Unit One: 1492-1776: Colonial History to the American Revolution




In 1607 Jamestown was established. The Virginia Company, a joint stock, received a charter from the king to establish a colony. John Smith led them to the new world. The main goals of the colony were to find gold, convert natives to Christianity, and find a passage to India. The company had no intention of setting up something permanent. The settlers got a charter to receive same rights, as they would back in England. The settlers’ characteristics generally consisted of being the second and third sons of wealthier families, white, and male.

Jamestown is socially important because it created a bad relationship with the natives that would later come to almost terminating the colony back to England and wiping out a variety of native tribes and their culture. Politically, Jamestown created the basis of the government by setting up an aristocracy, giving the power to a small superior class. They also established the House of Burgesses that sets up somewhat of a republic. Economically, the colony was weak. This is because the colonists were solely set on finding gold and didn’t think of agriculture or setting up and establishment. Influenced by Spain’s expansion of converting natives to their religion, the Jamestown colonists strived to bring the Church of England as much into the lives of all in the New world.

Discovery of Tobacco


When the economy was failing within the Jamestown settlement, John Rolfe introduced tobacco in 1617. It became the number one cash crop. The plantation system was developed from farmers needing big plots of land to grow enough tobacco to make a profit. It became very high in demand and was traded.

The founding of tobacco was very important to the economy because without it the colony would not have built a stable foundation for the economy. The tobacco was also part of the triangle trade system. Socially it was important because the tobacco plantations started the slave trade because the plots of land were so large resulting in a larger population. Politically the growing of tobacco was important because it created the need for land expansion. Because the growing of tobacco took nutrients out of the fertile soil, plots of land could only be used so many times before the need for new land arose. Also politically it formed more colonies in the new world. Without the influence of tobacco, Jamestown could have failed and the English might not have had a good foundation in the new world.

Headright System


In the Chesapeake area was dwindling due to high death rates from disease and low birth rate from the shortage of women. With the need of more people rising, the headright system was developed to encourage English with benefits of coming to the new world. The headright system was developed for the farmers to get more plantation workers. The farmers could pay for a white indentured servant to come over to the new world. In return, England would grant the immigrant 50 acres of land. The servants that were brought over were to work for about seven years and then could live in the new world on their own land. It also benefitted the colonists already there by granting 100 acres of land to them. The more family members you had the more land that was granted to you.

This event was important socially because it rapidly increased the number of colonists in North America. This is because the Englanders figured they would be receiving even more land than they had back in England. It was also important socially because it drove the division between the wealthy landowners and the labor workers. Economically this event was important because it increased the amount of workers, which increased the amount of production on plantations, essentially driving the rising economy. Without the headright system the society would have failed because the headright system diversified it by bringing over women and children.

African Slaves


In the rapidly growing need for workers, colonists turned to importing African slaves in 1619. Because colonists were looking to recreate a society similar to England’s, the colonists mostly used white indentured slaves from England. But with the white slave population not being enough for the big plantations, the colonists started to import the Africans. The slaves worked in the plantation fields.

This event impacted the economy greatly. With the steady growth of workers it created more crops to trade, boosting the economy. As the rise of African slaves was happening, the white indentured slaves started to refuse to work along side them, slightly hurting the economy. It was important politically because it created new laws in the future. When the African slaves first came they were also treated as indentured slaves, giving them freedom after their years of work. In 1660, laws were passed by the House of Burgesses, stating that all blacks were to be life long slaves. This started a long line of slavery that wouldn’t be ended until the civil war. Socially the importing of slaves divided the colonies even more than it was. Now, slaves were added to the bottom under white labor workers and on top of that, the wealthy white landowners.

Pilgrims/Mayflower compact


The Pilgrims came over to the new world and established the Plymouth colony in 1620. The Pilgrims were puritan separatists who were harshly treated by the Church of England for defying it. The Separatists were driven to America because of this. They sought to make a colony that was completely separate from the Anglican ways. Their original plan was to work with the Virginian colony for seven years but instead their ship sailed in Plymouth where they found a place to set up a completely new colony. On their way over they signed a compact that set up a form of government that was totally separate from religion and that majority would rule.

