This video show you how the assignment should be done.

Paraphrasing

profilevbtullah1alpishri

EricFoner-GiveMeLiberty_AnAmericanHistory12017W.W.NortonCo..pdf

 

 

A N A M E R I C A N H I S T O R Y

G I V E M E L I B E RT Y !

W . W . N O R T O N & C O M P A N Y

N E W   Y O R K . L O N D O N

★ E R I C F O N E R ★

Bn

SEAGULL FIFTH EDITION

Volume 1: To 1877

 

 

Victoria

Vancouver

Spokane Tacoma

Seattle

Olympia

Eugene

Salem

Portland

Salinas

Reno

Fresno

Oakland

Sacramento

San Francisco

San Jose

Carson City

Tijuana

Bakersfield

Escondido

Lancaster

Oceanside

Oxnard Pasadena

Long Beach Los Angeles

San Diego

Las Vegas

Tucson

Phoenix

Salt Lake City

Boise

Helena

Calgary

Regina

Saskatoon

Winnipeg

Bismarck

Sioux Falls

Pierre

Lincoln

Omaha

Pueblo

Colorado Springs

Denver

Cheyenne

Albuquerque

El Paso Ciudad Juárez

Santa Fe

MatamorosMonterrey

Nuevo Laredo

Brownsville

Laredo Corpus Christi

Austin

San Antonio Houston

Abilene

Beaumont

Lubbock

Waco

Fort Worth Dallas

Amarillo

Baton Rouge

Lafayette

Shreveport Jackson

New Orleans

Little Rock

Wichita

Oklahoma City

Tulsa

Kansas City Topeka Independence

Jefferson City

Springfield

St. Louis

Peoria

Springfield

Cedar Rapids Des Moines

Madison Milwaukee

Chicago

Gary

Minneapolis St. Paul

Green Bay

Lansing

Fort Wayne

Toledo

Detroit

Toronto

Akron

Erie

Buffalo

Cleveland

Cincinnati Indianapolis

Columbus

Lexington Louisville Frankfort

Mobile

Montgomery

Birmingham

Columbus

Macon

Atlanta

Miami Fort Lauderdale

Tampa

Orlando

Tallahassee Jacksonville

Savannah

Columbia

Charlotte

Raleigh

Chattanooga

Knoxville

Memphis

Nashville

Norfolk

Richmond Charleston

Washington, D.C.

Baltimore Annapolis

Dover Pittsburgh

Philadelphia Harrisburg

Trenton

Ottawa Montréal

Albany

Concord

Montpelier

Hartford New Haven

Providence

Newark

Boston

New York

Québec

Fredericton

Augusta

Nassau

Santa Barbara

Monterey

Walla Walla

Coeur d’Alene

Pocatello

Idaho Falls Jackson

St. George

Moab

Flagstaff

Missoula

Billings

Casper

Laramie

Steamboat Springs

Glenwood Springs

Odessa

Galveston

Huron

Williston

Fargo

International Falls

Duluth

Oshkosh

Sault Ste. Marie

Traverse City

Port Huron

Sioux City

Hannibal

Jonesboro

Texarkana

Natchitoches

Biloxi

Tupelo

Pensacola

Key West

Charleston

Wilmington

Asheville

Roanoke

Atlantic City

Watertown

Burlington

Portland

Bangor

Mulege

Hermosillo

Anchorage

Fairbanks

Juneau

Hilo

Honolulu

San Juan

WASHINGTON

OREGON

NEVADA

CALIFORNIA

ARIZONA

UTAH

COLORADO

IDAHO

MONTANA

WYOMING

NORTH DAKOTA

MINNESOTA

SOUTH DAKOTA

IOWA NEBRASKA

KANSAS

WISCONSIN

MICHIGAN

INDIANAILLINOIS MISSOURI

KENTUCKY

OHIO

NEW YORK

CONNECTICUTPENNSYLVANIA

MARYLANDWEST VIRGINIA VIRGINIA

NEW JERSEY

DELAWARE

VT

MAINE

NH

MASS.

RHODE ISLAND

NEW MEXICO

OKLAHOMA

TEXAS

LOUISIANA

ARKANSAS

TENNESSEE

MISSISSIPPI ALABAMA

GEORGIA

FLORIDA

SOUTH CAROLINA

NORTH CAROLINA

ALASKA

HAWAII

PUERTO RICO

CANADA

MEXICO

CANADA

BAHAMAS

C A

S C

A D

E

R A

N G

E

 

C O

A S

T

R A

N G

E S

S

I E

R R

A

N E

V A

D A

 

Death Valley MOJAVE

DESERT

SONORAN

DESERT

G R E A T

B A S I N

Great Salt Lake

Desert

C O L O R A D O

P L AT E A U

C O

L U

M B

I A

P

L

A T

E A U

B i

t t

e r

r o

o t

 

B lack Hil ls

G R

E A

T

P L

A I

N S

 

R O

C K

Y

M O

U N

T A

I N

S

E d w a r d s

P l a t e a u C

O

A S

T A L

 

P

L

A I

N C E N T R A L

L O W L A N D

U p p e r P e n i n s

u l a

L o w e r P e n i n s u

l a

O

z a

r k P

l a t e a

u

H i

g h

P

l a

i n

s

L l a n o

E s t a c a d o

Okefeno kee Swamp

F l o r i d

a Ke

ys

G reat Dismal Swamp

A P

P

A L

A C

H I

A N

M

O U

N T

A I

N S

 

A P

P

A L

A C

H I

A N

P

L A

T E

A U

 

Great Smoky Mountains

P I

E D

M O

N T

 

Ad i ro ndack M o unt a ins

Whi t e M t ns

Ca pe Co d

Lo ng I s land

Cape Canavera l

Ca pe Hat t eras

Cape Lo o ko ut

Cape Fear

Cape Sab le

Cape San B las

Channe l I s lands

Po in t Concept ion

Po in t Reyes

Ca pe Mendoc ino

Cape B lanco

Cape Disappo intment

Cape F lat te ry

Va ncouve r I s land

C A

N A

D I A N S

H I

E

L D

 

Niagara Fa l l s

L A

U R

E N

T I

D E

S

C A

R P

S

I E R

R A

M A

D R

E O

C C

I D E

N T

A L

S I E R R A M

A D

R E O R I E N TA L

B A

J A

C

A L

I F

O R

N I

A

I s l e Roya le

The Ev e rg lade sQueen

Charlotte Islands

Alexander Archipelago

A l a s k a

P e n i

n s u l

a

A L A

S K A R

A N G E

B R O O K S R A N G E

N o r t h S l o p e

Seward Pen insu l a

Ku sk

ok w

im M

ou nt

a in s

St . E l ias Mounta ins Ke na i

Pen insu l a

Kod iak I s land

St . Law r ence

I s land

Nun i vak I s la nd

Aleu t ian I

s land s

Hawaii

Maui Molokai

Oahu

Kauai Nihau

Lanai

Kahoolawe

Mauna Kea

Mauna Loa

+

+

St. Croix

St. Thomas

St. John

Tortola

U.S. Virgin Islands

Colum bia R.

Sa cr

a m

en to

R .

G re

en R

.

Co lor

ad o

R

.

Platte R .

Lou p R.

N. Platte R.

S. P l a tte

R.

K lam

ath R.

W il la

m ette R

.

Salm o

n R.

C ol

um b

ia R

.

K ooten

a y

R .

M iss

our i R.

Milk R.

Yell owston e R

.

B ig

h orn R

.

O

wyhee R .

Snake R .

Snake R.

S. S

ask atchewan R.

Bow R

. Qu’Appe lle R.

Souris R .

A s s i n iboine R.

Li tt

le M

is so

ur i R

. Jam es R

.

Chey enne

R.

Be lle

Fo ur

ch e

R.

Niobrara R.

Georgian Ba y

Osage R .

M issouri R

.

Des M oines R.

R ed R

. o f the N orth

 

M innesota R.

Mississippi R .

Wi sco

nsin R .

Il

lin ois R.

W

ab

ash R.

C um

ber land R.

Ohio R.

O h

io R

.

St . L

aw re

nc e R

.

Ottawa R.

H u

dson R

.

C on

n ec t i cut R

.

Delaw are R

.

St. John R .

K en nebec R

.

Penob scot R .

Al ba

ny R

.

M is

si na

ibi R.

 

Kansa

s R.

O uachita R

.

Red R.

W hit e R.

Arka

n s as R.

Can a d i a n R

.

M is

si ss

ip pi

R .

T om

bigbe e R .

A la

ba m

a R.

Te nn

e s

se e

R .

R o anoke R .

Savannah R .

P e e D

ee R

.

A ltam aha R.

C ha

tt ah

oo ch

ee R

.

St. Joh n

‘ s R .

R io

G ra

nd e

Pe co

s R

.

R io G

rande

C olorado R .

Brazos R . Sabine R.

S a

n Joaqu

in R .

G ila R .

Little C olorado R.

Yuk o n R

.

Lake Superior

L a

ke M

ic hi

ga n

Lake H uron

La ke

Er ie

Lak e Ont

ario

Lake Mead

Lake Tahoe

Great Salt Lake

Lake Powell

Lake of the Woods

Lake Winnebago

Lake St. Clair

Lake of the Ozarks

Lake Champlain

Monterey Bay

James Bay

Lake Pontchartrain

Lake Okeechobee

Salton Sea

Iliamna Lake

Gulf of Mexico

G ul

f o f S

t. L aw

renc e

G ul

f o f M

ai ne

 

Delaware Bay

Breton Sound

Mississippi River Delta

Apalachee Bay

G u

lf of C aliforn

ia

Vizcaíno Bay

Str. of Juan de Fu c a

C h

esa p

ea k

e B ay

Galveston Bay Atchafalay

a Ba y

Gulf of Alaska

B erin

g Sea

Chukchi Sea

Beaufort Sea

Bristol Bay

Kuskokwim Bay

Norton Sound

Kotzebue Sound

C oo

k I

n le

t

A le

nu ih

ah a C

han nel

Ka iw

i C ha

nn el

 

Ka ua

i C ha

nn el

K a

u lakahi C

hannel

Caribbean Sea

Pacific O cean

 

A tl

an ti

c O

ce an

 

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

200

200

400 miles

400 kilometers

0

0

100 miles

100 kilometers

0

0

50 miles

50 kilometers

0

0

150

150

300 miles

300 kilometers

PHYSICAL/POLITICAL MAP OF THE

UNITED STATES

 

 

Victoria

Vancouver

Spokane Tacoma

Seattle

Olympia

Eugene

Salem

Portland

Salinas

Reno

Fresno

Oakland

Sacramento

San Francisco

San Jose

Carson City

Tijuana

Bakersfield

Escondido

Lancaster

Oceanside

Oxnard Pasadena

Long Beach Los Angeles

San Diego

Las Vegas

Tucson

Phoenix

Salt Lake City

Boise

Helena

Calgary

Regina

Saskatoon

Winnipeg

Bismarck

Sioux Falls

Pierre

Lincoln

Omaha

Pueblo

Colorado Springs

Denver

Cheyenne

Albuquerque

El Paso Ciudad Juárez

Santa Fe

MatamorosMonterrey

Nuevo Laredo

Brownsville

Laredo Corpus Christi

Austin

San Antonio Houston

Abilene

Beaumont

Lubbock

Waco

Fort Worth Dallas

Amarillo

Baton Rouge

Lafayette

Shreveport Jackson

New Orleans

Little Rock

Wichita

Oklahoma City

Tulsa

Kansas City Topeka Independence

Jefferson City

Springfield

St. Louis

Peoria

Springfield

Cedar Rapids Des Moines

Madison Milwaukee

Chicago

Gary

Minneapolis St. Paul

Green Bay

Lansing

Fort Wayne

Toledo

Detroit

Toronto

Akron

Erie

Buffalo

Cleveland

Cincinnati Indianapolis

Columbus

Lexington Louisville Frankfort

Mobile

Montgomery

Birmingham

Columbus

Macon

Atlanta

Miami Fort Lauderdale

Tampa

Orlando

Tallahassee Jacksonville

Savannah

Columbia

Charlotte

Raleigh

Chattanooga

Knoxville

Memphis

Nashville

Norfolk

Richmond Charleston

Washington, D.C.

Baltimore Annapolis

Dover Pittsburgh

Philadelphia Harrisburg

Trenton

Ottawa Montréal

Albany

Concord

Montpelier

Hartford New Haven

Providence

Newark

Boston

New York

Québec

Fredericton

Augusta

Nassau

Santa Barbara

Monterey

Walla Walla

Coeur d’Alene

Pocatello

Idaho Falls Jackson

St. George

Moab

Flagstaff

Missoula

Billings

Casper

Laramie

Steamboat Springs

Glenwood Springs

Odessa

Galveston

Huron

Williston

Fargo

International Falls

Duluth

Oshkosh

Sault Ste. Marie

Traverse City

Port Huron

Sioux City

Hannibal

Jonesboro

Texarkana

Natchitoches

Biloxi

Tupelo

Pensacola

Key West

Charleston

Wilmington

Asheville

Roanoke

Atlantic City

Watertown

Burlington

Portland

Bangor

Mulege

Hermosillo

Anchorage

Fairbanks

Juneau

Hilo

Honolulu

San Juan

WASHINGTON

OREGON

NEVADA

CALIFORNIA

ARIZONA

UTAH

COLORADO

IDAHO

MONTANA

WYOMING

NORTH DAKOTA

MINNESOTA

SOUTH DAKOTA

IOWA NEBRASKA

KANSAS

WISCONSIN

MICHIGAN

INDIANAILLINOIS MISSOURI

KENTUCKY

OHIO

NEW YORK

CONNECTICUTPENNSYLVANIA

MARYLANDWEST VIRGINIA VIRGINIA

NEW JERSEY

DELAWARE

VT

MAINE

NH

MASS.

RHODE ISLAND

NEW MEXICO

OKLAHOMA

TEXAS

LOUISIANA

ARKANSAS

TENNESSEE

MISSISSIPPI ALABAMA

GEORGIA

FLORIDA

SOUTH CAROLINA

NORTH CAROLINA

ALASKA

HAWAII

PUERTO RICO

CANADA

MEXICO

CANADA

BAHAMAS

C A

S C

A D

E

R A

N G

E

 

C O

A S

T

R A

N G

E S

 

S I

E R

R A

N

E V

A D

A

Death Valley MOJAVE

DESERT

SONORAN

DESERT

G R E A T

B A S I N

Great Salt Lake

Desert

C O L O R A D O

P L AT E A U

C O

L U

M B

I A

P

L

A T

E A U

B i

t t

e r

r o

o t

 

B lack Hil ls

G R

E A

T

P L

A I

N S

 

R O

C K

Y

M O

U N

T A

I N

S

E d w a r d s

P l a t e a u

C

O

A S

T A L

 

P

L

A I

N C E N T R A L

L O W L A N D

U p p e r P e n i n s

u l a

L o w e r P e n i n s u

l a

O

z a

r k P

l a t e a

u

H i

g h

P

l a

i n

s

L l a n o

E s t a c a d o

O kefenokee Swamp

F l o r i d

a Ke

ys

G r eat Dis mal Swamp

A P

P

A L

A C

H I

A N

M

O U

N T

A I

N S

 

A P

P

A L

A C

H I

A N

P

L A

T E

A U

 

Great Smoky Mountains

P I

E D

M O

N T

 

Ad i r ondack Mounta in s

Wh i t e Mtns

Ca p e Cod

Long I s land

Cap e Canavera l

Ca p e Hatte ras

Cap e Lookou t

Cap e Fear

Cap e Sab le

Cape San B las

Channe l I s lands

Po in t Co ncept ion

Po in t Reyes

Ca p e Mendoc ino

Cape B lanco

Cape Disappo intment

Cape F lat te ry

Va ncouve r I s land

C A

N A

D I A N S

H I

E

L D

 

N iagara Fa l l s

L A

U R

E N

T I

D E

S

C A

R P

 

S I E

R R

A M

A D

R E

O C

C I D

E N

T A

L

S I E R R A M

A D

R E O R I E N TA L

B A

J A

C

A L

I F

O R

N I

A

I s l e Roya le

Th e Everg ladesQueen

Charlotte Islands

Alexander Archipelago

A l a s k a

P e n i

n s u l

a

A L A

S K A R

A N G E

B R O O K S R A N G E

N o r t h S l o p e

S eward Pen i n su la

Ku sk

ok w

im M

ou nt

a in s

St . E l ias Mounta ins Ke na i

Pen insu l a

Kod iak I s land

St . La wrence

I s land

Nun i vak I s land

Aleu t ian I

s land s

Hawaii

Maui Molokai

Oahu

Kauai Nihau

Lanai

Kahoolawe

Mauna Kea

Mauna Loa

+

+

St. Croix

St. Thomas

St. John

Tortola

U.S. Virgin Islands

Colum bia R.

Sa cr

a m

en to

R .

G re

en R

.

Co

lor ad

o R

.

Platte R .

Lou p R.

N. Platte R.

S. P l a tte

R.

K lam

ath R.

W il la

m ette R

.

Salm o

n R.

C ol

um b

ia R

.

K ooten

a y

R .

M iss

our i R.

Milk R.

Yell owston e R

.

B ig

h orn R

.

O

wyhee R .

Snake R .

Snake R.

S. S

ask atchewan R.

Bow R

. Qu’Appe lle R.

Souris R .

A s s i n iboine R.

Li tt

le M

is so

ur i R

. Jam es R

.

Chey enne

R.

Be lle

Fo ur

ch e

R.

Niobrara R.

Georgian Ba y

Osage R .

M issouri R

.

Des M oines R.

R ed R

. o f the N orth

 

M innesota R.

Mississippi R .

Wi sco

nsin R .

Il

lin ois R.

W

ab

ash R.

C um

ber land R.

Ohio R.

O h

io R

.

St . L

aw re

nc e R

.

Ottawa R.

H u

dson R

.

C on

n ec t i cut R

.

Delaw are R

.

St. John R .

K en nebec R

.

Penob scot R .

Al ba

ny R

.

M is

si na

ibi R.

 

Kansa

s R.

O uachita R

.

Red R.

W hit e R.

Arka

n s as R.

Can a d i a n R

.

M is

si ss

ip pi

R .

T om

bigbe e R .

A la

ba m

a R.

Te nn

e s

se e

R .

R o anoke R .

Savannah R .

P e e D

ee R

.

A ltam aha R.

C ha

tt ah

oo ch

ee R

.

St. Joh n

‘ s R .

R io

G ra

nd e

Pe co

s R

.

R io G

rande

C olorado R .

Brazos R . Sabine R.

S a

n Joaqu

in R .

G ila R .

Little C olorado R.

Yuk o n R

.

Lake Superior L

a ke

M ic

hi ga

n

Lake H uron

La ke

Er ie

Lak e Ont

ario

Lake Mead

Lake Tahoe

Great Salt Lake

Lake Powell

Lake of the Woods

Lake Winnebago

Lake St. Clair

Lake of the Ozarks

Lake Champlain

Monterey Bay

James Bay

Lake Pontchartrain

Lake Okeechobee

Salton Sea

Iliamna Lake

Gulf of Mexico

G ul

f o f S

t. L aw

renc e

G ul

f o f M

ai ne

 

Delaware Bay

Breton Sound

Mississippi River Delta

Apalachee Bay

G u

lf of C aliforn

ia

Vizcaíno Bay

Str. of Juan de Fu c a

C h

esa p

ea k

e B ay

Galveston Bay Atchafalay

a Ba y

Gulf of Alaska

B erin

g Sea

Chukchi Sea

Beaufort Sea

Bristol Bay

Kuskokwim Bay

Norton Sound

Kotzebue Sound

C oo

k I

n le

t

A le

nu ih

ah a C

han nel

Ka iw

i C ha

nn el

 

Ka ua

i C ha

nn el

K a

u lakahi C

hannel

Caribbean Sea

Pacific O cean

 

A tl

an ti

c O

ce an

 

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

200

200

400 miles

400 kilometers

0

0

100 miles

100 kilometers

0

0

50 miles

50 kilometers

0

0

150

150

300 miles

300 kilometers

PHYSICAL/POLITICAL MAP OF THE

UNITED STATES

 

 

New York

San Francisco

Los Angeles

Toronto

Montréal

Dallas

Chicago Barcelona

Rio de Janeiro

Johannesburg

Sydney

Kabul

Algiers

Luanda

Buenos Aires Canberra, A.C.T.

Nassau Dhaka

Thimphu

Gaborone

Brasília

Ottawa

N’Djamena

Santiago

Beijing

Bogotá

Havana

Quito

Cairo

Reykjavik

New Delhi

Jakarta

Tehr ̄an Tokyo

Nairobi

Maseru

Tripoli

Antananarivo

Nouakchott Mexico City

Ulan Bator

Rabat

Windhoek

Kathmandu

Muscat

Islamabad

Asunción

Lima

Manila

Lisbon

Pretoria

Seoul

Mogadishu

Khartoum

Dar es Salaam

Nuku’alofa

Tunis

Washington, D.C.

Moscow

Caracas

Cape Town

Pago PagoApia

Papeete

Adamstown

Astana

Adis Ababa

La Paz

Sucre

Montevideo

London

Paris

Rome

Berlin

Oslo Stockholm

Madrid

BAHAMAS

BARBADOS

BELIZE

COSTA RICA

DOMINICA

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

ECUADOR

EL SALVADOR

French Guiana (Fr.)

GUATEMALA

GUYANA

HAITI

HONDURAS

JAMAICA

NICARAGUA

PANAMA

PARAGUAY

ST. LUCIA ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

SURINAME

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

URUGUAY

ST. KITTS AND NEVIS

BOTSWANA

TANZANIA

MADAGASCAR

MALAWI

CO NG

O

CAMEROON

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

BEN IN

TO G

O

BURKINA

G H

AN A

DJIBOUTI GAMBIA

GABON

GUINEAGUINEA-BISSAU CÔTE

D’IVOIRE (Ivory Coast)

LESOTHO

LIBERIA

M OZ

AM BI

QU E

NAMIBIA

SENEGAL

SIERRA LEONE

SWAZILAND

KENYA UGANDA

Western Sahara (Mor.)

COMOROS

TUNISIA

DEMOCRATIC REP. OF CONGO

RWANDA

BURUNDI

ZAMBIA

ZIMBABWE

CENTRAL AFRICAN

REP.

PAKISTAN

OM AN

SRI LANKA

MYANMAR BANGLADESH

AFGHANISTAN

VIETNAM

LAOS

THAILAND

CAMBODIA

BRUNEI

TAIWAN

NORTH KOREA

SOUTH KOREA

NEPAL

BHUTAN

SOLOMON ISLANDS

FIJI

SINGAPORE MALDIVES

MAURITIUS

ICELAND

AUSTRIA

BEL. LUX.

GERMANY

ROMANIA MOLDOVA

GEORGIA

AZERBAIJAN

TURKMENISTAN

UZBEKISTAN KYRGYZSTAN

TAJIKISTAN ARMENIA

BELARUS

LITHUANIA LATVIA

ESTONIA

RUS.

PORTUGAL

DENMARK

GREECE

BULGARIA SERBIA

MONT. B.H.

SL. CROATIA

NETH. IRELAND

SWITZ.

CZECH REP.

SLOVAKIA HUNGARY

ALBANIA

CYPRUS

JORDAN

ISRAEL LEBANON

SYRIA

UNITED ARAB

EMIRATES

YEMEN

QATAR BAHRAIN

KUWAIT

SAMOA

VANUATU

PALAU FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

MAC.

ERITREA

TONGA

FIJI

TUVALU

NAURU

MARSHALL ISLANDS

SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE

CAPE VERDE

SEY CHE

LLES

ARGENTINA

BOLIVIA

CHILE

COLOMBIA

CUBA MEXICO

PERU

VENEZUELA

ALGERIA

ANGOLA

CHAD

EGYPT

ETHIOPIA

LIBYA MO

RO CC

O

NIGERIA

SO MA

LIA

SOUTH AFRICA

MAURITANIA

SUDAN

NIGERMALI

MONGOLIA

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

MALAYSIA

PHILIPPINES

JAPAN

NEW ZEALAND

FRANCE

SPAIN

NO RW

AY

SW ED

EN FINLAND

POLAND

UKRAINE KAZAKHSTAN

ITALY

UNITED KINGDOM

SAUDI ARABIA

TURKEY

IRAQ IRAN

KIRIBATI

KIRIBATI

RUSSIA

Greenland (Denmark)

BRAZIL

CANADA

UNITED STATES

INDIA

CHINA

AUSTRALIA

INDONESIA

RUSSIA

Alaska (U.S.)

Hawaii (U.S.)

ANTARCTICA

NORTH AMERICA

ASIA

EUROPE

SOUTH AMERICA

EAST TIMOR

Crozet I s land s

Ke rgué len I s lands

Pr ince Edward I s lands (So. Af r i ca)

Tr i s tan Da Cunha Group (U.K . )

St . He lena (U.K . )

Ascens ion (U.K . )

Sout h Georg ia

Sout h Sandwic h I s lands

South Orkney I s lands

South Shet land I s lands

Juan Fernande z Arch ipe lago (Ch i l e)

Ea ste r I s land (C h i l e)

Marquesas I s land s

(Fr. )

P hoen ix I s lands

Jan Mayen (Nor way)

Ke rmadec I s lands (N .Z . )

Nor fo lk I s land (Aus . )

Wrange l I s land

Faroe I s lands (Denmark)

Puer to R ico (U.S . )

Bermuda (U.K . )

Cana r y I s lands (Sp. )

Azores (Por. )

Made i ra I s lands (Por. )

Andaman Is lands ( Ind ia)

Guam (U.S . )

Northern Mar iana I s lands (U.S . )

New Ca ledon ia (Fr. )

Timor

Tasmania

Java

Sumatra

Borneo

Réun ion (Fr. )

Ga lapagos I s lands

(Ecuador)

K i r i t imat i (K i r ibat i )

P i tca i rn I s lands (U.K . )

North I s land

South I s land

Heard I s land and McDona ld I s lands (Aus . )

French Southern and Antarct ic La nds (Fr. )

Socot ra (Yemen)

Diego Garc ia

Chagos Arch ipe lago (U.K . )

Queen E l i zabeth I s lands

Severnaya Ze mlya

New S iber ian I s lands

A leut ia n I s la

nds

Sva lba rd (Norway)

No va

ya Ze

ml ya

Franz Jose f La nd

Cook I s lands French Po lynes ia (Fr. )

Fa lk land I s lands (U.K . )

E l l e smere I s land

Baff in I s land

V ic tor ia I s land

Banks I s land

A l e u t i a n I s l a n d s

Ku r i l I

s l a nd

s

0° 30°

60° 90°

30°

60 °

90 °

180°

150°W

120°

150° E

12 0°

75°S

60°S

30°

60°

90 °

30°

60 °

90°

180° 150°E

120°

150° W

12 0°

75°N

60°N

Great Australian

Bight

Hudson Strait

Foxe Basin

Gulf Of

Ad en

 

Lake Balkhash

Aral Sea

Baltic Sea

Celtic Sea

Eng lish

Ch ann

el

Lake Baikal

Sea of Japan

South China

Sea

East China

Sea

Philippine Sea

Timor Sea

Yellow Sea

Coral Sea

Arafura Sea

Java Sea

Celebes Sea

Gulf of Thailand

De nm

ar k S

tra it

M oz

am bi

qu e

C ha

nn el

 

R ed Sea

Amundsen Gulf

Persian G u lf

C aspian

S ea

 

Chukchi Sea

Gulf of Alaska

Hudson Bay

Beaufort Sea

Bering Sea

Gulf of Mexico

Caribbean Sea

Scotia Sea

Gulf of Guinea

Norwegian Sea

North Sea

Labrador Sea

Baffin Bay Barents Sea

Kara Sea

Black Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Arabian Sea

Bay of Bengal

Sea of Okhotsk

Bering Sea

Tasman Sea

Laptev Sea

East Siberian Sea

South Pacific Ocean

No rth Atl a n t i c O cean

No rth Paci f ic O c e an

Ind ian Ocean

South Atl antic O cean

North Pac i f ic O c ean

South Pac i f i c O ce a n

Arc t i c O c e anArc t i c Oce a n

Southern Ocea n

Southern O c e an

Indian Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

Southern Ocean

Southern Ocean

Arctic Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

750

750

1,500 miles

1,500 kilometers

Scale at equator

0

0

1,500 miles

1,500 kilometers

POLITICAL MAP of the WORLD

THE POLES

 

 

New York

San Francisco

Los Angeles

Toronto

Montréal

Dallas

Chicago Barcelona

Rio de Janeiro

Johannesburg

Sydney

Kabul

Algiers

Luanda

Buenos Aires Canberra, A.C.T.

Nassau Dhaka

Thimphu

Gaborone

Brasília

Ottawa

N’Djamena

Santiago

Beijing

Bogotá

Havana

Quito

Cairo

Reykjavik

New Delhi

Jakarta

Tehr ̄an Tokyo

Nairobi

Maseru

Tripoli

Antananarivo

Nouakchott Mexico City

Ulan Bator

Rabat

Windhoek

Kathmandu

Muscat

Islamabad

Asunción

Lima

Manila

Lisbon

Pretoria

Seoul

Mogadishu

Khartoum

Dar es Salaam

Nuku’alofa

Tunis

Washington, D.C.

Moscow

Caracas

Cape Town

Pago PagoApia

Papeete

Adamstown

Astana

Adis Ababa

La Paz

Sucre

Montevideo

London

Paris

Rome

Berlin

Oslo Stockholm

Madrid

BAHAMAS

BARBADOS

BELIZE

COSTA RICA

DOMINICA

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

ECUADOR

EL SALVADOR

French Guiana (Fr.)

GUATEMALA

GUYANA

HAITI

HONDURAS

JAMAICA

NICARAGUA

PANAMA

PARAGUAY

ST. LUCIA ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

SURINAME

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

URUGUAY

ST. KITTS AND NEVIS

BOTSWANA

TANZANIA

MADAGASCAR

MALAWI

CO NG

O

CAMEROON

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

BEN IN

TO G

O

BURKINA

G H

AN A

DJIBOUTI GAMBIA

GABON

GUINEAGUINEA-BISSAU CÔTE

D’IVOIRE (Ivory Coast)

LESOTHO

LIBERIA

M OZ

AM BI

QU E

NAMIBIA

SENEGAL

SIERRA LEONE

SWAZILAND

KENYA UGANDA

Western Sahara (Mor.)

COMOROS

TUNISIA

DEMOCRATIC REP. OF CONGO

RWANDA

BURUNDI

ZAMBIA

ZIMBABWE

CENTRAL AFRICAN

REP.

PAKISTAN

OM AN

SRI LANKA

MYANMAR BANGLADESH

AFGHANISTAN

VIETNAM

LAOS

THAILAND

CAMBODIA

BRUNEI

TAIWAN

NORTH KOREA

SOUTH KOREA

NEPAL

BHUTAN

SOLOMON ISLANDS

FIJI

SINGAPORE MALDIVES

MAURITIUS

ICELAND

AUSTRIA

BEL. LUX.

GERMANY

ROMANIA MOLDOVA

GEORGIA

AZERBAIJAN

TURKMENISTAN

UZBEKISTAN KYRGYZSTAN

TAJIKISTAN ARMENIA

BELARUS

LITHUANIA LATVIA

ESTONIA

RUS.

PORTUGAL

DENMARK

GREECE

BULGARIA SERBIA

MONT. B.H.

SL. CROATIA

NETH. IRELAND

SWITZ.

CZECH REP.

SLOVAKIA HUNGARY

ALBANIA

CYPRUS

JORDAN

ISRAEL LEBANON

SYRIA

UNITED ARAB

EMIRATES

YEMEN

QATAR BAHRAIN

KUWAIT

SAMOA

VANUATU

PALAU FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

MAC.

ERITREA

TONGA

FIJI

TUVALU

NAURU

MARSHALL ISLANDS

SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE

CAPE VERDE

SEY CHE

LLES

ARGENTINA

BOLIVIA

CHILE

COLOMBIA

CUBA MEXICO

PERU

VENEZUELA

ALGERIA

ANGOLA

CHAD

EGYPT

ETHIOPIA

LIBYA MO

RO CC

O

NIGERIA

SO MA

LIA

SOUTH AFRICA

MAURITANIA

SUDAN

NIGERMALI

MONGOLIA

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

MALAYSIA

PHILIPPINES

JAPAN

NEW ZEALAND

FRANCE

SPAIN

NO RW

AY

SW ED

EN FINLAND

POLAND

UKRAINE KAZAKHSTAN

ITALY

UNITED KINGDOM

SAUDI ARABIA

TURKEY

IRAQ IRAN

KIRIBATI

KIRIBATI

RUSSIA

Greenland (Denmark)

BRAZIL

CANADA

UNITED STATES

INDIA

CHINA

AUSTRALIA

INDONESIA

RUSSIA

Alaska (U.S.)

Hawaii (U.S.)

ANTARCTICA

NORTH AMERICA

ASIA

EUROPE

SOUTH AMERICA

EAST TIMOR

Crozet I s land s

Ke rgué len I s lands

Pr ince Edward I s lands (So. Af r i ca)

Tr i s t an D a Cun h a Group (U. K . )

St . H e lena (U.K . )

Ascens ion (U.K . )

South Georg ia

Sout h Sandwich I s lands

South Orkney I s land s

South Shet land I s lands

Juan Fernande z Arch ipe lago (Ch i l e)

Ea ste r I s land (C h i l e)

Marquesas I s lands

(Fr. )

Phoen i x I s lands

J an Mayen (No r wa y)

Ke rmadec I s lands (N .Z . )

No r fo l k I s land (Aus . )

Wrange l I s land

Faroe I s lands (Den m ark)

Puer to R ico (U.S . )

Bermuda (U.K . )

Canar y I s lands (Sp. )

Azores (Por. )

Made i ra I s lands (Por. )

Andaman Is land s ( Ind ia)

Guam (U.S . )

Northern Mar iana I s lands (U.S . )

New Ca ledon ia (Fr. )

Timor

Tasmania

Java

Sumatra

Borneo

Réun ion (Fr. )

Ga lapagos I s lands

(Ecuador)

K i r i t imat i (K i r ibat i )

P i tca i rn I s lands (U.K . )

North I s land

South I s land

Heard I s land and McDona ld I s lands (Aus . )

French Southern an d Antarct ic La nds (Fr. )

Socot ra (Yemen)

Diego Garc ia

Chagos Arch ipe lago (U.K . )

Queen E l i zabeth I s lands

Severnaya Ze mlya

New S iber ian I s lands

A leut ia n I s la

nds

Sva lbard (Norway)

No va

ya Ze

ml ya

Franz Jose f La nd

Cook I s lands French Po lynes ia (Fr. )

Fa lk land I s lands (U.K . )

E l l e smere I s land

Baff in I s land

V ic tor ia I s land

Banks I s land

A l e u t i a n I s l a n d s

Ku r i l I

s l a nd

s

0° 30°

60° 90°

30°

60 °

90 °

180°

150°W

120°

150° E

12 0°

75°S

60°S

30°

60°

90 °

30°

60 °

90°

180° 150°E

120°

150° W

12 0°

75°N

60°N

Great Australian

Bight

Hudson Strait

Foxe Basin

Gulf Of

Ad en

 

Lake Balkhash

Aral Sea

Baltic Sea

Celtic Sea

Eng lish

Ch ann

el

Lake Baikal

Sea of Japan

South China

Sea

East China

Sea

Philippine Sea

Timor Sea

Yellow Sea

Coral Sea

Arafura Sea

Java Sea

Celebes Sea

Gulf of Thailand

De nm

ar k S

tra it

M oz

am bi

qu e

C ha

nn el

 

R ed Sea

Amundsen Gulf

Persian G u lf

C aspian

S ea

 

Chukchi Sea

Gulf of Alaska

Hudson Bay

Beaufort Sea

Bering Sea

Gulf of Mexico

Caribbean Sea

Scotia Sea

Gulf of Guinea

Norwegian Sea

North Sea

Labrador Sea

Baffin Bay Barents Sea

Kara Sea

Black Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Arabian Sea

Bay of Bengal

Sea of Okhotsk

Bering Sea

Tasman Sea

Laptev Sea

East Siberian Sea

South Pacific Ocean

North At l a n t i c O c ean

No rth Paci f ic O c e an

Indian Oce a n

S outh Atl antic O cean

No rth Paci f ic O cean

South Pac i f i c O ce a n

Arc t i c O c e anArct ic Ocean

S outhern Ocea n

Southern O c e an

Indian Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

Southern Ocean

Southern Ocean

Arctic Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

750

750

1,500 miles

1,500 kilometers

Scale at equator

0

0

1,500 miles

1,500 kilometers

POLITICAL MAP of the WORLD

THE POLES

 

 

W. W. Norton & Company has been independent since its founding in 1923, when William Warder Norton and Mary D. Herter Norton first published lectures delivered at the People’s Institute, the adult education division of New York City’s Cooper Union. The firm soon expanded its program beyond the Institute, publishing books by celebrated academics from America and abroad. By midcentury, the two major pillars of Norton’s publishing program— trade books and college texts— were firmly established. In the 1950s, the Norton family transferred control of the company to its employees, and  today— with a staff of four hundred and a comparable number of trade, college, and professional titles published each year— W. W. Norton & Company stands as the largest and oldest publishing house owned wholly by its employees.

Copyright © 2017, 2014, 2011, 2008, 2005 by Eric Foner

All rights reserved Printed in Canada

Editor: Steve Forman Associate Editor: Scott Sugarman Project Editor: Jennifer Barnhardt Editorial Assistants: Travis Carr, Kelly Rafey Managing Editor, College: Marian Johnson Managing Editor, College Digital Media: Kim Yi Production Manager: Sean Mintus Media Editor: Laura Wilk Media Project Editor: Rachel Mayer Media Associate Editor: Michelle Smith Media Assistant Editor: Chris Hillyer Marketing Manager, History: Sarah England Bartley Associate Design Director: Hope Miller Goodell Designer: Lisa Buckley Photo Editor: Stephanie Romeo Permissions Manager: Megan Schindel Permissions Specialist: Bethany Salminen Composition: Jouve Illustrations: Mapping Specialists, Ltd. Manufacturing: Transcontinental

Permission to use copyrighted material is included on page A-81.

The Library of Congress has cataloged an earlier edition as follows:

Names: Foner, Eric, 1943– author. Title: Give me liberty!: an American history / Eric Foner. Description: Fifth edition. | New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016018497 | ISBN 9780393283167 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: United States— History. | United States— Politics and government. | Democracy— United States— History. | Liberty— History. Classification: LCC E178 .F66 2016 | DDC 973—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016018497

ISBN this edition: 978-0-393-60342-2

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017 wwnorton.com W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 15 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3BS

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

 

 

For my mother, Liza Foner (1909–2005),

an accomplished artist who lived through most of

the twentieth century and into the twenty- first

 

 

★ C O N T E N T S ★

List of Maps, Tables, and Figures xii

About the Author xv

Preface xvi

Acknowledgments xxiii

1 ★ A N E W W O R L D 1 The First Americans 3 ★ Indian Freedom, European Freedom 12 ★ The Expansion of Europe 15 ★ Contact 18 ★ The Spanish Empire 23 ★ The French and Dutch Empires 34 ★ Voices of Freedom From Bartolomè de las Casas, History of the Indies (1528), and From “Declaration of Josephe” (December 19, 1681) … 36

2 ★ B E G I N N I N G S O F E N G L I S H A M E R I C A , 1 6 0 7 – 1 6 6 0 46 England and the New World 48 ★ The Coming of the English 53 ★ Settling the Chesapeake 57 ★ The New England Way 65 ★ New Englanders Divided 72 ★ Voices of Freedom From “The Trial of Anne Hutchinson” (1637), and From John Winthrop, Speech to the Massachusetts General Court (July 3, 1645) … 78 ★ Religion, Politics, and Freedom 83

3 ★ C R E AT I N G A N G L O – A M E R I C A , 1 6 6 0 – 1 7 5 0 89 Global Competition and the Expansion of England’s Empire 90 ★ Origins of American Slavery 97 ★ Colonies in Crisis 105 ★ The Growth of Colonial America 111 ★ Voices of Freedom From Letter by a Swiss- German Immigrant to Pennsylvania (August 23, 1769), and From Memorial against Non- English Immigration

(December 1727) … 118 ★ Social Classes in the Colonies 123

viii ★

 

 

4 ★ S L AV E R Y, F R E E D O M , A N D T H E ST R U G G L E F O R E M P I R E , TO 1 7 6 3 131 Slavery and Empire 134 ★ Slave Cultures and Slave Resistance 143 ★ An Empire of Freedom 148 ★ The Public Sphere 152 ★ The Great Awakening 160 ★ Imperial Rivalries 163 ★ Battle for the Continent 168 ★ Voices of Freedom From Scarouyady, Speech to Pennsylvania Provincial Council (1756), and From Pontiac, Speeches (1762 and 1763) … 174

5 ★ T H E A M E R I C A N R E V O L U T I O N , 1 7 6 3 – 1 7 8 3 179 The Crisis Begins 180 ★ The Road to Revolution 189 ★ The Coming of Independence 193 ★ Voices of Freedom From Samuel Seabury, an Alarm to the Legislature of the Province in New-

York (1775), and From Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776) … 202 ★ Securing Independence 204

6 ★ T H E R E V O L U T I O N W I T H I N 216 Democratizing Freedom 218 ★ Toward Religious Toleration 223 ★ Defining Economic Freedom 228 ★ The Limits of Liberty 232 ★ Slavery and the Revolution 237 ★ Daughters of Liberty 245 ★ Voices of Freedom From Abigail Adams to John Adams, Braintree, Mass. (March 31, 1776), and From

Petitions of Slaves to the Massachusetts Legislature (1773 and 1777) … 248

7 ★ F O U N D I N G A N AT I O N , 1 7 8 3 – 1 7 9 1 253 America under the Confederation 255 ★ A New Constitution 263 ★ The Ratification Debate and the Origin of the Bill of Rights 270 ★ Voices of Freedom From David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution (1789), and From James

Winthrop, Anti- Federalist Essay Signed “Agrippa” (1787) … 276 ★ “We the People” 279

8 ★ S E C U R I N G T H E R E P U B L I C , 1 7 9 1 – 1 8 1 5 288 Politics in an Age of Passion 289 ★ Voices of Freedom From Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes” (1790), and From Address

CONTENTS ★ ix

 

 

x ★ CONTENTS

of the Democratic- Republican Society of Pennsylvania (December 18, 1794)

… 298 ★ The Adams Presidency 301 ★ Jefferson in Power 309 ★ The “Second War of Independence” 316

9 ★ T H E M A R K E T R E V O L U T I O N , 1 8 0 0 – 1 8 4 0 325 A New Economy 327 ★ Market Society 337 ★ The Free Individual 347 ★ Voices of Freedom From Recollections of Harriet L. Noble (1824), and From “Factory Life as it is, by an

Operative” (1845) … 354 ★ The Limits of Prosperity 356

10 ★ D E M O C R A CY I N A M E R I C A , 1 8 1 5 – 1 8 4 0 364 The Triumph of Democracy 366 ★ Nationalism and Its Discontents 373 ★ Nation, Section, and Party 379 ★ Voices of Freedom From The Memorial of the Non- Freeholders of the City of Richmond (1829), and From Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens

Threatened with Disfranchisement (1838) … 384 ★ The Age of Jackson 387 ★ The Bank War and After 397

11 ★ T H E P E C U L I A R I N ST I T U T I O N 404 The Old South 405 ★ Life under Slavery 418 ★ Voices of Freedom From Letter by Joseph Taper to Joseph Long (1840), and

From “Slavery and the Bible” (1850) … 422 ★ Slave Culture 428 ★ Resistance to Slavery 433

12 ★ A N A G E O F R E F O R M , 1 8 2 0 – 1 8 4 0 441 The Reform Impulse 442 ★ The Crusade against Slavery 452

Black and White Abolitionism 459 ★ The Origins of Feminism 464 ★ Voices of Freedom From Angelina Grimké, Letter in The Liberator (August 2, 1837), and From Catharine Beecher,

An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism (1837) … 470

13 ★ A H O U S E D I V I D E D , 1 8 4 0 – 1 8 6 1 476 Fruits of Manifest Destiny 477 ★ A Dose of Arsenic 490 ★ The Rise of the Republican Party 498 ★ The Emergence of Lincoln 503 ★ Voices of Freedom From The Lincoln- Douglas Debates (1858) … 510 ★ The Impending Crisis 514

 

 

CONTENTS ★ xi

14 ★ A N E W B I RT H O F F R E E D O M : T H E C I V I L WA R , 1 8 6 1 – 1 8 6 5 519 The First Modern War 521 ★ The Coming of Emancipation 529 ★ The Second American Revolution 536 ★ Voices of Freedom From Frederick Douglass, Men of Color to Arms

(1863), and From Abraham Lincoln, Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore

(April 18, 1864) … 544 ★ The Confederate Nation 549 ★ Turning Points 554 ★ Rehearsals for Reconstruction and the End of the War 556

15 ★ “ W H AT I S F R E E D O M ? ” : R E C O N ST R U CT I O N , 1 8 6 5 – 1 8 7 7 564 The Meaning of Freedom 566 ★ Voices of Freedom From Petition of Committee in Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson

(1865), and From A Sharecropping Contract (1866) … 576 ★ The Making of Radical Reconstruction 579 ★ Radical Reconstruction in the South 590 ★ The Overthrow of Reconstruction 594

Suggested Reading A- 1

The Declaration of Independence (1776) A-23

The Constitution of the United States (1787) A-27

Glossary A-47

Credits A-81

Index A-85

 

 

M A P S

L I S T O F M A P S , TA B L E S , A N D F I G U R E S

★★

CHAPTER 1

The First Americans 4 Native Ways of Life, ca. 1500 7 The Old World on the Eve of American Colonization, ca. 1500 16 Voyages of Discovery 20 Early Spanish Conquests and Explorations in the New World 30 The New World— New France and New Netherland, ca. 1650 40

CHAPTER 2 English Settlement in the Chesapeake, ca. 1650 58 English Settlement in New England, ca. 1640 74

CHAPTER 3 Eastern North America in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries 94 European Settlement and Ethnic Diversity on the Atlantic Coast of North America, 1760 114

CHAPTER 4 Atlantic Trading Routes 135 The Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, 1460–1770 136

European Empires in North America, ca. 1750 164 Eastern North America after the Peace of Paris, 1763 173

CHAPTER 5 The Revolutionary War in the North, 1775–1781 209 The Revolutionary War in the South, 1775–1781 211 North America, 1783 213

CHAPTER 6 Loyalism in the American Revolution 234

CHAPTER 7 Western Lands, 1782–1802 256 Western Ordinances, 1784–1787 260 Ratification of the Constitution 278 Indian Tribes, 1795 281

CHAPTER 8 The Presidential Election of 1800 305 The Louisiana Purchase 312 The War of 1812 320

xii ★

 

 

MAPS ★ xiii

CHAPTER 9 The Market Revolution: Roads and Canals, 1840 330 The Market Revolution: Western Settlement, 1800–1820 334 The Market Revolution: The Spread of Cotton Cultivation, 1820–1840 336 Major Cities, 1840 339 Cotton Mills, 1820s 340

CHAPTER 10 The Missouri Compromise, 1820 378 The Americas, 1830 380 The Presidential Election of 1828 386 Indian Removals, 1830–1840 395

CHAPTER 11 Slave Population, 1860 408 Size of Slaveholdings, 1860 415 Distribution of Free Blacks, 1860 421 Major Crops of the South, 1860 426 Slave Resistance in the Nineteenth- Century Atlantic World 435

CHAPTER 12 Utopian Communities, Mid- Nineteenth Century 445

CHAPTER 13 The Trans- Mississippi West, 1830 s– 1840s 480 The Mexican War, 1846–1848 485 Gold- Rush California 489 Continental Expansion through 1853 493

The Compromise of 1850 494 The Kansas- Nebraska Act, 1854 497 The Railroad Network, 1850s 499 The Presidential Election of 1856 503 The Presidential Election of 1860 513

CHAPTER 14 The Secession of Southern States, 1860–1861 523 The Civil War in the East, 1861–1862 527 The Civil War in the West, 1861–1862 528 The Emancipation Proclamation 533 The Civil War in the Western Territories, 1862–1864 542 The Civil War, 1863 555 The Civil War, Late 1864–1865 559

CHAPTER 15 The Barrow Plantation 570 Sharecropping in the South, 1880 575 Reconstruction in the South, 1867–1877 599 The Presidential Election of 1876 600

 

 

xiv ★ TABLES AND FIGURES

TA B L E S A N D F I G U R E S CHAPTER 1 Table 1.1 Estimated Regional Populations: The Americas, ca. 1500 21

CHAPTER 3 Table 3.1 Origins and Status of Migrants to British North American Colonies, 1700–1775 113

CHAPTER 4 Table 4.1 Slave Population as Percentage of Total Population of Original Thirteen Colonies, 1770 140

CHAPTER 9 Table 9.1 Population Growth of Selected Western States, 1800–1850 (Excluding Indians) 335

Figure 9.1 Sources of Immigration, 1850 343

CHAPTER 11 Table 11.1 Growth of the Slave Population 410 Table 11.2 Slaveholding, 1850 (in Round Numbers) 411 Table 11.3 Free Black Population, 1860 424

CHAPTER 14 Figure 14.1 Resources for War: Union versus Confederacy 524

 

 

ERIC FONER is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia Univer- sity, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, he focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth- century America. Professor Foner’s publications include Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolu- tionary America; Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy; Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877; The Story of American Freedom; and Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. His history of Recon- struction won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Parkman Prize. He has served as president of the Organization of Amer- ican Historians and the American Historical Association. In 2006 he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University. His most recent books are The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slav- ery, winner of the Bancroft and Lincoln Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize for His- tory, and Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, winner of the New York Historical Society Book Prize.

A B O U T T H E A U T H O R★ ★

★ xv

 

 

Give Me Liberty! An American History is a survey of American history from the earliest days of European exploration and conquest of the New World to the first decades of the twenty- first century. It offers students a clear, concise narra- tive whose central theme is the changing contours of American freedom.

I am extremely gratified by the response to the first four editions of Give Me Liberty!, which have been used in survey courses at many hundreds of two- and four- year colleges and universities throughout the country. The comments I have received from instructors and students encourage me to think that Give Me Liberty! has worked well in their classrooms. Their comments have also included many valuable suggestions for revisions, which I greatly appreci- ate. These have ranged from corrections of typographical and factual errors to thoughts about subjects that needed more extensive treatment. In mak- ing revisions for this Fifth Edition, I have tried to take these suggestions into account. I have also incorporated the findings and insights of new scholarship that has appeared since the original edition was written.

The most significant changes in this Fifth Edition reflect my desire to integrate the history of the American West and especially the regions known as borderlands more fully into the narrative. In recent years these aspects of American history have been thriving areas of research and scholarship. Of course earlier editions of Give Me Liberty! have discussed these subjects, but in this edition their treatment has been deepened and expanded. I have also added notable works in these areas to many chapter bibliographies and lists of websites.

The definition of the West has changed enormously in the course of Amer- ican history. In the colonial period, the area beyond the Appalachians— present- day Kentucky, Tennessee, and western Pennsylvania and New York— constituted the West. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the term referred to Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi. After the Civil War, the West came to mean the area beyond the Mississippi River. Today, it is sometimes used to refer mainly to the Pacific coast. But whatever its geo- graphic locale, the West has been as much an idea as a place— an area beyond the frontier of settlement that promised newcomers new kinds of freedom, sometimes at the expense of the freedom of others, such as native inhabitants and migrant laborers. In this edition we follow Americans as they constructed their Wests, and debated the kinds of freedom they would enjoy there.

P R E F A C E ★★

xvi ★

 

 

Borderlands is a more complex idea that has influenced much recent histor- ical scholarship. Borders are lines dividing one country, region, or state from another. Crossing them often means becoming subject to different laws and customs, and enjoying different degrees of freedom. Borderlands are regions that exist on both sides of borders. They are fluid areas where people of differ- ent cultural and social backgrounds converge. At various points in American history, shifting borders have opened new opportunities and closed off others in the borderlands. Families living for decades or centuries in a region have suddenly found themselves divided by a newly created border but still living in a borderland that transcends the new division. This happened to Mexicans in modern- day California, Arizona, and New Mexico, for example, in 1848, when the treaty ending the Mexican- American War transferred the land that would become those states from Mexico to the United States.

Borderlands exist within the United States as well as at the boundaries with other countries. For example, in the period before the Civil War, the region straddling the Ohio River contained cultural commonalities that in some ways overrode the division there between free and slave states. The borderlands idea also challenges simple accounts of national development in which empires and colonies pave the way for territorial expansion and a future transcontinental nation. It enables us, for example, to move beyond the catego- ries of conquest and subjugation in understanding how Native Americans and Europeans interacted over the early centuries of contact. This approach also provides a way of understanding how the people of Mexico and the United States interact today in the borderland region of the American Southwest, where many families have members on both sides of the boundary between the two countries.

Small changes relating to these themes may be found throughout the book. The major additions seeking to illuminate the history of the West and of borderlands are as follows:

Chapter 1 now introduces the idea of borderlands with a discussion of the areas where European empires and Indian groups interacted and where authority was fluid and fragile. Chapter 4 contains expanded treatment of the part of the Spanish empire now comprising the borderlands United States (Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida) and how Spain endea- vored, with limited success, to consolidate its authority in these regions. In Chapter 6, a new subsection, “The American Revolution as a Borderlands Con- flict,” examines the impact on both Americans and Canadians of the creation, because of American independence, of a new national boundary separating what once had been two parts of the British empire. Chapter 8 continues this theme with a discussion of the borderlands aspects of the War of 1812. Chap- ter 9 discusses how a common culture came into being along the Ohio River

PREFACE ★ xvii

 

 

xviii ★ PREFACE

in the early nineteenth century despite the existence of slavery on one side and free labor on the other. Chapter 13 expands the treatment of Texan inde- pendence from Mexico by discussing its impact on both Anglo and Mexican residents of this borderland region. Chapter 14 contains a new examination of the Civil War in the American West.

In Chapter 16, I have expanded the section on the industrial west with new discussions of logging and mining, and added a new subsection on the dis- semination of a mythical image of the Wild West in the late nineteenth cen- tury. Chapter 17 contains an expanded discussion of Chinese immigrants in the West and the battle over exclusion and citizenship, a debate that centered on what kind of population should be allowed to inhabit the West and enjoy the opportunities the region offered. Chapter 18 examines Progressivism, countering conventional narratives that emphasize the origins of Progressive political reforms in eastern cities by relating how many, from woman suffrage to the initiative, referendum, and recall, emerged in Oregon, California, and other western states. Chapter 20 expands the treatment of western agriculture in the 1920s by highlighting the acceleration of agricultural mechanization in the region and the agricultural depression that preceded the general eco- nomic collapse of 1929 and after. In Chapter 22 we see the new employment opportunities for Mexican- American women in the war production factories that opened in the West. In Chapter 26, there is a new subsection on con- servatism in the West and the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and 1980s. Chapter 27 returns to the borderlands theme by discussing the consequences of the creation, in the 1990s, of a free trade zone connecting the two sides of the Mexican- American border. And Chapters 27 and 28 now include expanded discussions of the southwestern borderland as a site of an acrimonious battle over immigration— legal and undocumented— involving the federal and state governments, private vigilantes, and continuing waves of people trying to cross into the United States. The contested borderland now extends many miles into the United States north of the boundary between the two nations, and southward well into Mexico and even Central America.

I have also added a number of new selections to Voices of Freedom, the paired excerpts from primary documents in each chapter. Some of the new documents reflect the stronger emphasis on the West and borderlands; oth- ers seek to sharpen the juxtaposition of divergent concepts of freedom at par- ticular moments in American history. And this edition contains many new images— paintings, broadsides, photographs, and others— related to these themes, brought to life in a vibrant, full- color design.

Americans have always had a divided attitude toward history. On the one hand, they tend to be remarkably future- oriented, dismissing events of even

 

 

PREFACE ★ xix

the recent past as “ancient history” and sometimes seeing history as a burden to be overcome, a prison from which to escape. On the other hand, like many other peoples, Americans have always looked to history for a sense of personal or group identity and of national cohesiveness. This is why so many Americans devote time and energy to tracing their family trees and why they visit histori- cal museums and National Park Service historical sites in ever- increasing num- bers. My hope is that this book will convince readers with all degrees of interest that history does matter to them.

The novelist and essayist James Baldwin once observed that history “does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, [that] history is literally present in all that we do.” As Baldwin recognized, the force of history is evident in our own world. Especially in a political democracy like the United States, whose government is designed to rest on the consent of informed cit- izens, knowledge of the past is essential— not only for those of us whose pro- fession is the teaching and writing of history, but for everyone. History, to be sure, does not offer simple lessons or immediate answers to current questions. Knowing the history of immigration to the United States, and all of the ten- sions, turmoil, and aspirations associated with it, for example, does not tell us what current immigration policy ought to be. But without that knowledge, we have no way of understanding which approaches have worked and which have not— essential information for the formulation of future public policy.

History, it has been said, is what the present chooses to remember about the past. Rather than a fixed collection of facts, or a group of interpretations that cannot be challenged, our understanding of history is constantly changing. There is nothing unusual in the fact that each generation rewrites history to meet its own needs, or that scholars disagree among themselves on basic ques- tions like the causes of the Civil War or the reasons for the Great Depression. Precisely because each generation asks different questions of the past, each generation formulates different answers. The past thirty years have witnessed a remarkable expansion of the scope of historical study. The experiences of groups neglected by earlier scholars, including women, African- Americans, working people, and others, have received unprecedented attention from his- torians. New subfields— social history, cultural history, and family history among them— have taken their place alongside traditional political and dip- lomatic history.

Give Me Liberty! draws on this voluminous historical literature to pres- ent an up- to- date and inclusive account of the American past, paying due attention to the experience of diverse groups of Americans while in no way neglecting the events and processes Americans have experienced in common. It devotes serious attention to political, social, cultural, and economic history,

 

 

xx ★ PREFACE

and to their interconnections. The narrative brings together major events and prominent leaders with the many groups of ordinary people who make up American society. Give Me Liberty! has a rich cast of characters, from Thomas Jefferson to campaigners for woman suffrage, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to former slaves seeking to breathe meaning into emancipation during and after the Civil War.

Aimed at an audience of undergraduate students with little or no detailed knowledge of American history, Give Me Liberty! guides readers through the complexities of the subject without overwhelming them with excessive detail. The unifying theme of freedom that runs through the text gives shape to the narrative and integrates the numerous strands that make up the Amer- ican experience. This approach builds on that of my earlier book, The Story of American Freedom (1998), although Give Me Liberty! places events and personal- ities in the foreground and is more geared to the structure of the introductory survey course.

Freedom, and the battles to define its meaning, have long been central to my own scholarship and undergraduate teaching, which focuses on the nineteenth century and especially the era of the Civil War and Reconstruc- tion (1850–1877). This was a time when the future of slavery tore the nation apart and emancipation produced a national debate over what rights the for- mer slaves, and all Americans, should enjoy as free citizens. I have found that attention to clashing definitions of freedom and the struggles of different groups to achieve freedom as they understood it offers a way of making sense of the bitter battles and vast transformations of that pivotal era. I believe that the same is true for American history as a whole.

No idea is more fundamental to Americans’ sense of themselves as individ- uals and as a nation than freedom. The central term in our political language, freedom— or liberty, with which it is almost always used interchangeably— is deeply embedded in the record of our history and the language of everyday life. The Declaration of Independence lists liberty among mankind’s inal- ienable rights; the Constitution announces its purpose as securing liberty’s blessings. The United States fought the Civil War to bring about a new birth of freedom, World War II for the Four Freedoms, and the Cold War to defend the Free World. Americans’ love of liberty has been represented by liberty poles, liberty caps, and statues of liberty, and acted out by burning stamps and burn- ing draft cards, by running away from slavery, and by demonstrating for the right to vote. “Every man in the street, white, black, red, or yellow,” wrote the educator and statesman Ralph Bunche in 1940, “knows that this is ‘the land of the free’ . . . ‘the cradle of liberty.’”

The very universality of the idea of freedom, however, can be misleading. Freedom is not a fixed, timeless category with a single unchanging definition.

 

 

PREFACE ★ xxi

Indeed, the history of the United States is, in part, a story of debates, disa- greements, and struggles over freedom. Crises like the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Cold War have permanently transformed the idea of freedom. So too have demands by various groups of Americans to enjoy greater freedom. The meaning of freedom has been constructed not only in congressional debates and political treatises, but on plantations and picket lines, in parlors and even bedrooms.

