métis(sage). The Huron people developed a particularly close relationship with the French and many converted to Christianity and engaged in the fur trade. But close relationships with the French would come at a high cost. The Huron were decimated by the ravages of European disease, and entanglements in French and Dutch conflicts proved disastrous.8 Despite this, some native peoples maintained alliances with the French.

Pressure from the powerful Iroquois in the east pushed many Algonquian-speaking peoples toward French territory in the mid-seventeenth century and together they crafted what historians have called a “middle ground,” a kind of cross-cultural space that allowed for native and European interaction, negotiation, and accommodation. French traders adopted–sometimes clumsily–the gift-giving and mediation strategies expected of native leader. Natives similarly engaged the impersonal European market and adapted–often haphazardly–to European laws. The Great Lakes “middle ground” experienced tumultuous success throughout the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries until English colonial officials and American settlers swarmed the region. The pressures of European expansion strained even the closest bonds.9

 

The Dutch

The Netherlands, a small maritime nation with great wealth, achieved considerable colonial success. In 1581, the Netherlands had officially broken away from the Hapsburgs and won a reputation as the freest of the new European nations. Dutch women maintained separate legal identities from their husbands and could therefore hold property and inherit full estates.

Ravaged by the turmoil of the Reformation, the Dutch embraced greater religious tolerance and freedom of the press than other European nations.10 Radical Protestants, Catholics, and Jews flocked to the Netherlands. The English Pilgrims, for instance, fled first to the Netherlands before sailing to the New World years later. The Netherlands built its colonial empire through the work of experienced merchants and skilled sailors. The Dutch were the most advanced capitalists in the modern world and marshaled extensive financial resources by creating innovative financial organizations such as the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and the East India Company. Although the Dutch offered liberties, they offered very little democracy—power remained in the hands of only a few. And Dutch liberties certainly had their limits. The Dutch advanced the slave trade and brought African slaves with them to the New World. Slavery was an essential part of Dutch capitalist triumphs.

Sharing the European hunger for access to Asia, in 1609 the Dutch commissioned the Englishman Henry Hudson to discover the fabled Northwest Passage through North America. He failed, of course, but nevertheless found the Hudson River and claimed modern-day New York for the Dutch. There they established New Netherland, an essential part of the Dutch New World empire. The Netherlands chartered the Dutch West India Company in 1621 and established colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. The island of Manhattan provided a launching pad to support its Caribbean colonies and attack Spanish trade.

Spiteful of the Spanish and mindful of the “Black Legend,” the Dutch were determined not to repeat Spanish atrocities. They fashioned guidelines for New Netherlands that conformed to the ideas of Hugo Grotius, a legal philosopher who believed native peoples possessed the same natural rights as Europeans. Colony leaders insisted that land be purchased; in 1626 Peter Minuit therefore “bought” Manhattan from Munsee Indians.11 Despite the seemingly honorable intentions, it is very likely that the Dutch paid the wrong Indians for the land (either intentionally or unintentionally) or that the Munsee and the Dutch understood the transaction in very different terms. Transactions like these illustrated both the Dutch attempt to find a more peaceful process of colonization and the inconsistency between European and Native American understandings of property.

Like the French, the Dutch sought to profit, not to conquer. Trade with Native peoples became New Netherland’s central economic activity. Dutch traders carried wampum along pre-existing Native trade routes and exchanged it for beaver pelts. Wampum consisted of shell beads fashioned by Algonquian Indians on the southern New England coast and were valued as a ceremonial and diplomatic commodity among the Iroquois. Wampum became a currency that could buy anything from a loaf of bread to a plot of land.12 

In addition to developing these trading networks, the Dutch also established farms, settlements, and lumber camps. The West India Company directors implemented the patroon system to encourage colonization. The patroon system granted large estates to wealthy landlords, who subsequently paid passage for the tenants to work their land. Expanding Dutch settlements correlated with deteriorating relations with local Indians. In the interior of the continent, the Dutch retained valuable alliances with the Iroquois to maintain Beverwijck, modern-day Albany, as a hub for the fur trade.13 In the places where the Dutch built permanent settlements, the ideals of peaceful colonization succumbed to the settlers’ increasing demand for land. Armed conflicts erupted as colonial settlements encroached on Native villages and hunting lands. Profit and peace, it seemed, could not coexist.