This event was important politically because it set up a new form of government different from any other. The new government influenced many other governments such as the one we live in today. This document also set up a form of democracy with majority rule. The pilgrims were religiously important because they set up a society where religion can be the biggest part of their lives without influencing government actions. Overall, the pilgrims and the mayflower compact are both important in influencing other unhappy Englanders to migrate to the New World.

Massachusetts Bay Colony


Seeing that the pilgrims made it to Plymouth, the puritans wanted to come to the new world as well. The main motivations for the puritans to migrate were similar to the pilgrims; the Church of England harshly treated them. The puritans were different from the Separatists in that they wanted to purify the Church not to defy it all together. They decided to go to the New World to create a utopian lifestyle. Puritans gathered and disguised themselves as an economic venture to create revenue for England to receive a charter from the King. Differing from the Virginians, the puritans brought over families in the idea of becoming a utopian society. Once they were in Massachusetts, the puritans set up a theocracy that only allowed congressional church members and men to vote. Although they believed in freedom to practice their own religion, they didn’t believe anyone else was to practice anything else.

This event is important socially because it distinguished different rights between men and women and made some colonists very angry. For example, Anne Hutchinson, a dissenter, believed that the government was corrupt and that women were misrepresented in society. The dissenters were banished from the colony and went on to creating other colonies such as Connecticut, New Haven, and New Hampshire. This socially made it hard to have a good relationship with other colonies because of differences in beliefs. Religiously this event was important because it created a society that only certain beliefs could evolve. This event was important politically because it created new colonies by setting up a tough government that rejected many people because of religion. It also influenced the Fundamental Orders, the first constitution in America. Overall the colony was important because it created a strong society that would help influence the ideas in the revolution.

New England Confederation


In 1643, delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth met to solve religious, trade, and boundary disputes. At this time, the English were in a civil war and left the colonies to rule themselves. The colonies felt vulnerable to the French, Dutch, and natives because of the salutary neglect. The New England Confederation was an attempt to unite if anything was to happen to anyone of them. In their meet up they established that there would be two representatives from each colony that would be the leaders in determining the actions by voting with the other representatives.
This unity was important diplomatically because it helped prepare the colonies to defend in King Philip’s war in 1675. This event was very important socially because it was the first attempt at trying to unite the colonies that would later come to help them unite under a common enemy, Great Britain.

Bacon's Rebellion


In 1676, a rebellion led by Nathaniel Bacon arises in the west. In 1673, Bacon arrived in Virginia as a well-educated wealthy man and buys a farm in the west. He was seated on the governor’s council and brought up the concerns of the western colonists that the natives were going to attack them. The governor at the time, William Berkeley, didn’t want to upset the Indians by brining up the conflict, as to not disturb the fur trade between them. In 1675, a native tribe rebelled against the farmers. Bacon led a strike back with other landless colonists on the Indians and rebelled against the government. Bacon led the rebellion into Jamestown twice. In 1677, the natives signed a treaty to allow the colonists more land. The rebellion was socially important because it showed the competitiveness between the East and the West. It also showed population instability. It united east and west in preventing social unrest. Economically, it brought over the African slaves. Bacon’s rebellion was an eye opener to see the hatred towards the natives.

Glorious Revolution

1688 - 1689

In 1688, the Glorious Revolution took place in Great Britain. Parliament replaced King James II with his daughter and her Dutch husband. The colonists were content because James II only elected Roman Catholics to government positions in the colonies and limited the amount of self-governance. The colonists weren’t happy for long when they realized the new King wasn’t that different from the one before. Although he still didn’t allow self-rule, he did ban Roman Catholics from taking office positions. The colonists were still not happy with the new king. It was significant in that it started the breaking off of the colonies from the relationship with England. It also marked the when parliament started to receive more power than the king including the power to tax, hold court, and have supremacy of the law.