Over the course of our history, American freedom has been both a reality and a mythic ideal— a living truth for millions of Americans, a cruel mockery for others. For some, freedom has been what some scholars call a “habit of the heart,” an ideal so taken for granted that it is lived out but rarely analyzed. For others, freedom is not a birthright but a distant goal that has inspired great sacrifice.

Give Me Liberty! draws attention to three dimensions of freedom that have been critical in American history: (1) the meanings of freedom; (2) the social conditions that make freedom possible; and (3) the boundaries of freedom that determine who is entitled to enjoy freedom and who is not. All have changed over time.

In the era of the American Revolution, for example, freedom was primar- ily a set of rights enjoyed in public activity— the right of a community to be governed by laws to which its representatives had consented and of individu- als to engage in religious worship without governmental interference. In the nineteenth century, freedom came to be closely identified with each person’s opportunity to develop to the fullest his or her innate talents. In the twenti- eth, the “ability to choose,” in both public and private life, became perhaps the dominant understanding of freedom. This development was encouraged by the explosive growth of the consumer marketplace (a development that receives considerable attention in Give Me Liberty!), which offered Americans an unprecedented array of goods with which to satisfy their needs and desires. During the 1960s, a crucial chapter in the history of American freedom, the idea of personal freedom was extended into virtually every realm, from attire and “lifestyle” to relations between the sexes. Thus, over time, more and more areas of life have been drawn into Americans’ debates about the mean- ing of freedom.

A second important dimension of freedom focuses on the social conditions necessary to allow freedom to flourish. What kinds of economic institutions and relationships best encourage individual freedom? In the colonial era and for more than a century after independence, the answer centered on economic autonomy, enshrined in the glorification of the independent small producer— the farmer, skilled craftsman, or shopkeeper— who did not have to depend on another person for his livelihood. As the industrial economy matured, new

 

 

xxii ★ PREFACE

conceptions of economic freedom came to the fore: “liberty of contract” in the Gilded Age, “industrial freedom” (a say in corporate decision- making) in the Progressive era, economic security during the New Deal, and, more recently, the ability to enjoy mass consumption within a market economy.

The boundaries of freedom, the third dimension of this theme, have inspired some of the most intense struggles in American history. Although founded on the premise that liberty is an entitlement of all humanity, the United States for much of its history deprived many of its own people of free- dom. Non- whites have rarely enjoyed the same access to freedom as white Americans. The belief in equal opportunity as the birthright of all Americans has coexisted with persistent efforts to limit freedom by race, gender, and class and in other ways.

Less obvious, perhaps, is the fact that one person’s freedom has frequently been linked to another’s servitude. In the colonial era and nineteenth century, expanding freedom for many Americans rested on the lack of freedom— slavery, indentured servitude, the subordinate position of women— for others. By the same token, it has been through battles at the boundaries— the efforts of racial minorities, women, and others to secure greater freedom— that the meaning and experience of freedom have been deepened and the concept extended into new realms.

Time and again in American history, freedom has been transformed by the demands of excluded groups for inclusion. The idea of freedom as a uni- versal birthright owes much both to abolitionists who sought to extend the blessings of liberty to blacks and to immigrant groups who insisted on full recognition as American citizens. The principle of equal protection of the law without regard to race, which became a central element of American freedom, arose from the antislavery struggle and the Civil War and was reinvigorated by the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, which called itself the “freedom movement.” The battle for the right of free speech by labor radicals and birth- control advocates in the first part of the twentieth century helped to make civil liberties an essential element of freedom for all Americans.

Although concentrating on events within the United States, Give Me Lib- erty! also situates American history in the context of developments in other parts of the world. Many of the forces that shaped American history, including the international migration of peoples, the development of slavery, the spread of democracy, and the expansion of capitalism, were worldwide processes not confined to the United States. Today, American ideas, culture, and economic and military power exert unprecedented influence throughout the world. But beginning with the earliest days of settlement, when European empires com- peted to colonize North America and enrich themselves from its trade, Ameri- can history cannot be understood in isolation from its global setting.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ★ xxiii

Freedom is the oldest of clichés and the most modern of aspirations. At var- ious times in our history, it has served as the rallying cry of the powerless and as a justification of the status quo. Freedom helps to bind our culture together and exposes the contradictions between what America claims to be and what it sometimes has been. American history is not a narrative of continual pro- gress toward greater and greater freedom. As the abolitionist Thomas Went- worth Higginson noted after the Civil War, “revolutions may go backward.” Though freedom can be achieved, it may also be taken away. This happened, for example, when the equal rights granted to former slaves immediately after the Civil War were essentially nullified during the era of segregation. As was said in the eighteenth century, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

In the early twenty- first century, freedom continues to play a central role in American political and social life and thought. It is invoked by individuals and groups of all kinds, from critics of economic globalization to those who seek to secure American freedom at home and export it abroad. I hope that Give Me Liberty! will offer beginning students a clear account of the course of American history, and of its central theme, freedom, which today remains as varied, contentious, and ever- changing as America itself.

A C K N O W L E D G M E N TS

All works of history are, to a considerable extent, collaborative books, in that every writer builds on the research and writing of previous scholars. This is especially true of a textbook that covers the entire American experience, over more than five centuries. My greatest debt is to the innumerable historians on whose work I have drawn in preparing this volume. The Suggested Reading list at the end of the book offers only a brief introduction to the vast body of histor- ical scholarship that has influenced and informed this book. More specifically, however, I wish to thank the following scholars, who generously read portions of this work and offered valuable comments, criticisms, and suggestions:

Joel Benson, Northwest Missouri State University Lori Bramson, Clark College Tonia Compton, Columbia College Adam Costanzo, Texas A&M University Carl Creasman Jr., Valencia College Blake Ellis, Lone Star College– CyFair Carla Falkner, Northeast Mississippi Community College Van Forsyth, Clark College

 

 

Aram Goudsouzian, University of Memphis Michael Harkins, Harper College Sandra Harvey, Lone Star College– CyFair Robert Hines, Palo Alto College Traci Hodgson, Chemeketa Community College Tamora Hoskisson, Salt Lake Community College William Jackson, Salt Lake Community College Alfred H. Jones, State College of Florida David Kiracofe, Tidewater Community College Brad Lookingbill, Columbia College Jennifer Macias, Salt Lake Community College Thomas Massey, Cape Fear Community College Derek Maxfield, Genesee Community College Marianne McKnight, Salt Lake Community College Jonson Miller, Drexel University Ted Moore, Salt Lake Community College Robert Pierce, Foothills College Ernst Pinjing, Minot State University Harvey N. Plaunt, El Paso Community College Steve Porter, University of Cincinnati John Putman, San Diego State University R. Lynn Rainard, Tidewater Community College Nicole Ribianszky, Georgia Gwinnett College Nancy Marie Robertson, Indiana University— Purdue University Indianapolis John Shaw, Portland Community College Danielle Swiontek, Santa Barbara Community College Richard Trimble, Ocean County College Alan Vangroll, Central Texas College Eddie Weller, San Jacinto College Andrew Wiese, San Diego State University Matthew Zembo, Hudson Valley Community College

I am particularly grateful to my colleagues in the Columbia University Department of History: Pablo Piccato, for his advice on Latin American his- tory; Evan Haefeli and Ellen Baker, who read and made many suggestions for improvements in their areas of expertise (colonial America and the history of the West, respectively); and Sarah Phillips, who offered advice on treating the history of the environment.

I am also deeply indebted to the graduate students at Columbia Univer- sity’s Department of History who helped with this project. For this edition,

xxiv ★ ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ★ xxv

Michael “Mookie” Kidackel offered invaluable assistance in gathering mate- rial related to borderlands and Western history. For previous editions, The- resa Ventura assisted in locating material for new sections placing American history in a global context, April Holm did the same for new coverage of the history of American religion and debates over religious freedom, James Del- bourgo conducted research for the chapters on the colonial era, and Beverly Gage did the same for the twentieth century. In addition, Daniel Freund pro- vided all- around research assistance. Victoria Cain did a superb job of locat- ing images. I also want to thank my colleagues Elizabeth Blackmar and Alan Brink ley for offering advice and encouragement throughout the writing of this book. I am also grateful to students who, while using the textbook, pointed out to me errors or omissions that I have corrected in this edition: Jordan Farr, Chris Jendry, Rafi Metz, Samuel Phillips- Cooper, Richard Sereyko, and David Whittle.

Many thanks to Joshua Brown, director of the American Social History Project, whose website, History Matters, lists innumerable online resources for the study of American history. Thanks also to the instructors who helped build our robust digital resource and ancillary package. The new InQuizitive for History was developed by Tonia M. Compton (Columbia College), Matt Zembo (Hudson Valley Community College), Jodie Steeley (Merced Commu- nity College District), Bill Polasky (Stillman Valley High School), and Ken Adler (Spring Valley High School). Our new History Skills Tutorials were created by Geri Hastings. The Coursepack was thoroughly updated by Beth Hunter (University of Alabama at Birmingham). Allison Faber (Texas A&M University) and Ben Williams (Texas A&M University) revised the Lecture PowerPoint slides. And our Test Bank and Instructor’s Manual were revised to include new questions authored by Robert O’Brien (Lone Star College– CyFair and Tamora M. Hoskisson (Salt Lake Community College).

At W. W. Norton & Company, Steve Forman was an ideal editor— patient, encouraging, and always ready to offer sage advice. I would also like to thank Steve’s editorial assistants, Travis Carr and Kelly Rafey, and associate editor, Scott Sugarman, for their indispensable and always cheerful help on all aspects of the project; Ellen Lohman and Bob Byrne for their careful copy editing and proofreading work; Stephanie Romeo and Fay Torresyap for their resourceful attention to the illustrations program; Hope Miller Goodell and Chin- Yee Lai for their refinements of the book design; Leah Clark, Tiani Kennedy, and Debra Morton- Hoyt for splendid work on the covers for the Fifth Edition; Jennifer Barnhardt for keeping the many threads of the project aligned and then tying them together; Sean Mintus for his efficiency and care in book production; Laura Wilk for orchestrating the rich media package that accompanies the

 

 

xxvi ★ ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

textbook; Jessica Brannon- Wranowsky for the terrific new web quizzes and outlines; Sarah England Bartley, Steve Dunn, and Mike Wright for their alert reads of the U.S. survey market and their hard work in helping establish Give Me Liberty! within it; and Drake McFeely, Roby Harrington, and Julia Reidhead for maintaining Norton as an independent, employee- owned publisher dedi- cated to excellence in its work.

Many students may have heard stories of how publishing companies alter the language and content of textbooks in an attempt to maximize sales and avoid alienating any potential reader. In this case, I can honestly say that W. W. Norton allowed me a free hand in writing the book and, apart from the usual editorial corrections, did not try to influence its content at all. For this I thank them, while I accept full responsibility for the interpretations pre- sented and for any errors the book may contain. Since no book of this length can be entirely free of mistakes, I welcome readers to send me corrections at ef17@columbia.edu.

My greatest debt, as always, is to my family— my wife, Lynn Garafola, for her good- natured support while I was preoccupied by a project that con- sumed more than its fair share of my time and energy, and my daughter, Daria, who while a ninth and tenth grader read every chapter as it was written and offered invaluable suggestions about improving the book’s clarity, logic, and grammar.

Eric Foner New York City July 2016

 

 

W. W. Norton offers a robust digital package to support teaching and learning with Give Me Liberty! These resources are designed to make students more effec- tive textbook readers, while at the same time developing their critical thinking and history skills.

R E S O U R C E S F O R S T U D E N T S All resources are available through digital.wwnorton.com/givemeliberty5sv1 with the access card at the front of this text.

N O RTO N I N Q U I Z I T I V E F O R H I STO R Y Norton InQuizitive for history is an adaptive quizzing tool that improves stu- dents’ understanding of the themes and objectives from each chapter, while honing their critical- analysis skills with primary source, image, and map anal- ysis questions. Students receive personalized quiz questions with detailed, guiding feedback on the topics in which they need the most help, while the engaging, gamelike elements motivate them as they learn.

G I V E M E L I B E R T Y ! D I G I TA L R E S O U R C E S F O R S T U D E N T S

A N D I N S T R U C T O R S

★★

 

 

H I STO R Y S K I L L S T U TO R I A L S The History Skills Tutorials feature three modules— Images, Documents, and Maps— to support students’ development of the key skills needed for the his- tory course. These tutorials feature videos of Eric Foner modeling the analysis process, followed by interactive questions that will challenge students to apply what they have learned.

ST U D E N T S I T E The free and easy- to- use Student Site offers additional resources for students to use outside of class. Resources include interactive iMaps from each chapter, author videos, and a comprehensive Online Reader with a collection of histori-

cal longer works, primary sources, novellas, and biographies.

E B O O K Free and included with new cop- ies of the text, the Norton Ebook Reader provides an enhanced reading experience that works on all computers and mobile devices.

Features include intuitive highlighting, note- taking, and bookmarking as well as pop- up definitions and enlargeable maps and art. Direct links to InQuizitive also appear in each chapter. Instructors can focus student reading by sharing notes with their classes, including embedded images and video. Reports on student and class- wide access and time on task allow instructors to monitor student reading and engagement.

 

 

R E S O U R C E S F O R I N S T R U C T O R S All resources are available through www.wwnorton.com/instructors.

N O RTO N C O U R S E PA C KS Easily add high- quality digital media to your online, hybrid, or lecture course— all at no cost to students. Norton’s Coursepacks work within your existing Learning Management System and are ready to use and easy to customize. The coursepack offers a diverse collection of assignable and assessable resources: Primary Source Exercises, Guided Reading Exercises, Review Quizzes, U.S. History Tours powered by Google Earth, Flashcards, Map Exercises, and all of the resources from the Student Site.

N O RTO N A M E R I C A N H I STO R Y D I G I TA L A R C H I V E The Digital Archive offers roughly 2,000 additional primary source images, audio, and video files spanning American history that can be used in assign- ments and lecture presentations.

T E ST B A N K The Test Bank is authored by Rob- ert O’Brien, Lone Star College– CyFair, and Tamora M. Hoskisson, Salt Lake City Community Col- lege, and contains more than 4,000 multiple- choice, true/false, short- answer, and essay questions.

 

 

I N ST R U CTO R ’ S M A N U A L The Instructor’s Manual contains detailed Chapter Summaries, Chapter Out- lines, Suggested Discussion Questions, and Supplemental Web, Visual, and Print Resources.

L E CT U R E A N D A RT P O W E R P O I N T S L I D E S The Lecture PowerPoint sets authored by Allison Faber, Texas A&M University, and Ben Williams, Texas A&M University, combine chapter review, art, and maps.

★ A N A M E R I C A N H I S T O R Y ★

 

 

G I V E M E L I B E RT Y !

★ A N A M E R I C A N H I S T O R Y ★

SEAGULL FIFTH EDITION

 

 

 

★ 1

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S What were the major patterns of Native American life in North America before Europeans arrived?

How did Indian and European ideas of freedom differ on the eve of contact?

What impelled European explorers to look west across the Atlantic?

What happened when the peoples of the Americas came in contact with Europeans?

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

What were the chief features of the French and Dutch empires in North America?

A N E W W O R L D

★ C H A P T E R   1 ★

The discovery of America,” the British writer Adam Smith announced in his celebrated work The Wealth of Nations (1776), was one of “the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind.” Historians no longer use the word “discovery” to describe the European exploration, conquest, and colonization of a hemisphere already home to millions of people. But there can be no doubt that when Christopher Columbus made landfall in the West Indian islands in 1492, he set in motion some of the most pivotal developments in human history. Immense changes soon followed in both the Old and New Worlds; the consequences of these changes are still with us today.

The peoples of the American continents and Europe, previously unaware of each other’s existence, were thrown into continuous interaction. Crops new to each hemisphere crossed the Atlantic, reshaping diets and transforming the natural environment. Because of their long isolation, the inhabitants of North

 

 

2 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

7000 BC Agriculture developed in Mexico and Andes

900– Hopi and Zuni tribes 1200 AD build planned towns

1200 Cahokia city- empire along the Mississippi

1400s Iroquois League established

1434 Portuguese explore sub- Saharan African Coast

1487 Bartolomeu Dias reaches the Cape of Good Hope

1492 Reconquista of Spain Columbus’s first voyage to

the Americas

1498 Vasco da Gama sails to the Indian Ocean

1500 Pedro Cabral claims Brazil for Portugal

1502 First African slaves transported to Caribbean islands

1517 Martin Luther’s Ninety- Five Theses

1519 Hernán Cortés arrives in Mexico

1528 Las Casas’s History of the Indies

1530s Pizarro’s conquest of Peru

1542 Spain promulgates the New Laws

1608 Champlain establishes Quebec

1609 Hudson claims New Netherland

1610 Santa Fe established

1680 Pueblo Revolt

and South America had developed no immu- nity to the germs that also accompanied the colonizers. As a result, they suffered a series of devastating epidemics, the greatest popu- lation catastrophe in human history. Within a decade of Columbus’s voyage, a fourth continent— Africa— found itself drawn into the new Atlantic system of trade and popula- tion movement. In Africa, Europeans found a supply of unfree labor that enabled them to exploit the fertile lands of the Western Hemi- sphere. Indeed, of approximately 10 million men, women, and children who crossed from the Old World to the New between 1492 and 1820, the vast majority, about 7.7 million, were African slaves.

From the vantage point of 1776, the year the United States declared itself an indepen- dent nation, it seemed to Adam Smith that the “discovery” of America had produced both great “benefits” and great “misfortunes.” To the nations of western Europe, the devel- opment of American colonies brought an era of “splendor and glory.” The emergence of the Atlantic as the world’s major avenue for trade and population movement, Smith noted, enabled millions of Europeans to increase the “enjoyments” of life. To the “natives” of the Americas, however, Smith went on, the years since 1492 had been ones of “dreadful misfor- tunes” and “every sort of injustice.” And for millions of Africans, the settlement of Amer- ica meant a descent into the abyss of slavery.

Long before Columbus sailed, Europeans had dreamed of a land of abundance, riches, and ease beyond the western horizon. Once the “discovery” of this New World had taken place, they invented an America of the imag- ination, projecting onto it their hopes for a better life. Here, many believed, would arise unparalleled opportunities for riches, or at

 

 

THE FIRST AMERICANS ★ 3

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

least liberation from poverty. Europeans envisioned America as a religious ref- uge, a society of equals, a source of power and glory. They searched the New World for golden cities and fountains of eternal youth. Some sought to estab- lish ideal communities based on the lives of the early Christian saints or other blueprints for social justice.

Some of these dreams of riches and opportunity would indeed be fulfilled. To many European settlers, America offered a far greater chance to own land and worship as they pleased than existed in Europe, with its rigid, unequal social order and official churches. Yet the conditions that enabled millions of settlers to take control of their own destinies were made possible by the debase- ment of millions of others. The New World became the site of many forms of unfree labor, including indentured servitude, forced labor, and one of the most brutal and unjust systems ever devised by man, plantation slavery. The con- quest and settlement of the Western Hemisphere opened new chapters in the long histories of both freedom and slavery.

There was a vast human diversity among the peoples thrown into contact with one another in the New World. Exploration and settlement took place in an era of almost constant warfare among European nations, each racked by internal religious, political, and regional conflicts. Native Americans and Africans consisted of numerous groups with their own languages and cul- tures. They were as likely to fight one another as to unite against the European newcomers. All these peoples were changed by their integration into the new Atlantic economy. The complex interactions of Europeans, American Indians, and Africans would shape American history during the colonial era.

T H E F I R S T A M E R I C A N S The Settling of the Americas

The residents of the Americas were no more a single group than Europeans or Africans. They spoke hundreds of different languages and lived in numerous kinds of societies. Most, however, were descended from bands of hunters and fish- ers who had crossed the Bering Strait via a land bridge at various times between 15,000 and 60,000 years ago— the exact dates are hotly debated by archaeolo- gists. Others may have arrived by sea from Asia or Pacific islands. Around 14,000 years ago, when glaciers began to melt at the end of the last Ice Age, the land link became submerged under water, separating the Western Hemisphere from Asia.

History in North and South America did not begin with the coming of Euro- peans. The New World was new to Europeans but an ancient homeland to those who already lived there. The hemisphere had witnessed many changes during its

What were the major patterns of Native American life in North America before Europeans arrived?

 

 

4 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

human history. First, the early inhabitants and their descendants spread across the two continents, reaching the tip of South America perhaps 11,000 years ago. As the climate warmed, they faced a food crisis as the immense ani mals they hunted, including woolly mammoths and giant bison, became extinct. Around 9,000 years ago, at the same time that agriculture was being developed in the Near East, it also emerged in modern- day Mexico and the Andes, and then spread to other parts of the Americas, making settled civilizations possible. Throughout the hemisphere, maize (corn), squash, and beans formed the basis of agriculture. The absence of livestock in the Western Hemisphere, however, limited farming by preventing the plowing of fields and the application of natural fertilizer.

Tenochtitlán

Monte Alban

Poverty Point

Chichen Itzá

Chaco Canyon

Cahokia

Palenque

NORTH AMERICA

SOUTH AMERICA

CENTRAL AMERICA

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Aleut ian I s lands INCAS

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Possible migration routes

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M ississippi R.

A map illustrating the probable routes by which the first Americans settled the Western Hemisphere at various times between 15,000 and 60,000 years ago.

T H E F I R S T A M E R I C A N S

 

 

THE FIRST AMERICANS ★ 5

Indian Societies of the Americas

North and South America were hardly an empty wilderness when Europeans arrived. The hemisphere contained cities, roads, irrigation systems, extensive trade networks, and large structures such as pyramid- temples, whose beauty still inspires wonder. With a population close to 250,000, Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire in what is now Mexico, was one of the world’s largest cities. Its great temple, splendid royal palace, and a central market com- parable to that of European capitals made the city seem “like an enchanted vision,” according to one of the first Europeans to encounter it. Farther south lay the Inca kingdom, centered in modern- day Peru. Its population of perhaps 12 million was linked by a complex system of roads and bridges that extended 2,000 miles along the Andes mountain chain.

When Europeans arrived, a wide variety of native peoples lived within the present borders of the United States. Indian civilizations in North America had not developed the scale, grandeur, or centralized organization of the Aztec and Inca societies to their south. North American Indians lacked the technologies Europeans had mastered, such as metal tools and machines, gunpowder, and the scientific knowledge necessary for long- distance navigation. No society north of Mexico had achieved literacy (although some made maps on bark and animal hides). They also lacked wheeled vehicles, since they had no domes- tic animals like horses or oxen to pull them. Their “backwardness” became a central justification for European conquest. But, over time, Indian societies had perfected techniques of farming, hunting, and fishing, developed structures of political power and religious belief, and engaged in far- reaching networks of trade and communication.

Mound Builders of the Mississippi River Valley

Remarkable physical remains still exist from some of the early civiliza- tions in North America. Around 3,500 years ago, before Egyptians built the pyramids, Native Americans constructed a large community centered on a series of giant semicircular mounds on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in present- day Louisiana. Known today as Poverty Point, it was a com- mercial and governmental center whose residents established trade routes throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. Archaeologists have found there copper from present- day Minnesota and Canada, and flint mined in Indiana.

More than a thousand years before Columbus sailed, Indians of the Ohio River valley, called “mound builders” by eighteenth- century settlers who encountered the large earthen burial mounds they created, had traded across half the continent. After their decline, another culture flourished in the

What were the major patterns of Native American life in North America before Europeans arrived?

 

 

6 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Mississippi River valley, centered on the city of Cahokia near present- day St. Louis, a fortified community with between 10,000 and 30,000 inhabi- tants in the year 1200. Its residents, too, built giant mounds, the largest of which stood 100 feet high and was topped by a temple. Little is known of Cahokia’s political and economic structure. But it stood as the largest settled community in what is now the United States until surpassed in popu- lation by New York and Philadelphia around 1800.

Western Indians

In the arid northeastern area of present- day Arizona, the Hopi and Zuni and their ancestors engaged in settled village life for over 3,000 years. During the peak of the region’s culture, between the years 900 and 1200, these peo- ples built great planned towns with large multiple- family dwellings in local canyons, constructed dams and canals to gather and distribute water, and conducted trade with groups as far away as central Mexico and the Mississippi River valley. The largest of their structures, Pueblo Bonita, in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, stood five stories high and had more than 600 rooms. Not until the 1880s was a dwelling of comparable size constructed in the United States.

After the decline of these communities, probably because of drought, survivors moved to the south and east, where they established villages and perfected the techniques of desert farming, complete with irrigation systems to provide water for crops of corn, beans, and cotton. These were the people Spanish explorers called the Pueblo Indians (because they lived in small vil- lages, or pueblos, when the Spanish first encountered them in the sixteenth century).

On the Pacific coast, another densely populated region, hundreds of distinct groups resided in independent villages and lived primarily by fishing, hunt- ing sea mammals, and gathering wild plants and nuts. As many as 25 million salmon swam up the Columbia River each year, providing Indians with abun- dant food. On the Great Plains, with its herds of buffalo— descendants of the prehistoric giant bison— many Indians were hunters (who tracked animals on foot before the arrival of horses with the Spanish), but others lived in agricul- tural communities.

A modern aerial photograph of the ruins of Pueblo Bonita, in Chaco Canyon in present- day New Mexico. The rectangular structures are the foundations of dwellings, and the circular ones are kivas, or places of religious worship.

 

 

THE FIRST AMERICANS ★ 7

Indians of Eastern North America

In eastern North America, hundreds of tribes inhabited towns and villages scattered from the Gulf of Mexico to present- day Canada. They lived on corn, squash, and beans, supplemented by fishing and hunting deer, turkeys, and other animals. Indian trade routes crisscrossed the eastern part of the conti- nent. Tribes frequently warred with one another to obtain goods, seize captives, or take revenge for the killing of relatives. They conducted diplomacy and made peace. Little in the way of centralized authority existed until, in the fif- teenth century, various leagues or confederations emerged in an effort to bring

INUIT

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ALGONQUIAN

MICMAC PENOBSCOT

ABENAKI

HURON

NEUTRAL

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IROQUOIS

SUSQUEHANNOCK NARRAGANSETT

WAMPANOAG

PEQUOT MOHEGAN

CREE

CHIPPEWA

CHIPPEWA

OTTOWAMENOMINEE

WINNEBAGO POTAWATOMI

ASSINIBOINE CHEYENNE SIOUX

TLINGIT

TSHIMSHIAN

KWAKIUTLS

NOOTKIN SHUSWAP KOOTENAY

BLACKFEET

SHOSHONE

FLATHEAD HIDATSA

MANDAN

KIOWA

SIOUX ARAPAHO

PAWNEE IOWA

CHUMASH

LUISENO

DIEGUENO

COSTANO

POMO

TILLAMOOK

CHINOOK

SKAGIT WALLA WALLA

CAYUSE NEZ

PERCE

KLAMATH MODOC

MAIDU

SOUTHERN PAIUTE

HOPI

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CHEMEHUEVI SERRANO

CAHUILLA ZUNI TEWA

JUMANO

YACHI CONCHO

LAGUERNO

COAHUILTEC

KABANKAWA

NATCHEZ APALACHEE

CALUSA

ARAWAK

CHOCTAW

YAMASEE

TIMUCUA

CREEK

CHEROKEE

CHICKASAW

PAMLICO

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SHAWNEESAUKKICKAPOO ILLINOIS KASKASKIA

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Arctic hunter-gatherers Subarctic hunter-fisher-gatherers Northwest coast marine economy Plains hunter-gatherers Plains horticulturalists

Non-horticultural rancherian peoples Rancherian peoples with low-intensity horticulture Rancherian peoples with intensive horticulture Pueblos with intensive horticulture Seacoast foragers

Ways of Life in North America, AD 1515 Marginal horticultural hunters River-based horticultural chiefdoms Orchard-growing alligator hunters Tidewater horticulturalists Fishers and wild-rice gatherers

N AT I V E WAY S O F L I F E , c a . 1 5 0 0

The native population of North America at the time of first contact with Europeans consisted of numerous tribes with their own languages, religious beliefs, and economic and social structures. This map suggests the numerous ways of life existing at the time.

What were the major patterns of Native American life in North America before Europeans arrived?

 

 

8 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

order to local regions. In the Southeast, the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw each united dozens of towns in loose alliances. In present- day New York and Pennsylvania, five Iroquois peoples— the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Sen- eca, and Onondaga— formed a Great League of Peace, bringing a period of stability to the area. Each year a Great Council, with representatives from the five groupings, met to coordinate behavior toward outsiders.

The most striking feature of Native American society at the time Europe- ans arrived was its sheer diversity. Each group had its own political system and set of religious beliefs, and North Amer- ica was home to literally hundreds of mutually unintelligible languages. Indi- ans had no sense of “America” as a conti- nent or hemisphere. They did not think of themselves as a single unified people, an idea invented by Europeans and only many years later adopted by Indians themselves. Indian identity centered on the immediate social group— a tribe, vil-

lage, chiefdom, or confederacy. When Europeans first arrived, many Indians saw them as simply one group among many. Their first thought was how to use the newcomers to enhance their standing in relation to other native peoples, rather than to unite against them. The sharp dichotomy between Indians and “white” per- sons did not emerge until later in the colonial era.

Native American Religion

Nonetheless, the diverse Indian societies of North America did share certain common characteristics. Their lives were steeped in religious ceremonies often directly related to farming and hunting. Spiritual power, they believed, suffused the world, and sacred spirits could be found in all kinds of living and inanimate things— animals, plants, trees, water, and wind— an idea known as “animism.” Through religious ceremonies, they aimed to harness the aid of powerful super- natural forces to serve the interests of man. In some tribes, hunters performed

The Village of Secoton, by John White, an English artist who spent a year on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 1585–1586 as part of an expedition sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh. A central street links houses surrounded by fields of corn. In the lower part, dancing Indians take part in a religious ceremony.

 

 

THE FIRST AMERICANS ★ 9

rituals to placate the spirits of animals they had killed. Other religious ceremo- nies sought to engage the spiritual power of nature to secure abundant crops or fend off evil spirits. Indian villages also held elaborate religious rites, partic- ipation in which helped to define the boundaries of community membership. In all Indian societies, those who seemed to possess special abilities to invoke supernatural powers— shamans, medicine men, and other religious leaders— held positions of respect and authority.

Indian religion did not pose a sharp distinction between the natural and the supernatural, or secular and religious activities. In some respects, however, Indian religion was not that different from popular spiritual beliefs in Europe. Most Indians held that a single Creator stood atop the spiritual hierarchy. None- theless, nearly all Europeans arriving in the New World quickly concluded that Indians were in dire need of being converted to a true, Christian faith.

Land and Property

Equally alien in European eyes were Indian attitudes toward property. Numer- ous land systems existed among Native Americans. Generally, however, village leaders assigned plots of land to individual families to use for a season or more, and tribes claimed specific areas for hunting. Unclaimed land remained free for anyone to use. Families “owned” the right to use land, but they did not own the land itself. Indians saw land, the basis of economic life for both hunting and farming societies, as a common resource, not an economic commodity. In the nineteenth century, the Indian leader Black Hawk would explain why, in his view, land could not be bought and sold: “The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon, and cultivate as far as necessary for their subsistence; and so long as they occupy and cultivate it, they have a right to the soil.” Few if any Indian societies were familiar with the idea of a fenced- off piece of land belonging for- ever to a single individual or family. There was no market in real estate before the coming of Europeans.

Nor were Indians devoted to the accumulation of wealth and material goods. Especially east of the Mississippi River, where villages moved every few years when soil or game became depleted, acquiring numerous possessions made little sense. However, status certainly mattered in Indian societies. Tribal leaders tended to come from a small number of families, and chiefs lived more splendidly than average members of society. But their reputation often rested on their willingness to share goods with others rather than hoarding them for themselves.

A few Indian societies had rigid social distinctions. Among the Natchez, descendants of the mound- building Mississippian culture, a chief, or “Great Sun,” occupied the top of the social order, with nobles, or “lesser suns,” below

What were the major patterns of Native American life in North America before Europeans arrived?

 

 

10 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

him, and below them, the common people. In general, however, wealth mat- tered far less in Indian society than in European society at the time. Gen- erosity was among the most valued social qualities, and gift giving was essential to Indian society. Trade, for example, meant more than a commercial transaction— it was accompanied by elaborate ceremonies of gift exchange. Although Indians had no experience of the wealth enjoyed at the top of Euro- pean society, under normal circumstances no one in Indian societies went hun- gry or experienced the extreme inequalities of Europe. “There are no beggars among them,” reported the English colonial leader Roger Williams of New England’s Indians.

Gender Relations

The system of gender relations in most Indian societies also differed markedly from that of Europe. Membership in a family defined women’s lives, but they openly engaged in premarital sexual relations and could even choose to divorce their husbands. Most, although not all, Indian societies were matrilineal— that is, centered on clans or kinship groups in which children became members of the mother’s family, not the father’s. Tribal leaders were almost always men, but women played an important role in certain religious ceremonies, and female elders often helped to select male village leaders and took part in tribal meetings. Under English law, a married man controlled the family’s property and a wife had no independent legal identity. In contrast, Indian women owned dwellings and tools, and a husband generally moved to live with the family of his wife. In Indian societies, men contributed to the community’s well- being and demonstrated their masculinity by success in hunting or, in the Pacific Northwest, by catching fish with nets and harpoons. Because men were fre- quently away on the hunt, women took responsibility not only for household duties but for most agricultural work as well. Among the Pueblo of the South- west, however, where there was less hunting than in the East, men were the primary cultivators.

European Views of the Indians

Europeans tended to view Indians in extreme terms. They were regarded either as “noble savages,” gentle, friendly, and superior in some ways to Europeans, or as uncivilized barbarians. Giovanni da Verrazano, a Florentine navigator who sailed up and down the eastern coast of North America in 1524, described Indi- ans he encountered as “beautiful of stature and build.” (For their part, many Indians, whose diet was probably more nutritious than that of most Europeans, initially found the newcomers weak and ugly.)

 

 

THE FIRST AMERICANS ★ 11

Over time, however, negative images of Indians came to overshadow posi- tive ones. Early European descriptions of North American Indians as barbaric centered on three areas— religion, land use, and gender relations. Whatever their country of origin, European newcomers concluded that Indians lacked genuine religion, or in fact worshiped the devil. Their shamans and herb heal- ers were called “witch doctors,” their numerous ceremonies and rituals at best a form of superstition, their belief in a world alive with spiritual power a worship of “false gods.” Christianity presented no obstacle to the commercial use of the land, and indeed in some ways encouraged it, since true religion was thought to promote the progress of civilization. Whereas the Indians saw nature as a world of spirits and souls, the Europeans viewed it as a collection of potential commodities, a source of economic opportunity.

Europeans invoked the Indians’ distinctive pattern of land use and ideas about property to answer the awkward question raised by a British minis- ter at an early stage of England’s colonization: “By what right or warrant can we enter into the land of these Savages, take away their rightful inheri- tance from them, and plant ourselves in their places?” While the Spanish claimed title to land in America by right of conquest and papal authority, the English, French, and Dutch came to rely on the idea that Indians had not actu- ally “used” the land and thus had no claim to it. Despite the Indians’ highly developed agriculture and well- established towns, Europeans frequently described them as nomads without settled communities. The land was thus deemed to be a vacant wilderness ready to be claimed by newcomers who would cultivate and improve it. European settlers believed that mixing one’s labor with the earth, which Indians supposedly had failed to do, gave one title to the soil.

In the Indians’ gender division of labor and matrilineal family structures, Europeans saw weak men and mistreated women. Hunting and fishing, the primary occupations of Indian men, were considered leisure activities in much of Europe, not “real” work. Because Indian women worked in the fields, Europeans often described them as lacking freedom. They were “not much better than slaves,” in the words of one English commentator. Europeans con- sidered Indian men “unmanly”—too weak to exercise authority within their families and restrain their wives’ open sexuality, and so lazy that they forced their wives to do most of the productive labor. Throughout North America, Europeans promoted the ideas that women should confine themselves to household work and that men ought to exercise greater authority within their families. Europeans insisted that by subduing the Indians, they were actually bringing them freedom— the freedom of true religion, private property, and the liberation of both men and women from uncivilized and unchristian gender roles.

What were the major patterns of Native American life in North America before Europeans arrived?

 

 

12 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

I N D I A N F R E E D O M , E U R O P E A N F R E E D O M Indian Freedom

And what of liberty as the native inhabitants of the New World understood it? Many Europeans saw Indians as embodying freedom. The Iroquois, wrote one colonial official, held “such absolute notions of liberty that they allow of no kind of superiority of one over another, and banish all servitude from their territories.” But most colonizers quickly concluded that the notion of “freedom” was alien to Indian societies. Early English and French dictionaries of Indian languages contained no entry for “freedom” or liberté. Nor, wrote one early trader, did Indians have “words to express despotic power, arbitrary kings, oppressed or obedient subjects.”

Indeed, Europeans considered Indians barbaric in part because they did not appear to live under established governments or fixed laws, and had no respect for authority. “They are born, live, and die in a liberty without restraint,” wrote one religious missionary. In a sense, they were too free, lacking the order and discipline that Europeans considered the hallmarks of civilization. When Giovanni da Verrazano described the Indians as living in “absolute freedom,” he did not intend this as a compliment.

Indians fishing, in a 1585 drawing by John White. The canoe is filled with fish, while two men harpoon others in the background. Among the wildlife illustrated are hammerhead sharks and catfish.

 

 

INDIAN FREEDOM, EUROPEAN FREEDOM ★ 13

The familiar modern understanding of freedom as personal independence, often based on ownership of private property, had little meaning in most Indian societies. But Indians certainly had their own ideas of freedom. While the buying and selling of slaves was unknown, small- scale slavery existed in some Indian societies. So too did the idea of personal liberty as the opposite of being held as a slave. Indians would bitterly resent the efforts of some Europe- ans to reduce them to slavery.

Although individuals were expected to think for themselves and did not always have to go along with collective decision making, Indian men and women judged one another according to their ability to live up to widely understood ideas of appropriate behavior. Far more important than individual autonomy were kinship ties, the ability to follow one’s spiritual values, and the well- being and security of one’s community. In Indian culture, group autonomy and self- determination, and the mutual obligations that came with a sense of belonging and connectedness, took precedence over individual freedom. Ironi- cally, the coming of Europeans, armed with their own language of liberty, would make freedom a preoccupation of American Indians, as part and parcel of the very process by which they were reduced to dependence on the colonizers.

Christian Liberty

On the eve of colonization, Europeans held numerous ideas of freedom. Some were as old as the city- states of ancient Greece, others arose during the polit- ical struggles of the early modern era. Some laid the foundations for modern conceptions of freedom, others are quite unfamiliar today. Freedom was not a single idea but a collection of distinct rights and privileges, many enjoyed by only a small portion of the population.

One conception common throughout Europe was that freedom was less a political or social status than a moral or spiritual condition. Freedom meant abandoning the life of sin to embrace the teachings of Christ. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is,” declares the New Testament, “there is liberty.” In this definition, servitude and freedom were mutually reinforcing, not contradictory states, since those who accepted the teachings of Christ simultaneously became “free from sin” and “servants to God.”

“Christian liberty” had no connection to later ideas of religious toleration, a notion that scarcely existed anywhere on the eve of colonization. Every nation in Europe had an established church that decreed what forms of religious wor- ship and belief were acceptable. Dissenters faced persecution by the state as well as condemnation by church authorities. Religious uniformity was thought to be essential to public order; the modern idea that a person’s religious beliefs and prac- tices are a matter of private choice, not legal obligation, was almost unknown. The religious wars that racked Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

How did Indian and European ideas of freedom differ on the eve of contact?

 

 

14 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

centered on which religion would predominate in a kingdom or region, not the right of individuals to choose which church in which to worship.

Freedom and Authority

In its secular form, the equating of liberty with obedience to a higher authority suggested that freedom meant obedience to law. Aristotle had described the law as liberty’s “salvation,” not its enemy. The identification of freedom with the rule of law did not, however, mean that all subjects of the crown enjoyed the same degree of freedom. Early modern European societies were extremely hierarchical, with marked gradations of social status ranging from the king and hereditary aristoc- racy down to the urban and rural poor. Inequality was built into virtually every social relationship. The king claimed to rule by the authority of God. Persons of high rank demanded deference from those below them.

Within families, men exercised authority over their wives and children. According to the widespread legal doctrine known as “coverture,” when a woman married she surrendered her legal identity, which became “covered” by that of her husband. She could not own property or sign contracts in her own name, control her wages if she worked, write a separate will, or, except in the rarest of circumstances, go to court seeking a divorce. The husband conducted business and testified in court for the entire family. He had the exclusive right to his wife’s “company,” including domestic labor and sexual relations.

Everywhere in Europe, family life depended on male dominance and female submission. Indeed, political writers of the sixteenth century explicitly com- pared the king’s authority over his subjects with the husband’s over his family. Both were ordained by God. To justify this argument, they referred to a passage in the New Testament: “As the man is the head of the woman, so is Christ the head of the Church.” Neither kind of authority could be challenged without threatening the fabric of social order.

Liberty and Liberties

In this hierarchical society, liberty came from knowing one’s social place and fulfilling the duties appropriate to one’s rank. Most men lacked the freedom that came with economic independence. Property qualifications and other restrictions limited the electorate to a minuscule part of the adult male pop- ulation. The law required strict obedience of employees, and breaches of labor contracts carried criminal penalties.

European ideas of freedom still bore the imprint of the Middle Ages, when “lib- erties” meant formal, specific privileges such as self- government, exemption from taxation, or the right to practice a particular trade, granted to individuals or groups by contract, royal decree, or purchase. One legal dictionary defined a liberty as “a privilege . . . by which men may enjoy some benefit beyond the ordinary subject.”

 

 

THE EXPANSION OF EUROPE ★ 15

Only those who enjoyed the “freedom of the city,” for example, could engage in certain economic activities. Numerous modern civil liberties did not exist. The law decreed acceptable forms of religious worship. The government regularly sup- pressed publications it did not like, and criticism of authority could lead to impris- onment. Personal independence was reserved for a small part of the population, and this was one reason why authorities found “masterless men”—those without regular jobs or otherwise outside the control of their social superiors— so threaten- ing. Nonetheless, every European country that colonized the New World claimed to be spreading freedom— for its own population and for Native Americans.

T H E E X P A N S I O N O F E U R O P E It is fitting that the second epochal event that Adam Smith linked to Columbus’s voyage of 1492 was the discovery by Portuguese navigators of a sea route from Europe to Asia around the southern tip of Africa. The European conquest of Amer- ica began as an offshoot of the quest for a sea route to India, China, and the islands of the East Indies, the source of the silk, tea, spices, porcelain, and other luxury goods on which international trade in the early modern era centered. For centu- ries, this commerce had been conducted across land, from China and South Asia to the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. Profit and piety— the desire to eliminate Islamic middlemen and win control of the lucrative trade for Christian western Europe— combined to inspire the quest for a direct route to Asia.

Chinese and Portuguese Navigation

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, one might have predicted that China would establish the world’s first global empire. Between 1405 and 1433, Admiral Zheng He led seven large naval expeditions in the Indian Ocean. The first convoy consisted of 62 ships that were larger than those of any European nation, along with 225 support vessels and more than 25,000 men. On his sixth voyage, Zheng explored the coast of East Africa. China was already the world’s most important trading economy, with trade routes dotting the Indian Ocean. Zheng’s purpose was not discovery, but to impress other peoples with China’s might. Had his ships con- tinued westward, they could easily have reached North and South America. But as a wealthy land- based empire, China did not feel the need for overseas expansion, and after 1433 the government ended support for long- distance maritime expedi- tions. It fell to Portugal, situated on the western corner of the Iberian Peninsula, far removed from the overland route to Asia, to take advantage of new techniques of sailing and navigation to begin exploring the Atlantic.

The development of the caravel, a ship capable of long- distance travel, and of the compass and quadrant, devices that enabled sailors to determine their location

What impelled European explorers to look west across the Atlantic?

 

 

16 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

and direction with greater accuracy than in the past, made it possible to sail down the coast of Africa and return to Portugal. Portuguese seafarers initially hoped to locate the source of gold that for centuries had been transported in caravans across the Sahara Desert to North Africa and Europe. This commerce, which passed through the African kingdom of Mali on the southern edge of the Sahara, provided Europe with most of its gold. Around 1400, it rivaled trade with the East in economic importance. And like trade with Asia, it was controlled by Muslim merchants.

Portugal and West Africa

Until 1434, no European sailor had seen the coast of Africa below the Sahara, or the forest kingdoms south of Mali that contained the actual gold fields. But in that year, a Portuguese ship brought a sprig of rosemary from West Africa,

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In the fifteenth century, the world known to Europeans was limited to Europe, parts of Africa, and Asia. Explorers from Portugal sought to find a sea route to the East in order to circumvent the Ital- ian city- states and Middle Eastern rulers who controlled the overland trade.

 

 

THE EXPANSION OF EUROPE ★ 17

proof that one could sail beyond the desert and return. Little by little, Portu- guese ships moved farther down the coast. In 1485, they reached Benin, an imposing city whose craftsmen produced bronze sculptures that still inspire admiration for their artistic beauty and superb casting techniques. The Por- tuguese established fortified trading posts on the western coast of Africa. The profits reaped by these Portuguese “factories”—so named because merchants were known as “factors”—inspired other European powers to follow in their footsteps.

Portugal also began to colonize Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, which lie in the Atlantic off the African coast. Sugar plantations worked by Muslim captives and slaves from Slavic areas of east- ern Europe had flourished in the Middle Ages on Mediterranean islands like Cyprus, Malta, and Crete. Now, the Portuguese established plantations on the Atlantic islands, eventually replacing the native populations with thousands of slaves shipped from Africa— an ominous precedent for the New World. Soon, the center of sugar production would shift again, to the Western Hemisphere.

Freedom and Slavery in Africa

Slavery in Africa long predated the coming of Europeans. Traditionally, Afri- can slaves tended to be criminals, debtors, and captives in war. They worked within the households of their owners and had well- defined rights, such as possessing property and marrying free persons. It was not uncommon for African slaves to acquire their freedom. Slavery was one of several forms of labor, not the basis of the economy as it would become in large parts of the New World. The coming of the Portuguese, soon followed by traders from other European nations, accelerated the buying and selling of slaves within Africa. At least 100,000 African slaves were transported to Spain and Portugal between 1450 and 1500. In 1502, the first African slaves were transported to islands in the Caribbean. The transatlantic slave trade, and its impact on Africa, will be discussed in Chapter 4.

Having reached West Africa, Portuguese mariners pushed their explora- tions ever southward along the coast. Bartholomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope at the continent’s southern tip in 1487. In 1498, Vasco da Gama sailed around it to India, demonstrating the feasibility of a sea route to the East. With a population of under 1 million, Portugal established a vast trading empire, with bases in India, southern China, and Indonesia. It replaced the Ital- ian city- states as the major European commercial partner of the East. But six years before da Gama’s voyage, Christopher Columbus had, he believed, discov- ered a new route to China and India by sailing west.

What impelled European explorers to look west across the Atlantic?

 

 

18 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

The Voyages of Columbus

A seasoned mariner and fearless explorer from Genoa, a major port in north- ern Italy, Columbus had for years sailed the Mediterranean and North Atlan- tic, studying ocean currents and wind patterns. Like nearly all navigators of the time, Columbus knew the earth was round. But he drastically under- estimated its size. He believed that by sailing westward he could relatively quickly cross the Atlantic and reach Asia. No one in Europe knew that two giant continents lay 3,000 miles to the west. The Vikings, to be sure, had sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland around the year 1000 and established a set- tlement, Vinland, at a site now known as L’Anse aux Meadows. But this out- post was abandoned after a few years and had been forgotten, except in Norse legends.

For Columbus, as for other figures of the time, religious and commercial motives reinforced one another. A devout Catholic, he drew on the Bible for his estimate of the size of the globe. Along with developing trade with the East, he hoped to convert Asians to Christianity and enlist them in a crusade to redeem Jerusalem from Muslim control. Columbus sought financial sup- port throughout Europe for the planned voyage. Most of Columbus’s contem- poraries, however, knew that he considerably underestimated the earth’s size, which helps to explain why he had trouble gaining backers for his expedition. Eventually, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to become spon- sors. Their marriage in 1469 had united the warring kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. In 1492, they completed the reconquista— the “reconquest” of Spain from the Moors, African Muslims who had occupied part of the Iberian Pen- insula for centuries. To ensure its religious unification, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered all Muslims and Jews to convert to Catholicism or leave the country. Along with the crown, much of Columbus’s financing came from bankers and merchants of Spain and the Italian city- states, who desperately desired to cir- cumvent the Muslim stranglehold on eastern trade. Columbus set sail with royal letters of introduction to Asian rulers, authorizing him to negotiate trade agreements.

C O N T A C T Columbus in the New World

On October 12, 1492, after only thirty- three days of sailing from the Canary Islands, where he had stopped to resupply his three ships, Columbus and his expedition arrived at the Bahamas. His exact landing site remains in dis- pute, but it was probably San Salvador, a tiny spot of land known today as

 

 

CONTACT ★ 19

Watling Island. Soon afterward, he encountered the far larger islands of Hispaniola (today the site of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Cuba. When one of his ships ran aground, he abandoned it and left thirty- eight men behind on Hispaniola. But he found room to bring ten inhabitants of the island back to Spain for conversion to Christianity.

In the following year, 1493, Euro- pean colonization of the New World began. Columbus returned with sev- enteen ships and more than 1,000 men to explore the area and establish a Span- ish outpost. Columbus’s settlement on the island of Hispaniola, which he named La Isabella, failed, but in 1502 another Spanish explorer, Nicolás de Ovando, arrived with 2,500 men and established a permanent base, the first center of the Spanish empire in America. Before he died in 1506, Columbus made two more voyages to the New World, in 1498 and 1502. He went to his grave believing that he had discovered a westward route to Asia. The explorations of another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci, along the coast of South America between 1499 and 1502 made plain that a con- tinent entirely unknown to Europeans had been encountered. The New World would come to bear not Columbus’s name but one based on Vespuc- ci’ s— America. Vespucci also realized that the native inhabitants were dis- tinct peoples, not residents of the East Indies as Columbus had believed, although the name “Indians,” applied to them by Columbus, has endured to this day.

Exploration and Conquest

The speed with which European exploration proceeded in the aftermath of Columbus’s first voyage is remarkable. The technique of printing with movable type, invented in the 1430s by the German craftsman Johannes Gutenberg, had made possible the rapid spread of information in Europe, at least among the educated minority. News of Columbus’s achievement traveled quickly. One

Columbus’s Landfall, an engraving from La lettera dell’isole (Letter from the Islands). This 1493 pamphlet reproduced, in the form of a poem, Columbus’s first letter describing his voyage of the previous year. Under the watchful eye of King Ferdinand of Spain, Columbus and his men land on a Caribbean island, while local Indians flee.

What happened when the peoples of the Americas came in contact with Europeans?

 

 

20 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

writer hailed him as “a hero such as the ancients made gods of.” Others were inspired to follow in his wake. John Cabot, a Genoese merchant who had settled in England, reached Newfoundland in 1497. Soon, scores of fishing boats from France, Spain, and England were active in the region. Pedro Cabral claimed Bra- zil for Portugal in 1500.

But the Spanish took the lead in exploration and conquest. Inspired by a search for wealth, national glory, and the desire to spread Catholicism,

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Christopher Columbus’s first Atlantic crossing, in 1492, was soon followed by voyages of discovery by English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian explorers.

 

 

CONTACT ★ 21

Spanish conquistadores, often accompanied by religious missionaries and carrying flags emblazoned with the sign of the cross, radiated outward from Hispaniola. In 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa trekked across the isthmus of Pan- ama and became the first European to gaze upon the Pacific Ocean. Between 1519 and 1522, Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition to sail around the world, encountering Pacific islands and peoples previously unknown to Europe. Magellan was killed in the Philippines, but his fleet completed the journey, correcting once and for all Columbus’s erroneous assessment of the earth’s size.

The first explorer to encounter a major American civilization was Hernán Cortés, who in 1519 arrived at Tenochtitlán, the nerve center of the Aztec empire, whose wealth and power rested on domination of numerous subor- dinate peoples nearby. The Aztecs were violent warriors who engaged in the ritual sacrifice of captives and others, sometimes thousands at a time. This practice thoroughly alienated their neighbors and reinforced the Spanish view of America’s native inhabitants as barbarians, even though in Europe at this time thousands of men and women were burned at the stake as witches or reli- gious heretics, and criminals were executed in public spectacles that attracted throngs of onlookers.

With only a few hundred European men, the daring Cortés conquered the Aztec city, relying on superior military technology such as iron weapons and gun- powder, as well as shrewdness in enlisting the aid of some of the Aztecs’ subject peoples, who supplied him with thousands of warriors. His most powerful ally, however, was disease— a smallpox epidemic that devastated Aztec society. A few years later, Francisco Pizarro con- quered the great Inca kingdom centered in modern- day Peru. Pizarro’s tactics were typical of the conquistadores. He captured the Incan king, demanded and received a ransom, and then killed the king anyway. Soon, treasure fleets car- rying cargoes of gold and silver from the mines of Mexico and Peru were tra- versing the Atlantic to enrich the Span- ish crown.

The Demographic Disaster

The transatlantic flow of goods and people, sometimes called the Colum- bian Exchange, altered millions of

Table 1.1 Estimated Regional Populations: The Americas, ca. 1500

North America 3,800,000

Mexico 17,200,000

Central America 5,625,000

Hispaniola 1,000,000

The Caribbean 3,000,000

The Andes 15,700,000

South America 8,620,000

Total 54,945,000

What happened when the peoples of the Americas came in contact with Europeans?

 

 

22 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

years of evolution. Plants, animals, and cultures that had evolved inde- pendently on separate continents were now thrown together. Products intro- duced to Europe from the Americas included corn, tomatoes, potatoes, pea- nuts, tobacco, and cotton, while people from the Old World brought wheat, rice, sugarcane, horses, cattle, pigs, and sheep to the New. But Europeans also carried germs previously unknown in the Americas.

No one knows exactly how many people lived in the Americas at the time of Columbus’s voyages— current estimates range between 50 and 90 mil- lion. By comparison, the European population in 1492 (including Russia) was around 90 million, the African population was around 40 million, and about 210 million lived in China and modern- day India. Most inhabitants of the New World lived in Central and South America. In 1492, the Indian

population within what are now the borders of the United States was between 2 and 5 million.

Whatever their numbers, the Indian populations suffered a catastrophic decline because of contact with Europeans and their wars, enslavement, and especially diseases like smallpox, influenza, and measles. Never having encountered these diseases, Indians had not developed antibodies to fight them. The result was devastating. Many West Indian islands were all but depopulated. On Hispaniola, the native population, estimated at between 300,000 and 1 million in 1492, had nearly disappeared fifty years later. The pop- ulation of Mexico would fall by more than 90 percent in the sixteenth century, from perhaps 20 million to less than 2 million. As for the area that now forms the United States, its Native American population fell continuously. It reached its lowest point around 1900, at only 250,000.

Overall, the death of perhaps 80 million people— close to one- fifth of humankind— in the first century and a half after contact with Europeans represents the greatest loss of life in human history. It was disease as much as military prowess and more- advanced technology that enabled Europeans to conquer the Americas.

A drawing from around 1700 shows an Indian suffering from smallpox. The Columbian Exchange— the flow of goods and people across the Atlantic— included animals, plants, technology, and diseases.

 

 

THE SPANISH EMPIRE ★ 23

T H E S P A N I S H E M P I R E By the middle of the sixteenth century, Spain had established an immense empire that reached from Europe to the Americas and Asia. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans, once barriers separating different parts of the world, now became highways for the exchange of goods and the movement of people. Spanish gal- leons carried gold and silver from Mexico and Peru eastward to Spain and west- ward to Manila in the Philippines and on to China.

The Spanish empire included the most populous parts of the New World and the regions richest in natural resources. Stretching from the Andes Mountains of South America through present- day Mexico and the Caribbean and eventu- ally into Florida and the southwestern United States, Spain’s empire exceeded in size the Roman empire of the ancient world. Its center in North America was Mexico City, a magnificent capital built on the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenoch- titlán that boasted churches, hospitals, monasteries, government buildings, and the New World’s first university. Unlike the English and French New World empires, Spanish America was essentially an urban civilization, an “empire of towns.” For centuries, its great cities, notably Mexico City, Quito, and Lima, far outshone any urban centers in North America and most of those in Europe.

Governing Spanish America

Spain’s system of colonial government rivaled that of ancient Rome. Alarmed by the destructiveness of the conquistadores, the Spanish crown replaced them with a more stable system of government headed by lawyers and bureaucrats. At least in theory, the government of Spanish America reflected the absolutism of the newly unified nation at home. Authority originated with the king and flowed downward through the Council of the Indies— the main body in Spain for colonial administration— and then to viceroys in Mexico and Peru and other local officials in America. The Catholic Church also played a significant role in the administration of Spanish colonies, frequently exerting its authority on matters of faith, morals, and treatment of the Indians.

Successive kings kept elected assemblies out of Spain’s New World empire. Royal officials were generally appointees from Spain, rather than criollos, or creoles, as persons born in the colonies of European ancestry were called. The imperial state was a real and continuous presence in Spanish Amer- ica. But as its power declined in Europe beginning in the seventeenth cen- tury, the local elite came to enjoy more and more effective authority over colonial affairs. Given the vastness of the empire, local municipal councils, universities, merchant organizations, and craft guilds enjoyed considerable independence.

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

 

 

24 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Colonists in Spanish America

Despite the decline in the native pop- ulation, Spanish America remained populous enough that, with the excep- tion of the West Indies and a few cit- ies, large- scale importations of African slaves were unnecessary. Instead, the Spanish forced tens of thousands of Indians to work in gold and silver mines, which supplied the empire’s wealth, and on large- scale farms, or haciendas, controlled by Spanish land- lords. In Spanish America, unlike other New World empires, Indians performed most of the labor, and although the Spanish introduced livestock, wheat, and sugar, the main agricultural crops were the same ones grown before colonization— corn, beans, and squash.

“The maxim of the conqueror must be to settle,” said one Spanish official. The government barred non- Spaniards from emigrating to its American domains, as well as non- Christian Spaniards, includ- ing Jews and Moors. But the opportunity for social advancement drew numerous

colonists from Spain— 225,000 in the sixteenth century and a total of 750,000 in the three centuries of Spain’s colonial rule. Eventually, a significant number came in families, but at first the large majority were young, single men, many of them laborers, craftsmen, and soldiers. Many also came as government officials, priests, professionals, and minor aristocrats, all ready to direct the manual work of Indians, since living without having to labor was a sign of noble status. The most successful of these colonists enjoyed lives of luxury similar to those of the upper classes at home.

Colonists and Indians

Although persons of European birth, called peninsulares, stood atop the social hierarchy, they never constituted more than a tiny proportion of the popula- tion of Spanish America. Unlike in the later British empire, Indian inhabitants

Young Woman with a Harpsichord, a colorful painting from Mexico in the early 1700s, depicts an upper- class woman. Her dress, jewelry, fan, the cross around her neck, and the musical instrument all emphasize that while she lives in the colonies, she embodies the latest in European fashion and culture.

 

 

THE SPANISH EMPIRE ★ 25

always outnumbered European colonists and their descendants in Spanish America, and large areas remained effectively under Indian control for many years. Like the later French empire and unlike the English, Spanish authorities granted Indians certain rights within colonial society and looked forward to their eventual assimilation.

The Spanish crown ordered wives of colonists to join them in America and demanded that single men marry. But with the population of Spanish women remaining low, the intermixing of the colonial and Indian peoples soon began. As early as 1514, the Spanish government formally approved of such marriages, partly as a way of bringing Christianity to the native population. By 1600, mestizos (persons of mixed origin) made up a large part of the urban population of Span- ish America. In the century that followed, mestizos repopulated the Valley of Mex- ico, where disease had decimated the original inhabitants. Over time, Spanish America evolved into a hybrid culture, part Spanish, part Indian, and in some areas part African, but with a single official faith, language, and governmental system. In 1531, a poor Indian, Juan Diego, reported seeing a vision of the Vir- gin Mary, looking very much like a dark- skinned Indian, near a Mexican village. Miracles began to be reported, and a shrine was built in her honor. The Virgin of Guadalupe would come to be revered by millions as a symbol of the mixing of Indian and Spanish cultures, and later of the modern nation of Mexico.