Labor shortages, meanwhile, crippled Dutch colonization. The patroon system failed to bring enough tenants and the colony could not attract a sufficient number of indentured servants to satisfy the colony’s backers. In response, the colony imported 11 company-owned slaves in 1626, the same year that Minuit purchased Manhattan. Slaves were tasked with building New Amsterdam (modern-day New York City), including a defensive wall along the northern edge of the colony (the site of modern-day Wall Street). They created its roads and maintained its all-important port. Fears of racial mixing led the Dutch to import enslaved women, enabling the formation of African Dutch families. The colony’s first African marriage occurred in 1641, and by 1650 there were at least 500 African slaves in the colony. By 1660 New Amsterdam had the largest urban slave population on the continent.14 

As was typical of the practice of African slavery in much of the early seventeenth century, Dutch slavery in New Amsterdam was less comprehensively exploitative than later systems of American slavery. Some enslaved Africans, for instance, successfully sued for back wages. When several company-owned slaves fought for the colony against the Munsee Indians, they petitioned for their freedom and won a kind of “half freedom” that allowed them to work their own land in return for paying a large tithe, or tax, to their masters. The children of these “half-free” laborers remained held in bondage by the West India Company, however. The Dutch, who so proudly touted their liberties, grappled with the reality of African slavery, and some New Netherlanders protested the enslavement of Christianized Africans. The economic goals of the colony slowly crowded out these cultural and religious objections, and the much boasted liberties of the Dutch came to exist alongside increasingly brutal systems of slavery.

 

The Portuguese 

The Portuguese had been leaders in Atlantic navigation well ahead of Columbus’s voyage. But the incredible wealth flowing from New Spain piqued the rivalry between the two Iberian countries, and accelerated Portuguese colonization efforts. This rivalry created a crisis within the Catholic world as Spain and Portugal squared off in a battle for colonial supremacy. The Pope intervened and divided the New World with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Land east of the Tordesillas Meridian, an imaginary line dividing South America, would be given to Portugal, whereas land west of the line was reserved for Spanish conquest. In return for the license to conquer, both Portugal and Spain were instructed to treat the natives with Christian compassion and to bring them under the protection of the Church.

Lucrative colonies in Africa and India initially preoccupied Portugal, but by 1530 the Portuguese turned their attention to the land that would become Brazil, driving out French traders and establishing permanent settlements. Gold and silver mines dotted the interior of the colony, but two industries powered early colonial Brazil: sugar and the slave trade. In fact, over the entire history of the Atlantic slave trade, more Africans were enslaved in Brazil than any other colony in the Atlantic World. Gold mines emerged in greater number throughout the eighteenth century, but still never rivaled the profitability of sugar or slave-trading.

Jesuit missionaries succeeded in bringing Christianity to Brazil, but strong elements of African and native spirituality mixed with orthodox Catholicism to create a unique religious culture. This culture resulted from the demographics of Brazilian slavery. High mortality rates on sugar plantations required a steady influx of new slaves, thus perpetuating the cultural connection between Brazil and Africa. The reliance on new imports of slaves increased the likelihood of resistance, however, and escaped slaves managed to create several free settlements, called quilombos. These settlements drew from both African and Native slaves, and despite frequent attacks, several endured throughout the long history of Brazilian slavery.15 

Despite the arrival of these new Europeans, Spain continued to dominate the New World. The wealth flowing from the exploitation of the Aztec and Incan Empires greatly eclipsed the profits of other European nations. But this dominance would not last long. By the end of the sixteenth century, the powerful Spanish Armada would be destroyed, and the English would begin to rule the waves.

 

IV. English Colonization

Nicholas Hilliard, The Battle of Gravelines, 1588, via National Geographic España

Nicholas Hilliard, The Battle of Gravelines, 1588, via National Geographic España 

Spain had a one-hundred year head start on New World colonization and a jealous England eyed the enormous wealth that Spain gleaned. The Protestant Reformation had shaken England but Elizabeth I assumed the English crown in 1558. Elizabeth oversaw England’s so-called “golden age” that included both the expansion of trade and exploration and the literary achievements of Shakespeare and Marlowe. English mercantilism, a state-assisted manufacturing and trading system, created and maintained markets. The markets provided a steady supply of consumers and laborers, stimulated economic expansion, and increased English wealth.