Salem Witch Trials


From 1691 to 1692 the phenomenon of witchcraft swept the nation and England. It started in Salem, Massachusetts when a group of young girls started accusing West Indians of voodoo. The phenomenon spread quickly; by the end 19 women were accused and killed. The women who were accused ranged from west Indians to substantial colonial women. Their characteristics usually contained being middle aged, a widow, and owning land. The characteristics all challenged gender norms. It got so out of hand that the governor put an end to it. Years later the girls admitted they made it all up.

This event was significant in that it showed the influence the church had on a large mass of people. It also showed that people destroyed what was not normal or unique. Socially it showed that gender inequality was a huge impact in the lives of the colonists and the English homelands. Politically it ended religious dominance over law.

Great Awakening


In 1734, the era of the Great Awakening arose. Many puritans had lost religious influence preceding the Great Awakening. Sermons were given to reopen the idea that God is on to be thinking of. Jonathan Edwards was a famous sermon giver and influential. He preached that puritans should be praying for sins and asking for forgiveness from God. The idea at the time was to confess all sins in public to be accepted by god. This was a new light era that brought upon the colonists that now that they could understand the gospel, they didn’t need the clergy telling them if they were accepted by god or not.

This was socially important because it united the colonies in a common experience that they all went through, it didn’t matter what social class you were in. It also spread the idea of independence and contributed to the idea of independence from Great Britain. It was politically important because it founded a foundation for democracy. Intellectually it created many universities dedicated to teach the new ideas of the Great Awakening such as Dartmouth, Rutgers, and Princeton.

Start of French and Indian War


From 1688 to 1763 the French and Indian war broke out. It started when the French tried to take the Ohio Valley to prevent the British from moving west. Early on the Colonists and the English knew they had to work together fighting the French and Natives because of the technological advances they had gained. When the war was won the event had come to many impacts that ultimately led to the Revolution.

This war was important socially because it made the colonies see that they were stronger working together rather than 13 different units making them more ready to fight in the Revolution as one. It was important economically because Great Britain had to quickly make up for the loss of money in war, they imposed taxes and acts on the colonies such as the quartering act. These acts made the colonies realize that they were really a separate unit from England and England should have no right to tax them from overseas. The idea of “no taxation without representation” came about which drove a lot of people to the Revolution. The war was politically important because it drove the British to see that the colonists weren’t being governed to the extent they wanted. It ultimately stopped the salutary neglect era where the British government paid no attention to the colonies. The British sent harsh rulers to the colonies and eventually turned all colonies into royal colonies that were ruled under the crown. Since power was taken away from the colonists, they became furious and rebelled, leading them closer to the end result, the American Revolution.

The Albany Plan


In 1754, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island met in Albany, New York to devise a plan about how to react to native outbreaks and how to defend against the French. Benjamin Franklin, one of the representatives, thought up the Albany plan. Its purpose was to try and unite the colonies as one and try for a common defense. The colonies were too busy struggling with what was already happening so the plan was not passed. This event is important because shortly after, the seven years war started and the Albany plan helped format how the colonies worked together. It also served as a template to the Articles of Confederation later made trying to unite the colonies to become stronger.

Pontiac's Rebellion


In 1763, Pontiac’s rebellion marked the end of the salutary neglect the colonists were faced with. After the war ended, the natives in the Ohio valley wouldn’t let go of the land that the British had won by spending more money to win it. The natives, led by chief Pontiac, were furious and attacked the colonies. They destroyed homes and killed many colonists. The fighting lasted 18 months and British troops were sent over, putting Great Britain into even more debt. With the loss of money for the British, they didn’t want to create more war to spend even more money. This called for the Proclamation line of 1763. It prohibited the colonists moving west into the native territory to prevent outbreak. The colonists were angry that the British had the power to take away what they had won in battle.

This event was important socially because it drove the colonists to see the differences between them and the British. It also brought the colonies closer by giving them a common enemy and later rebelling. This event drove the both sides closer to the Revolution. This event was important politically because the British laid out the proclamation line of 1763 that forbid the colonists to move west. Resulting from the proclamation line, the colonists rebelled.