Justifications for Conquest

What allowed one nation, the seventeenth- century Dutch legal thinker Hugo Grotius wondered, to claim possession of lands that “belonged to someone else”? This question rarely occurred to most of the Europeans who crossed

Four Racial Groups, taken from a series of paintings by the eighteenth- century Mexican artist Andrés de Islas, illustrates the racial mixing that took place in the Spanish empire and some of the new vocabulary invented to describe it. First: The offspring of a Spaniard and Indian is a mestizo. Second: A Spaniard and a mestiza produce a castizo. Third: The child of an Indian and a mestiza is a coyote. Fourth: And the child of an Indian man and African woman is a chino.

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

 

 

26 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

the Atlantic in the wake of Columbus’s voyage, or to rulers in the Old World. They had immense confidence in the superiority of their own cultures to those they encountered in America. They expected these societies to abandon their own beliefs and traditions and embrace those of the newcomers. Failure to do so reinforced the conviction that these people were uncivilized “heathens” ( non- Christians).

Europeans brought with them not only a long history of using violence to subdue their internal and external foes but also missionary zeal to spread the benefits of their own civilization to others, while reaping the rewards of empire. Spain was no exception. The establishment of its empire in America took place in the wake of Spain’s own territorial unification, the rise of a pow- erful royal government, and the enforcement of religious orthodoxy by the expulsion of Muslims and Jews in 1492. To further legitimize Spain’s claim to rule the New World, a year after Columbus’s first voyage Pope Alexander VI divided the non- Christian world between Spain and Portugal. The line was sub- sequently adjusted to give Portugal control of Brazil, with the remainder of the Western Hemisphere falling under Spanish authority.

Spreading the Faith

Not surprisingly, the pope justified this pronouncement by requiring Spain and Portugal to spread Catholicism among the native inhabitants of the Americas. The missionary element of colonization, already familiar because of the long holy war against Islam within Spain itself, was powerfully rein- forced in the sixteenth century, when the Protestant Reformation divided the Catholic Church. In 1517, Martin Luther, a German priest, posted his Ninety- Five Theses, which accused the church of worldliness and corruption. Luther wanted to cleanse the church of abuses such as the sale of indulgences (offi- cial dispensations forgiving sins). He insisted that all believers should read the Bible for themselves, rather than relying on priests to interpret it for them. His call for reform led to the rise of new Protestant churches indepen- dent of Rome and plunged Europe into more than a century of religious and political strife.

Spain, the most powerful bastion of orthodox Catholicism, redoubled its efforts to convert the Indians to the “true faith.” National glory and religious mission went hand in hand. Convinced of the superiority of Catholicism to all other religions, Spain insisted that the primary goal of colonization was to save the Indians from heathenism and prevent them from falling under the sway of Protestantism. The aim was neither to exterminate nor to remove the Indians, but to transform them into obedient, Christian subjects of the crown. Indeed, lacking the later concept of “race” as an unchanging, inborn set of qualities and

 

 

THE SPANISH EMPIRE ★ 27

abilities, many Spanish writers insisted that Indians could in time be “brought up” to the level of European civilization. Of course, this meant not only the destruction of existing Indian political structures but also a transformation of their economic and spiritual lives. Religious orders established missions throughout the empire, and over time millions of Indians were converted to Catholicism.

On the other hand, Spanish rule, especially in its initial period, witnessed a disastrous fall in Indian population, not only because of epidemics but also because of the brutal conditions of labor to which Indians were subjected. The conquistadores and subsequent governors, who required conquered peo- ples to acknowledge the Catholic Church and provide gold and silver, saw no contradiction between serving God and enriching themselves. Others, however, did.

Las Casas’s Complaint

As early as 1537, Pope Paul III, who hoped to see Indians become devout subjects of Catholic monarchs, outlawed their enslavement (an edict never extended to apply to Africans). His decree declared Indians to be “truly men,” who must not be “treated as dumb beasts.” Fifteen years later, the Dominican priest Bartolomé de Las Casas published an account of the decimation of the Indian population with the compelling title A Very Brief Account of the Destruc- tion of the Indies. Las Casas’s father had sailed on Columbus’s second voyage, and he himself had participated in the conquest of Cuba. But in 1514 Las Casas freed his own Indian slaves and began to preach against the injustices of Spanish rule.

Las Casas’s writings denounced Spain for causing the death of millions of innocent people. He narrated in shocking detail the “strange cruelties” car- ried out by “the Christians,” including the burning alive of men, women, and children and the imposition of forced labor. The Indians, he wrote, had been “totally deprived of their freedom and were put in the harshest, fiercest, most terrible servitude and captivity.” Long before the idea was common, Las Casas insisted that Indians were rational beings, not barbarians, and that Spain had no grounds on which to deprive them of their lands and liberty. “The entire human race is one,” he proclaimed, and while he continued to believe that Spain had a right to rule in America, largely on religious grounds, he called for Indians to enjoy “all guarantees of liberty and justice” from the moment they became subjects of Spain. “Nothing is certainly more precious in human affairs, nothing more esteemed,” he wrote, “than freedom.” Yet Las Casas also suggested that importing slaves from Africa would help to protect the Indians from exploitation.

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

 

 

28 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Reforming the Empire

Like other Spaniards, Las Casas believed that the main justification for empire was converting the Indians to Christianity. Spanish cruelty, he feared, undermined this effort. Largely because of Las Casas’s efforts, Spain in 1542 pro- mulgated the New Laws, commanding that Indians no longer be enslaved. In 1550, Spain abolished the encomienda system, under which the first settlers had been granted authority over conquered Indian lands with the right to extract forced labor from the native inhabitants. In its place, the government estab- lished the repartimiento system, whereby residents of Indian villages remained legally free and entitled to wages, but were still required to perform a fixed amount of labor each year. The Indians were not slaves— they had access to land, were paid wages, and could not be bought and sold. But since the require- ment that they work for the Spanish remained the essence of the system, it still allowed for many abuses by Spanish landlords and by priests who required Indians to toil on mission lands as part of the conversion process. Indeed, a long struggle ensued among settlers, missionaries, and colonial authorities for control of Indian labor. Each party proclaimed itself a humane overlord and denounced the others for exploiting the native population.

A view of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, or Mission Carmel, in 1786, two years after the death of Father Junipero Serra, depicts Native Americans lined up to welcome a French scien- tific expedition. Sketched by a French explorer, this is the earliest known image of California.

 

 

THE SPANISH EMPIRE ★ 29

By the end of the sixteenth century, work in the Spanish empire consisted largely of forced wage labor by native inhabitants and slave labor by Africans on the West Indian islands and a few parts of the mainland. Like all empires, Spain’s always remained highly exploitative. Over time, the initial brutal treatment of Indians improved somewhat. The Spanish established their domination not just through violence and disease but also by bringing education, medical care, and European goods, and because many Indians embraced Christianity. But Las Casas’s writings, translated almost immediately into several European languages, contributed to the spread of the Black Legend— the image of Spain as a uniquely brutal and exploit- ative colonizer. This would provide a potent justification for other European pow- ers to challenge Spain’s predominance in the New World. Influenced by Las Casas, the eighteenth- century French historian Guillaume Thomas Raynal would write of Columbus’s arrival in the New World, “Tell me, reader, whether these were civilized people landing among savages, or savages among civilized people?”

Exploring North America

While the Spanish empire centered on Mexico, Peru, and the West Indies, the hope of finding a new kingdom of gold soon led Spanish explorers into new territory. In 1508, Spain established the first permanent colony in what is now the United States. That first colony was not, as many people believe, at Jamestown, Virginia, or St. Augustine, Florida, but on the island of Puerto Rico, now a U.S. “common- wealth.” Unlike many other European settlements that followed it, Puerto Rico had gold; Juan Ponce de León, who led the colony, sent a considerable amount to Spain, while keeping some for himself. In 1513, Ponce embarked for Florida, in search of wealth, slaves, and a fountain of eternal youth, only to be repelled by local Indians. In 1528, another expedition seeking plunder in Florida embarked from Spain, but after a series of storms only a handful of men reached the Gulf Coast. For seven years they traversed the Southwest until a few survivors arrived in Mexico in 1536. One, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, wrote an account of his adventures, including tales told by native inhabitants (possibly to persuade the newcomers to move on) of the seven golden cities of Cibola, somewhere over the horizon.

In the late 1530s and 1540s, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo explored the Pacific coast as far north as present- day Oregon, and expeditions led by Hernando de Soto, Cabeza de Vaca, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, and others marched through the Gulf region and the Southwest, fruitlessly searching for another Mexico or Peru. Coronado explored much of the interior of the continent, reaching as far north as the Great Plains, and became the first European to encounter the immense herds of buffalo that roamed the West. These expedi- tions, really mobile communities with hundreds of adventurers, priests, poten- tial settlers, slaves, and livestock, spread disease and devastation among Indian communities. De Soto’s was particularly brutal. His men tortured, raped, and

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

 

 

30 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Mexico City

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Ca br

illo

Fort Caroline

Pueblo Revolt, 1680

PERU

His pan io la

Gulf of Mexico

Caribbean Sea

A tlantic Ocean

Pa ci f i c Ocean

0 0

500 500

1,000 miles 1,000 kilometers

Cabrillo Oñate Coronado de Soto Cabeza de Vaca Ponce de León Cortés Pizarro Extent of Incan peoples Extent of Aztec peoples

E A R LY S PA N I S H C O N Q U E S T S A N D E X P L O R AT I O N S I N T H E N E W W O R L D

By around 1600, New Spain had become a vast empire stretching from the modern- day Ameri- can Southwest through Mexico and Central America and into the former Inca kingdom in South America. This map shows early Spanish exploration, especially in the present- day United States.

 

 

THE SPANISH EMPIRE ★ 31

enslaved countless Indians and transmitted deadly diseases. When Europeans in the seventeenth century returned to colonize the area traversed by de Soto’s party, little remained of the societies he had encountered. Where large towns had existed, explorers found only herds of grazing bison.

Spanish Florida

Nonetheless, these explorations established Spain’s claim to a large part of what is now the American South and Southwest. The first region to be colonized within the present- day United States was Florida. Spain hoped to establish a military base there to combat pirates who threatened the treasure fleet that each year sailed from Havana for Europe loaded with gold and silver from Mexico and Peru. Spain also wanted to forestall French incursions in the area. In 1565, Philip II of Spain autho- rized the nobleman Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to lead a colonizing expedition to Florida. Menéndez destroyed a small outpost at Fort Caroline, which a group of Huguenots (French Protestants) had established in 1562 near present- day Jack- sonville. Menéndez and his men massacred the 500 colonists and went on to establish Spanish forts on St. Simons Island, Georgia, and at St. Augustine, Flor- ida. The latter remains the oldest site in the continental United States continu- ously inhabited by European settlers and their descendants.

Spanish expeditions soon established forts from present- day Miami into South Carolina, and Spanish religious missionaries set up outposts in Flor- ida and on the Sea Islands, hoping to convert the local Indians to Christian- ity. In 1566, 500 Spanish colonists landed near modern- day Port Royal, South Carolina, and established the settlement of Santa Elena. It survived until 1587, when the government in Spain ordered it abandoned and the inhabitants reset- tled (over their vocal protests) at St. Augustine, to protect them from English naval raids. Most of the forts fell into disuse, and many of the missions were destroyed by local Guale Indians in an uprising that began in 1597. The Indians explained their revolt by noting that the missionaries had sought to eliminate “our dances, banquets, feasts, celebrations, and wars. . . . They persecute our old people by calling them witches.” The missions were soon rebuilt, only to be devastated again a century later, this time by English and Indian forces from South Carolina. In general, Florida failed to attract settlers, remaining an iso- lated military settlement, in effect a fortified outpost of Cuba. As late as 1763, Spanish Florida had only 4,000 inhabitants of European descent.

Spain in the Southwest

Spain took even longer to begin the colonization of the American Southwest. Although Coronado and others made incursions into the area in the sixteenth century, their explorations were widely considered failures, since they had

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

 

 

32 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

discovered neither gold nor advanced civilizations whose populations could be put to work for the Spanish empire. Spain then neglected the area for another half- century. It was not until 1598 that Juan de Oñate led a group of 400 sol- diers, colonists, and missionaries north from Mexico to establish a permanent settlement. While searching for fabled deposits of precious metals, Oñate’s nephew and fourteen soldiers were killed by inhabitants of Acoma, the “sky city” located on a high bluff in present- day New Mexico.

Oñate decided to teach the local Indians a lesson. After a two- day siege, his forces scaled the seemingly impregnable heights and destroyed Acoma, kill- ing more than 800 of its 1,500 or so inhabitants, including 300 women. Of the 600 Indians captured, the women and children were consigned to servitude in Spanish families, while adult men were punished by the cutting off of one foot. Not until the 1640s was Acoma, which had been inhabited since the thirteenth century, rebuilt. Oñate’s message was plain— any Indians who resisted Spanish authority would be crushed. But his method of rule, coupled with his failure to locate gold, alarmed authorities in Mexico City. In 1606, Oñate was ordered home and punished for his treatment of New Mexico’s Indians. In 1610, Spain established the capital of New Mexico at Santa Fe, the first permanent Euro- pean settlement in the Southwest.

The Pueblo Revolt

In 1680, New Mexico’s small and vulnerable colonist population numbered fewer than 3,000. Most were mestizos (persons of mixed Spanish and Indian origin), since few European settlers came to the region. Relations between the Pueblo Indians and colonial authorities had deteriorated throughout the seventeenth century, as governors, settlers, and missionaries sought to exploit the labor of an Indian population that declined from about 60,000 in 1600 to some 17,000 eighty years later. Franciscan friars worked relentlessly to convert Indians to Catholicism, often using intimidation and violence. Their spiritual dedica- tion and personal courage impressed many Indians, however, as did the Euro- pean goods and technologies they introduced. Some natives welcomed them as a counterbalance to the depredations of soldiers and settlers and accepted baptism, even as they continued to practice their old religion, adding Jesus, Mary, and the Catholic saints to their already rich spiritual pantheon. But as the Inquisition— the persecution of non- Catholics— became more and more intense in Spain, so did the friars’ efforts to stamp out traditional religious ceremonies in New Mexico. By burning Indian idols, masks, and other sacred objects, the missionaries alienated far more Indians than they converted. A pro- longed drought that began around 1660 and the authorities’ inability to protect the villages and missions from attacks by marauding Navajo and Apache Indi- ans added to local discontent.

 

 

THE SPANISH EMPIRE ★ 33

The Pueblo peoples had long been divided among themselves. The Span- ish assumed that the Indians could never unite against the colonizers. In August 1680, they were proven wrong.

Little is known about the life of Popé, who became the main organizer of an uprising that aimed to drive the Spanish from the colony and restore the Indians’ traditional autonomy. A religious leader born around 1630 in San Juan Pueblo, Popé first appears in the historical record in 1675, when he was one of forty- seven Pueblo Indians arrested for “sorcery”—that is, practic- ing their traditional religion. Four of the prisoners were hanged, and the rest, including Popé, were brought to Santa Fe to be publicly whipped. After this humiliation, Popé returned home and began holding secret meetings in Pueblo communities.

Under Popé’s leadership, New Mexico’s Indians joined in a coordinated uprising. Ironically, because the Pueblos spoke six different languages, Spanish became the revolt’s “lingua franca” (a common means of communication among persons of different linguistic backgrounds). Some 2,000 warriors destroyed isolated farms and missions, killing 400 colonists, including 21 Franciscan missionaries. They then surrounded Santa Fe. The Spanish resisted fiercely but eventually had no choice but to abandon the town. Most of the Spanish survi- vors, accompanied by several hundred Christian Indians, made their way south out of New Mexico. Within a few weeks, a century of colonization in the area had been destroyed. From their own point of view, the Pueblo Indians had tri- umphantly reestablished the freedom lost through Spanish conquest.

The Pueblo Revolt was the most complete victory for Native Americans over Europeans and the only wholesale expulsion of settlers in the history of North America. According to a royal attorney who interviewed the Spanish sur- vivors in Mexico City, the revolt arose from the “many oppressions” the Indians had suffered. The victorious Pueblos turned with a vengeance on all symbols of European culture, uprooting fruit trees, destroying cattle, burning churches and images of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and wading into rivers to wash away their Catholic baptisms. They rebuilt their places of worship, called “kivas,” and resumed sacred dances the friars had banned. “The God of the Spaniards,” they shouted, “is dead.”

Cooperation among the Pueblo peoples, however, soon evaporated. By the end of the 1680s, warfare had broken out among several villages, even as Apache and Navajo raids continued. Popé died around 1690. In 1692, the Span- ish launched an invasion that reconquered New Mexico. Some communities welcomed them back as a source of military protection. But Spain had learned a lesson. In the eighteenth century, colonial authorities adopted a more toler- ant attitude toward traditional religious practices and made fewer demands on Indian labor.

What were the chief features of the Spanish empire in America?

 

 

34 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

T H E F R E N C H A N D D U T C H E M P I R E S If the Black Legend inspired a sense of superiority among Spain’s European rivals, the precious metals that poured from the New World into the Spanish treasury aroused the desire to try to match Spain’s success. The establishment of Spain’s American empire transformed the balance of power in the world economy. The Atlantic replaced the overland route to Asia as the major axis of global trade. During the seventeenth century, the French, Dutch, and English established colonies in North America. England’s mainland colonies, to be dis- cussed in the next chapter, consisted of agricultural settlements with growing populations whose hunger for land produced incessant conflict with native peoples. New France and New Netherland were primarily commercial ven- tures that never attracted large numbers of colonists. More dependent on Indi- ans as trading partners and military allies, these French and Dutch settlements allowed Native Americans greater freedom than the English.

French Colonization

The first of Spain’s major European rivals to embark on New World explorations was France. The French initially aimed to find gold and to locate a Northwest Passage— a sea route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. But early French explorers were soon disappointed, and North America came to seem little more than a barrier to be crossed, not a promising site for settlement or exploitation. For most of the sixteenth century, only explorers, fishermen, pirates preying on Spanish shipping farther south, and, as time went on, fur traders visited the eastern coast of North America. French efforts to establish settlements in New- foundland and Nova Scotia failed, beset by native resistance and inadequate planning and financing. Not until the seventeenth century would France, as well as England and the Netherlands, establish permanent settlements in North America.

The explorer Samuel de Champlain, sponsored by a French fur- trading company, founded Quebec in 1608. In 1673, the Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette and the fur trader Louis Joliet located the Mississippi River, and by 1681 René- Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, had descended to the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the entire Mississippi River valley for France. New France eventually formed a giant arc along the St. Lawrence, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers.

Until 1663, when the population of European origin was fewer than 3,000, French Canada was ruled by the Company of New France through a governor- general appointed in Paris. There was no representative assembly. In that year, the French government established a new company. It granted land along the St. Lawrence River to well- connected nobles and army officers who

 

 

THE FRENCH AND DUTCH EMPIRES ★ 35

would transport colonists to take their place in a feudal society. But most of the indentured servants returned home after their contracts expired. More than 80 percent of the migrants were men. Apart from nuns, fewer than 1,800 women (compared with more than 12,000 men) emigrated to French Canada in the sev- enteenth century. And during the entire colonial period, only about 250 complete families did so.

By 1700, the number of white inhabitants of New France had risen to only 19,000. With a far larger population than England, France sent many fewer emigrants to the Western Hemisphere. The government at home feared that significant emigration would undermine France’s role as a European great power and might compromise its effort to establish trade and good relations with the Indians. Unfavorable reports about America circulated widely in France. Canada was widely depicted as an icebox, a land of savage Indians, a dumping ground for criminals. Most French who left their homes during these years preferred to settle in the Netherlands, Spain, or the West Indies. The revo- cation in 1685 of the Edict of Nantes, which had extended religious toleration to French Protestants, led well over 100,000 Huguenots to flee their country. But they were not welcome in New France, which the crown desired to remain an outpost of Catholicism.

New France and the Indians

The viability of New France, with its small white population and emphasis on the fur trade rather than agricultural settlement, depended on friendly relations with local Indians. The French prided themselves on adopting a more humane policy than their imperial rivals. “Only our nation,” declared one French writer, “knows the secret of winning the Indians’ affection.” Lacking the need for Indian labor of the Spanish and the voracious appetite for land of the English colonies, and relying on Indians to supply furs to trading posts, the French worked out a complex series of military, commercial, and diplomatic connections, the most enduring alliances between Indians and settlers in colonial North America. Samuel de Champlain, the intrepid explorer who dominated the early history of New France, insisted on religious toleration for all Christians and denied that Native Americans were intellectually or culturally inferior to Europeans— two positions that were unusual for his time. Although he occasionally engaged in wars with local Indians, he dreamed of creating a colony based on mutual respect between diverse peoples. The Jesuits, a missionary religious order, did seek, with some success, to convert Indians to Catholicism. But unlike Spanish missionaries in early New Mexico, they allowed Christian Indians to retain a high degree of independence and much of their traditional social structure, and they did not seek to suppress all traditional religious practices.

What were the chief features of the French and Dutch empires in North America?

 

 

V O I C E S O F F R E E D O M

36 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

From Bartolomé de Las Casas, History of the Indies (1528)

Las Casas was the Dominican priest who condemned the treatment of Indians in the Spanish empire. His widely disseminated History of the Indies helped to establish the Black Legend of Spanish cruelty.

The Indians [of Hispaniola] were totally deprived of their freedom and were put in the harshest, fiercest, most horrible servitude and captivity which no one who has not seen it can understand. Even beasts enjoy more freedom when they are allowed to graze in the fields. But our Spaniards gave no such opportunity to Indians and truly considered them perpetual slaves, since the Indians had not the free will to dispose of their persons but instead were disposed of according to Spanish greed and cruelty, not as men in captivity but as beasts tied to a rope to prevent free movement. When they were allowed to go home, they often found it deserted and had no other recourse than to go out into the woods to find food and to die. When they fell ill, which was very fre- quently because they are a delicate people unaccustomed to such work, the Spaniards did not believe them and pitilessly called them lazy dogs and kicked and beat them; and when illness was apparent they sent them home as useless. . . . They would go then, falling into the first stream and dying there in desperation; others would hold on longer but very few ever made it home. I sometimes came upon dead bodies on my way, and upon others who were gasping and moaning in their death agony, repeating “Hungry, hungry.” And this was the freedom, the good treatment and the Christianity the Indians received.

About eight years passed under [Spanish rule] and this disorder had time to grow; no one gave it a thought and the multitude of people who originally lived on the island . . . was consumed at such a rate that in these eight years 90 per cent had perished. From here this sweeping plague went to San Juan, Jamaica, Cuba and the continent, spreading destruction over the whole hemisphere.

 

 

From “Declaration of Josephe” (December 19, 1681)

Josephe was a Spanish- speaking Indian ques tioned by a royal attorney in Mexico City investi gating the Pueblo Revolt. The revolt of the Indian population, in 1680, temporarily drove Spanish settlers from present- day New Mexico.

Asked what causes or motives the said Indian rebels had for renouncing the law of God and obedience to his Majesty, and for committing so many of crimes, [he answered] the causes they have were alleged ill treatment and injuries received from [Spanish author- ities], because they beat them, took away what they had, and made them work without pay. Thus he replies.

Asked if he has learned if it has come to his notice during the time that he has been here the reason why the apostates burned the images, churches, and things pertaining to divine worship, making a mockery and a trophy of them, killing the priests and doing the other things they did, he said that he knows and had heard it generally stated that while they were besieging the villa the rebellious traitors burned the church and shouted in loud voices, “Now the God of the Spaniards, who was their father, is dead, and Santa Maria, who was their mother, and the saints, who were pieces of rotten wood,” saying that only their own god lived. Thus they ordered all the temples and images, crosses and rosaries burned, and their function being over, they all went to bathe in the rivers, saying that they thereby washed away the water of baptism. For their churches, they placed on the four sides and in the center of the plaza some small circular enclosures of stone where they went to offer flour, feathers, and the seed of maguey [a local plant], maize, and tobacco, and performed other superstitious rites, giving the children to understand that they must all do this in the future. The captains and the chiefs ordered that the names of Jesus and Mary should nowhere be uttered. . . . He has seen many houses of idolatry which they have built, dancing the dance of the cachina [part of a traditional Indian reli- gious ceremony], which this declarant has also danced. Thus he replies to the question.

QUESTIONS

1. Why does Las Casas, after describing the ill treatment of Indians, write, “And this was the freedom, the good treatment and the Christianity the Indians received”?

2. What role did religion play in the Pueblo Revolt?

3. What ideas of freedom are apparent in the two documents?

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 37

 

 

38 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Like other colonists throughout North America, however, the French brought striking changes in Indian life. Contact with Europeans was inevitably followed by the spread of disease. Participation in the fur trade drew natives into the burgeoning Atlantic economy, introducing new goods and transform- ing hunting from a search for food into a quest for marketable commodities. Indians were soon swept into the rivalries among European empires, and Euro- peans into conflicts among Indians. As early as 1615, the Huron of present- day southern Ontario and upper New York State forged a trading alliance with the French, and many converted to Catholicism. In the 1640s, however, after being severely weakened by a smallpox epidemic, the tribe was virtually destroyed in a series of attacks by Iroquois armed by the Dutch.

As in the Spanish empire, New France witnessed considerable cultural exchange and intermixing between colonial and native populations. On the “middle ground” of the upper Great Lakes region in French America, Indians and whites encountered each other for many years on a basis of relative equality. And métis, or children of marriages between Indian women and French trad- ers and officials, became guides, traders, and interpreters. Like the Spanish, the French seemed willing to accept Indians as part of colonial society. They encour- aged Indians to adopt the European division of labor between men and women, and to speak French. Indians who converted to Catholicism were promised full citizenship. In fact, however, it was far rarer for natives to adopt French ways than for French settlers to become attracted to the “free” life of the Indians.

The Dutch Empire

In 1609, Henry Hudson, an Englishman employed by the Dutch East India Company, sailed into New York Harbor searching for a Northwest Passage to Asia. Hudson and his crew became the first Europeans to sail up the river that now bears his name. Hudson did not find a route to Asia, but he did encoun- ter abundant fur- bearing animals and Native Americans more than willing to trade furs for European goods. He claimed the area for the Netherlands, and his voyage planted the seeds for what would eventually become a great metrop- olis, New York City. By 1614, Dutch traders had established an outpost at Fort Orange, near present- day Albany. Ten years later, the Dutch West India Com- pany, which had been awarded a monopoly of Dutch trade with America, set- tled colonists on Manhattan Island.

These ventures formed one small part in the rise of the Dutch overseas empire. In the early seventeenth century, the Netherlands dominated interna- tional commerce, and Amsterdam was Europe’s foremost shipping and bank- ing center. The small nation had entered a golden age of rapidly accumulating wealth and stunning achievements in painting, philosophy, and the sciences. The Dutch invented the joint stock company, a way of pooling financial resources

 

 

THE FRENCH AND DUTCH EMPIRES ★ 39

and sharing the risk of maritime voyages, which proved central to the develop- ment of modern capitalism. With a population of only 2 million, the Netherlands established a far- flung empire that reached from Indonesia to South Africa and the Caribbean and temporarily wrested control of Brazil from Portugal.

Dutch Freedom

The Dutch prided themselves on their devotion to liberty. Indeed, in the early seventeenth century they enjoyed two freedoms not recognized elsewhere in Europe— freedom of the press and of private religious practice. Even though there was an established church, the Dutch Reformed, individuals could hold whatever religious beliefs they wished. Amsterdam had become a haven for persecuted Protestants from all over Europe, including French Huguenots, Ger- man Calvinists, and those, like the Pilgrims, who desired to separate from the Church of England. Jews, especially those fleeing from Spain, also found ref- uge there. Other emigrants came to the Netherlands in the hope of sharing in the country’s prosperity. During the seventeenth century, the nation attracted about half a million migrants from elsewhere in Europe. Many of these new- comers helped to populate the Dutch overseas empire.

Freedom in New Netherland

Despite the Dutch reputation for cherishing freedom, New Netherland was hardly governed democratically. New Amsterdam, the main population cen- ter, was essentially a fortified military outpost controlled by appointees of the West India Company. Although the governor called on prominent citizens for advice from time to time, neither an elected assembly nor a town council, the basic unit of government at home, was established.

In other ways, however, the colonists enjoyed more liberty, especially in religious matters, than their counterparts elsewhere in North America. Even their slaves possessed rights. The Dutch dominated the Atlantic slave trade in the early seventeenth century, and they introduced slaves into New Netherland as a matter of course. By 1650, the colony’s 500 slaves outnumbered those in the Chesapeake. Some enjoyed “ half- freedom”—they were required to pay an annual fee to the company and work for it when called upon, but they were given land to support their families. Settlers employed slaves on family farms or for household or craft labor, not on large plantations as in the West Indies.

Women in the Dutch settlement enjoyed far more independence than in other colonies. According to Dutch law, married women retained their separate legal identity. They could go to court, borrow money, and own property. Men were used to sharing property with their wives. Their wills generally left their possessions to their widows and daughters as well as sons. Margaret Hardenbroeck, the widow

What were the chief features of the French and Dutch empires in North America?

 

 

40 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Quebec

Manhattan

Albany

New York Harbor

Ohio River

M iss

iss ip

pi R

iv er

St. La

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ive r

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ntario

Lake Superior

La ke

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L. Huron

Gulf of Mexico

Hudson Bay

Gulf of St. Lawrence

Atlantic O ce an

0

0

200

200

400 miles

400 kilometers

New France

The “middle ground” New Netherland

T H E N E W W O R L D — N E W F R A N C E A N D N E W N E T H E R L A N D , c a . 1 6 5 0

New France and New Netherland.

 

 

THE FRENCH AND DUTCH EMPIRES ★ 41

of a New Amsterdam merchant, expanded her husband’s business and became one of the town’s richest residents after his death in 1661.

The Dutch and Religious Toleration

New Netherland attracted a remarkably diverse population. As early as the 1630s, at least eighteen languages were said to be spoken in New Amsterdam, whose residents included not only Dutch settlers but also Africans, Belgians, English, French, Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians. Of course, these settlers adhered to a wide variety of religions.

The Dutch long prided themselves on being uniquely tolerant in religious matters compared to other European nations and their empires. It would be wrong, however, to attribute modern ideas of religious freedom to either the Dutch government and company at home or the rulers of New Netherland. Both Holland and New Netherland had an official religion, the Dutch Reformed Church, one of the Protestant national churches to emerge from the Reforma- tion. The Dutch commitment to freedom of conscience extended to religious devotion exercised in private, not public worship in nonestablished churches. It did not reflect a willing acceptance of religious diversity.

The West India Company’s officials in the colony, particularly Gover- nor Petrus Stuyvesant, were expected to be staunch defenders of the Dutch Reformed Church. When Jews, Quakers, Lutherans, and others demanded the right to practice their religion openly, Stuyvesant adamantly refused, seeing such diversity as a threat to a godly, prosperous order. Under Stuyvesant, the colony was more restrictive in its religious policies than the Dutch government at home. Twenty- three Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654 from Brazil and the Caribbean. Referring to them as “members of a deceitful race,” Stuyvesant ordered the newcomers to leave. But the company overruled him, noting that Jews at home had invested “a large amount of capital” in its shares.

As a result of Stuyvesant’s policies, challenges arose to the limits on reli- gious toleration. One, known as the Flushing Remonstrance, was a 1657 petition by a group of English settlers protesting the governor’s order bar- ring Quakers from living in the town of Flushing, on Long Island. Although later seen as a landmark of religious liberty, the Remonstrance had little impact at the time. Stuyvesant ordered several signers arrested for defying his authority.

Nonetheless, it is true that the Dutch dealt with religious pluralism in ways quite different from the practices common in other New World empires. Reli- gious dissent was tolerated— often grudgingly, as in the case of Catholics— as long as it did not involve open and public worship. No one in New Netherland was forced to attend the official church, nor was anyone executed for holding the wrong religious beliefs (as would happen in Puritan New England around the time of the Flushing Remonstrance).

What were the chief features of the French and Dutch empires in North America?

 

 

42 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Settling New Netherland

In an attempt to attract settlers to North America, the Dutch West India Company promised colonists not only the right to practice their religion freely (in private) but also cheap livestock and free land after six years of labor. Eventually, it even surrendered its monopoly of the fur trade, opening this profitable commerce to all comers. Many settlers, Stuyvesant complained, had been lured by “an imaginary liberty” and did not display much respect for the company’s authority.

In 1629, the company adopted a plan of “Freedoms and Exemptions,” offer- ing large estates to patroons— shareholders who agreed to transport tenants for agricultural labor. The patroon was required to purchase a title to the land from Indians, but otherwise his “freedoms” were like those of a medieval lord, includ- ing the right to 10 percent of his tenants’ annual income and complete author- ity over law enforcement within his domain. Only one patroonship became a going concern, that of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, who acquired some 700,000 acres in the Hudson Valley. His family’s autocratic rule over the tenants, as well as its efforts to extend its domain to include lands settled by New Englanders who claimed that they owned their farms, would inspire sporadic uprisings into the mid- nineteenth century.

During the seventeenth century, the Netherlands sent 1 million people overseas (many of them recent immigrants who were not in fact Dutch) to populate and govern their far- flung colonies. Very few, however, made North America their destination. By the mid- 1660s, the European population of New Netherland numbered only 9,000. New Netherland remained a tiny backwater in the Dutch empire. So did an even smaller outpost near present- day Wilming- ton, Delaware, established in 1638 by a group of Dutch merchants. To circum- vent the West India Company’s trade monopoly, they claimed to be operating under the Swedish flag and called their settlement New Sweden. Only 300 set- tlers were living there when New Netherland seized the colony in 1655.

A view of New Amsterdam from 1651 illustrates the tiny size of the outpost.

 

 

THE FRENCH AND DUTCH EMPIRES ★ 43

New Netherland and the Indians

The Dutch came to North America to trade, not to conquer. They were less interested in settling the land than in exacting profits from it. Mindful of the Black Legend of Spanish cruelty, the Dutch determined to treat the native inhabitants more humanely. Having won their own independence from Spain after the longest and bloodiest war of sixteenth- century Europe, many Dutch identified with American Indians as fellow victims of Spanish oppression.

From the beginning, Dutch authorities recognized Indian sovereignty over the land and forbade settlement in any area until it had been purchased. But they also required tribes to make payments to colonial authorities. Near the coast, where most newcomers settled, New Netherland was hardly free of conflict with the Indians. The expansionist ambitions of Governor William Kieft, who in the 1640s began seizing fertile farmland from the nearby Algonquian Indians, sparked a three- year war that resulted in the death of 1,000 Indians and more than 200 colo- nists. With the powerful Iroquois Confederacy of the upper Hudson Valley, how- ever, the Dutch established friendly commercial and diplomatic relations.

A map of the Western Hemisphere, published in 1592 in Antwerp, then ruled by Spain and now part of Belgium. It shows North America divided between New France and New Spain before the coming of the English.

What were the chief features of the French and Dutch empires in North America?

 

 

44 ★ CHAPTER 1 A New World

Borderlands and Empire in Early America

A borderland, according to one historian, is “a meeting place of peoples where geographical and cultural borders are not clearly defined.” Numerous such places came into existence during the era of European conquest and settle- ment, including the “middle ground” of the upper Great Lakes in New France. Boundaries between empires, and between colonists and native peoples, shifted constantly, overlapping claims to authority abounded, and hybrid cultures developed. As Europeans consolidated their control in some areas, the power of native peoples weakened. But at the edges of empire, power was always unstable, and overlapping cultural interactions at the local level defied any single pattern. European conquest was not a simple story of expanding domination over either empty space or powerless peoples, but one of a continual struggle to establish authority. The Spanish, French, and Dutch empires fought each other for dom- inance in various parts of the continent, and Indians often wielded both eco- nomic and political power, pitting European empires against each other. Despite laws restricting commerce between empires, traders challenged boundaries, tra- versing lands claimed by both Europeans and Indians. People of European and Indian descent married and exchanged cultural attributes.

Thus, before the planting of English colonies in North America, other Euro- pean nations had established various kinds of settlements in the New World. Despite their differences, the Spanish, French, and Dutch empires shared cer- tain features. All brought Christianity, new forms of technology and learning, new legal systems and family relations, and new forms of economic enterprise and wealth creation. They also brought savage warfare and widespread disease. These empires were aware of one another’s existence. They studied and bor- rowed from one another, each lauding itself as superior to the others.

From the outset, dreams of freedom— for Indians, for settlers, for the entire world through the spread of Christianity— inspired and justified colonization. It would be no different when, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, England entered the struggle for empire in North America.

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. Describe why the “discovery” of America was one of the “most important events recorded in the history of mankind,” according to Adam Smith.

2. Describe the different global economies that Europeans participated in or created during the European age of expansion.

 

 

3. One of the most striking features of Indian societies at the time of the encounter with Euro- peans was their diversity. Support this statement with several examples.

4. Compare and contrast European values and ways of life with those of the Indians. Con- sider addressing religion, views about ownership of land, gender relations, and notions of freedom.

5. What were the main factors fueling the European age of expansion?

6. Compare the different economic and political systems of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and France in the age of expansion.

7. Compare the political, economic, and religious motivations behind the French and Dutch empires with those of New Spain.

8. Describe how the idea of the “Black Legend” affected subsequent policies and practices of Spain as well as those of the Netherlands and France.

9. How would European settlers explain their superiority to Native Americans and justify both the conquest of Native lands and terminating their freedom?

CHAPTER REVIEW ★ 45

KEY TERMS

Tenochtitlán (p. 5)

Aztec (p. 5)

Great League of Peace (p. 8)

caravel (p. 15)

reconquista (p. 18)

conquistadores (p. 21)

Columbian Exchange (p. 21)

creoles (p. 23)

hacienda (p. 24)

mestizos (p. 25)

Ninety- Five Theses (p. 26)

Bartolomé de Las Casas (p. 27)

repartimiento system (p. 28)

Black Legend (p. 29)

Pueblo Revolt (p. 33)

indentured servants (p. 35)

métis (p. 38)

borderland (p. 44)

Go to QIJK To see what you know— and learn what you’ve missed— with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

 

 

46 ★

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S What were the main contours of English colonization in the seventeenth century?

What obstacles did the English settlers in the Chesapeake overcome?

How did Virginia and Maryland develop in their early years?

What made the English settlement of New England distinctive?

What were the main sources of discord in early New England?

How did the English Civil War af fect the colonies in America?

On April 26, 1607, three small ships carrying colonists from England sailed out of the morning mist at what is now called Cape Henry into the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. After exploring the area for a little over two weeks, they chose a site sixty miles inland on the James River for their settlement, hoping to protect themselves from marauding Spanish warships. Here they established Jamestown (named for the king of England) as the capi- tal of the colony of Virginia (named for his predecessor, Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen”). But despite these bows to royal authority, the voyage was sponsored not by the English government, which in 1607 was hard- pressed for funds, but

B E G I N N I N G S O F E N G L I S H A M E R I C A

★ C H A P T E R   2 ★

1 6 0 7 – 1 6 6 0

 

 

BEGINNINGS OF ENGLISH  AMERICA ★ 47

by the Virginia Company, a private business organization whose shareholders included merchants, aristocrats, and members of Parliament, and to which the queen had given her blessing before her death in 1603.

When the three ships returned home, 104 settlers remained in Virginia. All were men, for the Virginia Company had more interest in searching for gold and in other ways of exploiting the area’s natural resources than in establish- ing a functioning society. Nevertheless, Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in the area that is now the United States. The settlers were the first of tens of thousands of Europeans who crossed the Atlantic during the seventeenth century to live and work in North America. They led the way for new empires that mobilized labor and economic resources, reshaped societies throughout the Atlantic world, and shifted the balance of power at home from Spain and Portugal to the nations of northwestern Europe.

The founding of Jamestown took place at a time of heightened Euro- pean involvement in North America. Interest in colonization was spurred by national and religious rivalries and the growth of a merchant class eager to invest in overseas expansion and to seize for itself a greater share of world trade. As noted in Chapter 1, it was quickly followed by the founding of Que- bec by France in 1608, and Henry Hudson’s exploration in 1609 of the river that today bears his name, leading to the founding of the Dutch colony of New Netherland. In 1610, the Spanish established Santa Fe as the capital of New Mexico. More than a century after the voyages of Columbus, the European pen- etration of North America had finally begun in earnest. It occurred from many directions at once— from east to west at the Atlantic coast, north to south along the St. Lawrence and Mississippi rivers, and south to north in what is now the American Southwest.

English North America in the seventeenth century was a place where entre- preneurs sought to make fortunes, religious minorities hoped to worship with- out governmental interference and to create societies based on biblical teachings, and aristocrats dreamed of re- creating a vanished world of feudalism. Those who drew up blueprints for settlement expected to reproduce the social structure with which they were familiar, with all its hierarchy and inequality. The lower orders would occupy the same less- than- fully- free status as in England, subject to laws regulating their labor and depriving them of a role in politics. But for ordinary men and women, emigration offered an escape from lives of depriva- tion and inequality. “No man,” wrote John Smith, an early leader of Jamestown, “will go from [England] to have less freedom” in America. The charter of the Virginia Company, granted by James I in 1606, promised that colonists would enjoy “all liberties” of those residing in “our realm of England.” The settlers of English America came to enjoy greater rights than colonists of other empires, including the power to choose members of elected assemblies, protections of

 

 

48 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

the common law such as the right to trial by jury, and access to land, the key to economic independence. In some colonies, though by no means all, colonists enjoyed consider- ably more religious freedom than existed in Europe.

Many degrees of freedom coexisted in seventeenth- century North America, from the slave, stripped completely of liberty, to the independent landowner, who enjoyed a full range of rights. During a lifetime, a person might well occupy more than one place on this spectrum. The settlers’ success, however, rested on depriving Native Ameri- cans of their land and, in some colonies, on importing large numbers of African slaves as laborers. Freedom and lack of freedom expanded together in seventeenth- century America.

E N G L A N D A N D T H E N E W W O R L D Unifying the English Nation

Although John Cabot, sailing from England in 1497, had been the first European since the Vikings to encounter the North Ameri- can continent, English exploration and col- onization would wait for many years. As the case of Spain suggests, early empire building was, in large part, an extension of the con- solidation of national power in Europe. But during the sixteenth century, England was a second- rate power racked by internal dis- unity. Henry VII, who assumed the throne in 1485, had to unify the kingdom after a long period of civil war. His son and successor, Henry VIII, launched the Reformation in England. When the pope refused to annul

1215 Magna Carta

1584 Hakluyt’s A Discourse Con- cerning Western Planting

1585 Roanoke Island settlement

1607 Jamestown established

1619 First Africans arrive in Virginia

1619 House of Burgesses convenes

1620 Pilgrims found Plymouth

1622 Uprising led by Opechanca nough against Virginia

1624 Virginia becomes first royal colony

1630s Great Migration to New England

1630 Massachusetts Bay Colony founded

1632 Maryland founded

1636 Roger Williams banished from Massachusetts to Rhode Island

1637 Anne Hutchinson placed on trial in Massachusetts

1636– Pequot War 1637

1639 Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

1641 Body of Liberties

1642– English Civil War 1651

1649 Maryland adopts an Act Concerning Religion

1662 Puritans’ Half-Way Covenant

1691 Virginia outlaws English- Indian marriages

 

 

ENGLAND AND THE NEW WORLD ★ 49

his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry severed the nation from the Cath- olic Church. In its place he established the Church of England, or Anglican Church, with himself at the head. Decades of religious strife followed. Under Henry’s son Edward VI, who became king at the age of ten in 1547, the regents who governed the country persecuted Catholics. When Edward died in 1553, his half sister Mary became queen. Mary temporarily restored Catholicism as the state religion and executed a number of Protestants. Her rule was so unpopular that reconciliation with Rome became impossible. Mary’s succes- sor, Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603), restored the Anglican ascendancy and executed more than 100 Catholic priests.

England and Ireland

England’s long struggle to conquer and pacify Ireland, which lasted well into the seventeenth century, absorbed money and energy that might have been directed toward the New World. In subduing Ireland, whose Catholic popula- tion was deemed a threat to the stability of Protestant rule in England, the gov- ernment employed a variety of approaches, including military conquest, the slaughter of civilians, the seizure of land and introduction of English economic practices, and the dispatch of large numbers of settlers. Rather than seeking to absorb the Irish into English society, the English excluded the native pop- ulation from a territory of settlement known as the Pale, where the colonists created their own social order.

Just as the “reconquest” of Spain from the Moors established patterns that would be repeated in Spanish New World colonization, the methods used in Ireland anticipated policies England would undertake in America. Some sixteenth- century English writers directly compared the allegedly barbaric “wild Irish” with American Indians. Like the Indians, the Irish supposedly con- fused liberty and license. They refused to respect English authority and resisted conversion to English Protestantism. The early English colonies in North America and the West Indies were known as “plantations” (that is, commu- nities “planted” from abroad among an alien population); the same term was originally used to describe Protestant settlements in Ireland.

England and North America

Not until the reign of Elizabeth I did the English turn their attention to North America, although sailors and adventurers still showed more interest in raid- ing Spanish cities and treasure fleets in the Caribbean than establishing set- tlements. The government granted charters (grants of exclusive rights and privileges) to Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh, authorizing them to establish colonies in North America at their own expense.

What were the main contours of English colonization in the seventeenth century?

 

 

50 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

With little or no support from the crown, both ventures failed. Gilbert, who had earned a reputation for brutality in the Irish wars by murdering civilians and burning their crops, established a short- lived settlement on New- foundland in 1582. Three years later, Raleigh dispatched a fleet of five ships with some 100 colonists (many of them his personal servants) to set up a base on Roanoke Island, off the North Carolina coast, partly to facilitate continuing raids on Spanish shipping. But the colonists, mostly young men under military leadership, abandoned the venture in 1586 and returned to England. A second group of 100 settlers, composed of families who hoped to establish a perma- nent colony, was dispatched that year. Their fate remains a mystery. When a ship bearing supplies arrived in 1590, the sailors found the Roanoke colony abandoned, with the inhabitants evidently having moved to live among the Indians. The word “Croatoan,” the Indian name for a nearby island or tribe, had been carved on a tree. Raleigh, by now nearly bankrupt, lost his enthusiasm for colonization. To establish a successful colony, it seemed clear, would require more planning and economic resources than any individual could provide.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, by the artist George Gower, commemorates the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and appears to link it with English colonization of the New World. England’s victorious navy is visible through the window, while the queen’s hand rests on a globe, with her fingers pointing to the coast of North America.

 

 

ENGLAND AND THE NEW WORLD ★ 51

Spreading Protestantism

As in the case of Spain, national glory, profit, and religious mission merged in early English thinking about the New World. The Reformation heightened the English government’s sense of Catholic Spain as its mortal enemy (a belief rein- forced in 1588 when a Spanish naval armada unsuccessfully attempted to invade the British Isles). Just as Spain justified its empire in part by claiming to convert Indians to Catholicism, England expressed its imperial ambitions in terms of an obligation to liberate the New World from the tyranny of the pope. The very first justification James I offered for the English settlement of Virginia was “propagat- ing of the Christian religion [by which he meant Protestantism] to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and wor- ship of God.” By the late sixteenth century, anti- Catholicism had become deeply ingrained in English popular culture. English translations of Bartolomé de Las Casas’s writings appeared during Elizabeth’s reign. One, using a common Protes- tant term for the Catholic Church, bore the title, “Popery Truly Displayed.”

Although atrocities were hardly confined to any one nation— as England’s own conduct in Ireland demonstrated— the idea that the empire of Catholic Spain was uniquely murderous and tyrannical enabled the English to describe their own imperial ambitions in the language of freedom. In A Discourse Concerning Western Planting, written in 1584 at the request of Sir Walter Raleigh, the Protestant minis- ter and scholar Richard Hakluyt listed twenty- three reasons why Queen Elizabeth I should support the establishment of colonies. Among them was the idea that English settlements would strike a blow against Spain’s empire and therefore form part of a divine mission to rescue the New World and its inhabitants from the influ- ence of Catholicism and tyranny. “Tied as slaves” under Spanish rule, he wrote, the Indians of the New World were “crying out to us . . . to come and help.” They would welcome English settlers and “revolt clean from the Spaniard,” crying “with one voice, Liberta, Liberta, as desirous of liberty and freedom.” England would repeat much of Spain’s behavior in the New World. But the English always believed that they were unique. In their case, empire and freedom would go hand in hand.

But bringing freedom to Indians was hardly the only argument Hakluyt marshaled as England prepared to step onto the world stage. National power and glory were never far from the minds of the era’s propagandists of empire. Through colonization, Hakluyt and other writers argued, England, a rela- tively minor power in Europe at the end of the sixteenth century, could come to rival the wealth and standing of great nations like Spain and France.

The Social Crisis

Equally important, America could be a refuge for England’s “surplus” popula- tion, benefiting mother country and emigrants alike. The late sixteenth century

What were the main contours of English colonization in the seventeenth century?

 

 

52 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

was a time of social crisis in England, with economic growth unable to keep pace with the needs of a population that grew from 3 million in 1550 to about 4 million in 1600. For many years, English peasants had enjoyed a secure hold on their plots of land. But in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, landlords sought profits by raising sheep for the expanding trade in wool and introduc- ing more modern farming practices such as crop rotation. They evicted small farmers and fenced in “commons” previously open to all.

While many landlords, farmers, and town merchants benefited from the enclosure movement, as this process was called, thousands of persons were uprooted from the land. Many flooded into England’s cities, where wages fell dramatically. Others, denounced by authorities as rogues, vagabonds, and vagrants, wandered the roads in search of work. Their situation grew worse as prices throughout Europe rose, buoyed by the influx of gold and silver from the mines of Latin America into Spain. A pioneering study of English society conducted at the end of the seventeenth century estimated that half the popu- lation lived at or below the poverty line. The cost of poor relief fell mainly on local communities. “All our towns,” wrote the Puritan leader John Winthrop in 1629, shortly before leaving England for Massachusetts, “complain of the burden of poor people and strive by all means to rid any such as they have.” England, he added somberly, “grows weary of her inhabitants.”

The government struggled to deal with this social crisis. Under Henry VIII, those without jobs could be whipped, branded, forced into the army, or hanged. During Elizabeth’s reign, a law authorized justices of the peace to regulate hours and wages and put the unemployed to work. “Vagrants” were required to accept any job offered to them and could be punished if they sought to change employment. Another solution was to encourage the unruly poor to leave for the New World. Richard Hakluyt wrote of the advan- tages of settling in America “such needy people of our country who now trouble the commonwealth and . . . commit outrageous offenses.” As colonists, they could become productive citizens, contributing to the nation’s wealth.

Masterless Men

As early as 1516, when Thomas More published Utopia, a novel set on an imaginary island in the Western Hemisphere, the image of America as a place where settlers could escape from the economic inequalities of Europe had been circulating in England. This ideal coincided with the goals of ordinary Englishmen. Although authorities saw wandering or unemployed “master- less men” as a danger to society and tried to force them to accept jobs, popular attitudes viewed economic dependence as itself a form of servitude. Work- ing for wages was widely associated with servility and loss of liberty. Only those who controlled their own labor could be regarded as truly free. Indeed,

 

 

THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH ★ 53

popular tales and ballads romanticized the very vagabonds, highwaymen, and even beggars denounced by the propertied and powerful, since despite their poverty they at least enjoyed freedom from wage work.

The image of the New World as a unique place of opportunity, where the English laboring classes could regain economic independence by acquir- ing land and where even criminals would enjoy a second chance, was deeply rooted from the earliest days of settlement. John Smith had scarcely landed in Virginia in 1607 when he wrote that in America “every man may be the master and owner of his own labor and land.” In 1623, the royal letter approving the recruitment of emigrants to New England promised that any settler could eas- ily become “lord of 200 acres of land”—an amount far beyond the reach of most Englishmen. The main lure for emigrants from England to the New World was not so much riches in gold and silver as the promise of independence that fol- lowed from owning land. Economic freedom and the possibility of passing it on to one’s children attracted the largest number of English colonists.

T H E C O M I N G O F T H E E N G L I S H English Emigrants

Seventeenth- century North America was an unstable and dangerous environ- ment. Diseases decimated Indian and settler populations alike. Colonies were racked by religious, political, and economic tensions and drawn into imperial wars and conflict with Indians. They remained dependent on the mother coun- try for protection and economic assistance. Without sustained immigration, most settlements would have collapsed. With a population of between 4 mil- lion and 5 million, about half that of Spain and a quarter of that of France, England produced a far larger number of men, women, and children willing to brave the dangers of emigration to the New World. In large part, this was because economic conditions in England were so bad.

Between 1607 and 1700, more than half a million people left England. North America was not the destination of the majority of these emigrants. Approxi- mately 180,000 settled in Ireland, and about the same number migrated to the West Indies, where the introduction of sugar cultivation promised riches for those who could obtain land. Nonetheless, the population of England’s main- land colonies quickly outstripped that of their rivals. The Chesapeake area, where the tobacco- producing colonies of Virginia and Maryland developed a constant demand for cheap labor, received about 120,000 settlers, most of whom landed before 1660. New England attracted 21,000 emigrants, nearly all of them arriving before 1640. In the second part of the seventeenth century, the Middle Colonies (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) attracted about

What obstacles did the English settlers in the Chesapeake overcome?

 

 

54 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

23,000 settlers. Although the arrivals to New England and the Middle Colonies included many families, the majority of newcomers were young, single men from the bottom rungs of English soci- ety, who had little to lose by emigrating. Many had already moved from place to place in England. Colonial settlement was in many ways an extension of the migration at home of an increasingly mobile English population.

Indentured Servants

Settlers who could pay for their own passage— government officials, cler- gymen, merchants, artisans, landown- ing farmers, and members of the lesser nobility— arrived in America as free per- sons. Most quickly acquired land. In the seventeenth century, however, nearly two- thirds of English settlers came as indentured servants, who voluntarily surrendered their freedom for a speci- fied time (usually five to seven years) in exchange for passage to America.

Like slaves, servants could be bought and sold, could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment, and saw their obligation to labor enforced by the courts. To ensure uninterrupted work by female servants, the law lengthened the term of their indenture if they became pregnant. “Many Negroes are better used,” complained Elizabeth Sprigs, an indentured servant in Maryland who described being forced to work “day and night . . . then tied up and whipped.” But, unlike slaves, servants could look forward to a release from bondage. Assuming they survived their period of labor, servants would receive a payment known as “free- dom dues” and become free members of society.

For most of the seventeenth century, however, indentured servitude was not a guaranteed route to economic autonomy. Given the high death rate, many servants did not live to the end of their terms. Freedom dues were some- times so meager that they did not enable recipients to acquire land. Many ser- vants found the reality of life in the New World less appealing than they had anticipated. Employers constantly complained of servants running away, not

A pamphlet published in 1609 promoting emigration to Virginia.

 

 

THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH ★ 55

working diligently, or being unruly, all manifestations of what one commenta- tor called their “fondness for freedom.”

Land and Liberty

Access to land played many roles in seventeenth- century America. Land, English settlers believed, was the basis of liberty. Owning land gave men con- trol over their own labor and, in most colonies, the right to vote. The promise of immediate access to land lured free settlers, and freedom dues that included land persuaded potential immigrants to sign contracts as indentured servants. Land in America also became a way for the king to reward relatives and allies. Each colony was launched with a huge grant of land from the crown, either to a company or to a private individual known as a proprietor. Some grants, if taken literally, stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

Land was a source of wealth and power for colonial officials and their favor- ites, who acquired enormous estates. Without labor, however, land would have little value. Since emigrants did not come to America intending to work the land of others (except temporarily in the case of indentured servants), the very abundance of “free” land eventually led many property owners to turn to slaves as a workforce.

Englishmen and Indians

Land in North America, of course, was already occupied. And the arrival of English settlers presented the native inhabitants of eastern North America with the greatest crisis in their history. Unlike the Spanish, English colonists did not call themselves “conquerors” (conquistadores). They wanted land, not dominion over the existing population. The Chesapeake and New England attracted more settlers than New Mexico, Florida, and New France combined, thus placing far greater pressure on Indian landholdings and provoking more frequent wars. The English were chiefly interested in displacing the Indians and settling on their land, not intermarrying with them, organizing their labor, or making them subjects of the crown. The marriage between John Rolfe and Poca- hontas, the daughter of Virginia’s leading chief, discussed below, is well known but almost unique. No such mixed marriage took place in seventeenth- century Massachusetts and only two more occurred in Virginia before the legislature outlawed the practice in 1691. The English exchanged goods with the native population, and Indians often traveled through colonial settlements. Fur traders on the frontiers of settlement sometimes married Indian women, partly as a way of gaining access to native societies and the kin networks essential to economic relationships. Most English settlers, however, remained obstinately separate from their Indian neighbors.

What obstacles did the English settlers in the Chesapeake overcome?

 

 

56 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

Despite their insistence that Indians had no real claim to the land since they did not cultivate or improve it, most colo- nial authorities in practice recognized Indians’ title based on occupancy. They acquired land by purchase, often in trea- ties forced upon Indians after they had suffered military defeat. Colonial courts recorded numerous sales of Indian land to governments or individual settlers. To keep the peace, some colonial gov- ernments tried to prevent the private seizure or purchase of Indian lands, or they declared certain areas off- limits to settlers. But these measures were rarely enforced and ultimately proved inef- fective. New settlers and freed servants sought land for themselves, and those who established families in America needed land for their children.

The seventeenth century was marked by recurrent warfare between colonists and Indians. These conflicts generated a strong feeling of superiority among the colonists and left them intent on main- taining the real and imagined boundaries

separating the two peoples. In the initial stages of settlement, English colonists often established towns on sites Indians had cleared, planted Indian crops, and adopted Indian technology such as snowshoes and canoes, which were valuable for travel in the American wilderness. But over time the English displaced the orig- inal inhabitants more thoroughly than any other European empire.

The Transformation of Indian Life

The coming of English settlers profoundly affected Indian societies. Like the other colonial empires, the English used native people as guides, trading part- ners, and allies in wars and for other purposes. Many eastern Indians initially welcomed the newcomers, or at least their goods, which they appreciated for their practical advantages. Items like woven cloth, metal kettles, iron axes, fish- hooks, hoes, and guns were quickly integrated into Indian life. Indians also dis- played a great desire for goods like colorful glass beads and copper ornaments that could be incorporated into their religious ceremonies.

The only known contemporary portrait of a New England Indian, this 1681 painting by an unknown artist was long thought to represent Ninigret II, a leader of the Narragansetts of Rhode Island. It has been more recently iden- tified as Robin Cassacinamon, an influential Pequot leader and friend of John Winthrop II, a governor of colonial Connecticut, who originally owned the painting. Apart from the wampum beads around his neck, everything the Indian wears is of English manufacture.

 

 

SETTLING THE CHESAPEAKE ★ 57

As Indians became integrated into the Atlantic economy, subtle changes took place in Indian life. European metal goods changed their farming, hunting, and cooking practices. Men devoted more time to hunting bea- ver for fur trading. Older skills deteriorated as the use of European products expanded, and alcohol became increasingly common and disruptive. Indians learned to bargain effectively and to supply items that Europeans desired. Later observers would describe this trade as one in which Indians exchanged valu- able commodities like furs and animal skins for worthless European trinkets. In fact, both Europeans and Indians gave up goods they had in abundance in exchange for items in short supply in their own society. But as the colonists achieved military superiority over the Indians, the profits of trade mostly flowed to colonial and European merchants. Growing connections with Europeans stimulated warfare among Indian tribes, and the overhunting of beaver and deer forced some groups to encroach on territory claimed by oth- ers. And newcomers from Europe brought epidemics that decimated Indian populations.

Changes in the Land

Traders, religious missionaries, and colonial authorities all sought to reshape Indian society and culture. But as settlers spread over the land, they threatened Indians’ ways of life more completely than any company of soldiers or group of bureaucrats. As settlers fenced in more and more land and introduced new crops and livestock, the natural environment changed in ways that undermined tradi- tional Indian agriculture and hunting. Pigs and cattle roamed freely, trampling Indian cornfields and gardens. The need for wood to build and heat homes and export to England depleted forests on which Indians relied for hunting. The rapid expansion of the fur trade diminished the population of beaver and other animals. “Since you are here strangers, and come into our country,” one group of Indians told early settlers in the Chesapeake, “you should rather conform yourselves to the customs of our country, than impose yours on us.” But it was the Indians whose lives were most powerfully altered by the changes set in motion in 1607 when English colonists landed at Jamestown.