However, wrenching social and economic changes unsettled the English population. The island’s population increased from fewer than three million in 1500 to over five million by the middle of the seventeenth century.16 The skyrocketing cost of land coincided with plummeting farming income. Rents and prices rose but wages stagnated. Moreover, movements to enclose public land–sparked by the transition of English landholders from agriculture to livestock-raising–evicted tenants from the land and created hordes of landless, jobless peasants that haunted the cities and countryside. One-quarter to one-half of the population lived in extreme poverty.17 

New World colonization won support in England amid a time of rising English fortunes among the wealthy, a tense Spanish rivalry, and mounting internal social unrest. But supporters of English colonization always touted more than economic gains and mere national self-interest. They claimed to be doing God’s work. Many claimed that colonization would glorify God, England, and Protestantism by Christianizing the New World’s pagan peoples. Advocates such as Richard Hakluyt the Younger and John Dee, for instance, drew upon The History of the Kings of Britain, written by the twelfth century monk Geoffrey of Monmouth, and its mythical account of King Arthur’s conquest and Christianization of pagan lands to justify American conquest.18 Moreover, promoters promised that the conversion of New World Indians would satisfy God and glorify England’s “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I, who was seen as nearly divine by some in England. The English—and other European Protestant colonizers—imagined themselves superior to the Spanish, who still bore the Black Legend of inhuman cruelty. English colonization, supporters argued, would prove that superiority.

In his 1584 “Discourse on Western Planting,” Richard Hakluyt amassed the supposed religious, moral, and exceptional economic benefits of colonization. He repeated the “Black Legend” of Spanish New World terrorism and attacked the sins of Catholic Spain. He promised that English colonization could strike a blow against Spanish heresy and bring Protestant religion to the New World. English interference, Hakluyt suggested, may provide the only salvation from Catholic rule in the New World. The New World, too, he said, offered obvious economic advantages. Trade and resource extraction would enrich the English treasury. England, for instance, could find plentiful materials to outfit a world-class navy. Moreover, he said, the New World could provide an escape for England’s vast armies of landless “vagabonds.” Expanded trade, he argued, would not only bring profit, but also provide work for England’s jobless poor. A Christian enterprise, a blow against Spain, an economic stimulus, and a social safety valve all beckoned the English toward a commitment to colonization.19

This noble rhetoric veiled the coarse economic motives that brought England to the New World. New economic structures and a new merchant class paved the way for colonization. England’s merchants lacked estates but they had new plans to build wealth. By collaborating with new government-sponsored trading monopolies and employing financial innovations such as joint-stock companies, England’s merchants sought to improve on the Dutch economic system. Spain was extracting enormous material wealth from the New World; why shouldn’t England? Joint-stock companies, the ancestors of the modern corporations, became the initial instruments of colonization. With government monopolies, shared profits, and managed risks, these money-making ventures could attract and manage the vast capital needed for colonization. In 1606 James I approved the formation of the Virginia Company (named after Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen”).

Rather than formal colonization, however, the most successful early English ventures in the New World were a form of state-sponsored piracy known as privateering. Queen Elizabeth sponsored sailors, or “Sea Dogges,” such as John Hawkins and Francis Drake, to plunder Spanish ships and towns in the Americas. Privateers earned a substantial profit both for themselves and for the English crown. England practiced piracy on a scale, one historian wrote, “that transforms crime into politics.”20 Francis Drake harried Spanish ships throughout the Western Hemisphere and raided Spanish caravans as far away as the coast of Peru on the Pacific Ocean. In 1580 Elizabeth rewarded her skilled pirate with knighthood. But Elizabeth walked a fine line. With Protestant-Catholic tensions already running high, English privateering provoked Spain. Tensions worsened after the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic. In 1588, King Philip II of Spain unleashed the fabled Armada. With 130 Ships, 8,000 sailors, and 18,000 soldiers, Spain launched the largest invasion in history to destroy the British navy and depose Elizabeth. 

An island nation, England depended upon a robust navy for trade and territorial expansion. England had fewer ships than Spain but they were smaller and swifter. They successfully harassed the Armada, forcing it to retreat to the Netherlands for reinforcements. But then a fluke storm, celebrated in England as the “divine wind,” annihilated the remainder of the fleet.21 The destruction of the Armada changed the course of world history. It not only saved England and secured English Protestantism, but it also opened the seas to English expansion and paved the way for England’s colonial future. By 1600, England stood ready to embark upon its dominance over North America.

English colonization would look very different from Spanish or French colonization. England had long been trying to conquer Catholic Ireland. Rather than integrating with the Irish and trying to convert them to Protestantism, England more often simply seized land through violence and pushed out the former inhabitants, leaving them to move elsewhere or to die. These same tactics would later be deployed in North American invasions. 