Stamp Act


In 1765, at an attempt by the British to make profit to make up for the French and Indian war, they imposed the Stamp Act among the Colonists. This required all official paper documents to have a stamp upon them. This was the first time the colonists were receiving a direct tax and it made them outraged. This event was important because it made the colonists angry that their rights were being taken away from a distant place. They believed that they shouldn’t be directly taxed unless done locally instead of virtually. James Otis was the founder of the famous saying “no taxation without representation”. Shortly after the act was imposed, the Stamp Act congress was formed. They were representatives from 9 of the 13 colonies. They were important in sending a letter to the king arguing that they were being cheated. The sons and daughters of Liberty terrorized tax collectors that were sent into the colonies. Economically it impacted the English trade and forced them to repeal the act. Socially it was important because the relationship was torn almost to the separation point that would later happen to become the Revolutionary war.

Boston Massacre


In 1772, the Bostonians were getting angry with the British and caused the event of the Boston Massacre. The colonists were angry because the Quartering act was being enforced. This act forced colonists to house British soldiers that were sent over to enforce rules and trade. One day the Bostonians started to harass the British Guards and the Guards were forced to open fire at the colonists killing five and wounding six.
This event was significant because it directly led to the burning of the Gaspee. It was socially important because it made propaganda that rallied the colonists. The event united the colonists to get ready to fight the British. This was the first time killing had occurred in a disagreement between the two groups. This made the colonists realize that Great Britain wasn’t there to help them.

Burning of the Gaspee


In 1772, Samuel Adams and his rebellion group, the sons and daughters of Liberty, led the Gaspee Affair. It was a protest against the British policies and taxes put on them. They boarded a British ship, the ships purpose being to capture other ships that were smuggling goods. They dressed as natives and once they were on the boat, they set it on fire. This was celebrated by the colonists but definitely not by the British.

This event was important because soon after the act of rebellion happened, the British started to look for suspects to send to England for trial of crime. The colonists saw this as a violation of their rights of trial by jury of peers and a local trial. The British used this tactic to make sure the colonists couldn’t make a good defense. Politically this was important because it suggested the creation of the first continental congress. Socially this event was important because it united the colonies even more pushing them closer to the revolution. Later the idea of rights being corrupt was brought up in the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Tea Party


In 1773 the Tea Act was imposed on the colonists. Even though the act actually lowered the price of tea, the colonists were still angry that England had power over them to make profit. The colonists boycotted English tea. A group of colonists followed in the footsteps of the gaspee incident and boarded a British ship dressed as natives. They dumped all of the tea within the boat into the harbor. This event has come to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Politically, this event made the British punish the colonists with the Coercive Acts or the intolerable acts as the colonists called them. The acts closed the Boston harbor and made Massachusetts a royal colony. This was important because it expanded the Quartering act. Diplomatically they also punished the colonists by allowing the French to take Quebec, the land the British have won in war. This was called the Quebec act. All these events were important because it pushed the colonists’ tempers further and further towards the Revolution.

1st continental Congress


In 1774, 12 out of 13 colonies sent representatives to Philadelphia forming the Continental Congress. The representatives ranged from radical, wanting complete independence from Great Britain, to mild. Their goal was to repeal the Coercive acts that they had imposed upon them, punishment for the Boston Tea Party. They sent a letter to the King asking to have them repealed and that they would be okay without independence. The King never replied back because he believed that what was imposed upon them wasn’t cruel.

This event was significant because it helped devise a plan incase Britain was ever to attack. Economically it was important for the British because the formation of boycotts hurt the economy badly. Politically it was significant because it would later help create a template for organization against the British.

Battle of Lexington and Concord


In 1775, Thomas Gage, a British officer, commanded British troops to seize all protestors and rebels in Concord. As the British marched to Concord the minutemen militia was created and met them in Lexington. Their goal was to stop the British before they could get into highly populated areas. In Lexington the first shot was fired. Eight men were lost in battle and the militia retreated. The minutemen met them again in Boston, this time killing more. This event is significant because this was the first official battle between the British and the Colonists in the long awaited Revolution.