S E T T L I N G T H E C H E S A P E A K E The Jamestown Colony

The early history of Jamestown was, to say the least, not promising. The col- ony’s leadership changed repeatedly, its inhabitants suffered an extraordi- narily high death rate, and, with the company seeking a quick profit, supplies

How did Virginia and Maryland develop in their early years?

 

 

58 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

from England proved inadequate. The hopes of locating riches such as the Spanish had found in Mexico were quickly dashed. “Silver and gold they have none,” one Spanish observer com- mented, their local resources were “not much to be regarded,” and they had “no commerce with any nation.” The first settlers were “a quarrelsome band of gentlemen and servants.” They included few farmers and laborers and numerous sons of English gentry and high- status craftsmen (jewelers, stonecutters, and the like), who preferred to prospect for gold rather than farm. They “would rather starve than work,” declared John Smith, one of the colony’s first leaders.

Jamestown lay beside a swamp con- taining malaria- carrying mosquitoes, and the garbage settlers dumped into the local river bred germs that caused dysentery and typhoid fever. Disease and lack of food took a heavy toll. By the end of the first year, the original population of 104 had fallen by half. New arrivals (including the first two women, who landed in 1608) brought

the numbers up to 400 in 1609, but by 1610, after a winter long remembered as the “starving time,” only 65 settlers remained alive. At one point, the survivors abandoned Jamestown and sailed for England, only to be intercepted and per- suaded to return to Virginia by ships carrying a new governor, 250 colonists, and supplies. By 1616, about 80 percent of the immigrants who had arrived in the first decade were dead.

Only rigorous military discipline held the colony together. John Smith was a forceful man whose career before coming to America included a period fight- ing the Turks in Hungary, where he was captured and for a time enslaved. He imposed a regime of forced labor on company lands. “He that will not work, shall not eat,” Smith declared. Smith’s autocratic mode of governing alienated many of the colonists. After being injured in an accidental gunpowder explo- sion in 1609, he was forced to return to England. But his immediate successors continued his iron rule.

Jamestown

(1632)

(1632)

(1607) VIRGINIA

MARYLAND

MARYLAND

Roanoke I s land

ACCOMAC

ACCOHANNOCK

NANTAUGHTACUND ONAWMANIENT CHCHICCHICCHICHICHIHICCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC CCCCH CCCH CCCCCCCCCHH ACACACOACOACOCOOAOAOACOAACOAAOAAAACOAAAACOAAC AAAAAAAAACAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA NNCHICACOAN

RAPPAHANNOCK WICOCOMOCO

CUTTATOWOMEN

MATTAPONI

CHICKAHOMINY

PAMUNKEY CHISKIAK

APPOMATTOC

WEYANOCK

NANSEMOND

York R.

James R.

Roanoke R.

Chesapeake Bay

0 0

25 25

50 miles 50 kilometers

Date of settlement English settlement, ca. 1650

(1607)

By 1650, English settlement in the Chesapeake had spread well beyond the initial colony at Jamestown, as tobacco planters sought fertile land near navigable waterways.

E N G L I S H S E T T L E M E N T I N T H E   C H E S A P E A K E , c a . 1 6 5 0

 

 

SETTLING THE CHESAPEAKE ★ 59

From Company to Society

The Virginia Company slowly realized that for the colony to survive it would have to abandon the search for gold, grow its own food, and find a marketable commodity. It would also have to attract more settlers. With this end in view, it announced new policies in 1618 that powerfully shaped Virginia’s devel- opment as a functioning society rather than an outpost of London- based investors. Instead of retaining all the land for itself, the company introduced the headright system, awarding fifty acres of land to any colonist who paid for his own or another’s passage. Thus, anyone who brought in a sizable number of servants would immediately acquire a large estate. In place of the governor’s militaristic regime, a “charter of grants and liberties” was issued, including the establishment of a House of Burgesses. When it convened in 1619, this became the first elected assembly in colonial America.

The House of Burgesses was hardly a model of democracy— only freemen could vote, and the company and its appointed governor retained the right to nullify any measure the body adopted. But its creation established a politi- cal precedent that all English colonies would eventually follow. Also in 1619, the first twenty blacks arrived in Vir- ginia on a Dutch vessel. The full signif- icance of these two events would not be apparent until years later. But they laid the foundation for a society that would one day be dominated economically and politically by slaveowning planters.

Powhatan and Pocahontas

When the English arrived at Jamestown, they landed in an area inhabited by some 15,000 to 25,000 Indians living in numer- ous small agricultural villages. Most acknowledged the rule of Wahunsona- cock, a shrewd and forceful leader who had recently consolidated his authority over the region and collected tribute from some thirty subordinate tribes. Called Powhatan by the settlers after the Indian word for both his tribe and his title of paramount chief, he quickly realized the

Powhatan, the most prominent Indian leader in the original area of English settlement in Virginia. This image, showing Powhatan and his court, was engraved on John Smith’s map of Virginia and included in Smith’s General History of Virginia, published in 1624.

How did Virginia and Maryland develop in their early years?

 

 

60 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

advantages of trade with the newcomers. For its part, mindful of Las Casas’s con- demnation of Spanish behavior, the Vir- ginia Company instructed its colonists to treat local Indians kindly and to try to convert them to Christianity. Realizing that the colonists depended on the Indi- ans for food, John Smith tried to stop set- tlers from seizing produce from nearby villages, lest the Indians cut off all trade.

In the first two years of Jamestown’s existence, relations with Indians were mostly peaceful and based on a fairly equal give- and- take. At one point, Smith was captured by the Indians and threat- ened with execution by Powhatan, only to be rescued by Pocahontas, reputedly the favorite among his many children by dozens of wives. The incident has come down in legend (most recently a popular animated film) as an example of a rebel- lious, love- struck teenager defying her father. In fact, it was probably part of an elaborate ceremony designed by Powha- tan to demonstrate his power over the

colonists and incorporate them into his realm. Pocahontas subsequently became an intermediary between the two peoples, bringing food and messages to Jamestown.

John Smith’s return to England raised tensions between the two groups, and a period of sporadic conflict began in 1610, with the English massacring villagers indiscriminately and destroying Indian crops. Pocahontas herself was captured and held as a hostage by the settlers in 1613. While confined to James- town, she converted to Christianity. As part of the restoration of peace in 1614, she married the English colonist John Rolfe. Two years later, she accompanied her husband to England, where she caused a sensation in the court of James I as a symbol of Anglo- Indian harmony and missionary success. But she suc- cumbed to disease in 1617. Her father died the following year.

The Uprising of 1622

Once it became clear that the English were interested in establishing a per- manent and constantly expanding colony, not a trading post, conflict with local Indians was inevitable. The peace that began in 1614 ended abruptly in

The only portrait of Pocahontas during her lifetime was engraved by Simon van de Passe in England in 1616. After converting to Christianity, Pocahontas took the name Rebecca.

 

 

SETTLING THE CHESAPEAKE ★ 61

1622 when Powhatan’s brother and successor, Opechancanough, led a bril- liantly planned surprise attack that in a single day wiped out one- quarter of Virginia’s settler population of 1,200. The surviving 900 colonists organized themselves into military bands, which then massacred scores of Indians and devastated their villages. A spokesman for the Virginia Company explained the reason behind the Indian assault: “The daily fear that . . . in time we by our growing continually upon them would dispossess them of this country.” But by going to war, declared Governor Francis Wyatt, the Indians had for- feited any claim to the land. Virginia’s policy, he continued, must now be noth- ing less than the “expulsion of the savages to gain the free range of the country.”

Indians remained a significant presence in Virginia, and trade continued throughout the century. But the unsuccessful Uprising of 1622 fundamen- tally shifted the balance of power in the colony. The settlers’ supremacy was reinforced in 1644 when a last desperate rebellion led by Opechancanough, now said to be 100 years old, was crushed after causing the deaths of some 500 colonists. Virginia forced a treaty on the surviving coastal Indians, who now numbered fewer than 2,000, that acknowledged their subordination to the government at Jamestown and required them to move to tribal reservations to the west and not enter areas of European settlement without permission. This policy of separation followed the precedent already established in Ire- land. Settlers spreading inland into the Virginia countryside continued to seize Indian lands.

The destruction caused by the Uprising of 1622 was the last in a series of blows suffered by the Virginia Company. Two years later, it surrendered its charter and Virginia became the first royal colony, its governor now appointed by the crown. Virginia had failed to accomplish any of its goals for either the company or the settlers. Investors had not turned a profit, and although the company had sent 6,000 settlers to Virginia, its white population num- bered only 1,200 when the king assumed control. Preoccupied with affairs at home, the government in London for years paid little attention to Vir- ginia. Henceforth, the local elite, not a faraway company, controlled the col- ony’s development. And that elite was growing rapidly in wealth and power thanks to the cultivation of a crop introduced from the West Indies by John Rolfe— tobacco.

A Tobacco Colony

King James I considered tobacco “harmful to the brain and dangerous to the lungs” and issued a spirited warning against its use. But increasing num- bers of Europeans enjoyed smoking and believed the tobacco plant had medicinal benefits. As a commodity with an ever- expanding mass market

How did Virginia and Maryland develop in their early years?

 

 

62 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

in Europe, tobacco became Virginia’s substitute for gold. It enriched an emerging class of tobacco planters, as well as members of the colonial gov- ernment who assigned good land to themselves. The crown profited from customs duties (taxes on tobacco that entered or left the kingdom). By 1624, more than 200,000 pounds were being grown, producing startling profits for landowners. Forty years later, the crop totaled 15 million pounds, and it doubled again by the 1680s. The spread of tobacco farming produced a dispersed society with few towns and little social unity. It inspired a get- rich- quick attitude and a frenzied scramble for land and labor. By the middle of the seventeenth century, a new influx of immigrants with ample financial resources— sons of merchants and English gentlemen— had taken advantage of the headright system and governmental connections to acquire large estates along navigable rivers. They established themselves as the colony’s social and political elite.

The expansion of tobacco cultivation also led to an increased demand for field labor, met for most of the seventeenth century by young, male inden- tured servants. Despite harsh conditions of work in the tobacco fields, a per- sistently high death rate, and laws mandating punishments from whipping to an extension of service for those who ran away or were unruly, the abundance of land continued to attract migrants. Of the 120,000 English immigrants who entered the Chesapeake region during the seventeenth century, three- quarters came as servants. Virginia’s white society increasingly came to resemble that of England, with a wealthy landed gentry at the top; a group of small farmers, mostly former indentured servants who had managed to acquire land, in the middle; and an army of poor laborers— servants and landless former inden- tured servants— at the bottom. By 1700, the region’s white population had grown to nearly 90,000.

Women and the Family

Virginia, however, lacked one essential element of English society— stable family life. The colony avidly promoted the immigration of women, including several dozen “tobacco brides” who arrived in 1620 and 1621 for arranged marriages. But given the demand for male servants to work in the tobacco fields, men in the Chesapeake outnumbered women for most of the seventeenth century by four or five to one. The vast majority of women who emigrated to the region came as indentured servants. Since they usually had to complete their terms of service before marrying, they did not begin to form families until their mid- twenties. The high death rate, unequal ratio between the sexes, and late age of marriage for those who found partners retarded population growth and produced a society with large numbers of single men, widows, and orphans. Although patriarchal ideals remained

 

 

SETTLING THE CHESAPEAKE ★ 63

intact in Virginia, in practice the traditional authority of husbands and fathers was weakened. Because of their own low life expectancy, fathers found it difficult to supervise the careers and marriages of their children.

In the colonies as in England, a married woman possessed certain rights before the law, including a claim to dower rights of one- third of her husband’s property in the event that he died before she did. When the widow died, how- ever, the property passed to the husband’s male heirs. (English law was far less generous than in Spain, where a woman could hold independently any property inherited from her parents, and a man and wife owned jointly all the wealth accumulated during a marriage.)

Social conditions in the colonies, however, opened the door to roles women rarely assumed in England. Widows and the few women who never married took advantage of their legal status as feme sole (a “woman alone,” who enjoyed an independent legal identity denied to married women) to make contracts and conduct business. Margaret Brent, who emigrated to the Chesapeake in 1638, acquired land, managed her own plantation, and acted as a lawyer in court. Some widows were chosen to administer their hus- bands’ estates or were willed their husbands’ property outright, rather than receiving only the one- third “dower rights.” But because most women came to Virginia as indentured servants, they could look forward only to a life of hard labor in the tobacco fields and early death. Servants were frequently subjected to sexual abuse by their masters. Those who married often found themselves in poverty when their husbands died.

The Maryland Experiment

Although it began under very different sponsorship and remained much smaller than Virginia during the seventeenth century, the second Chesapeake colony, Maryland, followed a similar course of development. As in Virginia, tobacco came to dominate the economy and tobacco planters the society. But in other ways, Maryland’s history was strikingly different.

Maryland was established in 1632 as a proprietary colony, that is, a grant of land and governmental authority to a single individual. This was Ceci- lius Calvert, the son of a recently deceased favorite of King Charles I. The charter made Calvert proprietor of the colony and granted him “full, free, and absolute power,” including control of trade and the right to initiate all legislation, with an elected assembly confined to approving or disapprov- ing his proposals. Calvert imagined Maryland as a feudal domain. Land would be laid out in manors with the owners paying “quitrents” to the pro- prietor. Calvert disliked representative institutions and believed ordinary people should not meddle in governmental affairs. On the other hand, the

How did Virginia and Maryland develop in their early years?

 

 

64 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

charter also guaranteed to colonists “all privileges, franchises, and liberties” of Englishmen. While these were not spelled out, they undoubtedly included the idea of a government limited by the law. Here was a recipe for conflict, and Maryland had more than its share during the seventeenth century.

Religion in Maryland

Further aggravating instability in the colony was the fact that Calvert, a Catholic, envisioned Maryland as a refuge for his persecuted coreligion- ists, especially the younger sons of Catholic gentry who had few economic or political prospects in England. In Maryland, he hoped, Protestants and Catholics could live in a harmony unknown in Europe. The first group of 130 colonists included a number of Catholic gentlemen and two priests. Most appointed officials were also Catholic, including relatives of the proprietor, as were those to whom he awarded the choicest land grants. But Protestants always formed a majority of the settlers. Most, as in Virginia, came as inden- tured servants, but others took advantage of Maryland’s generous headright system to acquire land by transporting workers to the colony.

Processing tobacco was as labor-intensive as caring for the plant in the fields. Here scantily clad slaves and female indentured servants work with the crop after it has been harvested.

 

 

THE NEW ENGLAND WAY ★ 65

As in Virginia, the death rate remained very high. In one county, half the marriages during the seventeenth century lasted fewer than eight years before one partner died. Almost 70 percent of male settlers in Maryland died before reaching the age of fifty, and half the children born in the colony did not live to adulthood. But at least initially, Maryland seems to have offered servants greater opportunity for landownership than Virginia. Unlike in the older colony, freedom dues in Maryland included fifty acres of land. As tobacco planters engrossed the best land later in the century, however, the prospects for landless men diminished.

T H E N E W E N G L A N D W A Y The Rise of Puritanism

As Virginia and Maryland evolved toward societies dominated by a small aris- tocracy ruling over numerous bound laborers, a very different social order emerged in seventeenth- century New England. The early history of that region is intimately connected to the religious movement known as “Puri- tanism,” which arose in England late in the sixteenth century. The term was initially coined by opponents to ridicule those not satisfied with the progress of the Protestant Reformation in England, who called themselves not Puritans but “godly” or “true Protestants.” Puritanism came to define a set of religious principles and a view of how society should be organized. Puritans differed among themselves on many issues. But all shared the conviction that the Church of England retained too many elements of Catholicism in its religious rituals and doctrines. Puritans saw elaborate church ceremonies, the rule that priests could not marry, and ornate church decorations as vestiges of “pop- ery.” Many rejected the Catholic structure of religious authority descending from a pope or king to archbishops, bishops, and priests. Only independent local congregations, they believed, should choose clergymen and determine modes of worship. These Puritans were called “Congregationalists.” All Puri- tans shared many of the beliefs of the Church of England and the society as a whole, including a hatred of Catholicism and a pride in England’s greatness as a champion of liberty. But they believed that neither the church nor the nation was living up to its ideals.

Puritans considered religious belief a complex and demanding matter and urged believers to seek the truth by reading the Bible and listening to sermons by educated ministers, rather than devoting themselves to sacra- ments administered by priests and to what Puritans considered formulaic prayers. The sermon was the central rite of Puritan practice. In the course of a lifetime, according to one estimate, the average Puritan listened to some

What made the English settlement of New England distinctive?

 

 

66 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

7,000 sermons. In their religious beliefs, Puritans followed the ideas of the French- born Swiss theologian John Calvin. The world, Calvin taught, was divided between the elect and the damned. All persons sought salvation, but whether one was among the elect destined to be saved had already been deter- mined by God. His will, ultimately, was unknowable, and nothing one did on earth— including prayers, good works, and offerings— would make any dif- ference. But while there were no guarantees of salvation, worldly success— leading a good life, prospering economically— might well be indications of God’s grace. Idleness and immoral behavior were sure signs of damnation.

Moral Liberty

Puritanism, however, was not simply a set of ideas but a state of mind, a zealous- ness in pursuing the true faith that alienated many who held differing religious views. A minority of Puritans (such as those who settled in Plymouth Colony) became separatists, abandoning the Church of England entirely to form their own independent churches. Most, however, hoped to purify the church from within. But in the 1620s and 1630s, as Charles I seemed to be moving toward a restoration of Catholic ceremonies and the Church of England dismissed Puri- tan ministers and censored their writings, many Puritans decided to emigrate. They departed England not so much because of persecution, but because they feared that “Popish” practices had grown to such “an intolerable height,” as one minister complained, that “the consciences of God’s saints . . . could no lon- ger bear them.” By the same token, Puritans blamed many of England’s social problems on the wandering poor, whom they considered indolent and ungodly. When Puritans emigrated to New England, they hoped to escape what they believed to be the religious and worldly corruptions of English society. They would establish a “city set upon a hill,” a Bible Commonwealth whose influ- ence would flow back across the Atlantic and rescue England from godlessness and social decay.

Like so many other emigrants to America, Puritans came in search of liberty, especially the right to worship and govern themselves in what they deemed a truly Christian manner. Freedom for Puritans was primarily a spir- itual affair. It implied the opportunity and the responsibility to obey God’s will through self- government and self- denial. It certainly did not mean unre- strained action, improper religious practices, or sinful behavior, of which, Puri- tans thought, there were far too many examples in England. In a 1645 speech to the Massachusetts legislature explaining the Puritan conception of free- dom, John Winthrop, the colony’s governor, distinguished sharply between two kinds of liberty. “Natural” liberty, or acting without restraint, suggested “a liberty to do evil.” This was the false idea of freedom supposedly adopted by the Irish, Indians, and bad Christians generally. Genuine “moral” liberty— the

 

 

THE NEW ENGLAND WAY ★ 67

Christian liberty described in Chap- ter 1—meant “a liberty to that only which is good.” It was quite compati- ble with severe restraints on speech, religion, and personal behavior. True freedom, Winthrop insisted, depended on “subjection to authority,” both reli- gious and secular; otherwise, anarchy was sure to follow. To Puritans, lib- erty meant that the elect had a right to establish churches and govern society, not that others could challenge their beliefs or authority.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth

The first Puritans to emigrate to Amer- ica were a group of separatists known as the Pilgrims. They had already fled to the Netherlands in 1608, believing that Satan had begun “to sow errors, heresies and discords” in England. A decade later, fearing that their children were being corrupted by being drawn into the surrounding culture, they decided to emigrate to Virginia. The expedition was financed by a group of English investors who hoped to establish a base for prof- itable trade. In September 1620, the Mayflower, carrying 150 settlers and crew (among them many non- Puritans), embarked from England. Blown off course, they landed not in Virginia but hundreds of miles to the north, on Cape Cod. Here the 102 who survived the journey established the colony of Plymouth. Before landing, the Pilgrim leaders drew up the Mayflower Compact, in which the adult men going ashore agreed to obey “just and equal laws” enacted by represen- tatives of their own choosing. This was the first written frame of government in what is now the United States.

A century earlier, when Giovanni da Verrazano explored the Atlantic coast of North America, he encountered thickly settled villages and saw the smoke of innumerable Indian bonfires. By the time the Pilgrims landed, hundreds of European fishing vessels had operated off New England, land- ing to trade with Indians and bringing, as elsewhere, epidemics. The Pilgrims arrived in an area whose native population had recently been decimated by smallpox. They established Plymouth on the site of an abandoned Indian vil- lage whose fields had been cleared before the epidemic and were ready for cultivation. Nonetheless, the settlers arrived six weeks before winter without food or farm animals. Half died during the first winter. The colonists only

A portrait of John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, painted in the 1640s.

What made the English settlement of New England distinctive?

 

 

68 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

survived through the help of local Indians, notably Squanto, who with twenty other Indians had been kid- napped and brought to Spain in 1614 by the English explorer Thomas Hunt, who planned to sell them as slaves. Rescued by a local priest, Squanto somehow made his way to London, where he learned English. He returned to Massachusetts in 1619 only to find that his people, the Patuxet, had succumbed to disease. He served as interpreter for the Pilgrims, taught them where to fish and how to plant corn, and helped in the forging of an alliance with Massasoit, a local chief. In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims invited their Indian allies to a harvest

feast celebrating their survival, the first Thanksgiving in North America. (Feasts of Thanksgiving were a feature of Puritan religious practice, not some- thing conducted in this one instance.)

The Pilgrims hoped to establish a society based on the lives of the early Christian saints. Their government rested on the principle of consent, and vot- ing was not restricted to church members. All land was held in common until 1627, when it was divided among the settlers. Plymouth survived as an inde- pendent colony until 1691, but it was soon overshadowed by Massachusetts Bay to its north.

The Great Migration

Chartered in 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Company was founded by a group of London merchants who hoped to further the Puritan cause and turn a profit through trade with the Indians. The first five ships sailed from England in 1629, and by 1642 some 21,000 Puritans had emigrated to Massachusetts. Long remem- bered as the Great Migration, this flow of population represented less than one- third of English emigration in the 1630s. Far more English settlers arrived in Ireland, the Chesapeake, and the Caribbean. After 1640, migration to New England virtually ceased, and in some years more colonists left the region than arrived. None- theless, the Great Migration established the basis for a stable and thriving society.

In many ways, the settling of New England was unique. Although servants represented about one- quarter of the Great Migration, most settlers arrived in

In this engraving, Theodor de Bry depicts an encounter between an English explorer and the Wampanoag Indians on Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard in 1602. The region’s Indians had much experience with Euro peans before the Pilgrims settled there.

 

 

THE NEW ENGLAND WAY ★ 69

Massachusetts in families. They came for many reasons, including the desire to escape religious persecution, anxiety about the future of England, and the pros- pect of economic betterment. Compared with colonists in Virginia and Mary- land, they were older and more prosperous, and the number of men and women more equally balanced. Because of the even sex ratio and New England’s health- ier climate, the population grew rapidly, doubling every twenty- seven years. Although the region received only a small fraction of the century’s migration, by 1700 New England’s white population of 91,000 outnumbered that of both the Chesapeake and the West Indies. Nearly all were descendants of those who crossed the Atlantic during the Great Migration.

The Puritan Family

While the imbalance between male and female migrants made it difficult for patriarchal family patterns fully to take root in the Chesapeake until the end of the seventeenth century, they emerged very quickly in New England. Whatever their differences with other Englishmen on religious matters, Puritans shared with the larger society a belief in male authority within the household as well as an adherence to the common- law tradition that severely limited married women’s legal and economic rights. Puritans in America carefully emulated the family structure of England, insisting that the obe- dience of women, children, and servants to men’s will was the foundation of social stability. The father’s authority was all the more vital because in a farming society without large numbers of slaves or servants, control over the labor of one’s family was essential to a man’s economic success.

To be sure, Puritans deemed women to be the spiritual equals of men, and women were allowed to become full church members. Although all ministers were men, the Puritan belief in the ability of believers to interpret the Bible opened the door for some women to claim positions of religious leadership. The ideal Puritan marriage was based on reciprocal affection and companionship, and divorce was legal. Yet within the household, the husband’s authority was virtually absolute. Indeed, a man’s position as head of his family was thought to replicate God’s authority in spiritual matters and the authority of the govern- ment in the secular realm. Magistrates sometimes intervened to protect wives from physical abuse, but they also enforced the power of fathers over their chil- dren and husbands over their wives. Moderate physical “correction” was con- sidered appropriate for women who violated their husbands’ sense of proper behavior.

Their responsibilities as wives and mothers defined women’s lives. In his 1645 speech on liberty, John Winthrop noted that a woman achieved genuine freedom by fulfilling her prescribed social role and embracing “subjection to

What made the English settlement of New England distinctive?

 

 

70 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

her husband’s authority.” The family was the foundation of strong communi- ties, and unmarried adults seemed a danger to the social fabric. An early law of Plymouth declared that “no single person be suffered to live of himself.” The typical New England woman married at twenty- two, a younger age than her English counterpart, and gave birth seven times. Because New England was a far healthier environment than the Chesapeake, more children survived infancy. Thus, much of a woman’s adult life was devoted to bearing and rearing children.

Government and Society in Massachusetts

In a sermon aboard the Arabella, on which he sailed for Massachusetts in 1630, John Winthrop spoke of the settlers binding themselves together “in the bond of brotherly affection” in order to promote the glory of God and their own “com- mon good.” Puritans feared excessive individualism and lack of social unity. Unlike the dispersed plantation- centered society of the Chesapeake, the leaders of Massachusetts organized the colony in self- governing towns. Groups of set- tlers received a land grant from the colony’s government and then subdivided it, with residents awarded house lots in a central area and land on the outskirts for farming. Much land remained in commons, either for collective use or to be

The Savage Family, a 1779 painting by the New England artist Edward Savage, depicts several generations of a typically numerous Puritan family.

 

 

THE NEW ENGLAND WAY ★ 71

divided among later settlers or the sons of the town’s founders. Each town had its own Congregational Church. Each, according to a law of 1647, was required to establish a school, since the ability to read the Bible was central to Puritan belief. To train an educated ministry, Harvard College was established in 1636 (nearly a century after the Royal University of Mexico, founded in 1551), and two years later the first printing press in English America was established in Cambridge.

The government of Massachusetts reflected the Puritans’ religious and social vision. Wishing to rule the colony without outside interference and to prevent non- Puritans from influencing decision making, the shareholders of the Massachusetts Bay Company emigrated to America, taking the charter with them and transforming a commercial document into a form of govern- ment. At first, the eight shareholders chose the men who ruled the colony. In 1634, a group of deputies elected by freemen (landowning church members) was added to form a single ruling body, the General Court. Ten years later, com- pany officers and elected deputies were divided into two legislative houses. Unlike Virginia, whose governors were appointed first by a faraway company and after 1624 by the crown, or Maryland, where authority rested with a single proprietor, the freemen of Massachusetts elected their governor.

The principle of consent was central to Puritanism. Church government was decentralized— each congregation, as one minister put it, had “complete liberty to stand alone.” Churches were formed by voluntary agreement among members, who elected the minister. No important church decision was made without the agreement of the male members. Towns governed themselves, and local officials, delegates to the General Court, and the colonial governor were all elected. Puritans, however, were hardly believers in equality. Church mem- bership, a status that carried great prestige and power, was a restrictive category. Anyone could worship at a church, or, as the Puritans preferred to call it, meet- ing house, but to be a full member required demonstrating that one had experi- enced divine grace and could be considered a “visible saint,” usually by testifying about a conversion experience. Although male property holders generally chose local officials, voting in colony- wide elections was limited to men who had been accepted as full church members. As time went on, this meant that a smaller and smaller percentage of the population controlled the government. Puritan democracy was for those within the circle of church membership; those outside the boundary occupied a secondary place in the Bible Commonwealth.

Church and State in Puritan Massachusetts

Seventeenth- century New England was a hierarchical society in which socially prominent families were assigned the best land and the most desirable seats in church. “Some must be rich and some poor, some high and eminent in

What made the English settlement of New England distinctive?

 

 

72 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

power and dignity; others mean and in subjection,” declared John Winthrop. This was part of God’s plan, reinforced by man- made law and custom. The General Court forbade ordinary men and women from wearing “the garb of gentlemen.” Ordinary settlers were addressed as “goodman” and “goodwife,” while the better sort were called “gentleman” and “lady” or “master” and “mis- tress.” When the General Court in 1641 issued a Body of Liberties outlining the rights and responsibilities of Massachusetts colonists, it adopted the tra- ditional understanding of liberties as privileges that derived from one’s place in the social order. Inequality was considered an expression of God’s will, and while some liberties applied to all inhabitants, there were separate lists of rights for freemen, women, children, and servants. The Body of Liberties also allowed for slavery. The first African slave appears in the records of Massa- chusetts Bay in 1640.

Massachusetts forbade ministers from holding office so as not to interfere with their spiritual responsibilities. But church and state were closely inter- connected. The law required each town to establish a church and to levy a tax to support the minister. There were no separate church courts, but the state enforced religious devotion. The Body of Liberties affirmed the rights of free speech and assembly and equal protection of the law for all within the colony, but the laws of Massachusetts prescribed the death penalty for, among other things, worshiping “any god, but the lord god,” practicing witchcraft, or com- mitting blasphemy.

Like many others in the seventeenth century, Puritans believed that religious uniformity was essential to social order. They did not believe in religious toleration— there was one truth, and their faith embodied it. Religious liberty meant the liberty to practice this truth. The purpose of the Puritan experiment was to complete the Reformation and, they hoped, spread it back to England. Religious dissent might fatally undermine these goals. But the principle of autonomy for local congregations soon clashed with the desire for religious uniformity.

N E W E N G L A N D E R S D I V I D E D The Puritans exalted individual judgment— hence their insistence on read- ing the Bible. The very first item printed in English America was a broadside, The Oath of a Freeman (1638), explaining the rights and duties of the citizens of Massachusetts and emphasizing that men should vote according to their “own conscience . . . without respect of persons, or favor of any men.” Yet mod- ern ideas of individualism, privacy, and personal freedom would have struck Puritans as quite strange. They considered too much emphasis on the “self”

 

 

NEW ENGLANDERS DIVIDED ★ 73

dangerous to social harmony and community stability. In the closely knit towns of New England, residents carefully monitored one another’s behavior and chastised or expelled those who violated communal norms. In the Puritan view, as one colonist put it, the main freedom possessed by dissenters was the “liberty to keep away from us.” Towns banished individuals for such offenses as criticizing the church or government, complaining about the colony in letters home to England, or, in the case of one individual, Abigail Gifford, for being “a very burdensome woman.” Tolerance of difference was not high on the list of Puritan values.

Roger Williams

Differences of opinion about how to organize a Bible Commonwealth, how- ever, emerged almost from the founding of Massachusetts. With its emphasis on individual interpretation of the Bible, Puritanism contained the seeds of its own fragmentation. The first sustained criticism of the existing order came from the young minister Roger Williams, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1631 and soon began to insist that its congregations withdraw from the Church of England and that church and state be separated. “Soul liberty,” Williams believed, required that individuals be allowed to follow their consciences wher- ever they led. To most Puritans, the social fabric was held together by certain religious truths, which could not be questioned. To Williams, any law- abiding citizen should be allowed to practice whatever form of religion he chose. For the government to “molest any person, Jew or Gentile, for either professing doctrine or practicing worship” violated the principle that genuine religious faith is voluntary.

Williams aimed to strengthen religion, not weaken it. The embrace of gov- ernment, he insisted, corrupted the purity of Christian faith and drew believers into endless religious wars like those that wracked Europe. To leaders like John Winthrop, the outspoken minister’s attack on the religious- political establish- ment of Massachusetts was bad enough, but Williams compounded the offense by rejecting the conviction that Puritans were an elect people on a divine mis- sion to spread the true faith. Williams denied that God had singled out any group as special favorites.

Rhode Island and Connecticut

Banished from Massachusetts in 1636, Williams and his followers moved south, where they established the colony of Rhode Island, which eventually received a charter from London. In a world in which the right of individuals to participate in religious activities without governmental interference barely existed, Rhode Island became a beacon of religious freedom. It had no established church, no

What were the main sources of discord in early New England?

 

 

74 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

religious qualifications for voting until the eighteenth century, and no require- ment that citizens attend church. It became a haven for Dissenters (Protestants who belonged to denominations other than the established church) and Jews persecuted in other colonies. Rhode Island’s frame of government was also more democratic. The assembly was elected twice a year, the governor annually, and town meetings were held more frequently than elsewhere in New England.

Religious disagreements in Massachusetts generated other colonies as well. In 1636, the minister Thomas Hooker established a settlement at Hartford. Its system of government, embodied in the Fundamental Orders of 1639, was mod- eled on that of Massachusetts— with the significant exception that men did not have to be church members to vote. Quite different was the colony of New Haven, founded in 1638 by emigrants who wanted an even closer connection between church and state. In 1662, Hartford and New Haven received a royal charter that united them as the colony of Connecticut.

Hartford

Mystic

Boston

Plymouth

Cambridge

New Haven

New Amsterdam

Providence

York

Salem Gloucester

Newport

Easthampton

Stamford Stratford

Windsor

Springfield Weymouth

Provincetown

Barnstable

Edgartown

Portsmouth

Sandwich

Exeter

Portland

(1629–1630)

(1636–1662)

(1638)

(1636–1643)

(1636) (1620)

Pequot War, 1636–1637

CONNECTICUT

MASSACHUSETTS

RHODE ISLAND

PLYMOUTH

NEW HAMPSHIRE

MAINE

Martha’s V ineya rd

Nantucket

Ca pe Co d

Long I s la nd

ABENAKI

PENNACOOK

MASSACHUSETT

POKANOKET

WAMPANOAG

NARRAGANSETT

MOHEGAN

NIPMUCK

MOHAWK

MAHICAN

POCUMTUK

DELAWARE

Saco R.

Salm o n Falls R.

M errim

ack R.

C on

ne cti

cu t R

.

Th am

es R

.

Housatonic R.

H ud

so n

R. Lake Champlain

Massachusetts Bay

Cape Cod Bay

Long I sland S

ound

Atl a nti c Oce a n

0

0

25

25

50 miles

50 kilometers

Date of settlement Massachusetts Plymouth Rhode Island Connecticut New Haven

(1620)

By the mid-seventeenth century, English settlement in New England had spread well inland and up and down the Atlantic coast.

E N G L I S H S E T T L E M E N T I N N E W E N G L A N D , c a . 1 6 4 0

 

 

NEW ENGLANDERS DIVIDED ★ 75

The Trial of Anne Hutchinson

More threatening to the Puritan establishment, both because of her gender and because she attracted a large and influential following, was Anne Hutchinson. A midwife and the daughter of a clergyman, Hutchinson, wrote John Winthrop, was “a woman of a ready wit and bold spirit.” She arrived in Massachusetts with her husband in 1634 to join their minister, John Cotton, who had been expelled from his pulpit in England by church authorities. Hutchinson began holding meetings in her home, where she led discussions of religious issues among men and women, including a number of prominent merchants and pub- lic officials. In Hutchinson’s view, salvation was God’s direct gift to the elect and could not be earned by good works, devotional practices, or other human effort. Most Puritans shared this belief. What set Hutchinson apart was her charge that nearly all the ministers in Massachusetts were guilty of faulty preaching for dis- tinguishing “saints” from the damned on the basis of activities such as church attendance and moral behavior rather than an inner state of grace.

In Massachusetts, where most Puritans found the idea of religious pluralism deeply troubling and church and state reinforced each other, both ministers and magistrates were intent on suppressing any views that challenged their own leadership. Their critics denounced Cotton and Hutchinson for Antinomi- anism (a term for putting one’s own judgment or faith above both human law and the teachings of the church). In 1637, she was placed on trial before a civil court for sedition (expressing opinions dangerous to authority). Her position as a “public woman” made her defiance seem even more outrageous. Her meet- ings, said Governor Winthrop, were neither “comely in the sight of God nor fit- ting to your sex.” A combative and articulate woman, Hutchinson ably debated interpretation of the Bible with her university- educated accusers. She more than held her own during her trial. But when she spoke of divine revelations, of God speaking to her directly rather than through ministers or the Bible, she violated Puritan doctrine and sealed her own fate. Such a claim, the colony’s leaders felt, posed a threat to the very existence of organized churches— and, indeed, to all authority. Hutchinson and a number of her followers were ban- ished. Her family made its way to Rhode Island and then to Westchester, north of what is now New York City, where Hutchinson and most of her relatives per- ished during an Indian war.

Anne Hutchinson lived in New England for only eight years, but she left her mark on the region’s religious culture. As in the case of Roger Williams, her career showed how the Puritan belief in each individual’s ability to interpret the Bible could easily lead to criticism of the religious and political establish- ment. It would take many years before religious toleration— which violated the Puritans’ understanding of “moral liberty” and social harmony— came to Massachusetts.

What were the main sources of discord in early New England?

 

 

76 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

Puritans and Indians

Along with disruptive religious controversies, New England, like other col- onies, had to deal with the difficult problem of relations with Indians. The native population of New England numbered perhaps 100,000 when the Puritans arrived. But because of recent epidemics, the migrants encountered fewer Indians near the coast than in other parts of eastern North America. In areas of European settlement, colonists quickly outnumbered the native population. Some settlers, notably Roger Williams, sought to treat the Indi- ans with justice. Williams learned complex Indian languages, and he insisted that the king had no right to grant land already belonging to someone else. No town, said Williams, should be established before its site had been purchased. While John Winthrop believed uncultivated land could legitimately be taken by the colonists, he also recognized the benefits of buying land rather than simply seizing it. But he insisted that such purchases (usually completed after towns had already been settled) must carry with them Indian agreement to submit to English authority and pay tribute to the colonists.

To New England’s leaders, the Indians represented both savagery and temptation. In Puritan eyes, they resembled Catholics, with their false gods and deceptive rituals. They enjoyed freedom, but of the wrong kind— what Winthrop condemned as undisciplined “natural liberty” rather than the “moral liberty” of the civilized Christian. Always concerned that sinful per- sons might prefer a life of ease to hard work, Puritans feared that Indian soci- ety might prove attractive to colonists who lacked the proper moral fiber. In 1642, the Connecticut General Court set a penalty of three years at hard labor for any colonist who abandoned “godly society” to live with the Indi- ans. To counteract the attraction of Indian life, the leaders of New England also encouraged the publication of captivity narratives by those captured by Indians. The most popular was The Sovereignty and Goodness of God by Mary Rowlandson, who had emigrated with her parents as a child in 1639 and was seized along with a group of other settlers and held for three months until ran- somed during an Indian war in the 1670s. Rowlandson acknowledged that she had been well treated and suffered “not the least abuse or unchastity,” but her book’s overriding theme was her determination to return to Christian society.

Puritans announced that they intended to bring Christian faith to the Indi- ans, but they did nothing in the first two decades of settlement to accomplish this. They generally saw Indians as an obstacle to be pushed aside.

The Pequot War

Indians in New England lacked a paramount chief like Powhatan in Virginia. Coastal Indian tribes, their numbers severely reduced by disease, initially

 

 

NEW ENGLANDERS DIVIDED ★ 77

sought to forge alliances with the newcomers to enhance their own position against inland rivals. But as the white population expanded and new towns proliferated, conflict with the region’s Indians became unavoidable. The turn- ing point came in 1637 when a fur trader was killed by Pequots— a powerful tribe who controlled southern New England’s fur trade and exacted tribute from other Indians. A force of Connecticut and Massachusetts soldiers, aug- mented by Narragansett allies, surrounded the main Pequot fortified village at Mystic and set it ablaze, killing those who tried to escape. Over 500 men, women, and children lost their lives in the massacre. By the end of the Pequot War a few months later, most of the Pequots had been exterminated or sold into Caribbean slavery. The treaty that restored peace decreed that their name be wiped from the historical record.

The destruction of one of the region’s most powerful Indian groups not only opened the Connecticut River valley to rapid white settlement but also persuaded other Indians that the newcomers possessed a power that could not

An engraving from John Underhill’s News from America, published in London in 1638, shows the destruction of the Pequot village on the Mystic River in 1637. The colonial forces, firing guns, are aided by Indian allies with bows and arrows.

What were the main sources of discord in early New England?

 

 

From “The Trial of Anne Hutchinson” (1637)

A midwife and the daughter of a clergyman, Anne Hutchinson began holding reli- gious meetings in her home in Massachusetts in 1634. She attracted followers who believed that most ministers were not adhering strictly enough to Puritan theology. In 1637 she was placed on trial for sedition. In her defense, she claimed to be inspired by a direct revelation from God, a violation of Puritan beliefs. The examination of Hutchinson by Governor John Winthrop and Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley is a classic example of the clash between established power and individual conscience.

GOV. JOHN WINTHROP: Mrs. Hutchinson, you are called here as one of those that have trou- bled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here; you are known to be a woman that hath had a great share in the promoting and divulging of those opinions that are the cause of this trouble, . . . and you have maintained a meeting and an assem- bly in your house that hath been condemned by the general assembly as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex . . . . MRS. ANNE HUTCHINSON: What have I said or done? GOV. JOHN WINTHROP: [Y]ou did harbor and countenance those that are parties in this faction. . . . MRS. ANNE HUTCHINSON: That’s matter of conscience, Sir. GOV. JOHN WINTHROP: Your conscience you must keep, or it must be kept for you.

* * * GOV. JOHN WINTHROP: Your course is not to be suffered for. Besides we find such a course as this to be greatly prejudicial to the state. . . . And besides that it will not well stand with the commonwealth that families should be neglected for so many neighbors and dames and so much time spent. We see no rule of God for this. We see not that any should have authority to set up any other exercises besides what authority hath already set up . . . . MRS. ANNE HUTCHINSON: I bless the Lord, he hath let me see which was the clear ministry and which the wrong. . . . Now if you do condemn me for speaking what in my con- science I know to be truth I must commit myself unto the Lord. MR. NOWEL (ASSISTANT TO THE COURT): How do you know that was the spirit? MRS. ANNE HUTCHINSON: How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his son, being a breach of the sixth commandment? DEP. GOV. THOMAS DUDLEY: By an immediate voice. MRS. ANNE HUTCHINSON: So to me by an immediate revelation. DEP. GOV. THOMAS DUDLEY: How! an immediate revelation.

* * * GOV. JOHN WINTHROP: Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.

V O I C E S O F F R E E D O M

78 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

 

 

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 79

From John Winthrop, Speech to the Massachusetts General Court

(July 3, 1645)

John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, describes two very different definitions of liberty in this speech.

The great questions that have troubled the country, are about the authority of the magistrates and the liberty of the people. . . . Concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man, as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to do evil as well as to [do] good. This liberty is incom- patible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts. . . . This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it.

The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal, it may also be termed moral. . . . This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. . . . This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty where- with Christ hath made us free. The woman’s own choice makes . . . a man her husband; yet being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom, and would not think her condition safe and free, but in her subjection to her husband’s authority. Such is the liberty of the church under the author- ity of Christ.

QUESTIONS

1. To what extent does Hutchinson’s being a woman play a part in the accusations against her?

2. Why does Winthrop consider “natural” liberty dangerous?

3. How do Hutchinson and Winthrop differ in their understanding of religious liberty?

 

 

80 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

be resisted. The colonists’ ferocity shocked their Indian allies, who considered European military practices barbaric. A few Puritans agreed. “It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire,” the Pilgrim leader William Bradford wrote of the raid on Mystic. But to most Puritans, including Bradford, the defeat of a “barbarous nation” by “the sword of the Lord” offered further proof that they were on a sacred mission and that Indians were unworthy of sharing New England with the visible saints of the church.

The New England Economy

The leaders of the New England colonies prided themselves on the idea that religion was the primary motivation for emigration. “We all came into these parts of America,” proclaimed an official document of the 1640s, “with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace.” But economic motives were hardly unimportant. One promotional pamphlet of the 1620s spoke of New England as a place “where religion and profit jump together.”

Most Puritans came to America from East Anglia, an internationally renowned cloth- producing region. One of the most economically advanced areas of England, East Anglia in the 1620s and 1630s was suffering from a series of poor harvests and the dislocations caused by a decline in the cloth trade. A majority of the emigrants from this area were weavers, tailors, or farmers. But while they were leaving a depressed region, they were relatively well- off. Most came from the middle ranks of society and paid for their family’s passage rather than indenturing themselves to labor. They sought in New England not only religious liberty but also economic advancement— if not riches, then at least a “competency,” the economic independence that came with secure landownership or craft status. When one preacher proclaimed that the “main end” of settlement was to honor God, a man in the congrega- tion cried out, “Sir, you are mistaken . . . our main end was to catch fish.” But to Puritans no con tradiction existed between piety and profit so long as one did not forget the needs of the larger community. Success in one’s calling might be taken as a sign of divine grace.

Lacking a marketable staple like sugar or tobacco, New Englanders turned to fishing and timber for exports. But the economy centered on family farms producing food for their own use and a small marketable surplus. Although the Body of Liberties of 1641, as noted above, made provision for slavery in the Bible Commonwealth, there were very few slaves in seventeenth- century New England. Nor were indentured servants as central to the economy as in the Chesapeake. Most households relied on the labor of their own mem- bers, including women in the home and children in the fields. Sons remained

 

 

NEW ENGLANDERS DIVIDED ★ 81

unmarried into their mid- twenties, when they could expect to receive land from their fathers, from local authorities, or by moving to a new town. Indeed, while religious divisions spawned new settlements, the desire for land among younger families and newcomers was the major motive for New England’s expansion. In Sudbury, Massachusetts, for example, one resident proposed in 1651 that every adult man be awarded an equal parcel of land. When a town meeting rejected the idea, a group of young men received a grant from the General Court to establish their own town farther west.

The Merchant Elite

Per capita wealth in New England lagged far behind that of the Chesapeake, but it was much more equally distributed. A majority of New England families achieved the goal of owning their own land, the foundation for a comfortable independence. Nonetheless, as in the Chesapeake, economic development pro- duced a measure of social inequality. On completing their terms, indentured servants rarely achieved full church membership or received grants of land. Most became disenfranchised wage earners.

New England gradually assumed a growing role within the British empire based on trade. As early as the 1640s, New England merchants shipped and marketed the staples of other colonies to markets in Europe and Africa. They engaged in a particularly profitable trade with the West Indies, whose growing slave plantations they supplied with fish, timber, and agricultural produce gathered at home. Especially in Boston, a powerful class of mer- chants arose who challenged some key Puritan policies, including the sub- ordination of economic activity to the common good. As early as the 1630s, when the General Court established limits on prices and wages— measures common in England— and gave a small group of merchants a monopoly on imports from Europe, others protested. Indeed, merchants were among the most prominent backers of Anne Hutchinson’s challenge to colonial authority. Some left Boston to establish a new town at Portsmouth, in the region eventually chartered as the royal colony of New Hampshire. Others remained to fight, with increasing success, for the right to conduct business as they pleased. By the 1640s, Massachusetts had repealed many of its early economic regulations.

Although the Puritans never abandoned the idea that economic activity should serve the general welfare, Boston merchants soon came to exercise a decisive influence in public affairs. The government of Massachusetts Bay Colony actively promoted economic development by building roads and bridges, offering bounties to economic enterprises, and abandoning laws limiting prices. Eventually, the Puritan experiment would evolve into a merchant- dominated colonial government.

What were the main sources of discord in early New England?

 

 

82 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

The Half- Way Covenant

In the mid- seventeenth century, some Puritan leaders began to worry about their society’s growing com- mercialization and declining piety, or “declension.” By 1650, less than half the population of Boston had been admitted to full church membership. Massachusetts churches were forced to deal with a growing problem— the religious status of the third generation. Children of the elect could be baptized, but many never became full church members because they were unable to demonstrate the necessary religious commitment or testify to a conversion experience. What was the status of their children? New Englanders faced a difficult choice. They could uphold rigorous standards of church admis- sion, which would limit the size and social influence of the Congregational Church. Or they could make admission easier, which would keep the church connected to a larger part of the popu- lation but would raise fears about a loss of religious purity.

The Half- Way Covenant of 1662 tried to address this problem by allow- ing for the baptism and a kind of subordinate, or “ half- way,” membership for grandchildren of those who emigrated during the Great Migration. In a signif- icant compromise of early Puritan beliefs, ancestry, not religious conversion, became the pathway to inclusion among the elect. But church membership continued to stagnate.

By the 1660s and 1670s, ministers were regularly castigating the people for selfishness, manifestations of pride, violations of the Sabbath, and a “great backsliding” from the colony’s original purposes. These warnings, called “jer- emiads” after the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, interpreted crop failures and disease as signs of divine disapproval and warned of further punish- ment to come if New Englanders did not mend their ways. Yet hard work and commercial success in one’s chosen calling had always been central Puritan values. In this sense, the commercialization of New England was as much a fulfillment of the Puritan mission in America as a betrayal.

Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary. Painted by an anonymous artist in the 1670s, this portrait depicts the wife and daughter of John Freake, a prominent Boston merchant and lawyer. To illustrate the family’s wealth, Mrs. Freake wears a triple strand of pearls, a garnet bracelet, and a gold ring, and her child wears a yellow silk dress.

 

 

RELIGION, POLITICS, AND FREEDOM ★ 83

R E L I G I O N , P O L I T I C S , A N D F R E E D O M The Rights of Englishmen

Even as English emigrants began the settlement of colonies in North America, England itself became enmeshed in political and religious conflict, in which ideas of liberty played a central role. The struggle over English liberty in the first half of the seventeenth century expanded the definition of freedom at home and spilled over into early English North America.

By 1600, the traditional definition of “liberties” as a set of privileges confined to one or another social group still persisted, but alongside it had arisen the idea that certain “rights of Englishmen” applied to all within the kingdom. This tradi- tion rested on the Magna Carta (or Great Charter) of 1215. An agreement between King John and a group of barons— local lords whose private armies frequently fought against each other and the crown— the Magna Carta attempted to put an end to a chronic state of civil unrest. It listed a series of “liberties” granted by the king to “all the free men of our realm.” This was a restricted group at the time, since a large part of the English population still lived as serfs— peasants working land owned by feudal lords and legally bound to provide labor and other services. The liberties mentioned in the Magna Carta included protection against arbi- trary imprisonment and the seizure of one’s property without due process of law.

The principal beneficiaries of the Magna Carta were the barons, who obtained the right to oversee the king’s conduct and even revolt if he violated their privileges. But over time, the document came to be seen as embodying the idea of “English freedom”—that the king was subject to the rule of law, and that all persons should enjoy security of person and property. These rights were embodied in the common law, whose provisions, such as habeas corpus (a pro- tection against being imprisoned without a legal charge), the right to face one’s accuser, and trial by jury came to apply to all free subjects of the English crown. And as serfdom slowly disappeared, the number of Englishmen considered “freeborn,” and therefore entitled to these rights, expanded enormously.

The English Civil War

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, when English emigrants began arriving in the New World, “freedom” still played only a minor role in England’s political debates. But the political upheavals of that century elevated the notion of “English freedom” to a central place. The struggle for political supremacy between Parliament and the Stuart monarchs James I and Charles I culminated in the English Civil War of the 1640s and early 1650s. This long- running battle arose from religious disputes about how fully the Church of England should distance its doctrines and forms of worship from Catholicism. Conflict also developed over the respective powers of the king and Parliament, a debate that produced

How did the English Civil War af fect the colonies in America?

 

 

84 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

numerous invocations of the idea of the “freeborn Englishman” and led to a great expansion of the concept of English freedom.

The leaders of the House of Commons (the elective body that, along with the hereditary aristocrats of the House of Lords, made up the English Parlia- ment) accused the Stuart kings of endangering liberty by imposing taxes with- out parliamentary consent, imprisoning political foes, and leading the nation back toward Catholicism. Civil war broke out in 1642, resulting in a victory for the forces of Parliament. In 1649, Charles I was beheaded, the monarchy abolished, and England declared “a Commonwealth and Free State”—a nation governed by the will of the people. Oliver Cromwell, the head of the victorious Parliamentary army, ruled for almost a decade after the execution of the king. In 1660, the monarchy was restored and Charles II assumed the throne. But by then, the breakdown of authority had stimulated intense discussions of liberty, authority, and what it meant to be a “freeborn Englishman.”

England’s Debate over Freedom

The idea of freedom suddenly took on new and expanded meanings between 1640 and 1660. The writer John Milton, who in 1649 called London “the mansion- house of liberty,” called for freedom of speech and of the press. New religious sects sprang up, demanding the end of public financing and special privileges for the Anglican Church and religious toleration for all Protestants. The Levellers, his- tory’s first democratic political movement, proposed a written constitution, the Agreement of the People, which began by proclaiming “at how high a rate we value our just freedom.” At a time when “democracy” was still widely seen as the equivalent of anarchy and disorder, the document proposed to abolish the mon- archy and House of Lords and to greatly expand the right to vote. “The poorest he that lives in England hath a life to live as the greatest he,” declared the Leveller Thomas Rainsborough, and therefore “any man that is born in England . . . ought to have his voice in election.” Rainsborough even condemned slavery.

The Levellers offered a glimpse of the modern definition of freedom as a universal entitlement in a society based on equal rights, not a function of social class. Another new group, the Diggers, went even further, hoping to give free- dom an economic underpinning through the common ownership of land. Pre- vious discussion of freedom, declared Gerard Winstanley, the Diggers’ leader, had been misguided: “You are like men in a mist, seeking for freedom and know not what it is.” True freedom applied equally “to the poor as well as the rich”; all were entitled to “a comfortable livelihood in this their own land.” Even before the restoration of the monarchy, the Levellers, Diggers, and other radical move- ments spawned by the English Civil War had been crushed or driven under- ground. But some of the ideas of liberty that flourished during the 1640s and 1650s would be carried to America by English emigrants.

 

 

RELIGION, POLITICS, AND FREEDOM ★ 85

English Liberty

These struggles elevated the notion of “English liberty” to a central place in Anglo- American political culture. It became a major building block in the assertive sense of nationhood then being consolidated in England. The medi- eval idea of liberties as a collection of limited entitlements enjoyed by specific groups did not suddenly disappear. But it was increasingly overshadowed by a more general definition of freedom grounded in the common rights of all indi- viduals within the English realm. All Englishmen were governed by a king, but “he rules over free men,” according to the law, unlike the autocratic monarchs of France, Spain, Russia, and other countries.

The belief in freedom as the common heritage of all Englishmen and the conception of the British empire as the world’s guardian of liberty helped to legitimize English colonization in the Western Hemisphere and to cast its imperial wars against Catholic France and Spain as struggles between freedom and tyranny.

The Civil War and English America

These struggles, accompanied by vigorous discussions of the rights of freeborn Englishmen, inevitably reverberated in England’s colonies, dividing them from one another and internally. Most New Englanders sided with Parliament in the Civil War of the 1640s. Some returned to England to join the Parliamentary army or take up pulpits to help create a godly commonwealth at home. But Puritan leaders were increasingly uncomfortable as the idea of religious tol- eration for Protestants gained favor in England. It was the revolutionary Par- liament that in 1644 granted Roger Williams his charter for the Rhode Island colony he had founded after being banished from Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, a number of followers of Anne Hutchinson became Quak- ers, one of the sects that sprang up in England during the Civil War. Quakers held that the spirit of God dwelled within every individual, not just the elect, and that this “inner light,” rather than the Bible or teachings of the clergy, offered the surest guidance in spiritual matters. When Quakers appeared in Massachusetts, colonial officials had them whipped, fined, and banished. In 1659 and 1660, four Quakers who returned from exile were hanged, including Mary Dyer, a former disciple of Hutchinson. The treatment of Quakers gave Massachusetts a reputation in England as a hotbed of religious persecution. When Charles II, after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, reaffirmed the Massachusetts charter, he ordered the colony to recognize the “liberty of con- science” of all Protestants. But while hangings ceased, efforts to suppress the Quakers continued, as did attacks on Baptists, whose disdain for a learned min- istry also seemed to threaten Puritan beliefs.

How did the English Civil War af fect the colonies in America?

 

 

86 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

The Crisis in Maryland

Unlike the New England colonies, Virginia sided with Charles I. Its leaders even proclaimed Charles II king after his father’s execution in 1649, although Oliver Cromwell’s government in London soon brought the rebellious col- ony under control. In Maryland, the combination of the religious and politi- cal battles of the Civil War, homegrown conflict between Catholic and Protestant settlers, and anti- proprietary feeling produced a violent civil war within the colony, later recalled as the “plundering time.” Indeed, Maryland in the 1640s verged on total anarchy, with a pro- Parliament force assaulting those loyal to Charles I. The emerging Protestant planter class longed to seize power from the Catholic elite created by Cecelius Calvert. The assembly’s Protestant majority rejected laws proposed by the proprietor and claimed the same power to legis- late and levy taxes enjoyed by the House of Commons in England.

To stabilize the colony and attract more settlers, Calvert appointed a Prot – estant governor and offered refuge to Protestant Dissenters being persecuted in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the established religion and laws restricted the religious and political rights of others. In 1649, Maryland adopted an Act Concerning Religion (or Maryland Toleration Act), which institutionalized the principle of toleration that had prevailed from the colony’s beginning. All Christians were guaranteed the “free exercise” of religion. The act did not estab- lish religious liberty in a modern sense, since it punished those who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ or the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, a Jewish

The execution of Charles I in 1649, a central event of the English Civil War.

 

 

physician was soon arrested under its provisions. Nonetheless, the law was a milestone in the history of religious freedom in colonial America.

Turmoil, however, continued. During the 1650s, the Commonwealth gov- ernment in London placed Maryland under the control of a Protestant council, which repealed the Toleration Act and forbade Catholics from openly practic- ing their religion. In 1657, however, Calvert’s authority was restored and with it Maryland’s experiment in religious freedom.

Cromwell and the Empire

Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England from 1649 until his death in 1658, under- took an aggressive policy of colonial expansion, the promotion of Protestantism, and commercial empowerment in the British Isles and the Western Hemi- sphere. His army forcibly extended English control over Ireland, massacring civilians, banning the public practice of Catholicism, and seizing land owned by Catholics. In the Caribbean, England seized Jamaica, a valuable sugar island, from Spain. In 1651, as will be related in Chapter 3, Parliament passed the first Navigation Act, which sought to challenge the Dutch hold on international commerce by confining colonial trade to English ships and ports.

Thus, by the middle of the seventeenth century, several English colonies existed along the Atlantic coast of North America. Established as part of an ad hoc process rather than arising under any coherent national plan, they differed enormously in economic, political, and social structure. The seeds had been planted, in the Chesapeake, for the development of plantation societies based on unfree labor, and in New England, for settlements centered on small towns and family farms. Throughout the colonies, many residents enjoyed freedoms they had not possessed at home, especially access to land and the right to wor- ship as they desired. Others found themselves confined to unfree labor for many years or an entire lifetime.

The next century would be a time of crisis and consolidation as the popu- lation expanded, social conflicts intensified, and Britain moved to exert greater control over its flourishing North American colonies.

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. Compare and contrast settlement patterns, treatment of Indians, and religion of the Spanish and English in the Americas.

2. For English settlers, land was the basis of independence and liberty. Explain the reasoning behind that concept and how it differed from the Indians’ conception of land.

How did the English Civil War af fect the colonies in America?

CHAPTER REVIEW ★ 87

 

 

88 ★ CHAPTER 2 Beginnings of English America

3. Describe the factors promoting and limiting religious freedom in the New England and Chesapeake colonies.

4. Describe who chose to emigrate to North America from England in the seventeenth century and explain their reasons.

5. In what ways did the economy, government, and household structure differ in New England and the Chesapeake colonies?

6. The English believed that, unlike the Spanish, their motives for colonization were pure, and that the growth of empire and freedom would always go hand in hand. How did the expansion of the British empire affect the freedoms of Native Americans, the Irish, and even many English citizens?

7. Considering politics, social tensions, and debates over the meaning of liberty, how do the events and aftermath of the English Civil War demonstrate that the English colonies in North America were part of a larger Atlantic community?