English colonization, however, began haltingly. Sir Humphrey Gilbert labored throughout the late-sixteenth century to establish a colony in Newfoundland but failed. In 1587, with a predominantly male cohort of 150 English colonizers, John White reestablished an abandoned settlement on North Carolina’s Roanoke Island. Supply shortages prompted White to return to England for additional support but the Spanish Armada and the mobilization of British naval efforts stranded him in Britain for several years. When he finally returned to Roanoke, he found the colony abandoned. What befell the failed colony? White found the word “Croatan” carved into a tree or a post in the abandoned colony. Historians presume the colonists, short of food, may have fled for a nearby island of that name and encountered its settled native population. Others offer violence as an explanation. Regardless, the English colonists were never heard from again. When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, no Englishmen had yet established a permanent North American colony.

After King James made peace with Spain in 1604, privateering no longer held out the promise of cheap wealth. Colonization assumed a new urgency. The Virginia Company, established in 1606, drew inspiration from Cortes and the Spanish conquests. It hoped to find gold and silver as well as other valuable trading commodities in the New World: glass, iron, furs, pitch, tar, and anything else the country could supply. The Company planned to identify a navigable river with a deep harbor, away from the eyes of the Spanish. There they would find an Indian trading network and extract a fortune from the New World.

 

V. Jamestown

"Incolarum Virginiae piscandi ratio (The Method of Fishing of the Inhabitants of Virginia)," c1590, via the Encyclopedia Virginia.

“Incolarum Virginiae piscandi ratio (The Method of Fishing of the Inhabitants of Virginia),” c1590, via the Encyclopedia Virginia.

In April 1607 Englishmen aboard three ships—the Susan ConstantGodspeed, and Discovery—sailed forty miles up the James River (named for the English king) in present-day Virginia (Named for Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen”) and settled upon just such a place. The uninhabited peninsula they selected was upriver and out of sight of Spanish patrols. It offered easy defense against ground assaults and was both uninhabited and located close enough to many Indian villages and their potentially lucrative trade networks. But the location was a disaster. Indians had ignored the peninsula for two reasons: Terrible soil hampered agriculture and brackish tidal water led to debilitating disease. Despite these setbacks, the English built Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in the present-day United States.

The English had not entered a wilderness but had arrived amid a people they called the Powhatan Confederacy. Powhatan, or Wahunsenacawh, as he called himself, led nearly 10,000 Algonquian-speaking Indians in the Chesapeake. They burned vast acreage to clear brush and create sprawling artificial park-like grasslands so they could easily hunt deer, elk, and bison. The Powhatan raised corn, beans, squash, and possibly sunflowers, rotating acreage throughout the Chesapeake. Without plows, manure, or draft animals, the Powhatan achieved a remarkable number of calories cheaply and efficiently.

Jamestown was a profit-seeking venture backed by investors. The colonists were mostly gentlemen and proved entirely unprepared for the challenges ahead. They hoped for easy riches but found none. As John Smith later complained, they “Would rather starve than work.”22 And so they did. Disease and starvation ravaged the colonists, thanks in part to the peninsula’s unhealthy location and the fact that supplies from England arrived sporadically or spoiled. Fewer than half of the original colonists survived the first nine months.

John Smith, a yeoman’s son and capable leader, took command of the crippled colony and promised, “He that will not work shall not eat.” He navigated Indian diplomacy, claiming that he was captured and sentenced to death but Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, intervened to save his life. She would later marry another colonist, John Rolfe, and die in England.

Powhatan kept the English alive that first winter. The Powhatan had welcomed the English and placed a high value on metal axe-heads, kettles, tools, and guns and eagerly traded furs and other abundant goods for them. With 10,000 confederated natives and with food in abundance, the Indians had little to fear and much to gain from the isolated outpost of sick and dying Englishmen.

John White, “Village of the Secotan, 1585, via Wikimedia.

John White, “Village of the Secotan, 1585, via Wikimedia.

Despite reinforcements, the English continued to die. Four hundred settlers arrived in 1609, but the overwhelmed colony entered a desperate “starving time” in the winter of 1609-1610. Supplies were lost at sea. Relations with the Indians deteriorated and the colonists fought a kind of slow-burning guerrilla war with the Powhatan. Disaster loomed for the colony. The settlers ate everything they could, roaming the woods for nuts and berries. They boiled leather. They dug up graves to eat the corpses of their former neighbors. One man was executed for killing and eating his wife. Some years later, George Percy recalled the colonists’ desperation during these years, when he served as the colony’s president: “Having fed upon our horses and other beasts as long as they lasted, we were glad to make shift with vermin as dogs, cats, rats and mice … as to eat boots shoes or any other leather … And now famine beginning to look ghastly and pale in every face, that nothing was spared to maintain life and to doe those things which seam incredible, as to dig up dead corpses out of graves and to eat them.”23 Archaeological excavations in 2012 exhumed the bones of a fourteen-year-old girl that exhibited signs of cannibalism.24 All but 60 settlers would die by the summer of 1610.

Little improved over the next several years. By 1616, 80 percent of all English immigrants that arrived in Jamestown had perished. England’s first American colony was a catastrophe. The colony was reorganized, and in 1614 the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe eased relations with the Powhatan, though the colony still limped along as a starving, commercially disastrous tragedy. The colonists were unable to find any profitable commodities remained dependent upon the Indians and sporadic shipments from England for food. But then tobacco saved Jamestown.

By the time King James I described tobacco as a “noxious weed, … loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs,” it had already taken Europe by storm. In 1616 John Rolfe crossed tobacco strains from Trinidad and Guiana and planted Virginia’s first tobacco crop. In 1617 the colony sent its first cargo of tobacco back to England. The “noxious weed,” a native of the New World, fetched a high price in Europe and the tobacco boom began in Virginia and then later spread to Maryland. Within fifteen years American colonists were exporting over 500,000 pounds of tobacco per year. Within forty, they were exporting fifteen million.25 

Tobacco changed everything. It saved Virginia from ruin, incentivized further colonization, and laid the groundwork for what would become the United States. With a new market open, Virginia drew not only merchants and traders, but also settlers. Colonists came in droves. They were mostly young, mostly male, and mostly indentured servants who signed contracts called indentures that bonded them to employers for a period of years in return for passage across the ocean. But even the rough terms of servitude were no match for the promise of land and potential profits that beckoned English farmers. But still there were not enough of them. Tobacco was a labor-intensive crop and ambitious planters, with seemingly limitless land before them, lacked only laborers to escalate their wealth and status. The colony’s great labor vacuum inspired the creation of the “headright policy” in 1618: any person who migrated to Virginia would automatically receive 50 acres of land and any immigrant whose passage they paid would entitle them to 50 acres more.

In 1619 the Virginia Company established the House of Burgesses, a limited representative body composed of white landowners that first met in Jamestown. That same year, a Dutch slave ship sold 20 Africans to the Virginia colonists. Southern slavery was born.

Soon the tobacco-growing colonists expanded beyond the bounds of Jamestown’s deadly peninsula. When it became clear that the English were not merely intent on maintaining a small trading post, but sought a permanent ever-expanding colony, conflict with the Powhatan Confederacy became almost inevitable. Powhatan died in 1622 and was succeeded by his brother, Opechancanough, who promised to drive the land-hungry colonists back into the sea. He launched a surprise attack and in a single day (March 22, 1622) killed 347 colonists, or one-fourth of all the colonists in Virginia. The colonists retaliated and revisited the massacres upon Indian settlements many times over. The massacre freed the colonists to drive the Indians off their land. The governor of Virginia declared it colonial policy to achieve the “expulsion of the savages to gain the free range of the country.”26 War and disease destroyed the remnants of the Chesapeake Indians and tilted the balance of power decisively toward the English colonizers.

English colonists brought to the New World particular visions of racial, cultural, and religious supremacy. Despite starving in the shadow of the Powhatan Confederacy, English colonists nevertheless judged themselves physically, spiritually, and technologically superior to native peoples in North America. Christianity, metallurgy, intensive agriculture, trans-Atlantic navigation, and even wheat all magnified the English sense of superiority. This sense of superiority, when coupled with outbreaks of violence, left the English feeling entitled to indigenous lands and resources.

Spanish conquerors established the framework for the Atlantic slave trade over a century before the first chained Africans arrived at Jamestown. Even Bartolomé de las Casas, celebrated for his pleas to save Native Americans from colonial butchery, for a time recommended that indigenous labor be replaced by importing Africans. Early English settlers from the Caribbean and Atlantic coast of North America mostly imitated European ideas of African inferiority. “Race” followed the expansion of slavery across the Atlantic world. Skin-color and race suddenly seemed fixed. Englishmen equated Africans with categorical blackness and blackness with Sin, “the handmaid and symbol of baseness.”27 An English essayist in 1695 wrote that “A negro will always be a negro, carry him to Greenland, feed him chalk, feed and manage him never so many ways.”28 More and more Europeans embraced the notions that Europeans and Africans were of distinct races. Others now preached that the Old Testament God cursed Ham, the son of Noah, and doomed black people to perpetual enslavement.