8. How did the tobacco economy draw the Chesapeake colonies into the greater Atlantic world?

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KEY TERMS

Virginia Company (p. 47)

Anglican Church (p. 49)

Roanoke colony (p. 50)

enclosure movement (p. 52)

John Smith (p. 58)

headright system (p. 59)

House of Burgesses (p. 59)

Uprising of 1622 (p. 61)

dower rights (p. 63)

Puritans (p. 65)

John Winthrop (p. 66)

Pilgrims (p. 67)

Mayflower Compact (p. 67)

Great Migration (p. 68)

Dissenters (p. 74)

captivity narratives (p. 76)

Pequot War (p. 77)

Half-Way Covenant (p. 82)

English liberty (p. 83)

Act Concerning Religion (or Maryland Toleration Act) (p. 86)

 

 

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C R E A T I N G A N G L O – A M E R I C A

★ C H A P T E R   3 ★

In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, a series of crises rocked the European colonies of North America. Social and political tensions boiled over in sometimes ruthless conflicts between rich and poor, free and slave, settler and Indian, and members of different religious groups. At the same time, struggles within and between European empires echoed in the colonies. Aggrieved groups seized upon the language of freedom to advance their goals. Although each conflict had its own local causes, taken together they added up to a general crisis of colonial society in the area that would become the United States.

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S How did the English empire in America expand in the mid- seventeenth century?

How was slavery established in the Western Atlantic world?

What major social and political crises rocked the colonies in the late seventeenth century?

What were the directions of social and economic change in the eighteenth- century colonies?

How did patterns of class and gender roles change in eighteenth- century America?

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90 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

The bloodiest and most bitter conflict occurred in southern New England, where in 1675 an Indian alliance launched attacks on farms and settlements that were encroaching on Indian lands. It was the most dramatic and violent warfare in the region in the entire seventeenth century.

New Englanders described the Wampanoag leader Metacom (known to the colonists as King Philip) as the uprising’s mastermind, although in fact most tribes fought under their own leaders. By this time, the white population con- siderably outnumbered the Indians. But the fate of the New England colonies hung in the balance for several months. By 1676, Indian forces had attacked nearly half of New England’s ninety towns. Twelve in Massachusetts were destroyed. As refugees fled eastward, the line of settlement was pushed back almost to the Atlantic coast. Some 1,000 settlers, out of a population of 52,000, and 3,000 of New England’s 20,000 Indians perished in the fighting.

In mid- 1676, the tide of battle turned and a ferocious counterattack broke the Indians’ power once and for all. Although the uprising united numerous tribes, others remained loyal to the colonists. The role of the Iroquois in pro- viding essential military aid to the colonists helped to solidify their developing alliance with the government of New York. Together, colonial and Indian forces inflicted devastating punishment on the rebels. Metacom was captured and executed, Indian villages were destroyed, and captives, including men, women, and children, were killed or sold into slavery in the West Indies. Most of the survivors fled to Canada or New York. Even the “praying Indians”—about 2,000 Indians who had converted to Christianity and lived in autonomous commu- nities under Puritan supervision— suffered. Removed from their towns to Deer Island in Boston Harbor, supposedly for their own protection, many perished from disease and lack of food. Both sides committed atrocities in this merci- less conflict, but in its aftermath the image of Indians as bloodthirsty savages became firmly entrenched in the New England mind.

In the long run, King Philip’s War produced a broadening of freedom for white New Englanders by expanding their access to land. But this freedom rested on the final dispossession of the region’s Indians.

G L O B A L C O M P E T I T I O N A N D T H E E X P A N S I O N O F E N G L A N D ’ S E M P I R E The Mercantilist System

As the New World became a battleground in European nations’ endless contests for wealth and power, England moved to seize control of Atlantic trade, solid- ify its hold on North America’s eastern coast, and exert greater control over its

 

 

empire. By the middle of the seventeenth cen- tury, it was apparent that the colonies could be an important source of wealth for the mother country. According to the prevailing theory known as mercantilism, the govern- ment should regulate economic activity so as to promote national power. It should encour- age manufacturing and commerce by special bounties, monopolies, and other measures. Above all, trade should be controlled so that more gold and silver flowed into the country than left it. That is, exports of goods, which generated revenue from abroad, should exceed imports, which required paying for- eigners for their products. In the mercantilist outlook, the role of colonies was to serve the interests of the mother country by produc- ing marketable raw materials and importing manufactured goods from home. “Foreign trade,” declared an influential work written in 1664 by a London merchant, formed the basis of “England’s treasure.” Commerce, not territorial plunder, was the foundation of empire.

Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament passed in 1651 the first Navigation Act, which aimed to wrest control of world trade from the Dutch, whose merchants profited from free trade with all parts of the world and all existing empires. Additional measures followed in 1660 and 1663. England’s new economic policy, mer- cantilism, rested on the idea that England should monopolize the profits arising from the English empire.

According to the Navigation laws, certain “enumerated” goods— essentially, the most valuable colonial products, such as tobacco and sugar— had to be transported in English ships and sold initially in English ports, although they could then be re- exported to foreign markets. Similarly, most European

1651 First Navigation Act issued by Parliament

1664 English seize New Neth- erland, which becomes New York

1670 First English settlers arrive in Carolina

1675 Lords of Trade established

1675– King Philip’s War 1676

1676 Bacon’s Rebellion

1677 Covenant Chain alliance

1681 William Penn granted Pennsylvania

1682 Charter of Liberty drafted by Penn

1683 Charter of Liberties and Privileges drafted by New York assembly

1686– Dominion of New England

1689

1688 Glorious Revolution in England

1689 Parliament enacts a Bill of Rights

Maryland Protestant Association revolts

Leisler’s Rebellion

Parliament passes Toleration Act

1691 Plymouth colony absorbed into Massachusetts

1692 Salem witch trials

1705 Virginia passes Slave Code

1715– Yamasee uprising 1717

1737 Walking Purchase

THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND’S EMPIRE ★ 91

How did the English empire in America expand in the mid- seventeenth century?

 

 

92 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

goods imported into the colonies had to be shipped through England, where customs duties were paid. This enabled English merchants, manufacturers, shipbuilders, and sailors to reap the benefits of colonial trade, and the govern- ment to enjoy added income from taxes. As members of the empire, Ameri- can colonies would profit as well, since their ships were considered English. Indeed, the Navigation Acts stimulated the rise of New England’s shipbuilding industry.

The Conquest of New Netherland

The restoration of the English monarchy when Charles II assumed the throne in 1660 sparked a new period of colonial expansion. The government chartered new trading ventures, notably the Royal African Company, which was given a monopoly of the slave trade. Within a generation, the number of English colo- nies in North America doubled. First to come under English control was New Netherland, seized in 1664 during an Anglo- Dutch war that also saw England gain control of Dutch trading posts in Africa. Charles II awarded the colony to his younger brother James, the duke of York, with “full and absolute power” to govern as he pleased. (Hence the colony’s name became New York.)

New Netherland had always remained peripheral to the far- flung Dutch empire. The Dutch fought to retain their holdings in Africa, Asia, and South America, but they surrendered New Netherland in 1664 without a fight. English rule transformed this minor military base into an important imperial outpost, a seaport trading with the Caribbean and Europe, and a launching pad for mil- itary operations against the French. New York’s European population, around 9,000 when the English assumed control, rose to 20,000 by 1685.

New York and the Rights of Englishmen and Englishwomen

English rule expanded the freedom of some New Yorkers, while reducing that of others. Many English observers had concluded that Dutch prosperity— what one writer called “the prodigious increase of the Netherlanders in their domes- tic and foreign trade”—stemmed from “their toleration of different opinions in matters of religion,” which attracted “many industrious people of other coun- tries.” Thus, the terms of surrender guaranteed that the English would respect the religious beliefs and property holdings of the colony’s many ethnic com- munities. But English law ended the Dutch tradition by which married women conducted business in their own name. As colonists of Dutch origin adapted to English rule, their wills directed more attention to advancing the fortunes of their sons than providing for their wives and daughters. There had been many

 

 

female traders in New Amsterdam (often widows who had inherited a deceased husband’s property), but few remained by the end of the seventeenth century.

The English also introduced more restrictive attitudes toward blacks. In colonial New York City, as in New Amsterdam, those residents who enjoyed the status of “freeman,” obtained by birth in the city or by an act of local author- ities, enjoyed special privileges compared to others, including the right to work in various trades. But the English, in a reversal of Dutch practice, expelled free blacks from many skilled jobs.

Others benefited enormously from English rule. The duke of York and his appointed governors continued the Dutch practice of awarding immense land grants to favorites, including 160,000 acres to Robert Livingston and 90,000 to Frederick Philipse. By 1700, nearly 2 million acres of land were owned by only five New York families who intermarried regularly, exerted considerable political influence, and formed one of colonial America’s most tightly knit landed elites.

New York and the Indians

Initially, English rule also strengthened the position of the Iroquois Confederacy of upstate New York. After a complex series of negotiations in the mid- 1670s, Sir Edmund Andros, who had been appointed governor of New York after fighting the French in the Caribbean, formed an alliance known as the Covenant Chain, in which the imperial ambitions of the English and Indians reinforced one another. The Five (later Six) Iroquois Nations assisted Andros in clearing parts of New York of rival tribes and helped the British in attacks on the French and their Indian allies. Andros, for his part, recognized the Iroquois claim to authority over Indian communities in the vast area stretching to the Ohio River. But beginning in the 1680s, Indians around the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regrouped and with French aid attacked the Iroquois, pushing them to the east. By the end of the century, the Iroquois Nations adopted a policy of careful neutrality, seeking to play the Euro- pean empires off one another while continuing to profit from the fur trade.

The Charter of Liberties

Many colonists, meanwhile, began to complain that they were being denied the “liberties of Englishmen,” especially the right to consent to taxation. There had been no representative assembly under the Dutch, and the governors appointed by the duke of York at first ruled without one. Discontent was espe- cially strong on Long Island, which had been largely settled by New Englanders used to self- government.

In 1683, the duke agreed to call an elected assembly, whose first act was to draft a Charter of Liberties and Privileges. The charter required that elections

How did the English empire in America expand in the mid- seventeenth century?

THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND’S EMPIRE ★ 93

 

 

94 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

be held every three years among male property owners and the freemen of New York City; it also reaffirmed traditional English rights such as trial by jury and security of property, as well as religious toleration for all Protestants. In part, the charter reflected an effort by newer English colonists to assert dominance over older Dutch settlers by establishing the principle that the “liberties” to which New Yorkers were entitled were those enjoyed by Englishmen at home.

Charles Town (Charleston)

Savannah

Jamestown Williamsburg

Henrico

Baltimore

Wilmington (Fort Christina) Philadelphia

New Amsterdam New Haven (1638)

Hartford Narragansett Bay Providence (1636)

Boston

Montreal

Quebec (1608)

Port Royal (1606)

Fort Orange van Rensselaer Estate

West Mystic (May 26, 1637)

Raleigh expedition to Roanoke Island (1585)

NEW HAMPSHIRE

THE CHESAPEAKE

CAROLINA (1663)

GEORGIA (1732)

MASSACHUSETTS BAY (1629–1630)

PLYMOUTH (1620)

RHODE ISLAND (1636–1643)

CONNECTICUT (1636–1639)

NEW NETHERLAND

(1624)

NEW YORK (1664)

PENNSYLVANIA (1681)

MARYLAND (1632)

VIRGINIA (1607)

NEW FRANCE

PENOBSCOT

ABENAKI

KENNEBECHURON OTTAWA

OTTAWA

WESTERN DELAWARE

SENECA TUSCARORA

CAYUGA ONONDAGA

ONEIDA

MOHAWK

IROQUOIS

NARRAGANSETT

PEQUOT

DELAWARE

SHAWNEE

CATAWBA

YAMASEE

UPPER CHEROKEE

MIDDLE CHEROKEE

LOWER CHEROKEE

UPPER NATCHEZ

LOWER NATCHEZ

CREEK

St . L

aw ren

ce R .

James R.

Lake H uron

Lake E rie

Lake Ontario

Lake Champlain

La ke

M ich

ig an

 

Lake Superior

Ba y o

f F un

dy

Gulf of St. Lawrence

Atla ntic O cea n

0

0

100

100

200 miles

200 kilometers

Date of settlement Dutch settlement (English from 1664) English settlement French settlement Spanish settlement

(1585)

E A S T E R N N O RT H A M E R I C A I N T H E S E V E N T E E N T H A N D E A R LY E I G H T E E N T H C E N T U R I E S

By the early eighteenth century, numerous English colonies populated eastern North America, while the French had established their own presence to the north and west.

 

 

The Founding of Carolina

For more than three decades after the establishment of Maryland in 1632, no new English settlement was planted in North America. Then, in 1663, Charles II awarded to eight proprietors the right to establish a colony to the north of Flor- ida, as a barrier to Spanish expansion. Not until 1670 did the first settlers arrive to found Carolina. In its early years, Carolina was the “colony of a colony.” It began as an offshoot of the tiny island of Barbados. In the mid- seventeenth cen- tury, Barbados was the Caribbean’s richest plantation economy, but a shortage of available land led wealthy planters to seek opportunities in Carolina for their sons. The early settlers of Carolina sought Indian allies by offering guns for deer hides and captives, a policy that unleashed widespread raiding among Indians for slaves to sell. The colonists also encouraged native allies to attack Indians in Spanish Florida; in one series of wars between 1704 and 1706 the Creek, Savan- nah, and Yamasee enslaved almost 10,000 Florida Indians, most of them shipped to other mainland colonies and the West Indies. Indeed, between 1670 and 1720, the number of Indian slaves exported from Charleston was larger than the num- ber of African slaves imported. In 1715, the Yamasee and Creek, alarmed by the enormous debts they had incurred in trade with the settlers and by slave traders’ raids into their territory, rebelled. The Yamasee uprising was crushed, and most of the remaining Indians were enslaved or driven out of the colony into Spanish Florida, from where they occasionally launched raids against English settlements.

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, issued by the proprietors in 1669, proposed to establish a feudal society with a hereditary nobility (with strange titles like landgraves and caciques), serfs, and slaves. Needing to attract settlers quickly, however, the proprietors also provided for an elected assembly and religious toleration— by now recognized as essential to enticing migrants to North America. They also instituted a generous headright system, offering 150 acres for each member of an arriving family (in the case of indentured ser- vants, of course, the land went to the employer) and 100 acres to male servants who completed their terms.

None of the baronies envisioned in the Fundamental Constitutions were actually established. Slavery, not feudalism, made Carolina an extremely hier- archical society. The proprietors instituted a rigorous legal code that promised slaveowners “absolute power and authority” over their human property and included imported slaves in the headright system. This allowed any persons who settled in Carolina and brought with them slaves, including planters from Barbados who resettled in the colony, instantly to acquire large new landhold- ings. In its early days, however, the economy centered on cattle raising and trade with local Indians, not agriculture. Carolina grew slowly until planters discovered the staple— rice— that would make them the wealthiest elite in English North America and their colony an epicenter of mainland slavery.

How did the English empire in America expand in the mid- seventeenth century?

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96 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

The Holy Experiment

The last English colony to be established in the seventeenth century was Penn- sylvania. The proprietor, William Penn, envisioned it as a place where those facing religious persecution in Europe could enjoy spiritual freedom, and col- onists and Indians would coexist in harmony. Penn’s late father had been a supporter and creditor of Charles II. To cancel his debt to the Penn family and bolster the English presence in North America, the king in 1681 granted Penn a vast tract of land south and west of New York, as well as the old Swedish- Dutch colony that became Delaware.

A devout member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, Penn was partic- ularly concerned with establishing a refuge for his coreligionists, who faced increasing persecution in England. He had already assisted a group of English Quakers in purchasing half of what became the colony of New Jersey from Lord John Berkeley, who had received a land grant from the duke of York. Penn was largely responsible for the frame of government announced in 1677, the West Jersey Concessions, one of the most liberal of the era. Based on Quaker ideals, it created an elected assembly with a broad suffrage and established religious liberty. Penn hoped that West Jersey would become a society of small farmers, not large landowners.

Quaker Liberty

Like the Puritans, Penn considered his colony a “holy experiment,” but of a different kind—“a free colony for all mankind that should go hither.” He hoped that Pennsylvania could be governed according to Quaker principles, among them the equality of all persons (including women, blacks, and Indi- ans) before God and the primacy of the individual conscience. To Quakers, lib- erty was a universal entitlement, not the possession of any single people— a position that would eventually make them the first group of whites to repu- diate slavery. Penn also treated Indians with a consideration almost unique in the colonial experience, arranging to purchase land before reselling it to colonists and offering refuge to tribes driven out of other colonies by warfare. Sometimes, he even purchased the same land twice, when more than one Indian tribe claimed it. Since Quakers were pacifists who came to America unarmed and did not even organize a militia until the 1740s, peace with the native population was essential. Penn’s Chain of Friendship appealed to the local Indians, promising protection from rival tribes who claimed domination over them.

Religious freedom was Penn’s most fundamental principle. He condemned attempts to enforce “religious Uniformity” for depriving thousands of “free inhabitants” of England of the right to worship as they desired. His Charter

 

 

ORIGINS OF AMERICAN SLAVERY ★ 97

of Liberty, approved by the assembly in 1682, offered “Christian liberty” to all who affirmed a belief in God and did not use their freedom to promote “licen- tiousness.” There was no established church in Pennsylvania, and attendance at religious services was entirely voluntary, although Jews were barred from office by a required oath affirming belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the Quakers upheld a strict code of personal morality. Penn’s Frame of Government prohibited swearing, drunkenness, and adultery, as well as pop- ular entertainments of the era such as “revels, bull- baiting, and cock- fighting.” Private religious belief may not have been enforced by the government, but moral public behavior certainly was. Not religious uniformity but a virtuous citizenry would be the foundation of Penn’s social order.

Land in Pennsylvania

Given the power to determine the colony’s form of government, Penn estab- lished an appointed council to originate legislation and an assembly elected by male taxpayers and “freemen” (owners of 100 acres of land for free immigrants and 50 acres for former indentured servants). These rules made a majority of the male population eligible to vote. Penn owned all the colony’s land and sold it to settlers at low prices rather than granting it outright. Like other proprietors, he expected to turn a profit, and like most of them, he never really did. But if Penn did not prosper, Pennsylvania did. A majority of the early settlers were Quakers from the British Isles. But Pennsylvania’s religious toleration, healthy climate, and inexpensive land, along with Penn’s aggressive efforts to publicize the colo- ny’s advantages, soon attracted immigrants from all over western Europe.

Ironically, the freedoms Pennsylvania offered to European immigrants contributed to the deterioration of freedom for others. The colony’s success- ful efforts to attract settlers would eventually come into conflict with Penn’s benevolent Indian policy. And the opening of Pennsylvania led to an immedi- ate decline in the number of indentured servants choosing to sail for Virginia and Maryland, a development that did much to shift those colonies toward reliance on slave labor.

O R I G I N S O F A M E R I C A N S L A V E R Y No European nation, including England, embarked on the colonization of the New World with the intention of relying on African slaves for the bulk of its labor force. But the incessant demand for workers spurred by the spread of tobacco cultivation eventually led Chesapeake planters to turn to the trans- atlantic trade in slaves. Compared with indentured servants, slaves offered planters many advantages. As Africans, they could not claim the protections of

How was slavery established in the Western Atlantic world?

 

 

98 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

English common law. Slaves’ terms of service never expired, and they there- fore did not become a population of unruly landless men. Their children were slaves, and their skin color made it more difficult for them to escape into the surrounding society. African men, moreover, unlike their Native Ameri- can counterparts, were accustomed to intensive agricultural labor, and they had encountered many diseases known in Europe and developed resistance to them, so were less likely to succumb to epidemics.

Englishmen and Africans

The English had long viewed alien peoples with disdain, including the Irish, Native Americans, and Africans. They described these strangers in remark- ably similar language as savage, pagan, and uncivilized, often comparing them to animals. “Race”—the idea that humanity is divided into well- defined groups associated with skin color— is a modern concept that had not fully developed in the seventeenth century. Nor had “racism”—an ideology based on the belief that some races are inherently superior to others and entitled to rule over them. The main lines of division within humanity were thought to be civ- ilization versus barbarism or Christianity versus heathenism, not color or race.

Nonetheless, anti- black stereotypes flourished in seventeenth- century England. Africans were seen as so alien— in color, religion, and social practices— that they were “enslavable” in a way that poor Englishmen were not. Most English also deemed Indians to be uncivilized. But the Indian population declined so rap- idly, and it was so easy for Indians, familiar with the countryside, to run away, that Indian slavery never became viable. Some Indians were sold into slavery in the Caribbean. But it is difficult to enslave a people on their native soil. Slaves are almost always outsiders, transported from elsewhere to their place of labor.

Slavery in History

Slavery has existed for nearly the entire span of human history. It was central to the societies of ancient Greece and Rome. Slavery survived for centuries in northern Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Germans, Vikings, and Anglo- Saxons all held slaves. Slavery persisted even longer in the Mediter- ranean world, where a slave trade in Slavic peoples survived into the fifteenth

A Quaker Meeting, a painting by an unidentified British artist, dating from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It illustrates the promi- nent place of women in Quaker gatherings.

 

 

ORIGINS OF AMERICAN SLAVERY ★ 99

century. (The English word “slavery” derives from “Slav.”) Pirates from the Bar- bary Coast of North Africa regularly seized Christians from ships and enslaved them. In West Africa, as noted in Chapter 1, slavery and a slave trade predated the coming of Europeans, and small- scale slavery existed among Native Amer- icans. But slavery in nearly all these instances differed greatly from the institu- tion that developed in the New World.

In the Americas, slavery was based on the plantation, an agricultural enterprise that brought together large numbers of workers under the con- trol of a single owner. This imbalance magnified the possibility of slave resis- tance and made it necessary to police the system rigidly. It encouraged the creation of a sharp boundary between slavery and freedom. Labor on slave plantations was far more demanding than in the household slavery common in Africa, and the death rate among slaves much higher. In the New World, slavery would come to be associated with race, a concept that drew a perma- nent line between whites and blacks. Unlike in Africa, slaves in the Ameri- cas who became free always carried with them in their skin color the mark of bondage— a visible sign of being considered unworthy of incorporation as equals into free society.

Slavery in the West Indies

A sense of Africans as alien and inferior made their enslavement by the English possible. But prejudice by itself did not create North American slavery. For this institution to take root, planters and government authorities had to be convinced that importing African slaves was the best way to solve their per- sistent shortage of labor. During the seventeenth century, the shipping of slaves from Africa to the New World became a major international business. But only a relative handful were brought to England’s mainland colonies. By the time plan- tation slavery became a major feature of life in English North America, it was already well entrenched elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. By 1600, huge sugar plantations worked by slaves from Africa had made their appearance in Brazil, a colony of Portugal. In the seventeenth century, England, Holland, Den- mark, and France joined Spain as owners of West Indian islands. English emi- grants to the West Indies outnumbered those to North America in the first part of the seventeenth century. In 1650, the English population of the West Indies exceeded that in all of North America. Generally, the first settlers established mixed economies with small farms worked by white indentured servants. But as sugar planters engrossed the best land, they forced white farmers off island after island. White indentured servants proved as discontented as elsewhere. In 1629, when a Spanish expedition attacked the British island of Nevis, servants in the local militia joined them shouting, “Liberty, joyful liberty!”

How was slavery established in the Western Atlantic world?

 

 

100 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

In Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape, Agostino Brunias, an Italian artist who was sent to the West Indies by the British government in the 1760s to paint the local population, portrays an outing of fashionable free women with their children and slaves, some dressed in livery. Although the scene depicted is in the Caribbean, the work resembles numerous paintings of the leisure activities of the well- to- do in Britain. The painting reflects the three- race system that developed in the British Caribbean— the free women are light- skinned but not white. The woman at the center looks directly at the viewer, emphasizing her aristocratic bearing.

With the Indian population having been wiped out by disease, and with the white indentured servants unwilling to do the back- breaking, monotonous work of sugar cultivation, the massive importation of slaves from Africa began. In 1645, for example, Barbados, a tiny island owned by England, was home to around 11,000 white farmers and indentured servants and 5,000 slaves. As sugar cultivation intensified, planters turned increasingly to slave labor. By 1660, the island’s population had grown to 40,000, half European and half Afri- can. Ten years later, the slave population had risen to 82,000, concentrated on some 750 sugar plantations. Meanwhile, the white population stagnated. By the end of the seventeenth century, huge sugar plantations manned by hun- dreds of slaves dominated the West Indian economy, and on most of the islands the African population far outnumbered that of European origin.

 

 

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Sugar was the first crop to be mass- marketed to consumers in Europe. Before its emergence, international trade consisted largely of precious metals like gold and silver, and luxury goods aimed at an elite market, like the spices and silks imported from Asia. Sugar was by far the most important product of the British, French, and Portuguese empires, and New World sugar plantations produced immense profits for planters, merchants, and imperial governments. Saint Domingue, today’s Haiti, was the jewel of the French empire. In 1660, Barbados generated more trade than all the other English colonies combined.

Compared to its rapid introduction in Brazil and the West Indies, slav- ery developed slowly in North America. Slaves cost more than indentured servants, and the high death rate among tobacco workers made it econom- ically unappealing to pay for a lifetime of labor. For decades, servants from England formed the backbone of the Chesapeake labor force, and the number of Africans remained small. As late as 1680, there were only 4,500 blacks in the Chesapeake, a little more than 5 percent of the region’s population. The most important social distinction in the seventeenth- century Chesapeake was not between black and white but between the white plantation owners who dominated politics and society and everybody else— small farmers, indentured servants, and slaves.

Slavery and the Law

Centuries before the voyages of Columbus, Spain had enacted Las Siete Parti- das, a series of laws granting slaves certain rights relating to marriage, the hold- ing of property, and access to freedom. These laws were transferred to Spain’s American empire. They were often violated, but nonetheless gave slaves oppor- tunities to claim rights under the law. Moreover, the Catholic Church often encouraged masters to free individual slaves. The law of slavery in English North America would become far more repressive than in the Spanish empire, especially on the all- important question of whether avenues existed by which slaves could obtain freedom.

For much of the seventeenth century, however, the legal status of Chesa- peake blacks remained ambiguous and the line between slavery and freedom more permeable than it would later become. The first Africans, twenty in all, arrived in Virginia in 1619. British pirates sailing under the Dutch flag had seized them from a Portuguese ship carrying slaves from Angola, on the south- western coast of Africa, to modern- day Mexico. Small numbers followed in sub- sequent years. Although the first black arrivals were almost certainly treated as slaves, it appears that at least some managed to become free after serving a term of years. To be sure, racial distinctions were enacted into law from the outset. As early as the 1620s, the law barred blacks from serving in the Virginia militia.

How was slavery established in the Western Atlantic world?

 

 

102 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

The government punished sexual relations outside of marriage between Afri- cans and Europeans more severely than the same acts involving two white per- sons. In 1643, a poll tax (a tax levied on individuals) was imposed on African but not white women. In both Virginia and Maryland, however, free blacks could sue and testify in court, and some even managed to acquire land and purchase white servants or African slaves. It is not known exactly how Anthony Johnson, who apparently arrived in Virginia as a slave during the 1620s, obtained his freedom. But by the 1640s, he was the owner of slaves and of several hundred acres of land on Virginia’s eastern shore. Blacks and whites labored side by side in the tobacco fields, sometimes ran away together, and established intimate relationships.

The Rise of Chesapeake Slavery

Evidence of blacks being held as slaves for life appears in the historical record of the 1640s. In registers of property, for example, white servants are listed by the number of years of labor, while blacks, with higher valuations, have no terms of service associated with their names. Not until the 1660s, however, did the laws of Virginia and Maryland refer explicitly to slavery. As tobacco planting spread and the demand for labor increased, the condition of black and white servants diverged sharply. Authorities sought to improve the status of white servants, hoping to counteract the widespread impression in England that Virginia was a death trap. At the same time, access to freedom for blacks receded.

A Virginia law of 1662 provided that in the case of a child one of whose parents was free and one slave, the status of the offspring followed that of the mother. (This provision not only reversed the European practice of defining a child’s status through the father but also made the sexual abuse of slave women profitable for slaveholders, since any children that resulted remained the owner’s property.) In 1667, the Virginia House of Burgesses decreed that religious conversion did not release a slave from bondage. Thus, Christians could own other Christians as slaves. Moreover, authorities sought to prevent the growth of the free black population by defining all offspring of interracial relationships as illegitimate, severely punishing white women who begat chil- dren with black men, and prohibiting the freeing of any slave unless he or she was transported out of the colony. By 1680, even though the black population was still small, notions of racial difference were well entrenched in the law. In England’s American empire, wrote one contemporary, “these two words, Negro and Slave [have] by custom grown homogenous and convertible.” In British North America, unlike the Spanish empire, no distinctive mulatto, or mixed- race, class existed; the law treated everyone with African ancestry as black.

 

 

ORIGINS OF AMERICAN SLAVERY ★ 103

Bacon’s Rebellion: Land and Labor in Virginia

Virginia’s shift from white indentured servants to African slaves as the main plantation labor force was accelerated by one of the most dramatic confronta- tions of this era, Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. Governor William Berkeley had for thirty years run a corrupt regime in alliance with an inner circle of the colony’s wealthiest tobacco planters. He rewarded his followers with land grants and lucrative offices. At first, Virginia’s tobacco boom had benefited not only planters but also smaller farmers, some of them former servants who managed to acquire farms. But as tobacco farming spread inland, planters connected with the governor engrossed the best lands, leaving freed servants (a growing population, since Virginia’s death rate was finally falling) with no options but to work as tenants or to move to the frontier. At the same time, heavy taxes on tobacco and falling prices because of overproduction reduced the prospects of small farmers. By the 1670s, poverty among whites had reached levels reminiscent of England. In addition, the right to vote, previously enjoyed by all adult men, was confined to landowners in 1670. Governor Berkeley maintained peaceful relations with Virginia’s remaining native population. His refusal to allow white settlement in areas reserved for Indians angered many land- hungry colonists.

In 1676, long- simmering social tensions coupled with widespread resentment against the injustices of the Berkeley regime erupted in Bacon’s Rebellion. The spark was a minor confrontation between Indians and colonists on Virginia’s western fron- tier. Settlers now demanded that the governor authorize the extermination or removal of the colony’s Indians, to open more land for whites. Fearing all- out warfare and continuing to profit from the trade with Indians in deer- skins, Berkeley refused. An uprising followed that soon careened out of con- trol. Beginning with a series of Indian massacres, it quickly grew into a full- fledged rebellion against Berkeley and his system of rule.

To some extent, Bacon’s Rebellion was a conflict within the Virginia elite. The leader, Nathaniel Bacon, a wealthy

Sir William Berkeley, governor of colonial Virginia, 1641–1652 and 1660–1677, in a portrait by Sir Peter Lely. Berkeley’s authoritarian rule helped to spark Bacon’s Rebellion.

How was slavery established in the Western Atlantic world?

 

 

104 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

and ambitious planter who had arrived in Virginia in 1673, disdained Berkeley’s coterie as men of “mean education and employments.” His backers included men of wealth outside the governor’s circle of cronies. But Bacon’s call for the removal of all Indians from the colony, a reduction of taxes at a time of economic reces- sion, and an end to rule by “grandees” rapidly gained support from small farmers, landless men, indentured servants, and even some Africans. The bulk of his army consisted of discontented men who had recently been servants.

The End of the Rebellion, and Its Consequences

Bacon promised freedom (including access to Indian lands) to all who joined his ranks. His supporters invoked the tradition of “English liberties” and spoke of the poor being “robbed” and “cheated” by their social superiors. In 1676, Bacon gathered an armed force for an unauthorized and indiscriminate cam- paign against those he called the governor’s “protected and darling Indians.” He refused Berkeley’s order to disband and marched on Jamestown, burning it to the ground. The governor fled, and Bacon became the ruler of Virginia. His forces plundered the estates of Berkeley’s supporters. Only the arrival of a squadron of warships from England restored order. Bacon’s Rebellion was over. Twenty- three of his supporters were hanged (Bacon himself had taken ill and died shortly after Berkeley’s departure).

The specter of a civil war among whites greatly frightened Virginia’s rul- ing elite, who took dramatic steps to consolidate their power and improve their image. They restored property qualifications for voting, which Bacon had rescinded. At the same time, planters developed a new political style in which they cultivated the support of poorer neighbors. Meanwhile, the authorities reduced taxes and adopted a more aggressive Indian policy, opening western areas to small farmers, many of whom prospered from a rise in tobacco prices after 1680. To avert the further rise of a rebellious population of landless former indentured servants, Virginia’s authorities accelerated the shift to slaves (who would never become free) on the tobacco plantations. As Virginia reduced the number of indentured servants, it redefined their freedom dues to include fifty acres of land.

A Slave Society

Between 1680 and 1700, slave labor began to supplant indentured servitude on Chesapeake plantations. Bacon’s Rebellion was only one among several factors that contributed to this development. As the death rate finally began to fall, it became more economical to purchase a laborer for life. Improving conditions in England reduced the number of transatlantic migrants, and the opening of Pennsylvania, where land was readily available, attracted those who still chose to leave for America. Finally, the ending of a monopoly on the English slave

 

 

COLONIES IN CRISIS ★ 105

trade previously enjoyed by the Royal Africa Company opened the door to other traders and reduced the price of imported African slaves.

By 1700, blacks constituted more than 10 percent of Virginia’s population. Fifty years later, they made up nearly half. Recognizing the growing importance of slavery, the House of Burgesses in 1705 enacted a new slave code, bringing together the scattered legislation of the previous century and adding new pro- visions that embedded the principle of white supremacy in the law. Slaves were property, completely subject to the will of their masters and, more generally, of the white community. They could be bought and sold, leased, fought over in court, and passed on to one’s descendants. Henceforth, blacks and whites were tried in separate courts. No black, free or slave, could own arms, strike a white man, or employ a white servant. Any white person could apprehend any black to demand a certificate of freedom or a pass from the owner giving permission to be off the plantation. Virginia had changed from a “society with slaves,” in which slavery was one system of labor among others, to a “slave society,” where slavery stood at the center of the economic process.

Notions of Freedom

Throughout history, slaves have run away and in other ways resisted bond- age. They did the same in the colonial Chesapeake. Colonial newspapers were filled with advertisements for runaway slaves. These notices described the appearance and skills of the fugitive and included such comments as “ran away without any cause” or “he has great notions of freedom.” Some of the blacks brought to the region during the seventeenth century were the offspring of encounters between European traders and Africans on the western coast of Africa or the Caribbean. Familiar with European culture and fluent in English, they turned to the colonial legal system in their quest for freedom. Throughout the seventeenth century, blacks appeared in court claiming their liberty, at first on the basis of conversion to Christianity or having a white father. This was one reason Virginia in the 1660s closed these pathways to freedom. But although legal avenues to liberty receded, the desire for freedom did not. After the sup- pression of a slave conspiracy in 1709, Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia, warned planters to be vigilant. The desire for freedom, he reminded them, can “call together all those who long to shake off the fetters of slavery.”

C O L O N I E S I N C R I S I S King Philip’s War of 1675–1676 and Bacon’s Rebellion the following year coin- cided with disturbances in other colonies. In Maryland, where the proprietor, Lord Baltimore, in 1670 had suddenly restricted the right to vote to owners of

What major social and political crises rocked the colonies in the late seventeenth century?

 

 

106 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

A scene from King Philip’s War, included on a 1675 map of New England.

fifty acres of land or a certain amount of personal property, a Protestant uprising unsuccessfully sought to oust his government and restore the suffrage for all free- men. In several colonies, increasing settlement on the frontier led to resistance by alarmed Indians. A rebellion by Westo Indians was suppressed in Carolina in 1680. The Pueblo Revolt of the same year (discussed in Chapter 1) indicated that the crisis of colonial authority was not confined to the British empire.

The Glorious Revolution

Turmoil in England also reverberated in the colonies. In 1688, the long struggle for domination of English government between Parliament and the crown reached its culmination in the Glorious Revolution, which established parlia- mentary supremacy once and for all and secured the Protestant succession to the throne. Under Charles II, Parliament had asserted its authority in the formation of national policy. It expanded its control of finance, influenced foreign affairs, and excluded from political and religious power Catholics and Dissenters (Protes- tants who belonged to a denomination other than the official Anglican Church).

When Charles died in 1685, he was succeeded by his brother James II (formerly the duke of York), a practicing Catholic and a believer that kings ruled by divine right. In 1687, James decreed religious toleration for both Protestant Dissenters and Catholics. The following year, the birth of James’s son raised the prospect of a Catholic succession, alarming those who equated “popery” with tyranny. A group

 

 

COLONIES IN CRISIS ★ 107

of English aristocrats invited the Dutch nobleman William of Orange, the husband of James’s Protestant daughter Mary, to assume the throne in the name of English liberties. William arrived in England in November 1688 with an army of 21,000 men, two- thirds of them Dutch. As the landed elite and leaders of the Anglican Church rallied to William’s cause, James II fled and the revolution was complete.

Unlike the broad social upheaval that marked the English Civil War of the 1640s, the Glorious Revolution was in effect a coup engineered by a small group of aristocrats in alliance with an ambitious Dutch prince. They had no intention of challenging the institution of the monarchy. But the overthrow of James II entrenched more firmly than ever the notion that liberty was the birthright of all Englishmen and that the king was subject to the rule of law. To justify the ouster of James II, Parliament in 1689 enacted an English Bill of Rights, which listed parliamentary powers such as control over taxation as well as rights of individuals, including trial by jury. These were the “ancient” and “undoubted . . . rights and liberties” of all Englishmen. In the following year, the Toleration Act allowed Protestant Dissenters (but not Catholics) to worship freely, although only Anglicans could hold public office.

As always, British politics were mirrored in the American colonies. After the Glorious Revolution, Protestant domination was secured in most of the col- onies, with the established churches of England (Anglican) and Scotland (Pres- byterian) growing the fastest, while Catholics and Dissenters suffered various forms of discrimination. Despite the new regime’s language of liberty, however, religious freedom was far more advanced in some American colonies, such as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Carolina, than in England. Nonetheless, throughout English America the Glorious Revolution powerfully reinforced among the colonists the sense of sharing a proud legacy of freedom and Protes- tantism with the mother country.

The Glorious Revolution in America

The Glorious Revolution exposed fault lines in colonial society and offered local elites an opportunity to regain authority that had recently been chal- lenged. Until the mid- 1670s, the North American colonies had essentially gov- erned themselves, with little interference from England. Governor Berkeley ran Virginia as he saw fit; proprietors in New York, Maryland, and Carolina gov- erned in any fashion they could persuade colonists to accept; and New England colonies elected their own officials and openly flouted trade regulations. In 1675, England established the Lords of Trade to oversee colonial affairs. Three years later, the Lords questioned the Massachusetts government about its com- pliance with the Navigation Acts. They received the surprising reply that since the colony had no representatives in Parliament, the acts did not apply to it unless the Massachusetts General Court approved.

What major social and political crises rocked the colonies in the late seventeenth century?

 

 

108 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

In the 1680s, England moved to reduce colonial autonomy. Shortly before his death, Charles II revoked the Massachusetts charter, citing wholesale violations of the Navigation Acts. Hoping to raise more money from Amer- ica in order to reduce his dependence on Parliament, James II between 1686 and 1689 combined Connecticut, Plymouth, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, and East and West Jersey into a single super- colony, the Dominion of New England. It was ruled by the former New York governor Sir Edmund Andros, who did not have to answer to an elected assembly. These events reinforced the impression that James II was an enemy of freedom. In New England, Andros’s actions alienated nearly everyone not dependent on his administration for favors. He appointed local officials in place of elected ones, imposed taxes without the approval of elected representatives, declared earlier land grants void unless approved by him, and enforced religious toleration for all Protestants. His rule threatened both English liberties and the church- state relationship at the heart of the Puritan order.

The Maryland Uprising

In 1689, news of the overthrow of James II triggered rebellions in several Amer- ican colonies. In April, the Boston militia seized and jailed Edmund Andros and other officials, whereupon the New England colonies reestablished the govern- ments abolished when the Dominion of New England was created. In May, a rebel militia headed by Captain Jacob Leisler established a Committee of Safety and took control of New York. Two months later, Maryland’s Protestant Asso- ciation overthrew the government of the colony’s Catholic proprietor, Lord Baltimore.

All of these new regimes claimed to have acted in the name of English liberties and looked to London for approval. But the degrees of success of these coups varied markedly. Most triumphant were the Maryland reb- els. Concluding that Lord Baltimore had mismanaged the colony, William revoked his charter (although the proprietor retained his land and rents) and established a new, Protestant- dominated government. Catholics retained the right to practice their religion but were barred from voting and holding office. In 1715, after the Baltimore family had converted to Anglicanism, pro- prietary power was restored. But the events of 1689 transformed the ruling group in Maryland and put an end to the colony’s unique history of religious toleration.

Leisler’s Rebellion

The outcome in New York was far different. The German- born Leisler, one of the wealthiest merchants in the city, was a fervent Calvinist who feared that James II

 

 

COLONIES IN CRISIS ★ 109

intended to reduce England and its empire to “popery and slavery.” Although it was not his intention, Leisler’s regime divided the colony along ethnic and eco- nomic lines. Members of the Dutch majority seized the opportunity to reclaim local power after more than two decades of English rule, while bands of rebels ran- sacked the homes of wealthy New Yorkers. Prominent English colonists, joined by some wealthy Dutch merchants and fur traders, protested to London that Leis- ler was a tyrant. William refused to recognize Leisler’s authority and dispatched a new governor, backed by troops. Many of Leisler’s followers were imprisoned, and he himself was condemned to be executed. The grisly manner of his death— Leisler was hanged and then had his head cut off and body cut into four parts— reflected the depths of hatred the rebellion had inspired. For generations, the rivalry between Leisler and anti- Leisler parties polarized New York politics.

Changes in New England

After deposing Edmund Andros, the New England colonies lobbied hard in Lon- don for the restoration of their original charters. Most were successful, but Massa- chusetts was not. In 1691, the crown issued a new charter that absorbed Plymouth into Massachusetts and transformed the political structure of the Bible Common- wealth. Town government remained intact, but henceforth property ownership, not church membership, would be the requirement to vote in elections for the General Court. The governor was now appointed in London rather than elected. Thus, Massachusetts became a royal colony, the majority of whose voters were no longer Puritan “saints.” Moreover, it was required to abide by the English Tolera- tion Act of 1690—that is, to allow all Protestants to worship freely. The demise of the “New England way” greatly benefited non- Puritan merchants and large land- owners, who came to dominate the new government.

These events produced an atmosphere of considerable tension in Massa- chusetts, exacerbated by raids by French troops and their Indian allies on the northern New England frontier. The advent of religious toleration heightened anxieties among the Puritan clergy, who considered other Protestant denomi- nations a form of heresy. “I would not have a hand in setting up their Devil wor- ship,” one minister declared of the Quakers. Indeed, not a few Puritans thought they saw the hand of Satan in the events of 1690 and 1691.

The Prosecution of Witches

Belief in magic, astrology, and witchcraft was widespread in seventeenth- century Europe and America, existing alongside the religion of the clergy and churches. Many Puritans believed in supernatural interventions in the affairs of the world. They interpreted as expressions of God’s will such events as light- ning that struck one house but spared another, and epidemics that reduced

What major social and political crises rocked the colonies in the late seventeenth century?

 

 

110 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

the population of their Indian enemies. Evil forces could also affect daily life. Witches were individuals, usually women, who were accused of having entered into a pact with the devil to obtain supernatural powers, which they used to harm others or to interfere with natural processes. When a child was stillborn or crops failed, many believed that witchcraft was at work.

In Europe and the colonies, witchcraft was punishable by execution. It is estimated that between the years 1400 and 1800, more than 50,000 people were executed in Europe after being convicted of witchcraft. Witches were, from time to time, hanged in seventeenth- century New England. Most were women beyond childbearing age who were outspoken, economically independent, or estranged from their husbands, or who in other ways violated traditional gen- der norms. The witch’s alleged power challenged both God’s will and the stand- ing of men as heads of family and rulers of society.

The Salem Witch Trials

Until 1692, the prosecution of witches had been local and sporadic. But in the heightened anxiety of that year, a series of trials and executions took place in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, that made its name to this day a byword for fanaticism and persecution. The crisis began late in 1691 when several young girls began to suffer fits and nightmares, attributed by their elders to witchcraft. Soon,

An engraving from Ralph Gardiner’s England’s Grievance Discovered, published in 1655, depicts women hanged as witches in England. The letters identify local officials: A is the hangman, B the town crier, C the sheriff, and D a magistrate.

 

 

THE GROWTH OF COLONIAL AMERICA ★ 111

three “witches” had been named, including Tituba, an Indian from the Caribbean who was a slave in the home of one of the girls. Since the only way to avoid prosecu- tion was to confess and name others, accusations of witchcraft began to snowball. By the middle of 1692, hundreds of residents of Salem had come forward to accuse their neighbors. Some, it appears, used the occasion to settle old scores within the Salem community. Local authorities took legal action against nearly 150 persons, the large majority of them women. Many confessed to save their lives, but fourteen women and five men were hanged, protesting their innocence to the end. One man was pressed to death (crushed under a weight of stones) for refusing to enter a plea.

In the Salem witch trials, accusations of witchcraft spread far beyond the usual profile of middle- aged women to include persons of all ages (one was a child of four) and those with no previous history of assertiveness or marital discord. As accusations and executions multiplied, it became clear that some- thing was seriously wrong with the colony’s system of justice. Toward the end of 1692, the governor of Massachusetts dissolved the Salem court and ordered the remaining prisoners released. At the same time, the prominent clergyman Increase Mather published an influential treatise, Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits, warning that juries should not take seriously either the testimony of those who claimed to be possessed or the confessions and accusations of persons facing execution. The events in Salem discredited the tradition of prosecuting witches and accelerated a commitment among prominent colonists to finding scientific explanations for natural events like comets and illnesses, rather than attributing them to magic. In future years, only two accused witches would be brought to trial in Massachusetts, and both were found not guilty.

T H E G R O W T H O F C O L O N I A L A M E R I C A The Salem witch trials took place precisely two centuries after Columbus’s initial voyage. The Western Hemisphere was dramatically different from the world he had encountered. Powerful states had been destroyed and the native population decimated by disease and in some areas deprived of its land. In North America, three new and very different empires had arisen, competing for wealth and power. The urban- based Spanish empire, with a small settler elite and growing mestizo population directing a large Indian labor force, still relied for wealth primarily on the gold and silver mines of Mexico and South America. The French empire centered on Saint Domingue, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, plantation islands of the West Indies. On the mainland, it con- sisted of a thinly settled string of farms and trading posts in the St. Lawrence Valley. In North America north of the Rio Grande, the English colonies had far outstripped their rivals in population and trade.

What were the directions of social and economic change in the eighteenth- century colonies?

 

 

112 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

As stability returned after the crises of the late seventeenth century, English North America experienced an era of remarkable growth. Between 1700 and 1770, crude backwoods settlements became bustling provincial capitals. Even as epidemics continued in Indian country, the hazards of disease among colo- nists diminished, agricultural settlement pressed westward, and hundreds of thousands of newcomers arrived from the Old World. Thanks to a high birthrate and continuing immigration, the population of England’s mainland colonies, 265,000 in 1700, grew nearly tenfold, to over 2.3 million seventy years later. (It is worth noting, however, that because of the decline suffered by the Indians, the North American population was considerably lower in 1770 than it had been in 1492.)

A Diverse Population

Probably the most striking characteristic of colonial American society in the eighteenth century was its sheer diversity. In 1700, the colonies were essen- tially English outposts. Relatively few Africans had yet been brought to the mainland, and the overwhelming majority of the white population— close to 90 percent— was of English origin. In the eighteenth century, African and non- English European arrivals skyrocketed, while the number emigrating from England declined.

As economic conditions in England improved, the government began to rethink the policy of encouraging emigration. No longer concerned with an excess population of vagabonds and “masterless men,” authorities began to worry that large- scale emigration was draining labor from the mother country. About 40 percent of European immigrants to the colonies during the eighteenth century continued to arrive as bound laborers who had tem- porarily sacrificed their freedom to make the voyage to the New World. But as the colonial economy prospered, poor indentured migrants were increasingly joined by professionals and skilled craftsmen— teachers, ministers, weavers, carpenters— whom England could ill afford to lose. This brought to an end official efforts to promote English emigration.

Attracting Settlers

Yet while worrying about losing desirable members of its population, the gov- ernment in London remained convinced that colonial development enhanced the nation’s power and wealth. To bolster the Chesapeake labor force, nearly 50,000 convicts (a group not desired in Britain) were sent to work in the tobacco fields. Officials also actively encouraged Protestant immigration from the non- English (and less prosperous) parts of the British Isles and from the European continent, promising newcomers easy access to land and the right to worship

 

 

THE GROWTH OF COLONIAL AMERICA ★ 113

freely. A law of 1740 even offered European immigrants British citizenship after seven years of residence, something that in the mother country could be obtained only by a special act of Parliament. The widely publicized image of America as an asylum for those “whom bigots chase from foreign lands,” in the words of a 1735 poem, was in many ways a by- product of Britain’s efforts to attract settlers from non- English areas to its colonies.

Among eighteenth- century migrants from the British Isles, the 80,000 English newcomers (a majority of them convicted criminals) were consider- ably outnumbered by 145,000 from Scotland and Ulster, the northern part of Ireland, where many Scots had settled as part of England’s effort to subdue the island. Scottish and Scotch- Irish immigrants had a profound impact on colo- nial society. Mostly Presbyterians, they added significantly to religious diver- sity in North America. Their numbers included not only poor farmers seeking land but also numerous merchants, teachers, and professionals (indeed, a large majority of the physicians in eighteenth- century America were of Scottish origin).

The German Migration

Germans, 110,000 in all, formed the largest group of newcomers from the Euro- pean continent. Most came from the valley of the Rhine River, which stretches through present- day Germany into Switzerland. In the eighteenth century, Germany was divided into numerous small states, each with a ruling prince who determined the official religion. Those who found themselves worshiping

Table 3.1 Origins and Status of Migrants to British North American Colonies, 1700–1775

Total Slaves Indentured Servants Convicts Free

Africa 278,400 278,400 — — —

Ireland 108,600 — 39,000 17,500 52,100

Germany 84,500 — 30,000 — 54,500

England/Wales 73,100 — 27,200 32,500 13,400

Scotland 35,300 — 7,400 2,200 25,700

Other 5,900 — — — 5,900

Total 585,800 278,400 103,600 52,200 151,600

What were the directions of social and economic change in the eighteenth- century colonies?

 

 

114 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

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Among the most striking features of eighteenth- century colonial society was the racial and ethnic diversity of the population (except in New England). This resulted from increased immigration from the non- English parts of the British Isles and from mainland Europe, as well as the rapid expansion of the slave trade from Africa.

 

 

THE GROWTH OF COLONIAL AMERICA ★ 115

the “wrong” religion— Lutherans in Catholic areas, Catholics in Lutheran areas, and everywhere, followers of small Protestant sects such as Mennonites, Moravians, and Dunkers— faced persecution. Many decided to emigrate. Other migrants were motivated by persistent agricultural crises and the difficulty of acquiring land. Indeed, the emigration to America represented only a small part of a massive reshuffling of the German population within Europe. Mil- lions of Germans left their homes during the eighteenth century, most of them migrating eastward to Austria- Hungary and the Russian empire, which made land available to newcomers.

Wherever they moved, Germans tended to travel in entire families. English and Dutch merchants created a well- organized system whereby redemption- ers (as indentured families were called) received passage in exchange for a promise to work off their debt in America. Most settled in frontier areas— rural New York, western Pennsylvania, and the southern backcountry— where they formed tightly knit farming communities in which German for many years remained the dominant language. Their arrival greatly enhanced the ethnic and religious diversity of Britain’s colonies.

Religious Diversity

Eighteenth- century British America was not a “melting pot” of cultures. Ethnic groups tended to live and worship in relatively homogeneous communities. But outside of New England, which received few immigrants and retained its over- whelmingly English ethnic character, American society had a far more diverse population than Britain. Nowhere was this more evident than in the practice of religion. In 1700, nearly all the churches in the colonies were either Congrega- tional (in New England) or Anglican. In the eighteenth century, the Anglican pres- ence expanded considerably. New churches were built and new ministers arrived from England. But the number of Dissenting congregations also multiplied.

Apart from New Jersey (formed from East and West Jersey in 1702), Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, the colonies did not adhere to a modern separation of church and state. Nearly every colony levied taxes to pay the salaries of minis- ters of an established church, and most barred Catholics and Jews from voting and holding public office. But increasingly, de facto toleration among Protes- tant denominations flourished, fueled by the establishment of new churches by immigrants, as well as new Baptist, Methodist, and other congregations created as a result of the Great Awakening, a religious revival that will be discussed in Chapter 4. By the mid- eighteenth century, Dissenting Protestants in most col- onies had gained the right to worship as they pleased and own their churches, although many places still barred them from holding public office and taxed them to support the official church. Although few in number (perhaps 2,000 at their peak in eighteenth- century America), Jews also contributed to the

What were the directions of social and economic change in the eighteenth- century colonies?

 

 

116 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

religious diversity. German Jews, in particular, were attracted by the chance to escape the rigid religious restrictions of German- speaking parts of Europe; many immigrated to London and some, from there, to cities like Charleston and Philadelphia. A visitor to Pennsylvania in 1750 described the colony’s reli- gious diversity: “We find there Lutherans, Reformed, Catholics, Quakers, Men- onists or Anabaptists, Herrnhuters or Moravian Brethren, Pietists, Seventh Day Baptists, Dunkers, Presbyterians, . . . Jews, Mohammedans, Pagans.”

“Liberty of conscience,” wrote a German newcomer in 1739, was the “chief virtue” of British North America, “and on this score I do not repent my immigra- tion.” Equally important to eighteenth- century immigrants, however, were other elements of freedom, especially the availability of land, the lack of a military draft, and the absence of restraints on economic opportunity common in Europe. Skilled workers were in great demand. “They earn what they want,” one emigrant wrote to his brother in Switzerland in 1733. Letters home by immigrants spoke of low taxes, the right to enter trades and professions without paying exorbitant fees, and freedom of movement. “In this country,” one wrote, “there are abundant liberties in just about all matters.”

Indian Life in Transition

The tide of newcomers, who equated liberty with secure possession of land, threatened to engulf the surviving Indian populations. By the eighteenth cen- tury, Indian communities were well integrated into the British imperial sys- tem. Indian warriors did much of the fighting in the century’s imperial wars. Their cultures were now quite different from what they had been at the time of first contact. Indian societies that had existed for centuries had disappeared, the victims of disease and warfare. New tribes, like the Catawba of South Caro- lina and the Creek Confederacy, which united dozens of Indian towns in South Carolina and Georgia, had been created from their remnants. Few Indians chose to live among whites rather than in their own communities. But they had become well accustomed to using European products like knives, hatch- ets, needles, kettles, and firearms. Alcohol introduced by traders created social chaos in many Indian communities. One Cherokee told the governor of South Carolina in 1753, “The clothes we wear, we cannot make ourselves, they are made to us. We use their ammunition with which we kill deer. . . . Every neces- sary thing we must have from the white people.”

While traders saw in Indian villages potential profits and British officials saw allies against France and Spain, farmers and planters viewed Indians as little more than an obstruction to their desire for land. They expected Indians to give way to white settlers. The native population of the Virginia and South Carolina frontier had already been displaced when large numbers of settlers arrived. In Pennsylvania, however, the flood of German and Scotch- Irish settlers into the

 

 

THE GROWTH OF COLONIAL AMERICA ★ 117

backcountry upset the relatively peaceful Indian- white relations constructed by William Penn. At a 1721 conference, a group of colonial and Indian leaders reaffirmed Penn’s Chain of Friendship. But conflicts over land soon multiplied. The infamous Walking Purchase of 1737 brought the fraudulent dealing so common in other colonies to Pennsylvania. The Lenni Lanape Indians agreed to an arrangement to cede a tract of land bounded by the distance a man could walk in thirty- six hours. To their amazement, Governor James Logan hired a team of swift runners, who marked out an area far in excess of what the Indians had anticipated.

By 1760, when Pennsylvania’s population, a mere 20,000 in 1700, had grown to 220,000, Indian- colonist relations, initially the most harmonious in British North America, had become poisoned by suspicion and hostility. One group of Susquehanna Indians declared “that the white people had abused them and taken their lands from them, and therefore they had no reason to think that they were now concerned for their happiness.” They longed for the days when “old William Penn” treated them with fairness and respect.

Regional Diversity

By the mid- eighteenth century, the different regions of the British colonies had developed distinct economic and social orders. Small farms tilled by family labor and geared primarily to production for local consumption predominated in New England and the new settlements of the backcountry (the area stretch- ing from central Pennsylvania southward through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and into upland North and South Carolina). The backcountry was the most rapidly growing region in North America. In 1730, the only white res- idents in what was then called “Indian country” were the occasional hunter and trader. By the eve of the American Revolution, the region contained one- quarter of Virginia’s population and half of South Carolina’s. Most were farm families raising grain and livestock, but slave owning planters, seeking fertile soil for tobacco farming, also entered the area.

In the older portions of the Middle Colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, farmers were more oriented to commerce than on the frontier, growing grain both for their own use and for sale abroad and supplementing the work of family members by employing wage laborers, tenants, and in some instances slaves. Because large landlords had engrossed so much desirable land, New York’s growth lagged behind that of neighboring colonies. “What man will be such a fool as to become a base tenant,” wondered Richard Coote, New York’s governor at the beginning of the eighteenth century, “when by crossing the Hudson river that man can for a song purchase a good freehold?” With its fertile soil, favorable climate, initially peaceful Indian relations, generous gov- ernmental land distribution policy, and rivers that facilitated long- distance

What were the directions of social and economic change in the eighteenth- century colonies?

 

 

V O I C E S O F F R E E D O M

118 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

From Letter by a Swiss- German Immigrant to Pennsylvania

(August 23, 1769)

Germans were among the most numerous immigrants to the eighteenth- century colonies. Many wrote letters to family members at home, relating their experiences and impressions.

Dearest Father, Brother, and Sister and Brother- in- law, I have told you quite fully about the trip, and I will tell you what will not surprise

you— that we have a free country. Of the sundry craftsmen, one may do whatever one wants. Nor does the land require payment of tithes [taxes to support a local landlord, typical in Europe]. . . . The land is very big from Canada to the east of us to Carolina in the south and to the Spanish border in the west. . . . One can settle wherever one wants without asking anyone when he buys or leases something. . . .

I have always enough to do and we have no shortage of food. Bread is plentiful. If I work for two days I earn more bread than in eight days [at home]. . . . Also I can buy many things so reasonably [for example] a pair of shoes for [roughly] seven Pennsylvania shillings. . . . I think that with God’s help I will obtain land. I am not pushing for it until I am in a better position.

I would like for my brother to come . . . and it will then be even nicer in the country. . . . I assume that the land has been described to you sufficiently by various people and it is not surprising that the immigrant agents [demand payment]. For the journey is long and it costs much to stay away for one year. . . .

Johannes Hänner

 

 

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 119

From Memorial against Non- English Immigration

(December 1727)

Only a minority of emigrants from Europe to British North America in the eigh- teenth century came from the British Isles. Some English settlers, such as the authors of this petition from Pennsylvania to the authorities in London, found the growing diversity of the colonial population quite disturbing.

How careful every European state, that has Colonies in America, has been of preserving the advantage arising from them wholly to their own Nation and People, is obvious to all who will consider the policy & conduct of the Spanish, French & others in relation to theirs. . . .

About the year 1710 a Company of religious People called Menists [Mennonites] from the Palatinate of the Rhine, transported themselves into the Province of Pennsylvania from Holland in British shipping, and purchased Lands at low rates towards the River Susque- hanna. The Terms & Reception they met with proved so encouraging, that they invited diverse of their relations and friends to follow them. In the succeeding years . . . several thou- sands were settled in that Province. . . . We are now assured by the same people that five or six thousand more are to follow them this next ensuing year. . . .

All these men young & old who arrived since the first, come generally very well armed. Many of them are Papists, & most of them appear inured to War & other hard- ships. They retire commonly back into the woods amongst or behind the remoter inhabitants, sometimes purchase land, but often sit down on any piece they find vacant that they judge convenient for them without asking questions. . . . Few of them apply now to be Naturalized, [and as] they . . . generally . . . adhere to their own cus- toms. The part of the country they princi- pally settle in is that towards the French of Canada, whose interest, it may be appre- hended, . . . (since several of them speak their language) [they] would as willingly favor as the English. . . . It is hoped there- fore that nothing need be added to shew the present necessity of putting a stop to that augmentation of their strength. . . . A general provision against all Foreigners may be necessary.

QUESTIONS

1. What does Johannes Hänner have in mind when he calls America a “free country”?

2. What do the petitioners find objection- able about non- English migrants to Pennsylvania?

3. How do these documents reflect different views of who should be entitled to the benefits of freedom in the American colonies?

 

 

120 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

trading, Pennsylvania came to be known as “the best poor man’s country.” Ordi- nary colonists there enjoyed a standard of living unimaginable in Europe.