And yet in the early years of American slavery, ideas about race were not yet fixed and the practice of slavery was not yet codified. The first generations of Africans in English North America faced miserable conditions but, in contrast to later American history, their initial servitude was not necessarily permanent, heritable, or even particularly disgraceful. Africans were definitively set apart as fundamentally different from their white counterparts, and faced longer terms of service and harsher punishments, but, like the indentured white servants whisked away from English slums, these first Africans in North America could also work for only a set number of years before becoming free landowners themselves. The Angolan Anthony Johnson, for instance, was sold into servitude but fulfilled his indenture and became a prosperous tobacco planter himself.29 

In 1622, at the dawn of the tobacco boom, Jamestown had still seemed a failure. But the rise of tobacco and the destruction of the Powhatan turned the tide. Colonists escaped the deadly peninsula and immigrants poured into the colony to grow tobacco and turn a profit for the Crown.

 

VI. New England

Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, via The History Project (UC Davis).

The English colonies in New England established from 1620 onward were founded with loftier goals than those in Virginia. Although migrants to New England expected economic profit, religious motives directed the rhetoric and much of the reality of these colonies. Not every English person who moved to New England during the seventeenth century was a Puritan, but Puritans dominated the politics, religion, and culture of New England. Even after 1700, the region’s Puritan inheritance shaped many aspects of its history.

The term Puritan began as an insult, and its recipients usually referred to each other as “the godly” if they used a specific term at all. Puritans believed that the Church of England did not distance itself far enough from Catholicism after Henry VIII broke with Rome in the 1530s. They largely agreed with European Calvinists—followers of theologian Jean Calvin—on matters of religious doctrine. Calvinists (and Puritans) believed that mankind was redeemed by God’s Grace alone, and that the fate of an individual’s immortal soul was predestined. The happy minority God had already chosen to save were known among English Puritans as the Elect. Calvinists also argued that the decoration or churches, reliance on ornate ceremony, and corrupt priesthood obscured God’s message. They believed that reading the Bible was the best way to understand God.

Puritans were stereotyped by their enemies as dour killjoys, and the exaggeration has endured. It is certainly true that the Puritans’ disdain for excess and opposition to many holidays popular in Europe (including Christmas, which, as Puritans never tired of reminding everyone, the Bible never told anyone to celebrate) lent themselves to caricature. But Puritans understood themselves as advocating a reasonable middle path in a corrupt world. It would never occur to a Puritan, for example, to abstain from alcohol or sex.

During the first century after the English Reformation (c.1530-1630) Puritans sought to “purify” the Church of England of all practices that smacked of Catholicism, advocating a simpler worship service, the abolition of ornate churches, and other reforms. They had some success in pushing the Church of England in a more Calvinist direction, but with the coronation of King Charles I (r. 1625-1649), the Puritans gained an implacable foe that cast English Puritans as excessive and dangerous. Facing growing persecution, the Puritans began the Great Migration, during which about 20,000 people traveled to New England between 1630 and 1640. The Puritans (unlike the small band of separatist “Pilgrims” who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620) remained committed to reforming the Church of England, but temporarily decamped to North America to accomplish this task. Leaders like John Winthrop insisted they were not separating from, or abandoning, England, but were rather forming a godly community in America, that would be a “City on a Hill” and an example for reformers back home.30 The Puritans did not seek to create a haven of religious toleration, a notion that they—along with nearly all European Christians—regarded as ridiculous at best, and dangerous at worst.

While the Puritans did not succeed in building a godly utopia in New England, a combination of Puritan traits with several external factors created colonies wildly different from any other region settled by English people. Unlike those heading to Virginia, colonists in New England (Plymouth [1620], Massachusetts Bay [1630], Connecticut [1636], and Rhode Island [1636]) generally arrived in family groups. The majority of New England immigrants were small landholders in England, a class contemporary English called the “middling sort.” When they arrived in New England they tended to replicate their home environments, founding towns comprised of independent landholders. The New England climate and soil made large-scale plantation agriculture impractical, so the system of large landholders using masses of slaves or indentured servants to grow labor-intensive crops never took hold.

There is no evidence that the New England Puritans would have opposed such a system were it possible; other Puritans made their fortunes on the Caribbean sugar islands, and New England merchants profited as suppliers of provisions and slaves to those colonies. By accident of geography as much as by design, New England society was much less stratified than any of Britain’s other seventeenth-century colonies.

Although New England colonies could boast wealthy landholding elites, the disparity of wealth in the region remained narrow compared to the Chesapeake, Carolina, or the Caribbean. Instead, seventeenth-century New England was characterized by a broadly-shared modest prosperity based on a mixed economy dependent on small farms, shops, fishing, lumber, shipbuilding, and trade with the Atlantic World.

A combination of environmental factors and the Puritan social ethos produced a region of remarkable health and stability during the seventeenth century. New England immigrants avoided most of the deadly outbreaks of tropical disease that turned Chesapeake colonies into graveyards. Disease, in fact, only aided English settlement and relations to Native Americans. In contrast to other English colonists who had to contend with powerful Native American neighbors, the Puritans confronted the stunned survivors of a biological catastrophe. A lethal pandemic of smallpox during the 1610s swept away as much as 90 percent of the region’s Native American population. Many survivors welcomed the English as potential allies against rival tribes who had escaped the catastrophe. The relatively healthy environment coupled with political stability and the predominance of family groups among early immigrants allowed the New England population to grow to 91,000 people by 1700 from only 21,000 immigrants. In contrast, 120,000 English went to the Chesapeake, and only 85,000 white colonists remained in 1700.31

The New England Puritans set out to build their utopia by creating communities of the godly. Groups of men, often from the same region of England, applied to the colony’s General Court for land grants.32 They generally divided part of the land for immediate use while keeping much of the rest as “commons” or undivided land for future generations. The town’s inhabitants collectively decided the size of each settler’s home lot based on their current wealth and status. Besides oversight of property, the town restricted membership, and new arrivals needed to apply for admission. Those who gained admittance could participate in town governments that, while not democratic by modern standards, nevertheless had broad popular involvement. All male property holders could vote in town meetings and choose the selectmen, assessors, constables, and other officials from among themselves to conduct the daily affairs of government. Upon their founding, towns wrote covenants, reflecting the Puritan belief in God’s covenant with His people. Towns sought to arbitrate disputes and contain strife, as did the church. Wayward or divergent individuals were persuaded, corrected, or coerced. Popular conceptions of Puritans as hardened authoritarians are exaggerated, but if persuasion and arbitration failed, people who did not conform to community norms were punished or removed. Massachusetts banished Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and other religious dissenters like the Quakers.

Although by many measures colonization in New England succeeded, its Puritan leaders failed in their own mission to create a utopian community that would inspire their fellows back in England. They tended to focus their disappointment on the younger generation. “But alas!” Increase Mather lamented, “That so many of the younger Generation have so early corrupted their [the founders’] doings!”33 The Jeremiad, a sermon lamenting the fallen state of New England due to its straying from its early virtuous path, became a staple of late seventeenth-century Puritan literature.

Yet the Jeremiads could not stop the effects of prosperity. The population spread and grew more diverse. Many, if not most, New Englanders retained strong ties to their Calvinist roots into the eighteenth century, but the Puritans (who became Congregationalists) struggled against a rising tide of religious pluralism. On December 25, 1727, Judge Samuel Sewell noted in his diary that a new Anglican minister “keeps the day in his new Church at Braintrey: people flock thither.” Previously forbidden holidays like Christmas were celebrated publicly in church and privately in homes. Puritan divine Cotton Mather discovered on the Christmas of 1711, “a number of young people of both sexes, belonging, many of them, to my flock, had…a Frolick, a reveling Feast, and a Ball, which discovers their Corruption.”34

Despite the lamentations of the Mathers and other Puritan leaders of their failure, they left an enduring mark on New England culture and society that endured long after the region’s residents ceased to be called “Puritan.”

 

VII. Conclusion

The fledgling settlements in Virginia and Massachusetts paled in importance when compared to the sugar colonies of the Caribbean. Valued more as marginal investments and social safety valves where the poor could be released, these colonies nonetheless created a foothold for Britain on a vast North American continent. And although the seventeenth century would be fraught for Britain–religious, social, and political upheavals would behead one king and force another to flee his throne–settlers in Massachusetts and Virginia were nonetheless tied together by the emerging Atlantic economy. While commodities such as tobacco and sugar fueled new markets in Europe, the economy grew increasingly dependent upon slave labor. Enslaved Africans transported across the Atlantic would further complicate the collision of cultures in the Americas. The creation and maintenance of a slave system would spark new understandings of human difference and new modes of social control. The economic exchanges of the new Atlantic economy would not only generate great wealth and exploitation, they would also lead to new cultural systems and new identities for the inhabitants of at least four continents.