The Consumer Revolution

During the eighteenth century, Great Britain eclipsed the Dutch as the leading producer and trader of inexpensive consumer goods, including colonial prod- ucts like coffee and tea, and such manufactured goods as linen, metalware, pins, ribbons, glassware, ceramics, and clothing. Trade integrated the British empire. As the American colonies were drawn more and more fully into the system of Atlantic commerce, they shared in the era’s consumer revolution. In port cit- ies and small inland towns, shops proliferated and American newspapers were filled with advertisements for British goods. British merchants supplied Amer- ican traders with loans to enable them to import these products, and traveling peddlers carried them into remote frontier areas.

William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians. Penn’s grandson, Thomas, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, commissioned this romanticized painting from the artist Benjamin West in 1771, by which time harmony between Indians and colonists had long since turned to hostility. In the nineteenth century, many reproductions of this image circulated, reminding Americans that Indians had once been central figures in their history.

 

 

THE GROWTH OF COLONIAL AMERICA ★ 121

Consumerism in a modern sense— the mass production, advertising, and sale of consumer goods— did not exist in colonial America. Nonetheless, eighteenth- century estate inventories— records of people’s possessions at the time of death— revealed the wide dispersal in American homes of English and even Asian products. In the seventeenth century, most colonists had lived in a pioneer world of homespun clothing and homemade goods. Now, even modest farmers and artisans owned books, ceramic plates, metal cutlery, and items made of imported silk and cotton. Tea, once a luxury enjoyed only by the wealthy, became virtually a necessity of life. “People that are least able to go to the expense,” one New Yorker noted, “must have their tea though their families want bread.”

Colonial Cities

Britain’s mainland colonies were overwhelmingly agricultural. Nine- tenths of the population resided in rural areas and made their livelihood from farm- ing. Colonial cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston were quite small by the standards of Europe or Spanish America. In 1700, when the population of Mexico City stood at 100,000, Boston had 6,000 residents and New York 4,500. As late as 1750, eight cities in Spanish America exceeded in size any in English North America.

English American cities served mainly as gathering places for agricultural goods and for imported items to be distributed to the countryside. Nonethe- less, the expansion of trade encouraged the rise of port cities, home to a grow- ing population of colonial merchants and artisans (skilled craftsmen) as well as an increasing number of poor. In 1770, with some 30,000 inhabitants, Phil- adelphia was “the capital of the New World,” at least its British component, and, after London and Liverpool, the empire’s third busiest port. The financial, commercial, and cultural center of British America, its growth rested on eco- nomic integration with the rich agricultural region nearby. Philadelphia mer- chants organized the collection of farm goods, supplied rural storekeepers, and extended credit to consumers. They exported flour, bread, and meat to the West Indies and Europe.

Colonial Artisans

The city was also home to a large population of furniture makers, jewelers, and silversmiths serving wealthier citizens, and hundreds of lesser artisans like weavers, blacksmiths, coopers, and construction workers. The typical artisan owned his own tools and labored in a small workshop, often his home, assisted by family members and young journeymen and apprentices learning the trade. The artisan’s skill, which set him apart from the common laborers below him in

What were the directions of social and economic change in the eighteenth- century colonies?

 

 

122 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

the social scale, was the key to his existence, and it gave him a far greater degree of economic freedom than those dependent on others for a livelihood. “He that hath a trade, hath an estate,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, who had worked as a printer before achieving renown as a scientist and statesman.

Despite the influx of British goods, American craftsmen benefited from the expanding consumer market. Most journeymen enjoyed a reasonable chance of rising to the status of master and establishing a workshop of their own. Some achieved remarkable success. Born in New York City in 1723, Myer Myers, a Jewish silversmith of Dutch ancestry, became one of the city’s most prominent artisans. Myers produced jewelry, candlesticks, coffeepots, tableware, and other gold and silver objects for the colony’s elite, as well as religious ornaments for both synagogues and Protestant churches in New York and nearby colonies. He used some of his profits to acquire land in New Hampshire and Connecticut. Myers’s career reflected the opportunities colonial cities offered to skilled men of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

An Atlantic World

People, ideas, and goods flowed back and forth across the Atlantic, knitting together the empire and its diverse populations— British merchants and con- sumers, American colonists, African slaves, and surviving Indians— and cre- ating webs of interdependence among the European empires. Sugar, tobacco, and other products of the Western Hemisphere were marketed as far away as eastern Europe. London bankers financed the slave trade between Africa and Portuguese Brazil. Spain spent its gold and silver importing goods from other countries. As trade expanded, the North American and West Indian colonies became the major overseas market for British manufactured goods. Although most colonial output was consumed at home, North Americans shipped farm products to Britain, the West Indies, and, with the exception of goods like tobacco “enumerated” under the Navigation Acts, outside the empire. Virtu- ally the entire Chesapeake tobacco crop was marketed in Britain, with most of it then re- exported to Europe by British merchants. Most of the bread and flour exported from the colonies was destined for the West Indies. African slaves there grew sugar that could be distilled into rum, a product increasingly popular among both North American colonists and Indians, who obtained it by trading furs and deerskins that were then shipped to Europe. The main- land colonies carried on a flourishing trade in fish and grains with southern Europe. Ships built in New England made up one- third of the British empire’s trading fleet.

Membership in the empire had many advantages for the colonists. Most Americans did not complain about British regulation of their trade because

 

 

SOCIAL CLASSES IN THE COLONIES ★ 123

commerce enriched the colonies as well as the mother country and lax enforce- ment of the Navigation Acts allowed smuggling to flourish. In a dangerous world, moreover, the Royal Navy protected American shipping. And despite the many differences between life in England and its colonies, eighteenth- century English America drew closer and closer to, and in some ways became more and more similar to, the mother country across the Atlantic.

S O C I A L C L A S S E S I N T H E C O L O N I E S The Colonial Elite

Most free Americans benefited from economic growth, but as colonial society matured an elite emerged that, while neither as powerful nor as wealthy as the aristocracy of England, increasingly dominated politics and society. Indeed, the gap between rich and poor probably grew more rapidly in the eighteenth century than in any other period of American history. In New England and the Middle Colonies, expanding trade made possible the emergence of a powerful upper class of merchants, often linked by family or commercial ties to great trading firms in London. There were no banks in colonial America. Credit and money were in short supply, and mercantile success depended on personal con- nections as much as business talent. By 1750, the colonies of the Chesapeake and Lower South were dominated by slave plantations producing staple crops, especially tobacco and rice, for the world market. Here great planters accumu- lated enormous wealth. The colonial elite also included the rulers of propri- etary colonies like Pennsylvania and Maryland.

America had no titled aristocracy as in Britain. It had no system of legally established social ranks or family pedigrees stretching back to medieval times. Apart from the De Lanceys, Livingstons, and van Rensselaers of New York, the Penn family in Pennsylvania, and a few southern planters, it had no one whose landholdings, in monetary value, rivaled those of the British aristocracy. But throughout British America, men of prominence controlled colonial govern- ment. In Virginia, the upper class was so tight- knit and intermarried so often that the colony was said to be governed by a “cousinocracy.” Members of the gentry controlled the vestries, or local governing bodies, of the established Anglican Church, dominated the county courts (political as well as judicial institutions that levied taxes and enacted local ordinances), and were promi- nent in Virginia’s legislature. In the 1750s, seven members of the same genera- tion of the Lee family sat in the House of Burgesses.

Eighteenth- century Virginia was a far healthier environment than in the early days of settlement. Planters could expect to pass their wealth down to

How did patterns of class and gender roles change in eighteenth- century America?

 

 

124 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

the next generation, providing estates for their sons and establishing family dynasties. Nearly every Virginian of note achieved prominence through family connections. The days when self- made men could rise into the Vir- ginia gentry were long gone; by 1770, nearly all upper- class Virginians had inherited their wealth. Thomas Jef- ferson’s grandfather was a justice of the peace (an important local official), militia captain, and sheriff, and his father a member of the House of Bur- gesses. George Washington’s father, grandfather, and great- grandfather had been justices of the peace. The Virginia gentry used its control of provincial government to gain possession of large tracts of land as western areas opened for settlement. Grants of 20,000 to 40,000 acres were not uncommon. Rob- ert “King” Carter, a speaker of the House of Burgesses, acquired 300,000 acres of land and 1,000 slaves by the time of his death in 1732.

Anglicization

For much of the eighteenth century, the American colonies had more regular

trade and communications with Britain than among themselves. Elites in dif- ferent regions slowly developed a common lifestyle and sense of common inter- ests. But rather than thinking of themselves as distinctively American, they became more and more English— a process historians call “Anglicization.”

Wealthy Americans tried to model their lives on British etiquette and behavior. Somewhat resentful at living in provincial isolation—“at the end of the world,” as one Virginia aristocrat put it— they sought to demonstrate their status and legitimacy by importing the latest London fashions and literature, sending their sons to Britain for education, and building homes equipped with fashionable furnishings modeled on the country estates and town houses of the English gentry. Their residences included large rooms for entertainment,

A portrait of Elijah Boardman, a merchant in New Milford, Massachusetts. Boardman wears the attire of a gentleman and rests his arm on his counting desk. In the rear, bolts of cloth are visible. But Boardman chose to emphasize his learning, not his wealth, by posing with books, including two plays of Shakespeare, John Mil- ton’s Paradise Lost, and the London Magazine.

 

 

SOCIAL CLASSES IN THE COLONIES ★ 125

display cases for imported luxury goods, and elaborate formal gardens. Some members of the colonial elite, like George Washington, even had coats of arms designed for their families, in imitation of English upper- class practice.

Desperate to follow an aristocratic lifestyle, many planters fell into debt. William Byrd III of Virginia lived so extravagantly that by 1770 he had accumulated a debt of £100,000, an amount almost unheard of in England or America. But so long as the world market for tobacco thrived, so did Virginia’s gentry.

The South Carolina Aristocracy

The richest group of mainland colonists were South Carolina planters (although planters in Jamaica far outstripped them in wealth). Elite South Carolinians often traveled north to enjoy summer vacations in the cooler cli- mate of Newport, Rhode Island, and they spent much of the remainder of their time in Charleston, the only real urban center south of Philadelphia and the richest city in British North America. Here aristocratic social life flourished, centered on theaters, literary societies, and social events. Like their Virginia counterparts, South Carolina grandees lived a lavish lifestyle amid imported furniture, fine wines, silk clothing, and other items from England. They sur- rounded themselves with house slaves dressed in specially designed uniforms. In 1774, the per capita wealth in the Charleston District was £2,300, more than four times that of tobacco areas in Virginia and eight times the figure for Phila- delphia or Boston. But wealth in South Carolina was highly concentrated. The richest 10 percent of the colony owned half the wealth in 1770, the poorest quarter less than 2 percent.

Throughout the colonies, elites emulated what they saw as England’s bal- anced, stable social order. Liberty, in their eyes, meant, in part, the power to rule— the right of those blessed with wealth and prominence to dominate over others. They viewed society as a hierarchical structure in which some men were endowed with greater talents than others and destined to rule. The social order, they believed, was held together by webs of influence that linked patrons and those dependent on them. Each place in the hierarchy carried with it different responsibilities, and one’s status was revealed in dress, manners, and the splen- dor of one’s home. “Superiority” and “dependence,” as one colonial newspaper put it, were natural elements of any society. An image of refinement served to legitimize wealth and political power. Colonial elites prided themselves on developing aristocratic manners, cultivating the arts, and making productive use of leisure. Indeed, on both sides of the Atlantic, elites viewed work as some- thing reserved for common folk and slaves. Freedom from labor was the mark of the gentleman.

How did patterns of class and gender roles change in eighteenth- century America?

 

 

126 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

Poverty in the Colonies

At the other end of the social scale, poverty emerged as a visible feature of eighteenth- century colonial life. Although not considered by most colonists part of their society, the growing number of slaves lived in impoverished con- ditions. Among free Americans, poverty was hardly as widespread as in Brit- ain, where in the early part of the century between one- quarter and one- half of the people regularly required public assistance. But as the colonial population expanded, access to land diminished rapidly, especially in long- settled areas. In New England, which received few immigrants, the high birthrate fueled pop- ulation growth. With the supply of land limited, sons who could not hope to inherit farms were forced to move to other colonies or to try their hand at a trade in the region’s towns. By mid- century, tenants and wage laborers were a growing presence on farms in the Middle Colonies.

In colonial cities, the number of propertyless wage earners subsisting at the poverty line steadily increased. In Boston, one- third of the population in 1771 owned no property at all. In rural Augusta County, carved out of Virginia’s Shenandoah River valley in 1738, land was quickly engrossed by planters and speculators. By the 1760s, two- thirds of the county’s white men owned no land and had little prospect of obtaining it unless they migrated farther west. Taking the colonies as a whole, half of the wealth at mid- century was concentrated in the hands of the richest 10 percent of the population.

Attitudes and policies toward poverty in colonial America mirrored British precedents. The better- off colonists generally viewed the poor as lazy, shiftless, and responsible for their own plight. Both rural communities and cities did accept responsibility for assisting their own. But to minimize the burden on taxpayers, poor persons were frequently set to labor in work- houses, where they produced goods that reimbursed authorities for part of their upkeep. Their children were sent to work as apprentices in local homes or workshops. And most communities adopted stringent measures to “warn out” unemployed and propertyless newcomers who might become depen- dent on local poor relief. This involved town authorities either expelling the unwanted poor from an area or formally declaring certain persons ineligible for assistance. In Essex County, Massachusetts, the number of poor persons warned out each year rose from 200 in the 1730s to 1,700 in the 1760s. Many were members of families headed by widowed or abandoned women.

The Middle Ranks

The large majority of free Americans lived between the extremes of wealth and poverty. Along with racial and ethnic diversity, what distinguished the main- land colonies from Europe was the wide distribution of land and the economic

 

 

SOCIAL CLASSES IN THE COLONIES ★ 127

autonomy of most ordinary free families. The anonymous author of the book American Husbandry, published in 1775, reported that “little freeholders who live upon their own property” made up “the most considerable part” of the people, especially in the northern colonies and the nonplantation parts of the South. Altogether, perhaps two- thirds of the free male population were farm- ers who owned their own land. England, to be sure, had no class of laborers as exploited as American slaves, but three- fifths of its people owned no prop- erty at all.

By the eighteenth century, colonial farm families viewed landownership almost as a right, the social precondition of freedom. They strongly resented efforts, whether by Native Americans, great landlords, or colonial governments, to limit their access to land. A dislike of personal dependence and an under- standing of freedom as not relying on others for a livelihood sank deep roots in British North America. These beliefs, after all, accorded with social reality— a wide distribution of property that made economic independence part of the lived experience of large numbers of white colonists.

Women and the Household Economy

In the household economy of eighteenth- century America, the family was the center of economic life. Most work revolved around the home, and all members— men, women, and children— contributed to the family’s livelihood. The independence of the small farmer depended in considerable measure on the labor of dependent women and children. “He that hath an industrious fam- ily shall soon be rich,” declared one colonial saying, and the high birthrate in part reflected the need for as many hands as possible on colonial farms. Most farmers concentrated first on growing food for their own consumption and acquiring enough land to pass it along to their sons. But the consumer revo- lution and expanding networks of Atlantic trade drew increasing numbers of farmers into production for the market as well.

As the population grew and the death rate declined, family life stabi- lized and more marriages became lifetime commitments. Free women were expected to devote their lives to being good wives and mothers. Already enshrined in law and property relations, male domination took on greater and greater social reality. In several colonies, the law mandated primogeniture— meaning that estates must be passed intact to the oldest son. As colonial soci- ety became more structured, opportunities that had existed for women in the early period receded. In Connecticut, for example, the courts were informal and unorganized in the seventeenth century, and women often represented themselves. In the eighteenth century, it became necessary to hire a lawyer as one’s spokesman in court. Women, barred from practicing as attorneys,

How did patterns of class and gender roles change in eighteenth- century America?

 

 

128 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

disappeared from judicial proceedings. Because of the desperate need for labor, men and women in the seventeenth century both did various kinds of work. In the eighteenth century, the division of labor along gender lines solidified. Women’s work was clearly defined, including cooking, cleaning, sewing, mak- ing butter, and assisting with agricultural chores. The work of farmers’ wives and daughters often spelled the difference between a family’s self- sufficiency and poverty.

“Women’s work is never done.” This popular adage was literally true. Even as the consumer revolution reduced the demands on many women by mak- ing available store- bought goods previously produced at home, women’s work seemed to increase. Lower infant mortality meant more time spent in child care and domestic chores. The demand for new goods increased the need for all family members to contribute to family income. For most women, work was incessant and exhausting. “I am dirty and distressed, almost wearied to death,” wrote Mary Cooper, a Long Island woman, in her diary in 1769. “This day,” she continued, “is forty years since I left my father’s house and come here, and here have I seen little else but hard labor and sorrow.”

The Residence of David Twining, a painting of a Pennsylvania farm as it appeared in the eighteenth century. Edward Hicks, who lived there as a youth, painted the scene from memory in the 1840s. Hicks depicts a prosperous farm, largely self- sufficient but also producing for the market, typical of colonial eastern Pennsylvania. One of the farm workers is a slave. Five- year- old Edward himself is pictured in the lower right- hand corner, listening to Mrs. Twining read the Bible.

 

 

North America at Mid- Century

By the mid- eighteenth century, the area that would become the United States was home to a remarkable diversity of peoples and different kinds of social organization, from Pueblo villages of the Southwest to tobacco plantations of the Chesapeake, towns and small farms of New England, landholdings in the Hudson Valley that resembled feudal estates, and fur- trading outposts of the northern and western frontier. Elites tied to imperial centers of power domi- nated the political and economic life of nearly every colony. But large numbers of colonists enjoyed far greater opportunities for freedom— access to the vote, prospects of acquiring land, the right to worship as they pleased, and an escape from oppressive government— than existed in Europe. Free colonists probably enjoyed the highest per capita income in the world. The colonies’ economic growth contributed to a high birthrate, long life expectancy, and expanding demand for consumer goods.

In the British colonies, writes one historian, lived “thousands of the freest individuals the Western world has ever known.” Yet many others found them- selves confined to the partial freedom of indentured servitude or to the com- plete absence of freedom in slavery. Both timeless longings for freedom and new and unprecedented forms of unfreedom had been essential to the North American colonies’ remarkable development.

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. Both the Puritans and William Penn viewed their colonies as “holy experiments.” How did they differ?

2. The textbook states, “Prejudice by itself did not create American slavery.” Examine the economic forces, events, and laws that shaped the experiences of enslaved people.

3. How did English leaders understand the place and role of the American colonies in England’s empire?

4. How did King Philip’s War, Bacon’s Rebellion, and the Salem witch trials illustrate a widespread crisis in British North America in the late seventeenth century?

5. The social structure of the eighteenth- century colonies was growing more open for some but not for others. Consider the statement with respect to men and women, whites and blacks, and rich and poor.

6. By the end of the seventeenth century, commerce was the foundation of empire and the leading cause of competition between European empires. Explain how the North American colonies were directly linked to Atlantic commerce by laws and trade.

CHAPTER REVIEW ★ 129

How did patterns of class and gender roles change in eighteenth- century America?

 

 

130 ★ CHAPTER 3 Creating Anglo-America

7. If you traveled from New England to the South, how would you describe the diversity you saw between the different colonies?

8. What impact did the family’s being the center of economic life have on gender relations and the roles of women?

9. What experiences caused people in the colonies to be like people in England, and what experiences served to make them different?

KEY TERMS

Metacom (p. 90)

King Philip’s War (p. 90)

mercantilism (p. 91)

Navigation Act (p. 91)

Covenant Chain (p. 93)

Yamasee uprising (p. 95)

Society of Friends (Quakers) (p. 96)

plantation (p. 99)

Bacon’s Rebellion (p. 103)

Glorious Revolution (p. 106)

English Bill of Rights (p. 107)

Lords of Trade (p. 107)

Dominion of New England (p. 108)

English Toleration Act (p. 109)

Salem witch trials (p. 111)

redemptioners (p. 115)

Walking Purchase (p. 117)

backcountry (p. 117)

staple crops (p. 123)

Go to QIJK To see what you know— and learn what you’ve missed— with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

 

 

What cultural conflicts emerged in the 1990s?

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S How did African slavery differ regionally in eighteenth- century North America?

What factors led to distinct African- American cultures in the eighteenth century?

What were the meanings of British liberty in the eighteenth century?

What concepts and institutions dominated colonial politics in the eighteenth century?

How did the Great Awakening challenge the religious and social structure of British North America?

How did the Spanish and French empires in America develop in the eighteenth century?

What was the impact of the Seven Years’ War on imperial and Indian– white relations?

S ometime in the mid- 1750s, Olaudah Equiano, the eleven- year- old son of a West African village chief, was kidnapped by slave traders. He soon found himself on a ship headed for Barbados. After a short stay on that Caribbean island, Equiano was sold to a plantation owner in Virginia and then purchased

S L A V E R Y , F R E E D O M , A N D T H E S T R U G G L E F O R E M P I R E

★ C H A P T E R   4 ★

T O 1 7 6 3

★ 131

 

 

132 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

by a British sea captain, who renamed him Gustavus Vassa. He accompanied his owner on numerous voyages on Atlantic trading vessels. While still a slave, he enrolled in a school in England where he learned to read and write, and then enlisted in the Royal Navy. He fought in Canada under General James Wolfe in 1758 during the Seven Years’ War. In 1763, however, Equiano was sold once again and returned to the Caribbean. Three years later, he was able to purchase his freedom. Equiano went on to live through shipwrecks, took part in an English colonizing venture in Central America, and even participated in an expedition to the Arctic Circle.

Equiano eventually settled in London, and in 1789 he published The Interesting Nar- rative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gus- tavus Vassa, the African, which he described as a “history of neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant,” but of a victim of slavery who through luck or fate ended up more fortu- nate than most of his people. He condemned the idea that Africans were inferior to Euro- peans and therefore deserved to be slaves. He urged the European reader to recall that “his ancestors were once, like the Africans, unciv- ilized” and asked, “Did nature make them inferior . . . and should they too have been made slaves?” Persons of all races, he insisted, were capable of intellectual improvement. The book became the era’s most widely read account by a slave of his own experiences. Equiano died in 1797.

Recent scholars have suggested that Equiano may actually have been born in the New World rather than Africa. In either case, while his rich variety of experience was no doubt unusual, his life illuminates broad patterns of eighteenth- century Ame rican his- tory. As noted in the previous chapter, this

1689 Locke’s Two Treatises of Government published

1707 Act of Union creating Great Britain

1712 Slave uprising in New York City

1718 French establish New Orleans

1720– Cato’s Letters 1723

1727 Junto club founded

1728 Pennsylvania Gazette established

1730s Beginnings of the Great Awakening

1732 Georgia colony founded

1735 John Peter Zenger tried for libel

1739 Stono Rebellion

1741 Rumors of slave revolt in New York

1749 Virginia awards land to the Ohio Company

1756– Seven Years’ War 1763

1754 Albany Plan of Union proposed

1763 Pontiac’s Rebellion

Proclamation of 1763

1764 Paxton Boys march on Philadelphia

1769 Father Serra establishes first mission in California

1789 The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano published

 

 

was a period of sustained development for British North America. Compared to England and Scotland— united to create Great Britain by the Act of Union of 1707—the colonies were growing much more rapidly. Some contempo- raries spoke of British America as a “ris- ing empire” that would one day eclipse the mother country in population and wealth.

It would be wrong, however, to see the first three- quarters of the eigh- teenth century simply as a prelude to American independence. As Equiano’s life illustrates, the Atlantic was more a bridge than a barrier between the Old and New Worlds. Ideas, people, and goods flowed back and forth across the ocean. Even as the colonies’ pop- ulations became more diverse, they were increasingly integrated into the British empire. Their laws and political institutions were extensions of those of Britain, their ideas about society and culture reflected British values, their economies were geared to serving the empire’s needs. As European powers jockeyed for advantage in North Amer- ica, colonists were drawn into an almost continuous series of wars with France and its Indian allies, which reinforced their sense of identification with and dependence on Great Britain.

Equiano’s life also underscores the greatest irony or contradiction in the his- tory of the eighteenth century— the simultaneous expansion of freedom and slavery. This was the era when the idea of the “freeborn Englishman” became powerfully entrenched in the outlook of both colonists and Britons. More than any other principle, liberty was seen as what made the British empire distinct. Yet the eighteenth century was also the height of the Atlantic slave trade, a commerce increasingly dominated by British merchants and ships. One of the most popular songs of the period included the refrain, “Britons never, never, never will be slaves.” But during the eighteenth century, more than half the Africans shipped to the New World as slaves were carried on British vessels.

The frontispiece of Olaudah Equiano’s account of his life, the best-known narrative by an eighteenth-century slave. The portrait of Equiano in European dress and holding a Bible challenges stereotypes of blacks as “savages” incapable of becoming civilized.

SLAVERY, FREEDOM, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR EMPIRE ★ 133

 

 

134 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

Most were destined for the plantations of the West Indies and Brazil, but slaves also made up around 280,000 of the 585,000 persons who arrived in Britain’s mainland colonies between 1700 and 1775. Although concentrated in the Chesapeake and areas farther south, slavery existed in every colony of British North America. And unlike Equiano, very few slaves were fortunate enough to gain their freedom.

S L A V E R Y A N D E M P I R E Of the estimated 10 million Africans transported to the New World between 1492 and 1820, more than half arrived between 1700 and 1800. The Atlantic slave trade would later be condemned by statesmen and general opinion as a crime against humanity. But in the eighteenth century, it was a regularized business in which European merchants, African traders, and American plant- ers engaged in complex bargaining over human lives, all with the expectation of securing a profit. The slave trade was a vital part of world commerce. Every European empire in the New World utilized slave labor and battled for con- trol of this lucrative trade. The asiento— an agreement whereby Spain subcon- tracted to a foreign power the right to provide slaves to Spanish America— was an important diplomatic prize. Britain’s acquisition of the asiento from the Dutch in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 was a major step in its rise to commer- cial supremacy.

In the British empire of the eighteenth century, free laborers working for wages were atypical and slavery was the norm. Slave plantations contributed mightily to English economic development. The first mass consumer goods in international trade were produced by slaves— sugar, rice, coffee, and tobacco. The rising demand for these products fueled the rapid growth of the Atlantic slave trade.

Atlantic Trade

In the eighteenth century, the Caribbean remained the commercial focus of the British empire and the major producer of revenue for the crown. But slave- grown products from the mainland occupied a larger and larger part of Atlan- tic commerce. A series of triangular trading routes crisscrossed the Atlantic, carrying British manufactured goods to Africa and the colonies, colonial prod- ucts to Europe, and slaves from Africa to the New World. Most colonial vessels, however, went back and forth between cities like New York, Charleston, and Savannah, and to ports in the Caribbean. Areas where slavery was only a minor institution also profited from slave labor. Merchants in New York, Massachu- setts, and Rhode Island participated actively in the slave trade, shipping slaves

 

 

SLAVERY AND EMPIRE ★ 135

from Africa to the Caribbean or southern colonies. The slave economies of the West Indies were the largest market for fish, grain, livestock, and lumber exported from New England and the Middle Colonies. Indeed, one historian writes, “The growth and prosperity of the emerging society of free colonial British America . . . were achieved as a result of slave labor.” In Britain itself, the profits from slav- ery and the slave trade stimulated the rise of ports like Liverpool and Bristol and the growth of banking, shipbuilding, and insurance. They also helped to finance the early industrial revolution.

Overall, in the eighteenth century, Atlantic commerce consisted primarily of slaves, crops produced by slaves, and goods destined for slave societies. It should not be surprising that for large numbers of free colonists and Europe- ans, freedom meant in part the power and right to enslave others. And as slav- ery became more and more entrenched, so too, as the Quaker abolitionist John Woolman commented in 1762, did “the idea of slavery being connected with the black color, and liberty with the white.”

Boston Newport

New York Philadelphia Baltimore

Norfolk Wilmington

Charleston Savannah

London

Lisbon Cadiz

Bristol

Glasgow

Furs, fish, naval stor

es

Manufact ured good

s

Manufa ctured g

oods

Manuf acture

d good s

Manufactured goods

Lin en

s, h or

se s

Tobacc o

Rice, in digo, h

ides

Grain, rum, fish, lumber

Mo lass

es, frui

t

Europ ean p

roduc ts

Wine W in

e, fru

it

M anufactured goods

Slaves RumSlaves, gold

Fish, livestock, flour, lum ber

Slaves, sugar

Sl av

es , s

ug ar

Rice Slaves

ENGLAND

SPAIN

PO RTUGAL

FRANCE

GOLD COAST

IVORY COAST

SLAVE COAST

BRITISH COLONIES

SPANISH FLORIDA

NORTH AMERICA

SOUTH AMERICA

AFRICA

EUROPE

S A H A R A D E S E R T

WE ST I N D I E S

Caribbean Sea

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

500

500

1,000 miles

1,000 kilometers

AT L A N T I C T R A D I N G R O U T E S

A series of trading routes crisscrossed the Atlantic, bringing manufactured goods to Africa and Britain’s American colonies, slaves to the New World, and colonial products to Europe.

How did African slavery differ regionally in eighteenth- century North America?

 

 

136 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

Africa and the Slave Trade

A few African societies, like Benin for a time, opted out of the Atlantic slave trade, hoping to avoid the disruptions it inevitably caused. But most African rulers took part, and they proved quite adept at playing the Europeans off against one another, collecting taxes from foreign merchants, and keeping the capture and sale of slaves under their own control. Few Europeans ventured inland from the coast. Traders remained in their “factories” and purchased slaves brought to them by African rulers and dealers.

The transatlantic slave trade made Africa a major market for European goods, especially textiles and guns. Both disrupted relationships within and among African societies. Cheap imported textiles undermined traditional craft production, while guns encouraged the further growth of slavery, since the only way to obtain European weapons was to supply slaves. By the

Spanish Colonies 13%

Dutch Colonies 7%

Portuguese Empi re 32%

British Caribbean 24%

French Caribbean 17%

3%

4%

The Middle Passage

ENGLAND

SPAIN

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OYO

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GUIANAS

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Atlantic Ocean

0

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1,000 kilometers

T H E S L AV E T R A D E I N T H E AT L A N T I C W O R L D , 1 4 6 0 – 1 7 7 0

The Atlantic slave trade expanded rapidly in the eighteenth century. The mainland colonies received only a tiny proportion of the Africans brought to the New World, most of whom were transported to Brazil and the West Indies.

 

 

SLAVERY AND EMPIRE ★ 137

eighteenth century, militarized states like Ashanti and Dahomey would arise in West Africa, with large armies using European firearms to prey on their neighbors in order to capture slaves. From a minor institution, slavery grew to become more and more central to West African society, a source of wealth for African merchants and of power for newly emerging African kingdoms. But the loss every year of tens of thousands of men and women in the prime of their lives to the slave trade weakened and distorted West Africa’s society and economy.

The Middle Passage

For slaves, the voyage across the Atlantic— known as the Middle Passage because it was the second, or middle, leg in the triangular trading routes linking Europe, Africa, and America— was a harrowing experience. Since a slave could be sold in America for twenty to thirty times the price in Africa, men, women, and chil- dren were crammed aboard vessels as tightly as possible to maximize profits. “The height, sometimes, between decks,” wrote one slave trader, “was only eighteen inches, so that the unfortunate human beings could not turn around, or even on their sides . . . and here they are usually chained to the decks by their necks and legs.” Equiano, who later described “the shrieks of the women and the groans of the dying,” survived the Middle Passage, but many Africans did not. Diseases like measles and smallpox spread rapidly, and about one slave in five perished before reaching the New World. Ship captains were known to throw the sick overboard in order to prevent the spread of epidemics. The crews on slave ships also suffered a high death rate.

Only a small proportion (less than 5 percent) of slaves carried to the New World were destined for mainland North America. The vast majority landed in Brazil or the West Indies, where the high death rate on the sugar plantations led to a constant demand for new slave imports. As late as 1700, only about 20,000 Africans had been landed in Britain’s colonies in North America. In the eighteenth century, however, their numbers increased steadily. Overall, the area that was to become the United States imported between 400,000 and 600,000 slaves. By 1770, due to the natural reproduction of the slave popula- tion, around one- fifth of the estimated 2.3 million persons (not including Indi- ans) living in the English colonies of North America were Africans and their descendants.

Chesapeake Slavery

By the mid- eighteenth century, three distinct slave systems were well entrenched in Britain’s mainland colonies: tobacco- based plantation slavery in the Chesapeake, rice- based plantation slavery in South Carolina and Georgia,

How did African slavery differ regionally in eighteenth- century North America?

 

 

138 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

and nonplantation slavery in New England and the Middle Colonies. The larg- est and oldest of these was the tobacco plantation system of the Chesapeake, where more than 270,000 slaves resided in 1770, nearly half of the region’s pop- ulation. On the eve of the Revolution, Virginia and Maryland were as closely tied to Britain as any other colonies and their economies were models of

This image, made by a sailor in 1769 for the ship’s owner, a merchant in Nantes, France, depicts a slave-trading vessel, the Marie-Séraphique, anchored off the African coast, and the ship’s interior. The cargo carried in barrels, generally guns, cloth, and metal goods, was to be traded for slaves. The third image from the left depicts the conditions under which slaves endured the Middle Passage across the Atlantic. The ship carried over 300 slaves. The broadside also included a calculation of the profit of the voyage.

 

 

SLAVERY AND EMPIRE ★ 139

mercantilist policy (described in Chapter 3). They supplied the mother coun- try with a valuable agricultural product, imported large amounts of British goods, and were closely linked in culture and political values to London. As we have seen, the period after 1680 witnessed a rapid shift from indentured servitude to slavery on the region’s tobacco plantations. In the eighteenth century, the growing world demand for tobacco encouraged continued slave imports.

As Virginia expanded westward, so did slavery. By the eve of the American Revolution, the center of gravity of slavery in the colony had shifted from the Tidewater (the region along the coast) to the Piedmont farther inland. Most Chesapeake slaves, male and female, worked in the fields, but thousands labored as teamsters, as boatmen, and in skilled crafts. Numerous slave women became cooks, seamstresses, dairy maids, and personal servants. The son of George Mason, one of Virginia’s leading planters and statesmen, recorded that his father’s slaves included “coopers, sawyers, blacksmiths, tanners, shoemak- ers, spinners, weavers, knitters, and even a distiller.” Slavery was common on small farms as well as plantations; nearly half of Virginia’s white families owned at least one slave in 1770.

Slavery laid the foundation for the consolidation of the Chesapeake elite, a landed gentry that, in conjunction with merchants who handled the tobacco trade and lawyers who defended the interests of slaveholders, dominated the region’s society and politics. Meanwhile, even as the consumer revolution improved the standard of living of lesser whites, their long- term economic prospects diminished. As slavery expanded, planters engrossed the best lands and wealth among the white population became more and more concentrated. Slavery transformed Chesapeake society into an elaborate hierarchy of degrees of freedom. At the top stood large planters, below them numerous lesser plant- ers and landowning yeomen, and at the bottom a large population of convicts, indentured servants, tenant farmers (who made up half the white households in 1770), and, of course, the slaves.

Freedom and Slavery in the Chesapeake

With the consolidation of a slave society in the Chesapeake, planters filled the law books with measures enhancing the master’s power over his human property and restricting blacks’ access to freedom. Violence lay at the heart of the slave system. Even a planter like Landon Carter, who prided himself on his concern for the well- being of his slaves, noted casually in his diary, “They have been severely whipped day by day.”

Race took on more and more importance as a line of social division. Whites increasingly considered free blacks dangerous and undesirable. Free blacks lost

How did African slavery differ regionally in eighteenth- century North America?

 

 

140 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

the right to employ white servants and to bear arms, were subjected to special taxes, and could be punished for striking a white person, regardless of the cause. In 1723, Virginia revoked the voting privileges of property- owning free blacks. When the Lords of Trade in London asked Virginia’s governor to justify discriminating among “freemen, merely upon account of their complexion,” he responded that “a distinction ought to be made between their offspring and the descendants of an Englishman, with whom they never were to be accounted equal.” Because Vir- ginia law required that freed slaves be sent out of the colony, free blacks remained only a tiny part of the population— less than 4 percent in 1750. “Free” and “white” had become virtually identical.

Indian Slavery in Early Carolina

Farther south, a different slave system, based on rice production, emerged in South Carolina and Georgia. The Barbadians who initially settled South Caro- lina in the 1670s were quite familiar with African slavery, but their first victims were members of the area’s native population. The local Creek Indians initially

welcomed the settlers and began sell- ing them slaves, generally war captives and their families, most of whom were sold to the West Indies. They even launched wars against neighboring tribes specifically for the purpose of capturing and selling slaves. As the plantation system expanded, however, the Creeks became more and more concerned, not only because it led to encroachments on their land but also because they feared enslavement themselves. They were aware that only a handful of slaves worked in nearby Spanish Florida. The Creeks, one leader remarked in 1738, preferred to deal with the Spanish, who “enslave no one as the English do.”

The Rice Kingdom

As in early Virginia, frontier condi- tions allowed leeway to South Caroli- na’s small population of African- born slaves, who farmed, tended livestock,

Table 4.1 Slave Population as Percentage of Total Population of Original Thirteen Colonies, 1770

Colony Slave Population Percentage

Virginia 187,600 42%

South Carolina 75,168 61

North Carolina 69,600 35

Maryland 63,818 32

New York 19,062 12

Georgia 15,000 45

New Jersey 8,220 7

Connecticut 5,698 3

Pennsylvania 5,561 2

Massachusetts 4,754 2

Rhode Island 3,761 6

Delaware 1,836 5

New Hampshire 654 1

 

 

SLAVERY AND EMPIRE ★ 141

and were initially allowed to serve in the militia to fight the Spanish and Indians. And as in Virginia, the introduction of a marketable staple crop, in this case rice, led directly to economic development, the large- scale importation of slaves, and a growing divide between white and black. South Carolina was the first mainland colony to achieve a black majority. By the 1730s (by which time North Carolina had become a separate colony), two- thirds of its population was black. In the 1740s, another staple, indigo (a crop used in producing blue dye), was developed. Like rice, indigo required large- scale cultivation and was grown by slaves.

Ironically, it was Africans, famil- iar with the crop at home, who taught English settlers how to cultivate rice, which then became the foundation of South Carolina slavery and of the wealthiest slaveowning class on the North American mainland. Since rice production requires considerable cap- ital investment to drain swamps and create irrigation systems, it is econom- ically advantageous for rice plantations to be as large as possible. Thus, South Carolina planters owned far more land and slaves than their counterparts in Virginia. Moreover, since mosquitoes bearing malaria (a disease to which Afri- cans had developed partial immunity) flourished in the watery rice fields, planters tended to leave plantations under the control of overseers and the slaves themselves.

In the Chesapeake, field slaves worked in groups under constant super- vision. Under the “task” system that developed in eighteenth- century South Carolina, individual slaves were assigned daily jobs, the completion of which allowed them time for leisure or to cultivate crops of their own. In 1762, one rice district had a population of only 76 white males among 1,000 slaves. Fearful of the ever- increasing black population majority, South Carolina’s legislature took steps to encourage the immigration of “poor Protestants,” offering each newcomer a cash bounty and occasionally levying taxes on slave

Slave Sale Broadside. This 1769 broadside advertises the sale of ninety-four slaves who had just arrived in Charleston from West Africa. Broadsides like this one were displayed promi- nently by slave traders to drum up business.

How did African slavery differ regionally in eighteenth- century North America?

 

 

142 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

imports, only to see such restrictions overturned in London. By 1770, the num- ber of South Carolina slaves had reached 75,000, well over half the colony’s population.

The Georgia Experiment

Rice cultivation also spread into Georgia in the mid- eighteenth century. The colony was founded in 1732 by a group of philanthropists led by James Oglethorpe, a wealthy reformer whose causes included improved conditions for imprisoned debtors and the abolition of slavery. Oglethorpe hoped to estab- lish a haven where the “worthy poor” of England could enjoy economic oppor- tunity. The government in London supported the creation of Georgia to protect South Carolina against the Spanish and their Indian allies in Florida.

Initially, the proprietors banned the introduction of both liquor and slaves, leading to continual battles with settlers, who desired both. By the 1740s, Geor- gia offered the spectacle of colonists pleading for the “English liberty” of self- government so that they could enact laws introducing slavery. In 1751, the proprietors surrendered the colony to the crown. The colonists quickly won the right to an elected assembly, which met in Savannah, Georgia’s main set- tlement. It repealed the ban on slavery (and liquor), as well as an early measure that had limited land holdings to 500 acres. Georgia became a miniature ver- sion of South Carolina. By 1770, as many as 15,000 slaves labored on its coastal rice plantations.

Slavery in the North

Compared to the plantation regions, slavery was far less central to the econo- mies of New England and the Middle Colonies, where small farms predomi- nated. Slaves made up only a small percentage of these colonies’ populations, and it was unusual for even rich families to own more than one or two slaves. Nonetheless, slavery was not entirely marginal to northern colonial life. Slaves worked as farm hands, in artisan shops, as stevedores loading and unloading ships, and as personal servants. With slaves so small a part of the population that they seemed to pose no threat to the white majority, laws were less harsh than in the South. In New England, where in 1770 the 15,000 slaves represented less than 3 percent of the region’s population, slave marriages were recognized in law, the severe physical punishment of slaves was prohibited, and slaves could bring suits in court, testify against whites, and own property and pass it on to their children— rights unknown in the South.

Slavery had been present in New York from the earliest days of Dutch set- tlement. With white immigration lagging behind that of Pennsylvania, the colony’s Hudson Valley landlords, small farmers, and craftsmen continued to

 

 

SLAVE CULTURES AND SLAVE RESISTANCE ★ 143

employ considerable amounts of slave labor in the eighteenth century. As New York City’s role in the slave trade expanded, so did slavery in the city. In 1746, its 2,440 slaves amounted to one- fifth of New York City’s total pop- ulation. Some 30 percent of its laborers were slaves, a proportion second only to Charleston among American cities. Most were domestic workers, but slaves worked in all sectors of the economy. In 1770, about 27,000 slaves lived in New York and New Jersey, 10 percent of their total population. Slavery was also a significant presence in Philadelphia, although the institution stagnated after 1750 as artisans and merchants relied increasingly on wage laborers, whose numbers were augmented by popu- lation growth and the completion of the terms of indentured servants. In an urban economy that expanded and con- tracted according to the ups and downs of international trade, many employers concluded that relying on wage labor, which could be hired and fired at will, made more economic sense than a long- term investment in slaves.

S L A V E C U L T U R E S A N D S L A V E R E S I S T A N C E Becoming African- American

The nearly 300,000 Africans brought to the mainland colonies during the eighteenth century were not a single people. They came from different cul- tures, spoke different languages, and practiced many religions. Eventually, an African- American people would emerge from the diverse peoples transported to the British colonies in the Middle Passage. Slavery threw together individu- als who would never otherwise have encountered one another and who had never considered their color or residence on a single continent a source of iden- tity or unity. Their bond was not kinship, language, or even “race,” but slavery

A portrait of Ayuba Diallo, a Muslim merchant in Senegal who became a victim of the slave trade in 1731 and was transported to Maryland. He escaped in 1733 and with the help of wealthy patrons regained his freedom. Because of Diallo’s unusual talents—he knew both English and Arabic and could relate the Koran from memory—he became a celebrity in England, which he visited in 1733. He sat for two portraits by the noted artist William Hoare. This is the earli- est known painting of an African who experienced slavery in Britain’s North American colonies. Diallo returned to his homeland in 1734.

What factors led to distinct African- American cultures in the eighteenth century?

 

 

144 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

itself. The process of creating a cohesive culture and community took many years, and it proceeded at different rates in different regions. But by the nine- teenth century, slaves no longer identified themselves as Ibo, Ashanti, Yoruba, and so on, but as African- Americans. In music, art, folklore, language, and reli- gion, their cultural expressions emerged as a synthesis of African traditions, European elements, and new conditions in America.

For most of the eighteenth century, the majority of American slaves were African by birth. Advertisements seeking information about runaways often described them by African origin (“young Gambia Negro,” “new Banbara Negro fellow”) and spoke of their bearing on their bodies “country marks”—visible signs of ethnic identity in Africa. Indeed, during the eighteenth century, black life in the colonies was “ re- Africanized” as the earlier Creoles (slaves born in the New World) came to be outnumbered by large- scale importations from Africa. Compared with the earliest generation of slaves, the newcomers worked harder, died earlier, and had less access to freedom. Charles Hansford, a white Virginia blacksmith, noted in a 1753 poem that he had frequently heard slaves speak of their desire to “reenjoy” life in Africa:

I oft with pleasure have observ’d how they Their sultry country’s worth strive to display In broken language, how they praise their case And happiness when in their native place . . . How would they dangers court and pains endure If to their country they could get secure!

African Religion in Colonial America

No experience was more wrenching for African slaves in the colonies than the transition from traditional religions to Christianity. Islam had spread across North Africa and the region of the Sahara Desert. The slaves who ended up in British North America, however, came from the forest regions of West Africa, where traditional religions continued to be practiced. Although these religions varied as much as those on other continents, they shared some elements, espe- cially belief in the presence of spiritual forces in nature and a close relationship between the sacred and secular worlds. West Africans, like Europeans, Equi- ano wrote, believed in a single “Creator of all things,” who “governs events” on earth, but otherwise their religious beliefs seemed more similar to those of Native Americans than to Christianity. In West African religions, there was no hard and fast distinction between the secular and spiritual worlds. Nature was suffused with spirits and the dead could influence the living: the spirits of departed “friends or relations always attend them and guard them from the bad spirits of their foes.”

 

 

SLAVE CULTURES AND SLAVE RESISTANCE ★ 145

Although some slaves came to the colonies familiar with Christianity or Islam, the majority of North American slaves practiced traditional African reli- gions (which many Europeans deemed superstition or even witchcraft) well into the eighteenth century. When they did adopt Protestant religious practices, many slaves melded them with traditional beliefs, adding the Christian God to their own pantheon of lesser spirits, whom they continued to worship. A similar process occurred in slave societies like Brazil and Cuba, where African spirits merged with Catholic saints.

African- American Cultures

By the mid- eighteenth century, the three slave systems in British North America had produced distinct African- American cultures. In the Chesapeake, because of a more healthful climate, the slave population began to reproduce itself by

The Old Plantation, a late-eighteenth-century watercolor, depicts slaves dancing in a planta- tion’s slave quarters, perhaps at a wedding. The musical instruments and pottery are African in origin while much of the clothing is of European manufacture, indicating the mixing of African and white cultures among the era’s slaves. The artist has recently been identified as John Rose, owner of a rice plantation near Beaufort, South Carolina.

What factors led to distinct African- American cultures in the eighteenth century?

 

 

146 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

1740, creating a more balanced sex ratio than in the seventeenth century and making possible the creation of family- centered slave communities. Because of the small size of most plantations and the large number of white yeoman farmers, slaves here were continuously exposed to white culture. They soon learned English, and many were swept up in the religious revivals known as the Great Awakening, discussed later in this chapter.

In South Carolina and Georgia, two very different black societies emerged. On the rice plantations, slaves lived in extremely harsh conditions and had a low birthrate throughout the eighteenth century, making rice production dependent on continued slave imports from Africa. The slaves seldom came into contact with whites and enjoyed far more autonomy than elsewhere in the colonies. The larger structures of their lives were established by slavery, but they were able to create an African- based culture. They constructed African- style houses, chose African names for their children, and spoke Gullah, a lan- guage that mixed various African roots and was unintelligible to most whites. Despite a continuing slave trade in which young, single males predominated, slaves slowly created families and communities that bridged generations. The experience of slaves who labored in Charleston and Savannah as servants and skilled workers was quite different. These assimilated more quickly into Euro- American culture, and sexual liaisons between white owners and slave women produced the beginnings of a class of free mulattos.

In the northern colonies, where slaves represented a smaller part of the pop- ulation, dispersed in small holdings among the white population, a distinctive African- American culture developed more slowly. Living in close proximity to whites, they enjoyed more mobility and access to the mainstream of life than their counterparts farther south. But they had fewer opportunities to create sta- ble family life or a cohesive community.

Resistance to Slavery

The common threads that linked these regional African- American cultures were the experience of slavery and the desire for freedom. Throughout the eighteenth century, blacks risked their lives in efforts to resist enslavement. Colonial newspapers, especially in the southern colonies, were filled with advertisements for runaway slaves. Most fugitives were young African men who had arrived recently. In South Carolina and Georgia, they fled to Flor- ida, to uninhabited coastal and river swamps, or to Charleston and Savan- nah, where they could pass for free. In the Chesapeake and Middle Colonies, fugitive slaves tended to be familiar with white culture and therefore, as one advertisement put it, could “pretend to be free.”

What Edward Trelawny, the colonial governor of Jamaica, called “a dan- gerous spirit of liberty” was widespread among the New World’s slaves. The

 

 

SLAVE CULTURES AND SLAVE RESISTANCE ★ 147

eighteenth century’s first slave uprising occurred in New York City in 1712, when a group of slaves set fire to houses on the outskirts of the city and killed the first nine whites who arrived on the scene. Subsequently, eigh- teen conspirators were executed; some were tortured and burned alive in a public spectacle meant to intimidate the slave population. During the 1730s and 1740s, continuous warfare involving European empires and Indi- ans opened the door to slave resistance. In 1731, a slave rebellion in Louisi- ana, where the French and Natchez Indians were at war, temporarily halted efforts to introduce the plantation system in that region. There were upris- ings throughout the West Indies, including in the Virgin Islands, owned by Denmark, and on the French island of Guadeloupe. On Jamaica, a major British center of sugar production, communities of fugitive slaves known as “maroons” waged outright warfare against British authorities until a treaty of 1739 recognized their freedom, in exchange for which they agreed to return future escapees.

An advertisement seeking the return of four runaway slaves from New York City. Note the careful description of the fugitives’ clothing and the diversity of the names, presumably given by their owners—two common English names, one of African origin and one alluding to ancient Rome. The reward offered is a substantial amount of money in the colonial era.

What factors led to distinct African- American cultures in the eighteenth century?

 

 

148 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

The Crisis of 1739–1741

On the mainland, slaves seized the opportunity for rebellion offered by the War of Jenkins’ Ear, which pitted England against Spain. In September 1739, a group of South Carolina slaves, most of them recently arrived from Kongo where some, it appears, had been soldiers, seized a store containing numerous weap- ons at the town of Stono. Beating drums to attract followers, the armed band marched southward toward Florida, burning houses and barns, killing whites they encountered, and shouting “Liberty.” (Florida’s Spanish rulers offered “Lib- erty and Protection” to fugitives from the British colonies.) The group eventu- ally swelled to some 100 slaves. After a pitched battle with the colony’s militia, the rebels were dispersed. The rebellion took the lives of more than two dozen whites and as many as 200 slaves, including many who had no connection to the rebellion. Some slaves managed to reach Florida, where in 1740 they were armed by the Spanish to help repel an attack on St. Augustine by a force from Georgia. The Stono Rebellion led to a severe tightening of the South Carolina slave code and the temporary imposition of a prohibitive tax on imported slaves.

In 1741, a panic (which some observers compared to the fear of witches in Salem in the 1690s) swept New York City. After a series of fires broke out, rumors spread that slaves, with some white allies, planned to burn part of the city, seize weapons, and either turn New York over to Spain or murder the white population. More than 150 blacks and 20 whites were arrested, and 34 alleged conspirators, including 4 white persons, were executed. Historians still disagree as to how extensive the plot was or whether it existed at all. But dramatic events like revolts, along with the constant stream of runaways, disproved the idea, voiced by the governor of South Carolina, that slaves had “no notion of liberty.” In eighteenth- century America, dreams of freedom knew no racial boundary.

A N E M P I R E O F F R E E D O M British Patriotism

Despite the centrality of slavery to its empire, eighteenth- century Great Britain prided itself on being the world’s most advanced and freest nation. It was not only the era’s greatest naval and commercial power but also the home of a com- plex governmental system with a powerful Parliament representing the inter- ests of a self- confident landed aristocracy and merchant class. In London, the largest city in Europe with a population approaching 1 million by the end of the eighteenth century, Britain possessed a single political- cultural- economic capital. It enjoyed a common law, common language, and, with the excep- tion of a small number of Jews, Catholics, and Africans, common devotion to

 

 

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Protestantism. For much of the eighteenth century, Britain found itself at war with France, which had replaced Spain as its major continental rival. This situ- ation led to the development of a large military establishment, high taxes, and the creation of the Bank of England to help finance European and imperial con- flicts. For both Britons and colonists, war helped to sharpen a sense of national identity against foreign foes.

British patriotic sentiment became more and more assertive as the eigh- teenth century progressed. Symbols of British identity proliferated: the songs “God Save the King” and “Rule, Britannia,” and even the modern rules of cricket, the national sport. The rapidly expanding British economy formed another point of pride uniting Britons and colonists. Continental peoples, according to a popular saying, wore “wooden shoes”—that is, their standard of living was far below that of Britons. Especially in contrast to France, Britain saw itself as a realm of widespread prosperity, individual liberty, the rule of law, and the Prot- estant faith. Wealth, religion, and freedom went together. “There is no Popish nation,” wrote the Massachusetts theologian Cotton Mather in 1710, “but what by embracing the Protestant Religion would . . . not only assert themselves into a glorious liberty, but also double their wealth immediately.”

The British Constitution

Central to this sense of British identity was the concept of liberty. The fierce polit- ical struggles of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution bequeathed to eighteenth- century Britons an abiding conviction that liberty was their unique possession. They believed power and liberty to be natural antagonists. To mediate between them, advocates of British freedom celebrated the rule of law, the right to live under legislation to which one’s representatives had consented, restraints on the arbitrary exercise of political authority, and rights like trial by jury enshrined in the common law. On both sides of the Atlantic, every politi- cal cause, it seemed, wrapped itself in the language of liberty and claimed to be defending the “rights of Englishmen.” Continental writers dissatisfied with the lack of liberty in their own countries looked to Britain as a model. The House of Commons, House of Lords, and king each checked the power of the others. This structure, wrote the French political philosopher Baron Montesquieu, made Britain “the one nation in the world whose constitution has political liberty for its purpose.” In its “balanced constitution” and the principle that no man, even the king, is above the law, Britons claimed to have devised the best means of pre- venting political tyranny. Until the 1770s, most colonists believed themselves to be part of the freest political system mankind had ever known.

As the coexistence of slavery and liberty within the empire demonstrated, British freedom was anything but universal. It was closely identified with the

What were the meanings of British liberty in the eighteenth century?

 

 

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Protestant religion and was invoked to contrast Britons with the “servile” subjects of Catholic countries. It viewed nearly every other nation on earth as “enslaved”— to popery, tyranny, or barbarism. One German military officer commented in 1743 on the British “contempt” of foreigners: “They [pride] themselves not only upon their being free themselves, but being the bulwarks of liberty all over Europe; and they vilify most of the Nations on the continent . . . for being slaves, as they call us.” British liberty was fully compatible with wide gradations in personal rights. Yet in the minds of the free residents of Great Britain and its North American colonies, liberty was the bond of empire.

These ideas sank deep roots not only within the “political nation”—those who voted, held office, and engaged in structured political debate— but also far more broadly in British and colonial society. Laborers, sailors, and artisans spoke the language of British freedom as insistently as pamphleteers and par- liamentarians. Although most white men in Britain and many in the colonies lacked the right to vote, they influenced public life in other ways, serving on juries, and taking to the streets to protest what they considered oppressive authority. Ordinary persons protested efforts by merchants to raise the cost of bread above the traditional “just price,” and the Royal Navy’s practice of “impressment”—kidnapping poor men on the streets for maritime service.

Republican Liberty

Liberty was central to two sets of political ideas that flourished in the Anglo- American world. One is termed by scholars republicanism (although few in eighteenth- century England used the word, which literally meant a govern- ment without a king and conjured up memories of the beheading of Charles I). Republicanism celebrated active participation in public life by economically independent citizens as the essence of liberty. Republicans assumed that only property- owning citizens possessed “virtue”—defined in the eighteenth cen- tury not simply as a personal moral quality but as the willingness to subordi- nate self- interest to the pursuit of the public good. “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom,” wrote Benjamin Franklin.

In eighteenth- century Britain, this body of thought about freedom was most closely associated with a group of critics of the established political order known as the “Country Party” because much of their support arose from the landed gentry. In Britain, Country Party publicists like John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, authors of Cato’s Letters, published in the 1720s, had little impact. But their writings were eagerly devoured in the American colonies, whose elites were attracted to Trenchard and Gordon’s emphasis on the politi- cal role of the independent landowner and their warnings against the constant tendency of political power to infringe upon liberty.

 

 

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Liberal Freedom

The second set of eighteenth- century political ideas celebrating freedom came to be known as liberalism (although its meaning was quite different from what the word suggests today). Whereas republican liberty had a public and social qual- ity, liberalism was essentially individual and private. The leading philosopher of liberty was John Locke, whose Two Treatises of Government, written around 1680, had limited influence in his own lifetime but became extremely well known in the next century. Government, he wrote, was formed by a mutual agreement among equals (the parties being male heads of households, not all persons). In this “social contract,” men surrendered a part of their right to govern them- selves in order to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law. They retained, however, their natural rights, whose existence predated the establishment of political authority. Protecting the security of life, liberty, and property required shield- ing a realm of private life and personal concerns— including family relations,

The Polling, by the renowned eighteenth-century British artist William Hogarth, satirizes the idea that British elections are decided by the reasoned deliberations of upstanding property owners. Inspired by a corrupt election of 1754, Hogarth depicts an election scene in which the maimed and dying are brought to the polls to cast ballots. At the center, lawyers argue over whether a man who has a hook for a hand can swear on the Bible.

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religious preferences, and economic activity— from interference by the state. During the eighteenth century, Lockean ideas— individual rights, the consent of the governed, the right of rebellion against unjust or oppressive government— would become familiar on both sides of the Atlantic.

Like other Britons, Locke spoke of liberty as a universal right yet seemed to exclude many persons from its full benefits. While Locke was one of the first theorists to defend the property rights of women and even their access to divorce, and condemned slavery as a “vile and miserable estate of man,” the free individual in liberal thought was essentially the propertied white man. None- theless, by proclaiming that all individuals possess natural rights that no gov- ernment may violate, Lockean liberalism opened the door to the poor, women, and even slaves to challenge limitations on their own freedom.

In the eighteenth century, these systems of thought overlapped and often reinforced each other. Both political outlooks could inspire a commitment to constitutional government and restraints on despotic power. Both emphasized the security of property as a foundation of freedom. Both traditions were trans- ported to eighteenth- century America. Ideas about liberty imported from Brit- ain to the colonies would eventually help to divide the empire.

T H E P U B L I C S P H E R E Colonial politics for most of the eighteenth century was considerably less tempestuous than in the seventeenth, with its bitter struggles for power and frequent armed uprisings. Political stability in Britain coupled with the matu- ration of local elites in America made for more tranquil government. New York stood apart from this development. With its diverse population and bitter mem- ories of Leisler’s rebellion (see Chapter 3), New York continued to experience intense political strife among its many economic interests and ethnic groups. By the 1750s, semi permanent political parties competed vigorously for pop- ular support in New York elections. But in most other colonies, although dif- ferences over policies of one kind or another were hardly absent, they rarely produced the civil disorder or political passions of the previous century.

The Right to Vote

In many respects, politics in eighteenth- century America had a more dem- ocratic quality than in Great Britain. Suffrage requirements varied from col- ony to colony, but as in Britain the linchpin of voting laws was the property qualification. Its purpose was to ensure that men who possessed an economic stake in society and the independence of judgment that supposedly went with it determined the policies of the government. The “foundation of liberty,” the

 

 

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parliamentary leader Henry Ireton had declared during the English Civil War of the 1640s, “is that those who shall choose the lawmakers shall be men freed from dependence upon others.” Slaves, servants, tenants, adult sons living in the homes of their parents, the poor, and women all lacked a “will of their own” and were therefore ineligible to vote. The wide distribution of property in the colonies, however, meant that a far higher percentage of the population enjoyed voting rights than in the Old World. It is estimated that between 50 and 80 percent of adult white men could vote in eighteenth- century colonial America, as opposed to fewer than 5 percent in Britain at the time.

Colonial politics, however, was hardly democratic in a modern sense. In a few instances— some towns in Massachusetts and on Long Island— propertied women, generally widows, cast ballots. But voting was almost everywhere con- sidered a male prerogative. In some colonies, Jews, Catholics, and Protestant Dissenters like Baptists and Quakers could not vote. Propertied free blacks, who enjoyed the franchise in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia in the early days of settlement, lost that right during the eighteenth century. In the northern col- onies, while the law did not bar blacks from voting, local custom did. Native Americans were generally prohibited from voting.

Political Cultures

Despite the broad electorate among white men, “the people” existed only on election day. Between elections, members of colonial assemblies remained out of touch with their constituents. Strongly competitive elections were the norm only in the Middle Colonies. Elsewhere, many elections went uncontested, either because only one candidate presented himself or because the local cul- ture stressed community harmony, as in many New England towns. Consid- erable power in colonial politics rested with those who held appointive, not elective, office. Governors and councils were appointed by the crown in the nine royal colonies and by the proprietors of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Only in Rhode Island and Connecticut were these offices elective. Moreover, laws passed by colonial assemblies could be vetoed by governors or in London. In New England, most town officers were elected, but local officials in other colonies were appointed by the governor or by powerful officials in London. The duke of Newcastle alone could appoint eighty- three colonial officials.

Property qualifications for officeholding were far higher than for voting. In South Carolina, for example, nearly every adult male could meet the voting qualification of fifty acres of land or payment of twenty shillings in taxes, but to sit in the assembly one had to own 500 acres of land and ten slaves or town property worth £1,000. As a result, throughout the eighteenth century nearly all of South Carolina’s legislators were planters or wealthy merchants. Despite its boisterous and competitive politics, New York’s diminutive assembly, with

What concepts and institutions dominated colonial politics in the eighteenth century?

 

 

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fewer than thirty members, was dominated by relatives and allies of the great landed families, especially the Livingstons and De Lanceys. Of seventy- two men who sat in the New York Assembly between 1750 and 1776, fifty- two were related to the families who owned the great Hudson River estates.

In some colonies, a majority of free men possessed the right to vote, but an ingrained tradition of “deference”—the assumption among ordinary people that wealth, education, and social prominence carried a right to public office— sharply limited effective choice in elections. Virginia politics, for example, combined political democracy for white men with the tradition that voters should choose among candidates from the gentry. Aspirants for public office actively sought to ingratiate themselves with ordinary voters, distributing food and liquor freely at the courthouse where balloting took place. In Thomas Jefferson’s first campaign for the House of Burgesses in 1768, his expenses included hiring two men “for bringing up rum” to the polling place. Even in New England, with its larger number of elective positions, town leaders were generally the largest property holders and offices frequently passed from gen- eration to generation in the same family.

Colonial Government

Preoccupied with events in Europe and imperial rivalries, successive British governments during the first half of the eighteenth century adopted a policy of salutary neglect toward the colonies, leaving them largely to govern them- selves. With imperial authority so weak, the large landowners, merchants, and lawyers who dominated colonial assemblies increasingly claimed the right to control local politics.

Convinced that they represented the will of the people, elected colonial assemblies used their control of finance to exert influence over appointed governors and councils. Although governors desired secure incomes for them- selves and permanent revenue for their administrations (Robert Hunter of New York demanded a life salary), assemblies often authorized salaries only one year at a time and refused to levy taxes except in exchange for concessions on appointments, land policy, and other issues. Typically members of the Brit- ish gentry who had suffered financial reversals and hoped to recoup their for- tunes in America, governors learned that to rule effectively they would have to cooperate with the colonial elite.

The Rise of the Assemblies

In the seventeenth century, the governor was the focal point of political author- ity, and colonial assemblies were weak bodies that met infrequently. But in the eighteenth, as economic development enhanced the power of American

 

 

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elites, the assemblies they dominated became more and more assertive. Their leaders insisted that assemblies possessed the same rights and powers in local affairs as the House of Commons enjoyed in Britain. The most successful gov- ernors were those who accommodated the rising power of the assemblies and used their appointive powers and control of land grants to win allies among assembly members.

The most powerful assembly was Pennsylvania’s, where a new charter, adopted in 1701, eliminated the governor’s council, establishing the only uni cameral ( one- house) legislature in the colonies. Controlled until mid- century by an elite of Quaker merchants, the assembly wrested control of finance, appointments, and the militia from a series of governors representing the Penn family. Close behind in terms of power and legislative independence were the assemblies of New York, Virginia, South Carolina, and, especially, Massachu- setts, which successfully resisted governors’ demands for permanent salaries for appointed officials. Many of the conflicts between governors and elected assem- blies stemmed from the colonies’ economic growth. To deal with the scarcity of gold and silver coins, the only legal form of currency, some colonies printed paper money, although this was strongly opposed by the governors, authorities in Lon- don, and British merchants who did not wish to be paid in what they considered worthless paper. Numerous battles also took place over land policy (sometimes involving divergent attitudes toward the remaining Indian population) and the level of rents charged to farmers on land owned by the crown or proprietors.

This 1765 engraving depicting an election in Pennsylvania suggests the intensity of political debate in the Middle Colonies, as well as the social composition of the electorate. Those shown arguing outside the Old Court House in Philadelphia include physicians (with wigs and gold-topped canes), ministers, and lawyers. A line of men wait on the steps to vote.

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In their negotiations and conflicts with royal governors, leaders of the assemblies drew on the writings of the English Country Party, whose emphasis on the constant tension between liberty and political power and the dangers of executive influence over the legislature made sense of their own experience. Of the European settlements in North America, only the British colonies pos- sessed any considerable degree of popular participation in government. This fact reinforced the assemblies’ claim to embody the rights of Englishmen and the principle of popular consent to government. They were defenders of “the people’s liberty,” in the words of one New York legislator.

Politics in Public

This language reverberated outside the relatively narrow world of elective and legislative politics. The “political nation” was dominated by the American gen- try, whose members addressed each other in letters, speeches, newspaper articles, and pamphlets filled with Latin expressions and references to classical learning. But especially in colonial towns and cities, the eighteenth century witnessed a considerable expansion of the “public sphere”—the world of political organiza- tion and debate independent of the government, where an informed citizenry openly discussed questions that had previously been the preserve of officials.

In Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, clubs proliferated where literary, philosophical, scientific, and political issues were debated. Among the best known was the Junto, a “club for mutual improvement” founded by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1727 for weekly discussion of political and eco- nomic questions. Beginning with only a dozen members, it eventually evolved into the much larger American Philosophical Society. Such groups were gen- erally composed of men of property and commerce, but some drew ordinary citizens into discussions of public affairs. Colonial taverns and coffeehouses also became important sites not only for social conviviality but also for polit- ical debates. Philadelphia had a larger number of drinking establishments per capita than Paris. In Philadelphia, one clergyman commented, “the poorest laborer thinks himself entitled to deliver his sentiments in matters of religion or politics with as much freedom as the gentleman or scholar.”

The Colonial Press

Neither the Spanish possessions of Florida and New Mexico nor New France possessed a printing press, although missionaries had established one in Mex- ico City in the 1530s. In British North America, however, the press expanded rapidly during the eighteenth century. So did the number of political broad- sides and pamphlets published, especially at election time. Widespread lit- eracy created an expanding market for printed materials. By the eve of the

 

 

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American Revolution, some three- quarters of the free adult male population in the colonies (and more than one- third of the women) could read and write, and a majority of American families owned at least one book. Philadelphia boasted no fewer than seventy- seven bookshops in the 1770s.

Circulating libraries appeared in many colonial cities and towns, making possible a wider dissemination of knowledge at a time when books were still expensive. The first, the Library Company of Philadelphia, was established by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. “So few were the readers at that time, and the majority of us so poor,” Franklin recalled in his Autobiography (1791), that he could find only fifty persons, mostly “young tradesmen,” anxious for self- improvement and willing to pay for the privilege of borrowing books. But reading, he added, soon “became fashionable.” Libraries sprang up in other towns, and ordinary Americans came to be “better instructed and more intel- ligent than people of the same rank” abroad.

The first continuously published colonial newspaper, the Boston News- Letter, appeared in 1704 (a predecessor, Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, established in Boston in 1690, had been suppressed by authorities after a single issue for criticizing military cooperation with the Iroquois). There were thirteen colonial newspapers by 1740 and twenty- five in 1765, mostly weeklies with small circulations— an average of 600 sales per issue. Probably the best- edited newspaper was the Pennsylvania Gazette, established in 1728 in Philadelphia and purchased the following year by Benjamin Franklin, who had earlier worked as an apprentice printer on his brother’s Boston periodical, the New England Courant. At its peak, the Gazette attracted 2,000 subscribers. Newspapers initially devoted most of their space to advertisements, religious affairs, and reports on British society and government. But by the 1730s, polit- ical commentary was widespread in the American press.

Freedom of Expression and Its Limits

The public sphere thrived on the free exchange of ideas. But free expression was not generally considered one of the ancient rights of Englishmen. The phrase “freedom of speech” originated in Britain during the sixteenth century in Parliament’s struggle to achieve the privilege of unrestrained debate. A right of legislators, not ordinary citizens, it referred to the ability of members of Par- liament to express their views without fear of reprisal, on the grounds that only in this way could they effectively represent the people. Outside of Parliament, free speech had no legal protection. A subject could be beheaded for accusing the king of failing to hold “true” religious beliefs, and language from swearing to criticism of the government exposed a person to criminal penalties.

As for freedom of the press, governments on both sides of the Atlantic viewed this as extremely dangerous, partly because they considered ordinary

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citizens prone to be misled by inflammatory printed materials. During the English Civil War of the 1640s, the Levellers had called for the adoption of a written constitution, an Agreement of the People, containing guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of the press. But until 1695, when a British law requiring the licensing of printed works before publication lapsed, no news- paper, book, or pamphlet could legally be printed without a government license. The instructions of colonial governors included a warning about the “great inconveniences that may arise by the liberty of printing.” After 1695, the government could not censor newspapers, books, and pamphlets before they appeared in print, although it continued to try to manage the press by direct payments to publishers and individual journalists. Authors and publishers could still be prosecuted for “seditious libel”—a crime that included defaming government officials— or punished for contempt.

Elected assemblies, not governors, most frequently discouraged freedom of the press in colonial America. Dozens of publishers were hauled before assemblies and forced to apologize for comments regarding one or another member. If they refused, they were jailed. James Franklin, Benjamin’s older brother, spent a month in prison in 1722 after publishing a piece satirizing public authorities in Massachusetts. Colonial newspapers vigorously defended freedom of the press as a central component of liberty, insisting that the cit- izenry had a right to monitor the workings of government and subject pub- lic officials to criticism. Many newspapers reprinted passages from Cato’s Letters in which Trenchard and Gordon strongly opposed prosecutions for libel. “Without freedom of thought,” they declared, “there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” But since government printing contracts were crucial for economic success, few news papers attacked colonial governments unless financially supported by an opposition faction.

The Trial of Zenger

The most famous colonial court case involving freedom of the press demon- strated that popular sentiment opposed prosecutions for criticism of public offi- cials. This was the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, a German- born printer who had emigrated to New York as a youth. Financed by wealthy opponents of Gov- ernor William Cosby, Zenger’s newspaper, the Weekly Journal, lambasted the governor for corruption, influence peddling, and “tyranny.” New York’s council ordered four issues burned and had Zenger himself arrested and tried for sedi- tious libel. The judge instructed the jurors to consider only whether Zenger had actually published the offending words, not whether they were accurate. But Zenger’s attorney, Andrew Hamilton, urged the jury to judge not the publisher but the governor. If they decided that Zenger’s charges were correct, they must

 

 

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acquit him, and, Hamilton proclaimed, “every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless you.”

Zenger was found not guilty. The case sent a warning to prosecutors that libel cases might be very difficult to win, espe- cially in the superheated atmosphere of New York partisan politics. To be sure, had Zenger lambasted the assembly rather than the governor, he would in all likelihood have been lodged in jail with- out even the benefit of a trial. The law of libel remained on the books. But the outcome helped to promote the idea that the publication of truth should always be permitted, and it demonstrated that the idea of free expression was becoming ingrained in the popular imagination.

The American Enlightenment

During the eighteenth century, many educated Americans began to be influ- enced by the outlook of the European Enlightenment. This philosophical movement, which originated among French thinkers and soon spread to Britain, sought to apply the scientific method of careful investigation based on research and experiment to political and social life. Enlightenment ideas crisscrossed the Atlantic along with goods and people. Enlightenment thinkers insisted that every human institution, authority, and tradition be judged before the bar of reason. The self- educated Benjamin Franklin’s wide range of activities— establishing a newspaper, debating club, and library; publishing the widely cir- culated Poor Richard’s Almanack; and conducting experiments to demonstrate that lightning is a form of electricity— exemplified the Enlightenment spirit and made him probably the best- known American in the eighteenth- century world.

One inspiration for the American Enlightenment was a reaction against the bloody religious wars that wracked Europe in the seventeenth century. Enlight- enment thinkers hoped that “reason,” not religious enthusiasm, could govern

A 1762 portrait of Benjamin Franklin, done in London by the English artist Mason Chamberlain while Franklin was in the city as agent for the Pennsylvania Assembly. Franklin is depicted as a scientist making notes on his experiments, rather than as a politician. In the background, an electrical storm rages—a reference to Franklin’s pioneering experiments that demonstrated the electrical nature of lightning and led to his election as a member of the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific organization. Franklin also invented the lightning rod. The storm in the painting is destroy- ing buildings that have not installed Franklin’s invention.

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human life. The criticism of social and political institutions based on tradition and hereditary privilege rather than the dictates of reason could also be applied to established churches. John Locke himself had published The Reasonableness of Christianity in 1695, which insisted that religious belief should rest on sci- entific evidence. During the eighteenth century, many prominent Americans moved toward the position called Arminianism, which taught that reason alone was capable of establishing the essentials of religion. Others adopted Deism, a belief that God essentially withdrew after creating the world, leaving it to function according to scientific laws without divine intervention. Belief in miracles, in the revealed truth of the Bible, and in the innate sinfulness of man- kind were viewed by Arminians, Deists, and others as outdated superstitions that should be abandoned in the modern age.

In the seventeenth century, the English scientist Isaac Newton had revealed the natural laws that governed the physical universe. Here, Deists believed, was the purest evidence of God’s handiwork. Many Protestants of all denominations could accept Newton’s findings while remaining devout churchgoers (as Newton himself had). But Deists concluded that the best form of religious devotion was to study the workings of nature, rather than to worship in organized churches or appeal to divine grace for salvation. By the late colonial era, a small but influential group of leading Americans, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, could be classified as Deists.

T H E G R E A T A W A K E N I N G Like freedom of the press, religion was another realm where the actual experi- ence of liberty outstripped its legal recognition. Religion remained central to eighteenth- century American life. Sermons, theological treatises, and copies of the Bible were by far the largest category of material produced by colonial print- ers. Religious disputes often generated more public attention than political issues. Yet many church leaders worried about lax religious observance as colonial eco- nomic growth led people to be more and more preoccupied with worldly affairs.

Religious Revivals

Many ministers were concerned that westward expansion, commercial develop- ment, the growth of Enlightenment rationalism, and lack of individual engage- ment in church services were undermining religious devotion. These fears helped to inspire the revivals that swept through the colonies beginning in the 1730s. Known as the Great Awakening, the revivals were less a coordinated movement than a series of local events united by a commitment to a “religion

 

 

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of the heart,” a more emotional and per- sonal Christianity than that offered by existing churches. The revivals redrew the religious landscape of the colonies.

The eighteenth century witnessed a revival of religious fundamental- ism in many parts of the world, in part a response to the rationalism of the Enlightenment and a desire for greater religious purity. In the Middle East and Central Asia, where Islam was wide- spread, followers of a form of the reli- gion known as Wahhabism called for a return to the practices of the religion’s early days. In Eastern Europe, Hasidic Jews emphasized the importance of faith and religious joy as opposed to what they considered the overly academic study of Jewish learning and history in conven- tional Judaism. Methodism and other forms of enthusiastic religion were flour- ishing in Europe. Like other intellectual currents of the time, the Great Awaken- ing was a transatlantic movement.

During the 1720s and 1730s, the New Jersey Dutch Reformed clergyman The- odore Frelinghuysen, his Presbyterian neighbors William and Gilbert Tennent, and the Massachusetts Congregationalist minister Jonathan Edwards pioneered an intensely emotional style of preaching. Edwards’s famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God portrayed sinful man as a “loathsome insect” suspended over a bottomless pit of eternal fire by a slender thread that might break at any moment. Edwards’s preaching, declared a member of his congregation, inspired worshipers to cry out, “What shall I do to be saved— oh, I am going to hell!” Only a “new birth”—immediately acknowledging one’s sins and pleading for divine grace— could save men from eternal damnation. “It is the new birth that makes [sinners] free,” declared the Reverend Joshua Tufts.

The Preaching of Whitefield

More than any other individual, the English minister George Whitefield, who declared “the whole world his parish,” sparked the Great Awakening. For two years after his arrival in America in 1739, Whitefield brought his highly

George Whitefield, the English evangelist who helped to spark the Great Awakening in the colonies. Painted around 1742 by John Wol- laston, who had emigrated from England to the colonies, the work depicts Whitefield’s powerful effect on male and female listeners. It also illus- trates Whitefield’s eye problem, which led critics to dub him “Dr. Squintum.”

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emotional brand of preaching to colonies from Georgia to New England. God, Whitefield proclaimed, was merciful. Rather than being predestined for dam- nation, men and women could save themselves by repenting of their sins. Whitefield appealed to the passions of his listeners, powerfully sketching the boundless joy of salvation and the horrors of damnation. In every sermon, he asked his listeners to look into their own hearts and answer the question, “Are you saved?” If not, they must change their sinful ways and surrender their lives to Christ.

Tens of thousands of colonists flocked to Whitefield’s sermons, which were widely reported in the American press, making him a celebrity and helping to establish the revivals as the first major intercolonial event in North American history. In Whitefield’s footsteps, a host of traveling preachers or “evangelists” (meaning, literally, bearers of good news) held revivalist meetings, often to the alarm of established ministers.

Critics of the Great Awakening produced sermons, pamphlets, and newspa- per articles condemning the revivalist preachers for lacking theological train- ing, encouraging disrespect for “the established church and her ministers,” and filling churches with “general disorder.” Connecticut sought to stem the revivalist tide through laws punishing disruptive traveling preachers. By the time they subsided in the 1760s, the revivals had changed the religious config- uration of the colonies and enlarged the boundaries of liberty. Whitefield had inspired the emergence of numerous Dissenting churches. Congregations split into factions headed by Old Lights (traditionalists) and New Lights (revivalists), and new churches proliferated— Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and others. Many of these new churches began to criticize the colonial practice of levying taxes to support an established church; they defended religious freedom as one of the natural rights government must not restrict.

The Awakening’s Impact

Although the revivals were primarily a spiritual matter, the Great Awakening reflected existing social tensions, threw into question many forms of authority, and inspired criticism of aspects of colonial society. They attracted primarily men and women of modest means—“rude, ignorant, void of manners, education or good breeding,” one Anglican minister complained. Revivalist preachers fre- quently criticized commercial society, insisting that believers should make salva- tion, not profit, “the one business of their lives.” In New England, they condemned merchants who ensnared the unwary in debt as greedy and unchristian. Preaching to the small farmers of the southern backcountry, Baptist and Methodist revival- ists criticized the worldliness of wealthy planters and attacked as sinful activities such as gambling, horse racing, and lavish entertainments on the Sabbath.

 

 

IMPERIAL RIVALRIES ★ 163

A few preachers explicitly condemned slavery. And a few converts, such as Robert Carter III, the grandson of the wealthy planter Robert “King” Carter, emancipated their slaves after concluding that black and white were brothers in Christ. Most masters managed to reconcile Christianity and slaveholding. But especially in the Chesapeake, the revivals brought numerous slaves into the Christian fold, an important step in their acculturation as African- Americans. And a few blacks, touched by the word of God, took up preaching themselves. The revivals also spawned a group of female exhorters, who for a time shattered the male monopoly on preaching.

The revivals broadened the range of religious alternatives available to Americans, thereby leaving them more divided than before and at the same time more fully integrated into transatlantic religious developments. But the impact of the Great Awakening spread beyond purely spiritual matters. The newspaper and pamphlet wars it inspired greatly expanded the circulation of printed material in the colonies. The revivals encouraged many colonists to trust their own views rather than those of established elites. In listening to the sermons of self- educated preachers, forming Bible study groups, and engaging in intense religious discussions, ordinary colonists asserted the right to inde- pendent judgment. “The common people,” proclaimed Baptist minister Isaac Backus, “claim as good a right to judge and act for themselves in matters of religion as civil rulers or the learned clergy.” The revivalists’ aim was spiritual salvation, not social or political revolution. But the independent frame of mind they encouraged would have significant political consequences.

I M P E R I A L R I V A L R I E S Spanish North America

The rapid growth of Britain’s North American colonies took place at a time of increased jockeying for power among European empires, involving much of the area today included in the United States. But the colonies of England’s rivals, although covering immense territories, remained thinly populated and far weaker economically. The Spanish empire encompassed an area that stretched from the Pacific coast and New Mexico into the Great Plains and east- ward through Texas and Florida. After 1763, it also included Louisiana, which Spain obtained from France. On paper a vast territorial empire, Spanish North America actually consisted of a few small and isolated urban clusters, most prominently St. Augustine in Florida, San Antonio in Texas, and Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico.

In the second half of the century, the Spanish government made a con- certed effort to reinvigorate its empire north of the Rio Grande River. It sought

How did the Spanish and French empires in America develop in the eighteenth century?

 

 

164 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

to stabilize relations with Indians, especially the nomadic Comanche and Apache, who controlled much of the land claimed by Spain and whose raids on mines and ranches, settled Indian communities, and each other wreaked havoc. The Comanche, who had moved onto the southern Great Plains from the Rocky Mountains, violently displaced previous Native American residents of the area. They pushed the Apache, for example, into Texas and New Mexico, where they raided existing Pueblo villages, causing havoc among the Indians there and reducing Spain’s power. Spain was also alarmed by the growing num- ber of French merchants who made their way into the region from Louisiana.

During the reigns of Carlos II and Carlos III, Spanish reformers, like other Enlightenment figures, hoped that applying scientific methods to society would bring about progress, but at the same time they hoped to preserve the absolutist monarchy and Spain’s American empire. They collected data about the area’s native population and debated whether Indians were capable of being integrated into Spanish society or should remain subject peoples. Reformers

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Nacogdoches Natchitoches

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Fort or presidio Mission British settlement British land claims Area of French influence Area of Spanish influence

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Three great empires—the British, French, and Spanish—competed for influence in North America for much of the eighteenth century.

 

 

IMPERIAL RIVALRIES ★ 165

condemned Spain’s past treatment of Indians and called for more humane pol- icies. They pointed out that despite the Black Legend of unique Spanish cru- elty, Indians comprised well over half of the inhabitants of New Spain, but now amounted to less than 6 percent of the population of the mainland English col- onies. But no coherent policy was adopted. In 1776, Spain put the region, previ- ously governed from Mexico City, under a local military commander, who used a combination of coercion, gifts, and trade to woo unconquered Indians. These tactics to some extent strengthened Spain’s hold on the northern part of its American empire, but did not succeed in eliminating Native power in the area.

Spain’s problem stemmed in large part from the small size of the settler pop- ulation. New Mexico in 1765 had only 20,000 inhabitants, with Pueblo Indians slightly outnumbering persons of European descent. About 15 percent of the Spanish were “ crypto- Jews”—Jews who continued to practice their religion after converting to Catholicism, as required by Spanish law. Many had moved from Mexico City to escape the Inquisition there. Although ranching had expanded, the economy of New Mexico essentially rested on trading with and extracting labor from the surviving Indian population. Moreover, the manpower demands of wars in Europe made it impossible for the Spanish government to meet local military commanders’ requests for more troops. The powerful Comanche and Apache continued to dominate large parts of northern New Spain.

Similar problems existed in Texas. Spain began the colonization of Texas at the beginning of the eighteenth century, partly as a buffer to prevent French commercial influence, then spreading in the Mississippi Valley, from intruding into New Mexico. The Spanish established complexes consisting of religious missions and presidios (military outposts) at Los Adaes, La Bahía, and San Anto- nio. But the region attracted few settlers. Texas had only 1,200 Spanish colo- nists in 1760. Florida stagnated as well, remaining an impoverished military outpost. Around 1770, its population consisted of about 2,000 Spanish, 1,000 black slaves, and a few hundred Indians, survivors of many decades of war and disease.

The Spanish in California

The clash of empires also took place on the Pacific Coast. In the mid- eighteenth century, empire builders in Moscow dreamed of challenging the Spanish for control of the region’s fur trade, minerals, and ports. Russian traders established a series of forts in Alaska and then moved southward toward modern- day Cali- fornia. As late as 1812, Russians founded Fort Ross, only 100 miles north of San Francisco.

Even though only a small number of Russians actually appeared in Cali- fornia, the alarmed Spanish in 1769 launched the “Sacred Experiment” to take

How did the Spanish and French empires in America develop in the eighteenth century?

 

 

166 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

control of the coast north of San Diego to prevent its occupation by foreigners. In 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza, an explorer and military officer, led an expe- dition that discovered a usable overland route to California from northern Mexico. In 1776, he founded a new presidio and mission at San Francisco. But a Native American uprising in 1781 wrested control of the overland route from the Spanish. Given the distance and difficulties of communication, authorities in Mexico City decided to establish missions in California, run by the Fran- ciscan religious order, rather than sending colonists. The friars would set up ranching and farming activities and convert Indians into loyal Spaniards.

A string of Spanish missions and presidios soon dotted the California coast- line, from San Diego to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Francisco, and Sonoma. Born on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca, Father Junípero Serra became one of the most controversial figures in California’s early history. He founded the first California mission, in San Diego, in 1769 and administered the mission network until his death in 1784. Serra was widely praised in Spain for converting thousands of Indians to Christianity, teaching them Spanish, and working to transform their hunting- and- gathering econo- mies by introducing settled agriculture and skilled crafts. In 2015, he was ele- vated to sainthood by the Catholic Church. But forced labor and disease took a heavy toll among Indians who lived at the missions Serra directed. Many ran

An idealized view of mission life, painted by a Jesuit priest at Mission San José del Cabo, founded by Father Junípero Serra in modern-day Baja California, Mexico.

 

 

IMPERIAL RIVALRIES ★ 167

away, and the friars responded with whippings and imprisonment. “Naturally we want our liberty,” one fugitive from the missions remarked.

Present- day California was a densely populated area, with a native pop- ulation of perhaps 250,000 when Spanish settlement began. But as in other regions, the coming of soldiers and missionaries proved a disaster for the Indi- ans. More than any other Spanish colony, California was a mission frontier. These outposts served simultaneously as religious institutions and centers of government and labor. Their aim was to transform the culture of the local population and eventually assimilate it into Spanish civilization. Father Serra and other missionaries hoped to convert the natives to Christianity and settled farming, although Serra accommodated native traditions such as dancing and traditional healing. The missions also relied on forced Indian labor to grow grain, work in orchards and vineyards, and tend cattle. The combination of new diseases, environmental changes caused by the introduction of Spanish crops and animals, and the resettlement of thousands of Indians in villages around the missions devastated Indian society. By 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain, California’s native population had declined by more than one- third. But the area had not attracted Spanish settlers. In 1800, Los Angeles, with a population of 300, was the largest town. When Spanish rule came to an end in 1821, twenty missions were operating, with an aver- age population of over 1,000 Indians, but Californios (California residents of Spanish descent) numbered only 3,200.

The French Empire

Spain’s North American colonies remained peripheral parts of its empire when compared with its possessions in Central and South America and the Caribbean. A greater rival to British power in North America— as well as in Europe and the Caribbean— was France. During the eighteenth century, the population and economy of Canada expanded. At the same time, French trad- ers pushed into the Mississippi River valley southward from the Great Lakes and northward from Mobile, founded in 1702, and New Orleans, established in 1718. In the St. Lawrence River valley of French Canada, prosperous farming communities developed. By 1750, the area had a population of about 55,000 colonists. Another 10,000 (about half Europeans, half African- American slaves) resided in Louisiana, mostly concentrated on the lower Mississippi River and along the Gulf Coast. By mid- century, sugar plantations had sprung up in the area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. New Orleans already had a vibrant social life as well as an established community with churches, schools, and governmental buildings.

Nonetheless, the population of French North America continued to be dwarfed by the British colonies. Around 1750, the 1.5 million British colonists

How did the Spanish and French empires in America develop in the eighteenth century?

 

 

168 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

(including slaves) greatly outnumbered the 65,000 French in North America. The giant Louisiana colony consisted of a core area around New Orleans, con- trolled by Europeans, and a vast hinterland dominated by Indians. Prejudice against emigration to North America remained widespread in France. A French novel written in 1731, known today as the basis for the nineteenth- century opera Manon, told the story of a prostitute punished by being transported to Louisiana and of her noble lover who followed her there. It expressed the popu- lar view of the colony as a place of cruel exile for criminals and social outcasts. Nonetheless, by claiming control of a large arc of territory and by establishing close trading and military relations with many Indian tribes, the French empire posed a real challenge to the British. French forts and trading posts ringed the British colonies. In present- day Mississippi and Alabama and in the western regions of Georgia and the Carolinas, French and British traders competed to form alliances with local Indians and control the trade in deerskins. The French were a presence on the New England and New York frontiers and in western Pennsylvania.

B A T T L E F O R T H E C O N T I N E N T The Middle Ground

For much of the eighteenth century, the western frontier of British North Amer- ica was the flashpoint of imperial rivalries. The Ohio Valley became caught up in a complex struggle for power involving the French, British, rival Indian communities, and settlers and land companies pursuing their own interests. Here by mid- century resided numerous Indians, including Shawnees and Dela- wares who had been pushed out of Pennsylvania by advancing white settlement, Cherokees and Chickasaws from the southern colonies who looked to the region for new hunting grounds, and Iroquois seeking to exert control over the area’s fur trade. On this middle ground, a borderland between European empires and Indian sovereignty, villages sprang up where members of numerous tribes lived side by side, along with European traders and the occasional missionary.

By the mid- eighteenth century, Indians had learned that direct military confrontation with Europeans meant suicide, and that an alliance with a single European power exposed them to danger from others. The Indians of the Ohio Valley recognized that the imperial rivalry of Britain and France posed both threat and opportunity. As one Delaware spokesman remarked, it was impos- sible to know “where the Indians’ land lay, for the French claimed all the land on one side of the Ohio River and the English on the other side.” On the other hand, Indians sought (with some success) to play European empires off one another and to control the lucrative commerce with whites. The Iroquois were

 

 

BATTLE FOR THE CONTINENT ★ 169

masters of balance- of- power diplomacy. The British accepted their sovereignty in the Ohio Valley, but it was challenged by the French and their Indian allies.

In 1750, few white settlers inhabited the Ohio Valley. The area was known more by rumor than by observation, and contemporary maps bore little resem- blance to the actual geography. Nonetheless, many prominent colonists dreamed of establishing a new “empire” in what was then the West. Many others saw the West as a place where they could easily acquire land, and the freedom that went with it. Already, Scotch- Irish and German immigrants, Virginia planters, and land speculators were eyeing the region’s fertile soil. In 1749, the government of Vir- ginia awarded an immense land grant— half a million acres— to the Ohio Com- pany, an example of the huge domains being parceled out to those with political connections. The company’s members included the colony’s royal governor, Rob- ert Dinwiddie, and the cream of Virginia society— Lees, Carters, and the young George Washington. The land grant threatened the region’s Indians as well as Pennsylvania land speculators, who also had claims in the area. It sparked the French to bolster their presence in the region. It was the Ohio Company’s demand for French recognition of its land claims that inaugurated the Seven Years’ War (known in the colonies as the French and Indian War), the first of the century’s imperial wars to begin in the colonies and the first to result in a decisive victory for one combatant. It permanently altered the global balance of power.

The Seven Years’ War

Before 1688, England was a marginal power. Spain’s empire was far more exten- sive, France had greater influence in Europe, and the Dutch dominated overseas trade and finance. Only in the eighteenth century, after numerous wars against its great rivals France and Spain, did Britain emerge as the world’s leading empire and its center of trade and banking. The War of the Spanish Succession (known in the colonies as Queen Anne’s War) lasted from 1702 to 1713; the War of Jenkins’ Ear (named after a British seaman mistreated by the Spanish) from 1739 to 1742; and King George’s War from 1740 to 1748. To finance these wars, Britain’s public expenditures, taxes, and national debt rose enormously. The high rate of taxation inspired discontent at home, and would later help to spark the American Revolution.

By the 1750s, British possessions and trade reached around the globe. “Every part of the world affects us, in some way or another,” remarked the duke of Newcastle. The existence of global empires implied that warfare among them would also be global. What became a worldwide struggle for imperial domina- tion, which eventually spread to Europe, West Africa, and Asia, began in 1754 with British efforts to dislodge the French from forts they had constructed in western Pennsylvania. In the previous year, George Washington, then only twenty- one

What was the impact of the Seven Years’ War on imperial and Indian– white relations?

 

 

170 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

This image from the cover of a magazine published in Pennsylvania in 1758 depicts an Englishman and a Frenchman attempting to trade with an Indian. The Frenchman offers a tomahawk and musket, the Englishman a Bible and cloth. Of course, the depictions of the two Europeans reflect pro-British stereotypes.

years old, had been dispatched by the colony’s governor on an unsuccessful mission to persuade French soldiers to abandon a fort they were building on lands claimed by the Ohio Company. In 1754, Washington returned to the area with two companies of soldiers. He hastily constructed Fort Necessity. After an ill- considered attempt to defend it against a larger French and Indian force, resulting in the loss of one- third of his men, Washington was forced to surren- der. Soon afterward, an expedition led by General Edward Braddock against Fort Duquesne (today’s Pittsburgh) was ambushed by French and Indian forces, leaving Braddock and two- thirds of his 3,000 soldiers dead or wounded.

For two years, the war went against the British. French and Indian forces captured British forts in northern New York. The southern backcountry was ablaze with fighting among Brit-

ish forces, colonists, and Indians. Inhumanity flourished on all sides. Indians killed hundreds of colonists in western Pennsylvania and pushed the line of settlement all the way back to Carlisle, only 100 miles west of Philadelphia. In Nova Scotia, the British rounded up around 5,000 local French residents, called Acadians, confiscated their land, and expelled them from the region, sell- ing their farms to settlers from New England. Some of those expelled eventu- ally returned to France; others ended up as far away as Louisiana, where their descendants came to be known as Cajuns.

As the British government raised huge sums of money and poured men and naval forces into the war, the tide of battle turned. Secretary of State William Pitt, who took office in 1757, devised a strategy of providing funds to Prussia to enable it to hold the line against France and its ally Spain in Europe, while the British struck at the French weak point, its colonies. By 1759, Britain— with colonial and Indian soldiers playing a major role— had captured the pivotal French outposts of Forts Duquesne, Ticonderoga (north of Albany), and Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, which guarded the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. In September of that year, a French army was defeated on the Plains of Abraham near Quebec. British forces also seized nearly all the islands in the French Caribbean and established

 

 

BATTLE FOR THE CONTINENT ★ 171

control of India. In Europe, meanwhile, Prussia managed to fend off the coalition of France, Russia, and Spain.

A World Transformed

“As long as the world has stood there has not been such a war,” declared a Brit- ish emissary to the Delaware Indians. Britain’s victory fundamentally reshaped the world balance of power. In the Peace of Paris in 1763, France ceded Canada to Britain, receiving back in return the sugar islands of Guadeloupe and Marti- nique (far more lucrative colonies from the point of view of French authorities). As part of the reshuffling of imperial possessions, Spain ceded Florida to Britain in exchange for the return of the Philippines and Cuba (seized by the British during the war). Spain also acquired from France the vast Louisiana colony. France’s 200- year- old North American empire had come to an end. With the exception of two tiny islands retained by France off the coast of Newfoundland, the entire continent east of the Mississippi River was now in British hands.

“Peace,” remarked Prime Minister Pitt, “will be as hard to make as war.” Eighteenth- century warfare, conducted on land and sea across the globe, was enormously expensive. The Seven Years’ War put strains on all the participants. The war’s cost produced a financial crisis in France that almost three decades later would help to spark the French Revolution. The British would try to recoup part of the cost of war by increasing taxes on their American colonies. “We no sooner leave fighting our neighbors, the French,” commented the British writer Dr. Samuel Johnson, “but we must fall to quarreling among ourselves.” In fact, the Peace of Paris was soon followed by open warfare in North America between the British and Native Americans.

Pontiac’s Rebellion

Throughout eastern North America, the abrupt departure of the French in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War eliminated the balance- of- power diplomacy that had enabled groups like the Iroquois to maintain a significant degree of autonomy. Indians had fought on both sides in the war, although mainly as allies of the French. Their primary aim, however, was to maintain their independence from both empires. Indians hoped to preserve the middle ground, a borderland where various powers competed and none held sway, so that their own liberty could be maintained. As one British observer put it in 1764, the Six Nations and other Indians, “having never been conquered, either by the English or French, nor subject to the laws, consider themselves as a free people.” Domination by any out- side power, Indians feared, meant the loss of freedom. Without consulting them, the French had ceded land Indians claimed as their own, to British control. The Treaty of Paris left Indians more dependent than ever on the British and ushered in

What was the impact of the Seven Years’ War on imperial and Indian– white relations?

 

 

172 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

a period of confusion over land claims, control of the fur trade, and tribal relations in general. To Indians, it was clear that continued expansion of the British colonies posed a dire threat. One British army officer reported that Native Americans “say we mean to make slaves of them,” by taking their land.

In 1763, in the wake of the French defeat, Indians of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes launched a revolt against British rule. Although known as Pontiac’s Rebellion after an Ottawa war leader, the rebellion owed at least as much to the teachings of Neolin, a Delaware religious prophet. (Like Bacon’s Rebellion before it and Shays’s Rebellion three decades later, the broad Indian uprising seems des- tined, misleadingly, to bear the name of a single individual.) During a religious vision, the Master of Life instructed Neolin that his people must reject European technology, free themselves from commercial ties with whites and dependence on alcohol, clothe themselves in the garb of their ancestors, and drive the British from their territory (although friendly French inhabitants could remain). Neo- lin combined this message with the relatively new idea of pan- Indian identity. All Indians, he preached, were a single people, and only through cooperation could they regain their lost independence. The common experience of dispos- session, the intertribal communities that had developed in the Ohio country, and the mixing of Indian warriors in French armies had helped to inspire this sense of identity as Indians rather than members of individual tribes.

The Proclamation Line

In the spring and summer of 1763, Ottawas, Hurons, and other Indians besieged Detroit, then a major British military outpost, seized nine other forts, and killed hundreds of white settlers who had intruded onto Indian lands. British forces soon launched a counterattack, and over the next few years the tribes one by one made peace. But the uprising inspired the government in London to issue the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting further colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. These lands were reserved exclusively for Indians. Moreover, the proclamation banned the sale of Indian lands to private individ- uals. Henceforth, only colonial governments could arrange such purchases.

The British aim was less to protect the Indians than to stabilize the situa- tion on the colonial frontier and to avoid being dragged into an endless series of border conflicts. But the proclamation enraged both settlers and speculators hoping to take advantage of the expulsion of the French to consolidate their claims to western lands. They ignored the new policy. George Washington him- self ordered his agents to buy up as much Indian land as possible, while keep- ing the transactions “a profound secret” because of their illegality. Failing to offer a viable solution to the question of westward expansion, the Proclamation of 1763 ended up further exacerbating settler- Indian relations.

 

 

BATTLE FOR THE CONTINENT ★ 173

Pennsylvania and the Indians

The Seven Years’ War not only redrew the map of the world but produced dra- matic changes within the American colonies as well. Nowhere was this more evident than in Pennsylvania, where the conflict shattered the decades- old rule of the Quaker elite and dealt the final blow to the colony’s policy of accom- modation with the Indians. During the war, with the frontier ablaze with bat- tles between settlers and French and Indian warriors, western Pennsylvanians

Halifax Quebec

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Bloody Run, July 1763

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Sandusky Fort Miami

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Fort Detroit

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Colonial capitals Battle during Pontiac’s Rebellion, 1763 British fort beseiged during Pontiac’s Rebellion, 1763 Proclamation line of 1763 Pontiac’s Rebellion, 1763 Spanish territory English territory

E A S T E R N N O RT H A M E R I C A A F T E R T H E P E A C E O F PA R I S , 1 7 6 3

The Peace of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War, left all of North America east of the Mississippi in British hands, ending the French presence on the continent.

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174 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

From Scarouyady, Speech to Pennsylvania Provincial Council (1756)

The outbreak of the Seven Years’ War inflamed relations between Native Americans and white settlers in the Pennsylvania backcountry. Scarouyady, an Oneida leader who wished to maintain harmony, told the colony’s leaders that he approved of war against hostile tribes and hoped that a fort could be built to protect friendly Indians and keep armed whites in check. But the middle ground was rapidly disappearing.

You have . . . tried all amicable means with [the Delaware Indians] and with the Six Nations, but as all have proved ineffectual, you do right to strike them. You have had a great deal of patience; other people on losing a single man, would have armed and drove off the foe; but you have sat still while numbers of your people have been and now are murdered. . . . Your enemies have got great advantage by your inactivity; show them you are men.

You told us that you must now build a Fort at Shamokin; we are glad to hear it; it is a good thing. . . . The Fort at Shamokin is not a thing of little consequence; it is of the greatest importance to us as well as you. Your people are foolish; for want of this Fort, the Indians, who are your friends, can be of no service to you, having no place to go to where they can promise themselves protection. They cannot be called together; they can do nothing for you; they are not secure any where. At present your people cannot distinguish foes from friends; they think every Indian is against them; they blame us all without distinction, because they see nobody appear for them; the common people to a man entertain this notion, and insult us wherever we go. We bear their ill usage, though very irksome; but all this will be set right when you have built the Fort, and you will see that we in particular are sincere, and many others will come to your assistance. We desire when the fort is built, you will put into the command of so important a place some of your people; grave, solid, and sensible men, who are in repute amongst you, and in whom we can place a Confidence. . . . Do yourselves and us Justice, and bring your Enemies to a due Sense of themselves, and to offer just Terms, and then, and not till then, think of a Peace. This is our Advice.

 

 

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 175

From Pontiac, Speeches (1762 and 1763)

Pontiac was a leader of the pan-Indian resistance to English rule known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, which followed the end of the Seven Years’ War. Neolin was a Delaware religious prophet who helped to inspire the rebellion.

Englishmen, although you have conquered the French, you have not yet conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods, and mountains were left to us by our ancestors. They are our inheritance; and we will part with them to none. Your nation sup- poses that we, like the white people, cannot live without bread and pork and beef! But you ought to know that He, the Great Spirit and Master of Life, has provided food for us in these spacious lakes, and on these woody mountains.

[The Master of Life has said to Neolin:] I am the Maker of heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, and all else. I am the

Maker of all mankind; and because I love you, you must do my will. The land on which you live I have made for you and not for others. Why do you suffer the white man to dwell among you? My children, you have forgotten the customs and traditions of your forefathers. Why do you not clothe yourselves in skins, as they did, use bows and arrows and the stone-pointed lances, which they used? You have bought guns, knives, kettles and blankets from the white man until you can no longer do without them; and what is worse, you have drunk the poison firewater, which turns you into fools. Fling all these things away; live as your wise forefathers did before you. And as for these English—these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting-grounds, and drive away the game—you must lift the hatchet against them. Wipe them from the face of the earth, and then you will win my favor back again, and once more be happy and prosperous.

QUESTIONS

1. What aspects of white behavior does Sca- rouyady object to?

2. What elements of Indian life does Neolin criticize most strongly?

3. How do Scarouyady and Pontiac differ in the ways they address white audiences?

 

 

176 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

demanded that colonial authorities adopt a more aggressive stance. When the governor declared war on hostile Delawares, raised a militia, and offered a bounty for Indian scalps, many of the assembly’s pacifist Quakers resigned their seats, effectively ending their control of Pennsylvania politics. The war deep- ened the antagonism of western farmers toward Indians and witnessed numer- ous indiscriminate assaults on Indian communities, both allies and enemies.

In December 1763, while Pontiac’s Rebellion still raged, a party of fifty armed men, mostly Scotch- Irish farmers from the vicinity of the Pennsylvania town of Paxton, destroyed the Indian village of Conestoga, massacring half a dozen men, women, and children who lived there under the protection of Penn- sylvania’s governor. They then marched on Lancaster, where they killed four- teen additional Indians. Like participants in Bacon’s Rebellion nearly a century earlier, they accused colonial authorities of treating Indians too leniently. They petitioned the legislature to remove all Indians from the colony. The Indians’ “claim to freedom and independency,” they insisted, threatened Pennsylvania’s stability. When the Paxton Boys marched on Philadelphia in February 1764, intending to attack Moravian Indians who resided near the city, the governor ordered the expulsion of much of the Indian population. By the 1760s, Penn- sylvania’s Holy Experiment was at an end and with it William Penn’s promise of “true friendship and amity” between colonists and the native population. No other large colony had a smaller Indian population or a more remorseless determination on the part of settlers to eliminate those who remained.

Colonial Identities

Like the Indians, colonists emerged from the Seven Years’ War with a heightened sense of collective identity. Before the war, the colonies had been largely isolated from one another. Outside of New England, more Americans probably traveled to England than from one colony to another. In 1751, Governor George Clinton of New York had called for a general conference on Indian relations, but only three colonies bothered to send delegates. The Albany Plan of Union of 1754, drafted by Benjamin Franklin at the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, envisioned the cre- ation of a Grand Council composed of delegates from each colony, with the power to levy taxes and deal with Indian relations and the common defense. Rejected by the colonial assemblies, whose powers Franklin’s proposal would curtail, the plan was never sent to London for approval.

Participation in the Seven Years’ War created greater bonds among the col- onies. But the war also strengthened colonists’ pride in being members of the British empire. It has been said that Americans were never more British than in 1763. Colonial militiamen and British regulars fought alongside each other against the French. Tensions developed between the professional British mil- itary and the often undisciplined American citizen- soldiers, but the common

 

 

experience of battle and victory also forged bonds between them. For much of the century, New Englanders had called for the conquest of Canada as a blow for “Protestant freedom” against “popish slavery.” Now that this had been accomplished, British victory in the Seven Years’ War seemed a triumph of lib- erty over tyranny. The defeat of the Catholic French reinforced the equation of British nationality, Protestantism, and freedom.

In fact, however, after 1763 Britain’s global empire was not predominantly Protestant or British or free. It now included tens of thousands of French Cath- olics and millions of persons in India governed as subjects rather than as citi- zens. The English statesman Edmund Burke wondered whether British liberty could be reconciled with rule over this “vast, heterogeneous, intricate mass of interests.” Burke was almost alone in seeing the newly expanded empire as a challenge to the principles of British freedom. But soon, the American colonists would come to believe that membership in the empire jeopardized their lib- erty. When they did, they set out on a road that led to independence.

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. How did Great Britain’s position in North America change relative to the other European powers during the first three-quarters of the eighteenth century?

2. How did the ideas of republicanism and liberalism differ in eighteenth-century British North America?

3. Three distinct slave systems were well entrenched in Britain’s mainland colonies. Describe the main characteristics of each system.

4. How and why did the colonists’ sense of a collective British identity change during the years before 1764?

5. What ideas generated by the American Enlightenment and the Great Awakening prompted challenges to religious, social, and political authorities in the British colonies?

6. How were colonial merchants in British America involved in the Atlantic economy, and what was the role of the slave trade in that economy?

7. We often consider the impact of the slave trade only on the United States, but its impact extended much further. How did it affect West African nations and society, other regions of the NewWorld, and the nations of Europe?

8. How was an African-American collective identity created in these years, and what role did slave rebellions play in that process?

CHAPTER REVIEW ★ 177

What was the impact of the Seven Years’ War on imperial and Indian– white relations?

 

 

178 ★ CHAPTER 4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire

QIJK To see what you know—and learn what you’ve missed—with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

KEY TERMS

Atlantic slave trade (p. 134)

Middle Passage (p. 137)

yeoman farmers (p. 146)

Stono Rebellion (p. 148)

republicanism (p. 150)

liberalism (p. 151)

salutary neglect (p. 154)

Enlightenment (p. 159)

Deism (p. 160)

Great Awakening (p. 160)

Father Junípero Serra (p. 166)

middle ground (p. 168)

Seven Years’ War (p. 169)

French and Indian War (p. 169)

Pontiac’s Rebellion (p. 172)

Neolin (p. 172)

Proclamation of 1763 (p. 172)

Albany Plan of Union (p. 176)

 

 

1 7 6 3 – 1 7 8 3

T H E A M E R I C A N R E V O L U T I O N

★ C H A P T E R   5 ★

On the night of August 26, 1765, a violent crowd of Bostonians assaulted the elegant home of Thomas Hutchinson, chief justice and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Hutchinson and his family were eating din- ner when the rioters arrived. They barely had time to escape before the crowd broke down the front door and proceeded to destroy or carry off most of their possessions, including paintings, furniture, silverware, and notes for a history of Massachusetts Hutchinson was writing. By the time they departed, only the outer walls of the home remained standing.

The immediate cause of the riot was the Stamp Act, a recently enacted British tax that many colonists felt violated their liberty. Critics of the measure had spread a rumor that Hutchinson had written to London encouraging its passage

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S What were the roots and significance of the Stamp Act controversy?

What key events sharpened the divisions between Britain and the colonists in the late 1760s and early 1770s?

What key events marked the move toward American independence?

How were American forces able to prevail in the Revolutionary War?

★ 179

 

 

180 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

(in fact, he privately opposed it). Only a few days earlier, Hutchinson had helped to disperse a crowd attacking a building owned by his relative Andrew Oliver, a merchant who had been appointed to help administer the new law. Both crowds were led by Ebenezer Mackintosh, a shoemaker who had fought against the French during the Seven Years’ War and enjoyed a wide following among Bos- ton’s working people. Arrested after the destruction of Hutchinson’s home, Mack- intosh was released after the intervention of the Loyal Nine, a group of merchants and craftsmen who had taken the lead in opposing the Stamp Act. The violence had gone far beyond what the Loyal Nine intended, and they promised author- ities that resistance to the Stamp Act would henceforth be peaceful. The riot, nonetheless, convinced Hutchinson that for Britain to rule America effectively, “there must be an abridgement of what are called English liberties.” Whether colonists would accept such an abridgement, however, was very much in doubt.

The riot of August 26 was one small episode in a series of events that launched a half- century of popular protest and political upheaval throughout the Western world. The momentous era that came to be called the Age of Revo- lution began in British North America, spread to Europe and the Caribbean, and culminated in the Latin American wars for independence. In all these struggles, “Liberty” emerged as the foremost rallying cry for popular discontent. Rarely has the idea played so central a role in political debate and social upheaval.

If the attack on Hutchinson’s home demonstrated the depths of feeling aroused by Britain’s efforts to impose greater control over its empire, it also revealed that revolution is a dynamic process whose consequences no one can anticipate. The crowd’s fury expressed resentments against the rich and pow- erful quite different from colonial leaders’ objections to Parliament’s attempt to tax the colonies. The Stamp Act crisis inaugurated not only a struggle for colonial liberty in relation to Great Britain but also a multisided battle to define and extend liberty within America.

T H E C R I S I S B E G I N S When George III assumed the throne of Great Britain in 1760, no one on either side of the Atlantic imagined that within two decades Britain’s American colonies would separate from the empire. But the Seven Years’ War, which left Britain with an enormous debt and vastly enlarged overseas possessions to defend, led successive governments in London to seek ways to make the colonies share the cost of empire. Having studied the writings of British opposition thinkers who insisted that power inevitably seeks to encroach upon liberty, colonial lead- ers came to see these measures as part of a British design to undermine their

 

 

THE CRISIS BEGINS ★ 181

freedom. Only recently they had gloried in their enjoyment of “British liberty,” but they came to conclude that membership in the empire was a threat to freedom, rather than its foundation. This conviction set the colonies on the road to independence.

Consolidating the Empire

The Seven Years’ War, to which the colonists contributed soldiers and economic resources, underscored for rulers in London how import- ant the empire was to Britain’s well- being and its status as a great power. Now, they believed, new regulations were needed to help guar- antee the empire’s continued strength and prosperity. Before 1763, Parliament had occa- sionally acted to forbid the issuance of paper money in America and to restrict colonial economic activities that competed with busi- nesses at home. The Wool Act of 1699, Hat Act of 1732, and Iron Act of 1750 forbade colonial manufacture of these items. The Molasses Act of 1733 sought to curtail trade between New England and the French Caribbean by impos- ing a prohibitive tax on French- produced molasses used to make rum in American dis- tilleries. And the Navigation Acts, discussed in Chapter 3, sought to channel key American exports like tobacco through British ports. The colonists frequently ignored all these measures.

As to internal affairs within the colonies, the British government frequently seemed uninterested. There was no point, one offi- cial said, in worrying about the behavior of colonists who “plant tobacco and Puritanism only, like fools.” Beginning in the late 1740s, the Board of Trade, which was responsible for overseeing colonial affairs, attempted to strengthen imperial authority. It demanded

1760 George III assumes the British throne

1764 Sugar Act

1765 Stamp Act

Sons of Liberty organized

Stamp Act Congress

1767 Townshend Acts

1767– Letters from a Farmer 1768 in Pennsylvania

British troops stationed in Boston

1770 Boston Massacre

1773 Tea Act

Boston Tea Party

1774 Intolerable Acts

Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America

First Continental Congress convenes

1775 Battles at Lexington and Concord

Lord Dunmore’s proclamation

1776 Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

Declaration of Independence

Battle of Trenton

1777 Battle of Saratoga

1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France

1781 Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown

1783 Treaty of Paris

What were the roots and significance of the Stamp Act controversy?

 

 

182 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

that colonial laws conform to royal instructions and encouraged colonial assemblies to grant permanent salaries to royal governors. But the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War suspended this initiative.

Having treated the colonists as allies during the war, Britain reverted in the mid- 1760s to seeing them as subordinates whose main role was to enrich the mother country. During this period, the government in London concerned itself with the colonies in unprecedented ways, hoping to make British rule more efficient and systematic and to raise funds to help pay for the war and to finance the empire. Nearly all British political leaders supported the new laws that so enraged the colonists. Americans, Britons felt, should be grateful to the empire. To fight the Seven Years’ War, Britain had borrowed from banks and individual investors more than £150 million (the equivalent of tens of trillions of dollars in today’s money). Interest on the debt absorbed half the government’s annual revenue. The tax burden in Britain had reached unprec- edented heights. It seemed only reasonable that the colonies should help pay this national debt, foot part of the bill for continued British protection, and stop cheating the treasury by violating the Navigation Acts.

Nearly all Britons, moreover, believed that Parliament represented the entire empire and had a right to legislate for it. Millions of Britons, including the residents of major cities like Manchester and Birmingham, had no representatives in Parlia- ment. But according to the widely accepted theory of virtual representation— which held that each member represented the entire empire, not just his own district— the interests of all who lived under the British crown were supposedly taken into account. When Americans began to insist that because they were unrepresented in Parliament, the British government could not tax the colonies, they won little support in the mother country. To their surprise, however, succes- sive British governments found that the effective working of the empire required the cooperation of local populations. Time and again, British officials backed down in the face of colonial resistance, only to return with new measures to cen- tralize control of the empire that only stiffened colonial resolve.

The British government had already alarmed many colonists by issuing writs of assistance to combat smuggling. These were general search war- rants that allowed customs officials to search anywhere they chose for smug- gled goods. In a celebrated court case in Boston in 1761, the lawyer James Otis insisted that the writs were “an instrument of arbitrary power, destructive to English liberty, and the fundamental principles of the [British] Constitution,” and that Parliament therefore had no right to authorize them. (“American inde- pendence was then and there born,” John Adams later remarked— a consider- able exaggeration.) Many colonists were also outraged by the Proclamation of 1763 (mentioned in the previous chapter) barring further settlement on lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.

 

 

THE CRISIS BEGINS ★ 183

Taxing the Colonies

In 1764, the Sugar Act, introduced by Prime Minister George Grenville, reduced the existing tax on molasses imported into North America from the French West Indies from six pence to three pence per gallon. But the act also estab- lished a new machinery to end widespread smuggling by colonial merchants. And to counteract the tendency of colonial juries to acquit merchants charged with violating trade regulations, it strengthened the admiralty courts, where accused smugglers could be judged without benefit of a jury trial. Thus, colo- nists saw the measure not as a welcome reduction in taxation but as an attempt to get them to pay a levy they would otherwise have evaded.

At the same time, a Revenue Act placed goods such as wool and hides, which had previously been traded freely with Holland, France, and southern Europe, on the enumerated list, meaning they had to be shipped through England. Together, these measures threatened the profits of colonial merchants and seemed certain to aggravate an already serious economic recession resulting from the end of the Seven Years’ War. They were accompanied by the Currency Act, which reaffirmed the earlier ban on colonial assemblies issuing paper as “legal tender”—that is, money that individuals are required to accept in pay- ment of debts.

The Stamp Act Crisis

The Sugar Act was an effort to strengthen the long- established (and long- evaded) Navigation Acts. The Stamp Act of 1765 represented a new departure in imperial policy. For the first time, Parliament attempted to raise money from direct taxes in the colonies rather than through the regulation of trade. The act required that all sorts of printed material produced in the colonies— such as newspapers, books, court documents, commercial papers, land deeds, almanacs— carry a stamp purchased from authorities. Its purpose was to help finance the operations of the empire, including the cost of stationing British troops in North America, without seeking revenue from colonial assemblies.

Whereas the Sugar Act had mainly affected residents of colonial ports, the Stamp Act managed to offend virtually every free colonist— rich and poor, farmers, artisans, and merchants. It was especially resented by members of the public sphere who wrote, published, and read books and newspapers and fol- lowed political affairs. The prospect of a British army permanently stationed on American soil also alarmed many colonists. And by imposing the stamp tax without colonial consent, Parliament directly challenged the authority of local elites who, through the assemblies they controlled, had established their power over the raising and spending of money. They were ready to defend this authority in the name of liberty.

What were the roots and significance of the Stamp Act controversy?

 

 

184 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

Opposition to the Stamp Act was the first great drama of the revolutionary era and the first major split between colonists and Great Britain over the mean- ing of freedom. Nearly all colonial political leaders opposed the act. In voicing their grievances, they invoked the rights of the freeborn Englishman, which, they insisted, colonists should also enjoy. Opponents of the act drew on time- honored British principles such as a community’s right not to be taxed except by its elected representatives. Liberty, they insisted, could not be secure where property was “taken away without consent.”

Taxation and Representation

At stake were clashing ideas of the British empire itself. American leaders viewed the empire as an association of equals in which free inhabitants over- seas enjoyed the same rights as Britons at home. Colonists in other outposts of the empire, such as India, the West Indies, and Canada, echoed this outlook. All, in the name of liberty, claimed the right to govern their own affairs. Brit- ish residents of Calcutta, India, demanded the “rights inherent in Englishmen.” The British government and its appointed representatives in America, by con- trast, saw the empire as a system of unequal parts in which different principles

According to the doctrine of “virtual representation,” the House of Commons represented all residents of the British empire, whether or not they could vote for members. In this 1775 cartoon criticizing the idea, a blinded Britannia, on the far right, stumbles into a pit. Next to her, two colonists complain of being robbed by British taxation. In the background, according to an accompanying explanation of the cartoon, stand the “Catholic” city of Quebec and the “Protestant town of Boston,” the latter in flames.

 

 

THE CRISIS BEGINS ★ 185

governed different areas, and all were subject to the authority of Parliament. To surrender the right to tax the colonies would set a dangerous precedent for the empire as a whole. “In an empire, extended and diversified as that of Great Britain,” declared Governor Francis Bernard of Massachusetts in 1765, “there must be a supreme legislature, to which all other powers must be subordinate.” Parliament, Bernard continued, was the “sanctuary of liberty”—a description with which many Americans were beginning to disagree.

Some opponents of the Stamp Act distinguished between “internal” taxes like the stamp duty, which they claimed Parliament had no right to impose, and revenue legitimately raised through the regulation of trade. But more and more colonists insisted that Britain had no right to tax them at all, since Americans were unrepresented in the House of Commons. “No taxation without repre- sentation” became their rallying cry. Virginia’s House of Burgesses approved four resolutions offered by the fiery orator Patrick Henry. They insisted that the colonists enjoyed the same “liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities” as residents of the mother country and that the right to consent to taxation was a cornerstone of “British freedom.” (The House of Burgesses rejected as too radical three other resolutions, including Henry’s call for outright resistance to unlawful taxation, but these were also reprinted in colonial newspapers.)