 

VIII. Reference Materials

This chapter was edited by Ben Wright and Joseph Locke, with content contributions by Erin Bonuso, L.D. Burnett, Jon Grandage, Joseph Locke, Lisa Mercer, Maria Montalvo, Ian Saxine, Jennifer Tellman, Luke Willert, and Ben Wright.

Recommended citation: Erin Bonuso et al, “Colliding Cultures,” Ben Wright and Joseph L. Locke, eds. The American Yawp, Joseph L. Locke and Ben Wright, ads., last modified August 1, 2016,  http://www.AmericanYawp.com.

 

Recommended Reading

  • Armitage, David and Michael J. Braddick, eds. The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002.
  • Barr, Juliana. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  • Blackburn, Robin. The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800. London and New York: Verso, 1997.
  • Calloway, Colin G. New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
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Notes

  1. Stanley L. Engerman, Robert E. Gallman, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, Vol I The Colonial Era (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 21. []
  2. Andrew L. Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth Century New Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), 46. []
  3. John E Kicza and Rebecca Horn, Resilient Cultures: America’s Native Peoples Confront European Colonization, 1500-1800 (New York: Routledge, 2013), 122. []
  4. Andrew L. Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 155. []
  5. John Ponet, A Short Treatise on Political Power: And of the true Obedience which Subjects owe to Kings, and other civil Governors (London: 1556), 43-44. []
  6. Alan Greer, The People of New France (Toronto: University of Tortonto Press, 1997). []
  7. Susan Sleeper-Smith, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001). []
  8. Carole Blackburn, Harvest of Souls: The Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632-1659 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000), 116. []
  9. Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). []
  10. Evan Haefeli, New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 20-53. []
  11. Allen W. Trelease, Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: The Seventeenth Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1960/1997), 36. []
  12. Daniel K. Richter, Trade, Land, Power: The Struggle for Eastern North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 101. []
  13. Janny Venema, Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664 (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003). []
  14. Leslie M. Harris, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 21. []
  15. Alida C. Metcalf, Go-betweens and the Colonization of Brazil: 1500–1600 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005). See also James H. Sweet, Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. []
  16. Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton, 1975), 30. []
  17. John Walter, Crowds and Popular Politics in Early Modern England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006), 131-135. []
  18. Christopher Hodgkins, Reforming Empire: Protestant Colonialism and Conscience in British Literature (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 15. []
  19. Richard Hakluyt, Discourse on Western Planting (1584). Available online from archive.org: https://archive.org/details/discourseonweste02hakl_0. []
  20. Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton & Co. , 1975), 9. []
  21. Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). []
  22. John Smith, Advertisements for the Inexperienced Planters 
of New England, or Anywhere 
or 
The Pathway To Experience to Erect a Plantation (London: 1631), 16. []
  23. George Percy, “A True Relation of the Proceedings and Occurrents of Moment which Have Hap’ned in Virginia,” quoted in, Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony, the First Decade, 1607–1617, Edward Wright Haile, ed. (Champlain, Va.: Round House, 1998), p. 505. []
  24. Eric A. Powell, “Chilling Discovery at Jamestown,” Archaeology (June 10, 2013). Available online at: www.archaeology.org/issues/96-1307/trenches/973-jamestown-starving-time-cannibalism. []
  25. Dennis Montgomery, 1607: Jamestown and the New World (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2007), 126. []
  26. Daniel K. Richter, Facing East From Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), 75. []
  27. Winthrop Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-12 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 7. []
  28. Ibid., 16. []
  29. T. H. Breen and Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640-1676 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980/2005). []
  30. John Winthrop, A Modell of Christian Charity (1830), first published in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston, 1838), 3rd series 7:31-48. Available online at http://history.hanover.edu/texts/winthmod.html. Accessed July 1, 2015. []
  31. Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (New York, Penguin, 2001), 170. []
  32. Virginia DeJohn Anderson, New England’s Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 90-91. []
  33. Increase Mather, A Testimony Against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practised by Some in New-England (London: 1687). []
  34. Diary of Cotton Mather, 1709-724 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1912), 146. []