In October 1765, the Stamp Act Congress, with twenty- seven delegates from nine colonies, including some of the most prominent men in America, met in New York and endorsed Virginia’s position. Its resolutions began by affirming the “allegiance” of all colonists to the “Crown of Great Britain” and their “due subordination” to Parliament. But they went on to insist that the right to consent to taxation was “essential to the freedom of a people.” Soon, merchants throughout the colonies agreed to boycott British goods until Par- liament repealed the Stamp Act. This was the first major cooperative action among Britain’s mainland colonies. In a sense, by seeking to impose uniformity on the colonies rather than dealing with them individually as in the past, Par- liament had inadvertently united America.

Liberty and Resistance

No word was more frequently invoked by critics of the Stamp Act than “liberty.” Throughout the colonies, opponents of the new tax staged mock funerals in which liberty’s coffin was carried to a burial ground only to have the occupant miraculously revived at the last moment, whereupon the assembled crowd repaired to a tavern to celebrate. As the crisis continued, symbols of liberty pro- liferated. The large elm tree in Boston on which protesters had hanged an effigy of the stamp distributor Andrew Oliver to persuade him to resign his post came

What were the roots and significance of the Stamp Act controversy?

 

 

186 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

to be known as the Liberty Tree. Its image soon began to appear in prints and pamphlets throughout the colonies. Open- air meetings were held beneath the tree, and as a result the space came to be called Liberty Hall. In New York City, a pine mast erected in 1766 as a meeting place for opponents of the Stamp Act was called the Liberty Pole.

Colonial leaders resolved to prevent the new law’s implementation, and by and large they succeeded. Even before the passage of the Stamp Act, a Committee of Correspondence in Boston communicated with other colonies to encourage opposition to the Sugar and Currency Acts. Now, such commit- tees sprang up in other colonies, exchanging ideas and information about resis- tance. Initiated by colonial elites, the movement against the Stamp Act quickly drew in a far broader range of Americans. The act, wrote John Adams, a Boston lawyer who drafted a set of widely reprinted resolutions against the measure, had inspired “the people, even to the lowest ranks,” to become “more attentive to their liberties, more inquisitive about them, and more determined to defend them, than they were ever before known.” Political debate, Adams added, per- vaded the colonies—“our presses have groaned, our pulpits have thundered, our legislatures have resolved, our towns have voted.”

A British engraving from 1766 marking the repeal of the Stamp Act. A funeral procession on the banks of the River Thames in London includes Prime Minister George Grenville carrying a coffin noting that the act was born in 1765 and died a year later. Two large containers are labeled “Stamps from America”—stamps returned because no longer needed— and “black cloth from America,” for use at the funeral. In the background, a warehouse contains goods to be “ship’d for America,” now that the boycott of British imports has ended.

 

 

THE CRISIS BEGINS ★ 187

Politics in the Streets

Opponents of the Stamp Act, however, did not rely solely on debate. Even before the law went into effect, crowds forced those chosen to administer it to resign and destroyed shipments of stamps. In New York City, processions involving hundreds of residents shouting “Liberty” paraded through the streets nearly every night in late 1765. They were organized by the newly created Sons of Liberty. While they enjoyed no standing among the colony’s wealthy elite and carried little weight in municipal affairs, the Sons’ leaders enjoyed a broad following among the city’s craftsmen, laborers, and sailors.

The Sons posted notices reading “Liberty, Property, and No Stamps” and took the lead in enforcing the boycott of British imports. Their actions were viewed with increasing alarm by the aristocratic Livingston and De Lancey families, who dominated New York politics. As the assault on Thomas Hutchinson’s house in Boston demonstrated, crowds could easily get out of hand. In Novem- ber 1765, a New York crowd reportedly composed of sailors, blacks, laborers, and youths hurled stones at Fort George at the tip of Manhattan Island. They then proceeded to destroy the home of Major Thomas James, a British officer who was said to have boasted that he would force the stamps down New York- ers’ throats.

Stunned by the ferocity of American resistance and pressured by London merchants and manufacturers who did not wish to lose their American mar- kets, the British government retreated. In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. But this concession was accompanied by the Declaratory Act, which rejected Americans’ claims that only their elected representatives could levy taxes. Parliament, proclaimed this measure, possessed the power to pass laws for “the colonies and people of America . . . in all cases whatsoever.” Since the debt- ridden British government continued to need money raised in the colo- nies, passage of the Declaratory Act promised further conflict.

The Regulators

The Stamp Act crisis was not the only example of violent social turmoil during the 1760s. Many colonies experienced contentious internal divisions as well. As population moved westward, the conflicting land claims of settlers, speculators, colonial governments, and Indians sparked fierce disputes. Rural areas had a long tradition of resistance by settlers and small farmers against the claims of land speculators and large proprietors. As in the Stamp Act cri- sis, “Liberty” was their rallying cry, but in this case liberty had less to do with imperial policy than with secure possession of land.

Beginning in the mid- 1760s, a group of wealthy residents of the South Carolina backcountry calling themselves Regulators protested the

What were the roots and significance of the Stamp Act controversy?

 

 

188 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

under- representation of western settlements in the colony’s assembly and the legislators’ failure to establish local governments that could regularize land titles and suppress bands of outlaws. The lack of courts in the area, they claimed, had led to a breakdown of law and order, allowing “an infernal gang of villains” to commit “shocking outrages” on persons and property. They added: “We are Free- men— British subjects— Not Born Slaves.”

A parallel movement in North Carolina mobilized small farmers, who refused to pay taxes, kidnapped local officials, assaulted the homes of land speculators, merchants, and lawyers, and disrupted court proceedings. Here, the complaint was not a lack of government, but corrupt county authorities. These local officials, the Regulators claimed, threatened inexpensive access to land and the prosperity of ordinary settlers through high taxes and court fees. Demanding the democratization of local government, the Regulators con- demned the “rich and powerful” (the colony’s elite) who used their political authority to prosper at the expense of “poor industrious” farmers. At their peak, the Regulators numbered around 8,000 armed farmers. The region remained in turmoil until 1771, when, in the “battle of Alamance,” the farmers were sup- pressed by the colony’s militia.

The Tenant Uprising

Also in the mid- 1760s, tenants on the Livingston, Philipse, and Cortland man- ors along the Hudson River north of New York City stopped paying rent and began seizing land. Like opponents of the Stamp Act, they called themselves the Sons of Liberty. The original Sons, however, opposed their uprising, and it was soon suppressed by British and colonial troops. Meanwhile, small farmers in the Green Mountains took up arms to protect their holdings against intru- sions by New York landlords. The legal situation there was complex. The area was part of New York, but during the 1750s the governor of New Hampshire had issued land grants to New England families, pocketing a fortune in fees. When New Yorkers tried to enforce their own title to the area, the settlers’ leader, Ethan Allen, insisted that land should belong to the person who worked it. Outsiders, he claimed, were trying to “enslave a free people.” In the mid- 1770s, Allen and his Green Mountain Boys gained control of the region, which later became the state of Vermont.

The emerging rift between Britain and America eventually superimposed itself on conflicts within the colonies. But the social divisions revealed in the Stamp Act riots and backcountry uprisings made some members of the colonial elite fear that opposition to British measures might unleash turmoil at home. As a result, they were more reluctant to challenge British authority when the next imperial crisis arose.

 

 

THE ROAD TO REVOLUTION ★ 189

T H E R O A D T O R E V O L U T I O N The Townshend Crisis

In 1767, the government in London decided to impose a new set of taxes on Americans, known as the Townshend Acts. They were devised by the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer (the cabinet’s chief financial minister), Charles Town- shend. In opposing the Stamp Act, some colonists had seemed to suggest that they would not object if Britain raised revenue by regulating trade. Taking them at their word, Townshend persuaded Parliament to impose new taxes on goods imported into the colonies and to create a new board of customs commission- ers to collect them and suppress smuggling. He intended to use the new reve- nues to pay the salaries of American governors and judges, thus freeing them from dependence on colonial assemblies. Although many merchants objected to the new enforcement procedures, opposition to the Townshend duties devel- oped more slowly than in the case of the Stamp Act. Leaders in several colonies nonetheless decided in 1768 to reimpose the ban on importing British goods.

The Townshend crisis led to the writing of one of the most important state- ments of the American position, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania by John Dickinson (a lawyer, not a farmer, although he grew up on his family’s tobacco plantation in Maryland). First published in a Philadelphia newspaper in 1767 and 1768 and then widely circulated in pamphlet form, the essays argued for reconciliation with the mother country, with the colonists enjoying all the tra- ditional rights of Englishmen. Dickinson’s learned presentation— he offered quotations from writers ranging from Shakespeare to such eighteenth- century figures as David Hume, William Blackstone, and Montesquieu— demonstrated that Enlightenment ideas were by now familiar in the colonies. It also showed that at this point, many American leaders still assumed that political debate should take place among the educated elite.

Homespun Virtue

The boycott began in Boston and soon spread to the southern colonies. Reliance on American rather than British goods, on homespun clothing rather than imported finery, became a symbol of American resistance. It also reflected, as the colonists saw it, a virtuous spirit of self- sacrifice as compared with the self- indulgence and luxury many Americans were coming to associate with Britain. Women who spun and wove at home so as not to purchase British goods were hailed as Daughters of Liberty.

The idea of using homemade rather than imported goods especially appealed to Chesapeake planters, who found themselves owing increas- ing amounts of money to British merchants. Nonimportation, wrote George

What key events sharpened the divisions between Britain and the colonists in the late 1760s and early 1770s?

 

 

190 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

Washington, reflecting Virginia planters’ concern about their growing burden of debt, gave “the extravagant man” an opportunity to “retrench his expenses” by reducing the purchase of British luxuries, without having to advertise to his neighbors that he might be in financial distress. In this way, Washington con- tinued, Virginians could “maintain the liberty which we have derived from our ancestors,” while reducing their “considerable” debts. Virginia’s leaders also announced a temporary ban on the importation of slaves, but smaller planters in the Piedmont region away from the coast, where the institution was expand- ing, ignored this restriction.

Urban artisans, who welcomed an end to competition from imported British manufactured goods, strongly supported the boycott. Philadelphia and New York merchants at first were reluctant to take part, although they eventually agreed to go along. Nonimportation threatened their livelihoods and raised the prospect of unleashing further lower- class turmoil. As had happened during the Stamp Act cri- sis, the streets of American cities filled with popular protests against the new duties. Extralegal local committees attempted to enforce the boycott of British goods.

The Boston Massacre

Boston once again became the focal point of conflict. Royal troops had been stationed in the city in 1768 after rioting that followed the British seizure of the ship Liberty for violating trade regulations. The sloop belonged to John Hancock, one of the city’s most prominent merchants. The soldiers, who com- peted for jobs on Boston’s waterfront with the city’s laborers, became more and more unpopular. On March 5, 1770, a fight between a snowball- throwing crowd of Bostonians and British troops escalated into an armed confrontation that left five Bostonians dead. One of those who fell in what came to be called the Boston Massacre was Crispus Attucks, a sailor of mixed Indian- African- white ancestry. Attucks would later be remembered as the “first martyr of the American Revolution.” The commanding officer and eight soldiers were put on trial in Massachusetts. Ably defended by John Adams, who viewed lower- class crowd actions as a dangerous method of opposing British policies, seven were found not guilty, while two were convicted of manslaughter. But Paul Revere, a member of the Boston Sons of Liberty and a silversmith and engraver, helped to stir up indignation against the British army by producing a widely circulated (and quite inaccurate) print of the Boston Massacre depicting a line of British soldiers firing into an unarmed crowd.

By 1770, as merchants’ profits shriveled and many members of the colonial elite found they could not do without British goods, the nonimportation move- ment was collapsing. The value of British imports to the colonies declined by about one- third during 1769, but then rebounded to its former level. British

 

 

THE ROAD TO REVOLUTION ★ 191

merchants, who wished to remove a possible source of future interruption of trade, pressed for repeal of the Townshend duties. When the British ministry agreed, leaving in place only a tax on tea, and agreed to remove troops from Boston, American merchants quickly abandoned the boycott.

Wilkes and Liberty

Once again, an immediate crisis had been resolved. Nonetheless, many Amer- icans concluded that Britain was succumbing to the same pattern of political corruption and decline of liberty that afflicted other countries. The overlap of the Townshend crisis with a controversy in Britain over the treatment of John

The Boston Massacre. Less than a month after the Boston Massacre of 1770, in which five colonists died, Paul Revere produced this engraving of the event. Although it inaccurately depicts what was actually a disorganized brawl between residents of Boston and British soldiers, this image became one of the most influential pieces of political propaganda of the revolutionary era.

What key events sharpened the divisions between Britain and the colonists in the late 1760s and early 1770s?

 

 

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Wilkes reinforced this sentiment. A radical journalist known for scandalous writings about the king and ministry, Wilkes had been elected to Parliament from London but was expelled from his seat. “Wilkes and Liberty” became a popular rallying cry on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition, rumors circu- lated in the colonies that the Anglican Church in England planned to send bishops to America. Among members of other Protestant denominations, the rumors— strongly denied in London— sparked fears that bishops would estab- lish religious courts like those that had once persecuted Dissenters. The convic- tion that the British government had set itself on a course dangerous to liberty underpinned colonial resistance when the next crisis arose.

The Tea Act

The next crisis underscored how powerfully events in other parts of Britain’s global empire affected the American colonies. The East India Company, a giant trading monopoly, effectively governed recently acquired British possessions in India. Numerous British merchants, bankers, and other individuals had invested heavily in its stock. A classic speculative bubble ensued, with the price of stock in the company rising sharply and then collapsing. To rescue the company and its investors, the British government decided to help it market its enormous holdings of Chinese tea in North America.

Tea, once a preserve of the wealthy, had become a drink consumed by all social classes in England and the colonies. To further stimulate its sales and bail out the East India Company, the British government, now headed by Frederick Lord North, offered the company a series of rebates and tax exemptions. These enabled it to dump low- priced tea on the American market, undercutting both established merchants and smugglers. Money raised through the taxation of imported tea would be used to help defray the costs of colonial government, thus threatening, once again, the assemblies’ control over finance.

The tax on tea was not new. But many colonists insisted that to pay it on this large new body of imports would acknowledge Britain’s right to tax the colonies. As tea shipments arrived, resistance developed in the major ports. On Decem- ber 16, 1773, a group of colonists disguised as Indians boarded three ships at anchor in Boston Harbor and threw more than 300 chests of tea into the water. The event became known as the Boston Tea Party. The loss to the East India Company was around £10,000 (the equivalent of more than $4 million today).

The Intolerable Acts

The British government, declared Lord North, must now demonstrate “whether we have, or have not, any authority in that country.” Its response to the Boston Tea Party was swift and decisive. Parliament closed the port of Boston to all

 

 

THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE ★ 193

trade until the tea was paid for. It radically altered the Massachusetts Charter of 1691 by curtailing town meetings and authorizing the governor to appoint members to the council— positions previously filled by election. Parliament also empowered military commanders to lodge soldiers in private homes. These measures, called the Coercive or Intolerable Acts by Americans, united the colonies in opposition to what was widely seen as a direct threat to their political freedom.

At almost the same time, Parliament passed the Quebec Act. This extended the southern boundary of that Canadian province to the Ohio River and granted legal toleration to the Roman Catholic Church in Canada. With an eye to the growing tensions in colonies to the south, the act sought to secure the alle- giance of Quebec’s Catholics by offering rights denied to their coreligionists in Britain, including practicing their faith freely and holding positions in the civil service. The act not only threw into question land claims in the Ohio country but persuaded many colonists that the government in London was conspiring to strengthen Catholicism— dreaded by most Protestants— in its American empire. Fears of religious and political tyranny mingled in the minds of many colonists. Especially in New England, the cause of liberty became the cause of God. A gathering of 1,000 residents of Farmington, Connecticut, in May 1774 adopted resolutions proclaiming that, as “the sons of freedom,” they would resist every attempt “to take away our liberties and properties and to enslave us forever.” They accused the British ministry of being “instigated by the devil.”

T H E C O M I N G O F I N D E P E N D E N C E The Continental Congress

Opposition to the Intolerable Acts now spread to small towns and rural areas that had not participated actively in previous resistance. In September 1774, in the town of Worcester, Massachusetts, 4,600 militiamen from thirty- seven towns (half the adult male population of the entire county) lined both sides of Main Street as the British- appointed officials walked the gauntlet between them. In the same month, a convention of delegates from Massachusetts towns approved a series of resolutions (called the Suffolk Resolves for the county in which Boston is located) that urged Americans to refuse obedience to the new laws, withhold taxes, and prepare for war.

To coordinate resistance to the Intolerable Acts, a Continental Congress con- vened in Philadelphia that month, bringing together the most prominent political leaders of twelve mainland colonies (Georgia did not take part). From Massachu- setts came the “brace of Adamses”—John and his more radical cousin Samuel.

What key events marked the move toward American independence?

 

 

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Virginia’s seven delegates included George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, and the renowned orator Patrick Henry. Henry’s power as a speaker came from a unique style that combined moral appeals with blunt directness. “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders,” Henry declared, “are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American.” In March 1775, Henry concluded a speech urging a Virginia convention to begin military prepa- rations with a legendary credo: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

The Continental Association

Before it adjourned at the end of October 1774 with an agreement to reconvene the following May if colonial demands had not been met, the Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves and adopted the Continental Association, which called for an almost complete halt to trade with Great Britain and the West Indies (at South Carolina’s insistence, exports of rice to Europe were exempted). The Association also encouraged domestic manufacturing and denounced “every species of extravagance and dissipation.” Congress authorized local Commit- tees of Safety to oversee its mandates and to take action against “enemies of American liberty,” including businessmen who tried to profit from the sudden scarcity of goods.

The Committees of Safety began the process of transferring effective political power from established governments whose authority derived from Great Britain to extralegal grassroots bodies reflecting the will of the people. By early 1775, some 7,000 men were serving on local committees throughout the colonies, a vast expansion of the “political nation.” The committees became training grounds where small farmers, city artisans, propertyless laborers, and others who had heretofore had little role in government discussed political issues and exercised political power. In Philadelphia, the extralegal commit- tees of the 1760s that oversaw the boycott of British goods had been composed almost entirely of prominent lawyers and merchants. But younger merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans dominated the committee elected in November 1774 to enforce the Continental Association. They were determined that resistance to British measures not be dropped as it had been in 1770. When the New York assembly refused to endorse the association, local committees continued to enforce it anyway.

The Sweets of Liberty

By 1775, talk of liberty pervaded the colonies. The past few years had witnessed an endless parade of pamphlets with titles like A Chariot of Liberty and Ora- tion on the Beauties of Liberty (the latter, a sermon delivered in Boston by Joseph

 

 

THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE ★ 195

Allen in 1772, became the most popular public address of the years before inde- pendence). Sober men spoke longingly of the “sweets of liberty.” While sleep- ing, Americans dreamed of liberty. One anonymous essayist reported a “night vision” of the word written in the sun’s rays. Commented a British emigrant who arrived in Maryland early in 1775: “They are all liberty mad.”

The right to resist oppressive authority and the identification of liberty with the cause of God, so deeply ingrained by the imperial struggles of the eighteenth century, were now invoked against Britain itself, by colonists of all backgrounds. The first mass meeting in the history of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, whose population was overwhelmingly of German ancestry, gathered in 1774. By the following year, a majority of the county’s adult popu- lation had joined militia associations. Many German settlers, whose close- knit communities had earlier viewed with some suspicion “the famous English liberty” as a byword for selfish individualism, now claimed all the “rights and privileges of natural- born subjects of his majesty.”

As the crisis deepened, Americans increasingly based their claims not simply on the historical rights of Englishmen but on the more abstract lan- guage of natural rights and universal freedom. The First Continental Congress defended its actions by appealing to the “principles of the English constitution,” the “liberties of free and natural- born subjects within the realm of England,” and the “immutable law of nature.” John Locke’s theory of natural rights that existed prior to the establishment of government offered a powerful justifica- tion for colonial resistance. Americans, declared Thomas Jefferson in A Sum- mary View of the Rights of British America (written in 1774 to instruct Virginia’s delegates to the Continental Congress), were “a free people claiming their rights, as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief mag- istrate.” Americans, Jefferson insisted, still revered the king. But he demanded that empire henceforth be seen as a collection of equal parts held together by loyalty to a constitutional monarch, not a system in which one part ruled over the others.

The Outbreak of War

By the time the Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775, war had broken out between British soldiers and armed citizens of Massachusetts. On April 19, a force of British soldiers marched from Boston toward the nearby town of Concord seeking to seize arms being stockpiled there. Riders from Boston, among them Paul Revere, warned local leaders of the troops’ approach. Militiamen took up arms and tried to resist the British advance. Skirmishes between Americans and British soldiers took place at Lexington and again

What key events marked the move toward American independence?

 

 

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at Concord, known as the Battles of Lexington and Concord. By the time the British retreated to the safety of Boston, some forty- nine Americans and seventy- three members of the Royal Army lay dead.

What the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson would later call “the shot heard ’round the world” began the American War of Independence. It reverber- ated throughout the colonies. When news of the skirmish reached Lemuel Rob- erts, a poor New York farmer, he felt his “bosom glow” with the “call of liberty.” Roberts set off for Massachusetts to enlist in the army. In May 1775, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, together with militiamen from Connecticut led by Benedict Arnold, surrounded Fort Ticonderoga in New York and forced it to surrender. The following winter, Henry Knox, George Washington’s com- mander of artillery, arranged for some of the Ticonderoga cannon to be dragged hundreds of miles to the east to reinforce the siege of Boston, where British forces were ensconced. On June 17, 1775, two months after Lexington and Con- cord, the British had dislodged colonial militiamen from Breed’s Hill, although only at a heavy cost in casualties. (The battle came to be named the Battle of Bunker Hill, after the nearby Bunker Hill.) But the arrival of American cannon in March 1776 and their entrenchment above the city made the British posi- tion in Boston untenable. The British army under the command of Sir William Howe was forced to abandon the city. Before leaving, Howe’s forces cut down the original Liberty Tree.

Meanwhile, the Second Continental Congress authorized the raising of a Continental army, printed money to pay for it, and appointed George

In March 1776, James Pike, a soldier in the Massachusetts militia, carved this scene on his powder horn to commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord. At the center stands the Liberty Tree.

 

 

THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE ★ 197

Washington its commander. Washington, who had gained considerable fighting experience during the Seven Years’ War, was not only the colonies’ best- known military officer but also a prominent Virginian. John Adams, who proposed his name, recognized that having a southerner lead American forces would reinforce colonial unity. In response, Britain declared the colonies in a state of rebellion, dispatched thousands of troops, and ordered the closing of all colonial ports.

Independence?

By the end of 1775, the breach with Britain seemed irreparable. But many col- onists shied away from the idea of independence. Pride in membership in the British empire was still strong, and many political leaders, especially in colo- nies that had experienced internal turmoil, feared that a complete break with the mother country might unleash further conflict. Anarchy from below, in their view, was as much a danger as tyranny from above. Many advocates of independence, one opponent warned, would find it “very agreeable” to divide the property of the rich among the poor.

Such fears affected how colonial leaders responded to the idea of indepen- dence. The elites of Massachusetts and Virginia, who felt supremely confident of their ability to retain authority at home, tended to support a break with Britain. Massachusetts had borne the brunt of the Intolerable Acts. Southern leaders not only were highly protective of their political liberty but also were outraged by a proclamation issued in November 1775 by the earl of Dunmore, the British governor and military commander in Virginia. Lord Dunmore’s proclamation offered freedom to any slave who escaped to his lines and bore arms for the king.

In New York and Pennsylvania, however, the diversity of the population made it difficult to work out a consensus on how far to go in resisting British measures. Here opposition to previous British laws had unleashed demands by small farm- ers and urban artisans for a greater voice in political affairs. As a result, many established leaders drew back from further resistance. Joseph Galloway, a Penn- sylvania leader and delegate to the Second Continental Congress who worked to devise a compromise between British and colonial positions, warned that inde- pendence would be accompanied by constant disputes within America. He even predicted a war between the northern and southern colonies. Americans, Gallo- way declared, could only enjoy “true liberty”— self- government and security for their persons and property— by remaining within the empire.

Common Sense As 1776 dawned, America presented the unusual spectacle of colonists at war against the British empire but still pleading for their rights within it. Even as

What key events marked the move toward American independence?

 

 

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fighting raged, Congress in July 1775 had addressed the Olive Branch Petition to George III, reaffirming Americans’ loyalty to the crown and hoping for a “permanent reconciliation.” Ironically, it was a recent emigrant from England, not a colonist from a family long established on American soil, who grasped the inner logic of the situation and offered a vision of the broad significance of American independence. An English craftsman and minor government official, Thomas Paine had emigrated to Philadelphia late in 1774. He quickly became associated with a group of advocates of the American cause, including John Adams and Dr. Benjamin Rush, a leading Philadelphia physician. It was Rush who suggested to Paine that he write a pamphlet supporting American independence.

Its author listed only as “an Englishman,” Common Sense appeared in Jan- uary 1776. The pamphlet began not with a recital of colonial grievances but with an attack on the “so much boasted Constitution of England” and the principles of hereditary rule and monarchical government. Rather than being the most perfect system of government in the world, Paine wrote, the English monarchy was headed by “the royal brute of England,” and the English con- stitution was composed in large part of “the base remains of two ancient tyr- annies . . . monarchical tyranny in the person of the king [and] aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the peers.” “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God,” he continued, “than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” Far preferable than monarchy would be a democratic sys- tem based on frequent elections, with citizens’ rights protected by a written constitution.

Turning to independence, Paine drew on the colonists’ experiences to make his case. “There is something absurd,” he wrote, “in supposing a Continent to be perpetually governed by an island.” Within the British empire, America’s pros- pects were limited; liberated from the Navigation Acts and trading freely with the entire world, its “material eminence” was certain. Paine tied the economic hopes of the new nation to the idea of commercial freedom. With indepen- dence, moreover, the colonies could for the first time insulate themselves from involvement in the endless imperial wars of Europe. Britain had “dragged” its American colonies into conflicts with countries like Spain and France, which “never were . . . our enemies as Americans, but as our being the subjects of Great Britain.” Membership in the British empire, Paine insisted, was a burden to the colonies, not a benefit.

Toward the close of the pamphlet, Paine moved beyond practical consid- erations to outline a breathtaking vision of the historical importance of the American Revolution. “The cause of America,” he proclaimed in stirring lan- guage, “is in great measure, the cause of all mankind.” The new nation would become the home of freedom, “an asylum for mankind.”

 

 

THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE ★ 199

Paine’s Impact

Few of Paine’s ideas were original. What made Common Sense unique was his mode of expressing them and the audience he addressed. Previous political writings had generally been directed toward the educated elite. “When I men- tion the public,” declared John Randolph of Virginia in 1774, “I mean to include the rational part of it. The ignorant vulgar are unfit . . . to manage the reins of government.” Just as evangelical ministers had shattered the trained clergy’s monopoly on religious preaching, Paine pioneered a new style of political writ- ing, one designed to expand dramatically the public sphere where political dis- cussion took place. He wrote clearly and directly, and he avoided the complex language and Latin phrases common in pamphlets aimed at educated readers. His style stood in marked contrast to previous political pamphlets, such as John Dickinson’s Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. Common Sense quickly became one of the most successful and influential pamphlets in the history of political writing, selling, by Paine’s estimate, some 150,000 copies. Paine directed that his share of the profits be used to buy supplies for the Continental army.

In February 1776, the Massachusetts political leader Joseph Hawley read Common Sense and remarked, “Every sentiment has sunk into my well pre- pared heart.” The hearts of Hawley and thousands of other Americans had been prepared for Paine’s arguments by the extended conflict over Brit- ain’s right to tax the colonies, the outbreak of war in 1775, and the growing conviction that Britain was a corrupt society where liberty was diminish- ing. The intensification of fighting in the winter of 1775–1776, when Ameri- cans unsuccessfully invaded Canada while the British burned Falmouth (now Portland), Maine, and bombarded Norfolk, Virginia, gave added weight to the movement for independence. In the spring of 1776, scores of American com- munities adopted resolutions calling for a separation from Britain. Only six months elapsed between the appearance of Common Sense and the decision by the Second Continental Congress to sever the colonies’ ties with Great Britain.

The Declaration of Independence

On July 2, 1776, the Congress formally declared the United States an indepen- dent nation. Two days later, it approved the Declaration of Independence, writ- ten by Thomas Jefferson and revised by the Congress before approval. (See the Appendix for the full text.) Most of the Declaration consists of a lengthy list of grievances directed against King George III, ranging from quartering troops in colonial homes to imposing taxes without the colonists’ consent. Britain’s aim, it declared, was to establish “absolute tyranny” over the colonies. One clause in Jefferson’s draft, which condemned the inhumanity of the slave trade

What key events marked the move toward American independence?

 

 

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and criticized the king for overturning colonial laws that sought to restrict the importation of slaves, was deleted by the Congress at the insistence of Geor- gia and South Carolina.

The Declaration’s enduring impact came not from the complaints against George III but from Jefferson’s preamble, especially the second paragraph, which begins, “We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” By “unalienable rights,” Jefferson meant rights so basic, so rooted in human nature itself (or in what John Locke had called the state of

nature), that no government could take them away. Jefferson then went on to justify the breach with Britain. Government, he

wrote, derives its powers from “the consent of the governed.” When a govern- ment threatens its subjects’ natural rights, the people have the authority “to alter or to abolish it.” The Declaration of Independence is ultimately an asser- tion of the right of revolution.

The Declaration and American Freedom

The Declaration of Independence changed forever the meaning of American freedom. It completed the shift from the rights of Englishmen to the rights of mankind as the object of American independence. In Jefferson’s language, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” not the British constitution or the heritage of the freeborn Englishman, justified independence. No longer a set of specific rights, no longer a privilege to be enjoyed by a corporate body or people in certain social circumstances, liberty had become a universal entitlement.

Jefferson’s argument (natural rights, the right to resist arbitrary authority, etc.) drew on the writings of John Locke, who, as explained in the previous chapter, saw government as resting on a “social contract,” violation of which destroyed the legitimacy of authority. But when Jefferson substituted the “pur- suit of happiness” for property in the familiar Lockean triad that opens the Declaration, he tied the new nation’s star to an open- ended, democratic pro- cess whereby individuals develop their own potential and seek to realize their

America as a Symbol of Liberty, a 1775 engrav- ing from the cover of the Pennsylvania Magazine, edited by Thomas Paine soon after his arrival in America. The shield displays the colony’s coat of arms. The female figure holding a liberty cap is surrounded by weaponry of the patriotic struggle, including a cartridge box marked “liberty,” hang- ing from a tree (right).

 

 

THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE ★ 201

own life goals. Individual self- fulfillment, unimpeded by government, would become a central element of American freedom. Tradition would no longer rule the present, and Americans could shape their society as they saw fit.

An Asylum for Mankind

A distinctive definition of nationality resting on American freedom was born in the Revolution. From the beginning, the idea of “American exceptional- ism”—the belief that the United States has a special mission to serve as a refuge from tyranny, a symbol of freedom, and a model for the rest of the world— has occupied a central place in American nationalism. The new nation declared itself, in the words of Virginia leader James Madison, the “workshop of liberty to the Civilized World.” Paine’s remark in Common Sense, “we have it in our power to begin the world over again,” and his description of the new nation as an “asylum for mankind” expressed a sense that the Revolution was an event of global historical importance. Countless sermons, political tracts, and news- paper articles of the time repeated this idea. Unburdened by the institutions— monarchy, aristocracy, hereditary privilege— that oppressed the peoples of the Old World, America and America alone was the place where the principle of universal freedom could take root. This was why Jefferson addressed the Decla- ration to “the opinions of mankind,” not just the colonists themselves or Great Britain.

First to add his name to the Declaration of Independence was the Massachu- setts merchant John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, with a signature so large, he declared, according to legend, that King George III could read it without his spectacles.

The Global Declaration of Independence

Even apart from the Declaration of Independence, 1776 was a momentous year in North America. Spain established Mission Dolores, the first Euro- pean settlement at San Francisco, in an effort to block Russian advances on the Pacific coast. In San Diego, local Indians rebelled, unsuccessfully, against Spanish rule. The Lakota Sioux, migrating westward from Minnesota, settled in the Black Hills of North Dakota, their homeland for the next century. All these places and peoples would eventually become part of the United States, but, of course, no one knew this in 1776.

Meanwhile, the struggle for independence reverberated around the globe. The American colonists were less concerned with securing human rights for all mankind than with winning international recognition in their struggle for inde- pendence from Britain. But Jefferson hoped that this rebellion would become

What key events marked the move toward American independence?

 

 

V O I C E S O F F R E E D O M

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From Samuel Seabury, an Alarm to the Legislature of the Province in New- York (1775)

An Anglican minister and graduate of Yale College, Samuel Seabury was a devoted loyalist, who in 1774 and 1775 published several pam phlets opposing the revolution- ary movement. He remained in the United States after the War of Independence and became the new nation’s first Episcopal bishop.

The unhappy contention we have entered into with our parent state, would inevita- bly be attended with many disagreeable circumstances, with many and great inconve- niences to us, even were it conducted on our part, with propriety and moderation. What then must be the case, when all proper and moderate measures are rejected? . . . When every scheme that tends to peace, is branded with ignominy; as being the machination of slavery! When nothing is called FREEDOM but SEDITION! Nothing LIBERTY but REBELLION!

I will not presume to encroach so far upon your time, as to attempt to point out the causes of our unnatural contention with Great Britain. . . . Nor will I attempt to trace out the progress of that infatuation, which hath so deeply, so miserably, infected the Colonies. . . . Most, if not all the measures that have been adopted, have been illegal in their beginning, tyrannical in their operation. . . . A Committee, chosen in a tumultuous, illegal manner, usurped the most despotic authority over the province. They entered into contracts, compacts, combinations, treaties of alliance, with the other colonies, without any power from the legislature of the province. They agreed with the other Colonies to send Delegates to meet in convention at Philadelphia, to determine upon the rights and liberties of the good people of this province, unsupported by any Law. . . .

The state to which the Grand Congress, and the subordinate Committees, have reduced the colonies, is really deplorable. They have introduced a system of the most oppressive tyranny that can possibly be imagined;—a tyranny, not only over the actions, but over the words, thoughts, and minds, of the good people of this province. People have been threatened with the vengeance of a mob, for speaking in support of order and good government. . . .

Behold, Gentlemen, behold the wretched state to which we are reduced! A foreign power is brought in to govern this province. Laws made at Philadelphia, by factious men from New- England, New- Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas, are imposed upon us by the most imperious menaces. Money is levied upon us without the consent of our representatives. . . . Mobs and riots are encouraged, in order to force submission to the tyranny of the Congress.

 

 

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 203

From Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

A recent emigrant from England, Thomas Paine in January 1776 published Common Sense, a highly influential pamphlet that in stirring language made the case for American independence.

In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and com- mon sense. . . .

Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distin- guished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind. . . . One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so fre- quently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ass for a lion. . . .

The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. ’Tis not the affair of a city, a coun- try, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent— of at least one eighth part of the habit- able globe. ’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the context, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceed- ings now. Now is the seed time of continental union, faith and honor. . . .

I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show a single advantage that this continent can reap by being connected with Great Britain. . . . But the injuries and dis- advantages which we sustain by that connection, are without number. . . . Any submission to, or dependence on, Great Britain, tends directly to involve this Continent in European wars and quarrels, and set us at variance with nations who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom we have neither anger nor complaint.

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppres- sion. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! Receive the fugi- tive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.

QUESTIONS

1. Why does Seabury believe the Continental Congress and local committees are under- mining Americans’ liberties?

2. What does Paine see as the global signifi- cance of the American struggle for indepen- dence?

3. How do the two writers differ in their view of the main threats to American freedom?

 

 

204 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

“the signal of arousing men to burst the chains . . . and to assume the blessings and security of self- government.” And for more than two centuries, the Declara- tion has remained an inspiration not only to generations of Americans denied the enjoyment of their natural rights, but to colonial peoples around the world seeking independence. The Declaration quickly appeared in French and German translations, although not, at first, in Spanish, since the government feared it would inspire dangerous ideas among the peoples of Spain’s American empire.

In the years since 1776, numerous anticolonial movements have modeled their own declarations of independence on America’s. The first came in Flan- ders (part of today’s Belgium, then part of the Austrian empire), where rebels in 1790 echoed Jefferson’s words by declaring that their province “is and of rights ought to be, a Free and Independent State.” Today, more than half the countries in the world, in places as far- flung as China (issued after the revo- lution of 1911) and Vietnam (1945), have such declarations. Many of these documents, like Jefferson’s, listed grievances against an imperial power to jus- tify revolution. Few of these documents, however, have affirmed the natural rights— life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— Jefferson invoked. Over time, the Declaration in a global context has become an assertion of the right of various groups to form independent states, rather than a list of the rights of citizens that their governments could not abridge.

But even more than the specific language of the Declaration, the principle that legitimate political authority rests on the will of “the people” has been adopted around the world. In 1780, even as the American War of Independence raged, a Jesuit- educated Indian of Peru took the name of the last Inca ruler, Túpac Amaru, and led an uprising against Spanish rule. By the time it was sup- pressed in 1783, some 10,000 Spanish and 100,000 Indians had perished. In the Dutch, French, and Spanish empires, where European governments had been trying to tighten their control much as the British had done in North America, local elites demanded greater autonomy, often drawing on the constitutional arguments of American patriots. The idea that “the people” possess rights was quickly internationalized. Slaves in the Caribbean, colonial subjects in India, and indigenous inhabitants of Latin America could all speak this language, to the dismay of those who exercised power over them.

S E C U R I N G I N D E P E N D E N C E The Balance of Power

Declaring Americans independent was one thing; winning independence another. The newly created American army confronted the greatest military power on earth. Viewing the Americans as traitors, Britain resolved to crush

 

 

SECURING INDEPENDENCE ★ 205

the rebellion. On the surface, the balance of power seemed heavily weighted in Britain’s favor. It had a well- trained army (supplemented by hired soldiers from German states like Hesse), the world’s most powerful navy, and experienced military commanders. The Americans had to rely on local militias and an inad- equately equipped Continental army. Washington himself felt that militiamen were too “accustomed to unbounded freedom” to accept the “proper degree of subordination” necessary in soldiers. Moreover, many Americans were not enthusiastic about independence, and some actively supported the British.

On the other hand, many American soldiers did not lack military experience, having fought in the Seven Years’ War or undergone intensive militia training in the early 1770s. They were fighting on their own soil for a cause that inspired devotion and sacrifice. During the eight years of war from 1775 to 1783, some 200,000 men bore arms in the American army (whose soldiers were volunteers) and militias (where service was required of every able- bodied man unless he pro- vided a substitute). As the war progressed, enlistment waned among propertied Americans and the Continental army increasingly drew on young men with lim- ited economic prospects— landless sons of farmers, indentured servants, laborers, and African- Americans. The patriots suffered dearly for the cause. Of the colonies’ free white male population aged sixteen to forty- five, one in twenty died in the War of Independence, the equivalent of nearly 3 million deaths in today’s popu- lation. But so long as the Americans maintained an army in the field, the idea of independence remained alive no matter how much territory the British occupied.

Despite British power, to conquer the thirteen colonies would be an enor- mous and expensive task, and it was not at all certain that the public at home wished to pay the additional taxes that a lengthy war would require. The British, moreover, made a string of serious mistakes. From the outset the British misjudged the degree of support for independence among the American pop- ulation, as well as the capacity of American citizen- soldiers. “These people,” admitted the British general Thomas Gage, “show a spirit and conduct against us that they never showed against the French [in the Seven Years’ War], and everybody has judged them from their former appearance and behavior, which has led many into great mistakes.” Moreover, European rivals, notably France, welcomed the prospect of a British defeat. If the Americans could forge an alli- ance with France, a world power second only to Britain, it would go a long way toward equalizing the balance of forces.

Blacks in the Revolution

At the war’s outset, George Washington refused to accept black recruits. But he changed his mind after Lord Dunmore’s 1775 proclamation, which offered freedom to slaves who joined the British cause. Some 5,000 blacks enlisted in

How were American forces able to prevail in the Revolutionary War?

 

 

206 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

state militias and the Continental army and navy. Since individuals drafted into the militia were allowed to provide a substitute, slaves suddenly gained consid- erable bargaining power. Not a few acquired their freedom by agreeing to serve in place of an owner or his son. In 1778, Rhode Island, with a higher propor- tion of slaves in its population than any other New England state, formed a black regiment and promised freedom to slaves who enlisted, while compen- sating the owners for their loss of property. Blacks who fought under George Washington and in other state militias did so in racially integrated companies (although invariably under white officers). They were the last black American soldiers to do so officially until the Korean War (except for the few black and white soldiers who fought alongside each other in irregular units at the end of World War II).

The Yankee Doodle Intrenchments near Boston, a 1776 British cartoon depicting the American revolutionaries as unimposing citizen soldiers egged on— according to the accompanying text— by a thieving commander and a reckless Puritan minister. The British greatly underestimated Americans’ fighting ability in the War of Independence. One member of Parliament in 1775 claimed the colonists “were neither soldiers, nor could be made so,” as they were naturally cowardly and “incapable of any sort of order or discipline.”

 

 

SECURING INDEPENDENCE ★ 207

Except for South Carolina and Georgia, the southern colonies also enrolled free blacks and slaves to fight. They were not explicitly promised freedom, but many received it individually after the war ended. And in 1783, the Virginia leg- islature emancipated slaves who had “contributed towards the establishment of American liberty and independence” by serving in the army.

Fighting on the side of the British also offered opportunities for freedom. Before his forces were expelled from Virginia, 800 or more slaves had escaped from their owners to join Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment, wearing, accord- ing to legend, uniforms that bore the motto “Liberty to Slaves.” During the war, blacks fought with the British in campaigns in New York, New Jersey, and South Carolina. Other escaped slaves served the Royal Army as spies, guided their troops through swamps, and worked as military cooks, laundresses, and con- struction workers. George Washington himself saw seventeen of his slaves flee to the British, some of whom signed up to fight the colonists. “There is not a man of them, but would leave us, if they believed they could make their escape,” his cousin Lund Washington reported. “Liberty is sweet.”

The First Years of the War

Had the British commander, Sir William Howe, prosecuted the war more vigor- ously at the outset, he might have nipped the rebellion in the bud by destroying Washington’s army. But while Washington suffered numerous defeats in the

American Foot Soldiers, Yorktown Campaign, a 1781 watercolor by a French officer, includes a black soldier from the First Rhode Island Regiment, an all- black unit of 250 men.

How were American forces able to prevail in the Revolutionary War?

 

 

208 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

first years of the war, he generally avoided direct confrontations with the British and managed to keep his army intact. Having abandoned Boston, Howe attacked New York City in the summer of 1776. Washington’s army had likewise moved from Massachusetts to Brooklyn to defend the city. Howe pushed American forces back and almost cut off Washington’s retreat across the East River. Wash- ington managed to escape to Manhattan and then north to Peekskill, where he crossed the Hudson River to New Jersey. But the 3,000 men he had left behind at Fort Washington on Manhattan Island were captured by Howe.

Howe pursued the American army but never managed to inflict a decisive defeat. Demoralized by successive failures, however, many American soldiers simply went home. Once 28,000 men, Washington’s army dwindled to fewer than 3,000. Indeed, Washington feared that without a decisive victory, it would melt away entirely. To restore morale and regain the initiative, he launched suc- cessful surprise attacks on Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey, on Decem- ber 26, 1776, and on a British force at Princeton on January 3, 1777. Shortly before crossing the Delaware River to attack the Hessians, Washington had Thomas Paine’s inspiring essay The American Crisis read to his troops. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” Paine wrote. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

The Battle of Saratoga

In the summer of 1777, a second British army, led by General John Burgoyne, advanced south from Canada hoping to link up with Howe and isolate New England. But in July, Howe instead moved his forces from New York City to attack Philadelphia. In September, the Continental Congress fled to Lancaster, in central Pennsylvania, and Howe occupied the City of Brotherly Love. Not having been informed of Burgoyne’s plans, Howe had unintentionally aban- doned him. American forces blocked Burgoyne’s way, surrounded his army, and on October 17, 1777, forced him to surrender at the Battle of Saratoga. The victory provided a significant boost to American morale.

During the winter of 1777–1778, the British army, now commanded by Sir Henry Clinton, was quartered in Philadelphia. (In the Revolution, as in most eighteenth- century wars, fighting came to a halt during the winter.) British officers took part in an elegant social life complete with balls and parties. Most notable was the great Meschianza, an extravaganza that included a regatta, a procession of medieval knights, and a jousting tournament. Meanwhile, Wash- ington’s army remained encamped at Valley Forge, where they suffered terribly from the frigid weather. Men who had other options simply went home. By the end of that difficult winter, recent immigrants and African- Americans made up

 

 

SECURING INDEPENDENCE ★ 209

half the soldiers at Valley Forge and most of the rest were landless or unskilled laborers.

But Saratoga helped to persuade the French that American victory was possible. In 1778, American diplomats led by Benjamin Franklin concluded a Treaty of Amity and Commerce in which France recognized the United States and agreed to supply military assistance. Still smarting from their defeat in the

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Lexington April 1775

Concord April 1775

Bunker Hill June 1775

Saratoga Oct. 1777

Princeton Jan. 1777

Trenton Dec. 1776

New York City Sep. 1776

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T H E R E V O L U T I O N A RY WA R I N T H E N O RT H , 1 7 7 5 – 1 7 8 1

Key battles in the North during the War of Independence included Lexington and Concord, which began the armed conflict; the campaign in New York and New Jersey; and Saratoga, sometimes called the turning point of the war.

How were American forces able to prevail in the Revolutionary War?

 

 

210 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

Seven Years’ War, the French hoped to weaken Britain, their main European rival, and perhaps regain some of their lost influence and territory in the West- ern Hemisphere. Soon afterward, Spain also joined the war on the American side. French assistance would play a decisive part in the war’s end. At the out- set, however, the French fleet showed more interest in attacking British out- posts in the West Indies than in directly aiding the Americans. And the Spanish confined themselves to regaining control of Florida, which they had lost to the British in the Seven Years’ War. Nonetheless, French and Spanish entry trans- formed the War of Independence into a global conflict. By putting the British on the defensive in places ranging from Gibraltar to the West Indies, it greatly complicated their military prospects.

The War in the South

In 1778, the focus of the war shifted to the South. Here the British hoped to exploit the social tensions between backcountry farmers and wealthy plant- ers that had surfaced in the Regulator movements, to enlist the support of the numerous colonists in the region who remained loyal to the crown, and to dis- rupt the economy by encouraging slaves to escape. In December 1778, British forces occupied Savannah, Georgia. In May 1780, Clinton captured Charleston, South Carolina, and with it an American army of 5,000 men.

The year 1780 was arguably the low point of the struggle for independence. Congress was essentially bankrupt, and the army went months without being paid. The British seemed successful in playing upon social conflicts within the colonies, as thousands of southern Loyalists joined up with British forces (four- teen regiments from Savannah alone) and tens of thousands of slaves sought freedom by fleeing to British lines. In August, Lord Charles Cornwallis routed an American army at Camden, South Carolina. The following month one of Washington’s ablest commanders, Benedict Arnold, defected and almost suc- ceeded in turning over to the British the important fort at West Point on the Hudson River. On January 1, 1781, 1,500 disgruntled Pennsylvania soldiers sta- tioned near Morristown, New Jersey, killed three officers and marched toward Philadelphia, where Congress was meeting. Their mutiny ended when the soldiers were promised discharges or bounties for reenlistment. Harsher treat- ment awaited a group of New Jersey soldiers who also mutinied. On Washing- ton’s orders, two of their leaders were executed.

But the British failed to turn these advantages into victory. British com- manders were unable to consolidate their hold on the South. Wherever their forces went, American militias harassed them. Hit- and- run attacks by militia- men under Francis Marion, called the “swamp fox” because his men emerged from hiding places in swamps to strike swiftly and then disappear, eroded the

 

 

SECURING INDEPENDENCE ★ 211

New York

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Guilford Court House March 15, 1781

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Camden Aug. 16, 1780

Savannah Dec. 29, 1778

Charleston May 12, 1780

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T H E R E V O L U T I O N A RY WA R I N T H E S O U T H , 1 7 7 5 – 1 7 8 1

After 1777, the focus of the War of Independence shifted to the South, where it culminated in 1781 with the British defeat at Yorktown.

How were American forces able to prevail in the Revolutionary War?

 

 

212 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

British position in South Carolina. A bloody civil war engulfed North and South Carolina and Georgia, with patriot and Loyalist militias inflicting retribution on each other and plun- dering the farms of their opponents’ supporters. The brutal treatment of civilians by British forces under Colo- nel Banastre Tarleton persuaded many Americans to join the patriot cause.

Victory at Last

In January 1781, American forces under Daniel Morgan dealt a crush- ing defeat to Tarleton at Cowpens, South Carolina. Two months later,

at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, General Nathanael Greene, while conducting a campaign of strategic retreats, inflicted heavy losses on Corn- wallis, the British commander in the South. Cornwallis moved into Virginia and encamped at Yorktown, located on a peninsula that juts into Chesa- peake Bay. Brilliantly recognizing the opportunity to surround Cornwal- lis, Washington rushed his forces, augmented by French troops under the Marquis de Lafayette, to block a British escape by land. Meanwhile, a French fleet controlled the mouth of the Chesapeake, preventing supplies and rein- forcements from reaching Cornwallis’s army.

Imperial rivalries had helped to create the American colonies. Now, the rivalry of European empires helped to secure American independence. Taking land and sea forces together, more Frenchmen than Americans participated in the decisive Battle of Yorktown. On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered his army of 8,000 men. When the news reached London, public support for the war evaporated and peace negotiations soon began. Given its immense military prowess, Britain abandoned the struggle rather quickly. Many in Britain felt the West Indies were more valuable economically than the mainland colonies. In any event, British merchants expected to continue to dominate trade with the United States, and did so for many years.

Two years later, in September 1783, American and British negotiators con- cluded the Treaty of Paris. The American delegation— John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay— achieved one of the greatest diplomatic triumphs in the country’s history. They not only won recognition of American independence but also gained control of the entire region between Canada and Florida east of

A British cartoon from 1779, The Horse America Throwing His Master, lampoons King George III for being unable to keep control of the colonies. In the background, a French officer carries a flag adorned with the fleur- de- lys, a symbol of that country, the colonists’ ally. Powerful satirical attacks on public authorities, including the king, were commonplace in eighteenth- century Britain.

 

 

SECURING INDEPENDENCE ★ 213

N O RT H A M E R I C A , 1 7 8 3

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the Mississippi River and the right of Americans to fish in Atlantic waters off of Canada (a matter of considerable importance to New Englanders). At British insistence, the Americans agreed that colonists who had remained loyal to the mother country would not suffer persecution and that Loyalists’ property that had been seized by local and state governments would be restored.

Until independence, the thirteen colonies had formed part of Britain’s American empire, along with Canada and the West Indies. But Canada rebuffed repeated calls to join the War of Independence, and leaders of the West Indies,

How were American forces able to prevail in the Revolutionary War?

 

 

214 ★ CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution

fearful of slave uprisings, also remained loyal to the crown. With the Treaty of Paris, the United States of America became the Western Hemisphere’s first independent nation. Its boundaries reflected not so much the long- standing unity of a geographical region, but the circumstances of its birth.

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. What was the ideal of “homespun virtue,” and how did it appeal to different groups in the colonies?

2. Patrick Henry proclaimed that he was not a Virginian, but rather an American. What unified the colonists and what divided them at the time of the Revolution?

3. Discuss the ramifications of using slaves in the British and Continental armies. Why did the British authorize the use of slaves? Why did the Americans? How did the slaves benefit?

4. Why did the colonists reach the conclusion that membership in the empire threatened their freedoms, rather than guaranteed them?

5. How did new ideas of liberty contribute to tensions between the social classes in the Ameri- can colonies?

6. Why did people in other countries believe that the American Revolution (or the Declara- tion of Independence) was important to them or their own countries?

7. Summarize the difference of opinion between British officials and colonial leaders over the issues of taxation and representation.

8. How did the actions of the British authorities help to unite the American colonists during the 1760s and 1770s?

KEY TERMS

Stamp Act (p. 179)

virtual representation (p. 182)

writs of assistance (p. 182)

Sugar Act (p. 183)

“no taxation without representation” (p. 185)

Committee of Correspondence (p. 186)

Sons of Liberty (p. 187)

Regulators (p. 187)

Townshend Acts (p. 189)

Boston Massacre (p. 190)

Crispus Attucks (p. 190)

Boston Tea Party (p. 192)

Intolerable Acts (p. 193)

Continental Congress (p. 193)

 

 

Battles of Lexington and Concord (p. 196)

Battle of Bunker Hill (p. 196)

Continental army (p. 196)

Lord Dunmore’s proclamation (p. 197)

Common Sense (p. 198)

Declaration of Independence (p. 200)

Hessians (p. 208)

Battle of Saratoga (p. 208)

Benedict Arnold (p. 210)

Battle of Yorktown (p. 212)

Treaty of Paris (p. 212)

Go to QIJK To see what you know— and learn what you’ve missed— with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

CHAPTER REVIEW ★ 215

 

 

T H E R E V O L U T I O N W I T H I N

★ C H A P T E R   6 ★

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S How did equality become a stronger component of American freedom after the Revolution?

How did the expansion of religious liberty after the Revolution reflect the new American ideal of freedom?

How did the definition of economic freedom change after the Revolution, and who benefited from the changes?

How did the Revolution diminish the freedoms of both Loyalists and Native Americans?

What was the impact of the Revolution on slavery?

How did the Revolution af fect the status of women?

Born in Massachusetts in 1744, Abigail Adams became one of the revo-lutionary era’s most articulate and influential women. At a time when educational opportunities for girls were extremely limited, she taught herself by reading books in the library of her father, a Congregational minister. In 1764, she married John Adams, a young lawyer about to emerge as a leading advocate of resistance to British taxation and, eventually, of American indepen- dence. During the War of Independence, with her husband away in Philadelphia and Europe serving the American cause, she stayed behind at their Massachu- setts home, raising their four children and managing the family’s farm. The

216 ★

 

 

letters they exchanged form one of the most remarkable correspondences in American history. She addressed John as “Dear friend,” and signed her letters “Portia”— after Brutus’s devoted wife in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Though denied an official role in pol- itics, Abigail Adams was a keen observer of public affairs. She kept her husband informed of events in Massachusetts and offered opin- ions on political matters. Later, when Adams served as president, he relied on her advice more than on members of his cabinet.

In March 1776, a few months before the Second Continental Congress declared American independence, Abigail Adams wrote her best- known letter to her husband. She began by commenting indirectly on the evils of slavery. How strong, she wondered, could the “passion for Liberty” be among those “accustomed to deprive their fellow citizens of theirs?” She went on to urge Con- gress, when it drew up a “Code of Laws” for the new republic, to “remember the ladies.” All men, she warned, “would be tyrants if they could.” Women, she playfully sug- gested, “will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

It was the leaders of colonial society who initiated resistance to British taxa- tion. But, as Abigail Adams’s letter illustrates, the struggle for American liberty emboldened other colonists to demand more liberty for themselves. All revo- lutions enlarge the public sphere, inspiring previously marginalized groups to express their own dreams of freedom. At a time when so many Americans— slaves, indentured servants, women, Indians, apprentices, propertyless men— were denied full freedom, the struggle against Britain threw into question many forms of authority and inequality.

Abigail Adams did not believe in female equality in a modern sense. She accepted the prevailing belief that a woman’s primary responsibility was to her family. But she resented the “absolute power” husbands exercised over their wives. “Put it out of the power of husbands,” she wrote, “to use us as they will”— a discreet reference to men’s legal control over the bodies of their wives, and their right to inflict physical punishment on them. Her letter is widely remembered

1700 Samuel Sewall’s The Sell- ing of Joseph, first antislav- ery tract in America

1770s Freedom petitions pre- sented by slaves to New England courts and legislatures

1776 Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations

John Adams’s Thoughts on Government

1777 Vermont state constitution bans slavery

1779 Thomas Jefferson writes Bill for Establishing Reli- gious Freedom

Philipsburg Proclamation

1780 Ladies’ Association of Phil- adelphia founded

1782 Deborah Sampson enlists in Continental army

THE REVOLUTION WITHIN ★ 217

 

 

218 ★ CHAPTER 6 The Revolution Within

today. Less familiar is John Adams’s response, which illuminated how the Rev- olution had unleashed challenges to all sorts of inherited ideas of deference and authority: “We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bands of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guard- ians, and negroes grew insolent to their masters.” To John Adams, this upheaval, including his wife’s claim to greater freedom, was an affront to the natural order of things. To others, it formed the essence of the American Revolution.

D E M O C R A T I Z I N G F R E E D O M The Dream of Equality

The American Revolution took place at three levels simultaneously. It was a struggle for national independence, a phase in a century- long global battle among European empires, and a conflict over what kind of nation an independent America should be.

With its wide distribution of property, lack of a legally established hereditary aristocracy, and established churches far less powerful than in Britain, colonial America was a society with deep democratic potential. But it took the struggle for independence to transform it into a nation that celebrated equality and opportunity. The Revolution unleashed public debates and political and social struggles that enlarged the scope of freedom and challenged inherited structures of power within America. In rejecting the crown and the principle of hereditary aristocracy, many Americans also rejected the society of privilege, patronage, and fixed status that these institutions embodied. To be sure, the men who led the Revolution from start to finish were by and large members of the American elite. The lower classes did not rise to power as a result of independence. None- theless, the idea of liberty became a revolutionary rallying cry, a standard by which to judge and challenge homegrown institutions as well as imperial ones.

Jefferson’s seemingly straightforward assertion in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” announced a radical principle whose full implications no one could anticipate. In both Britain and its col- onies, a well- ordered society was widely thought to depend on obedience to authority— the power of rulers over their subjects, husbands over wives, parents over children, employers over servants and apprentices, slaveholders over slaves. Inequality had been fundamental to the colonial social order; the Revolution challenged it in many ways. Henceforth, American freedom would be forever linked with the idea of equality— equality before the law, equality in political rights, equality of economic opportunity, and, for some, equality of

 

 

DEMOCRATIZING FREEDOM ★ 219

condition. “Whenever I use the words freedom or rights,” wrote Thomas Paine, “I desire to be understood to mean a perfect equality of them. . . . The floor of Freedom is as level as water.”

Expanding the Political Nation

With liberty and equality as their rallying cries, previously marginalized groups advanced their demands. Long- accepted relations of dependency and restric- tions on freedom suddenly appeared illegitimate— a process not intended by most of the leading patriots. In political, social, and religious life, Americans challenged the previous domination by a privileged few. In the end, the Rev- olution did not undo the obedience to which male heads of household were entitled from their wives and children, and, at least in the southern states, their slaves. For free men, however, the democratization of freedom was dramatic. Nowhere was this more evident than in challenges to the traditional limitation of political participation to those who owned property.

In the political thought of the eighteenth century, “democracy” had several meanings. One, derived from the writings of Aristotle, defined democracy as a sys- tem in which the entire people governed directly. However, this was thought to mean mob rule. Another definition viewed democracy as the condition of primitive societies, which was not appropriate for the complex modern world. Yet another understanding revolved less around the structure of government than the prin- ciple that a government served the interests of the people rather than an elite. In the wake of the American Revolution, the term came into wider use to express the popular aspirations for greater equality inspired by the struggle for independence.

“We are all, from the cobbler up to the senator, become politicians,” declared a Boston letter writer in 1774. Throughout the colonies, election campaigns became freewheeling debates on the fundamentals of government. Universal male suf- frage, religious toleration, and even the abolition of slavery were discussed not only by the educated elite but by artisans, small farmers, and laborers, now emerging as a self- conscious element in politics. In many colonies- turned- states, the militia, composed largely of members of the “lower orders,” became a “school of political democracy.” Its members demanded the right to elect all their officers and to vote for public officials whether or not they met age and property qualifications. They thereby established the tradition that service in the army enabled excluded groups to stake a claim to full citizenship.

The Revolution in Pennsylvania

The Revolution’s radical potential was more evident in Pennsylvania than in any other state. Elsewhere, the established leadership either embraced inde- pendence by the spring of 1776 or split into pro- British and pro- independence

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220 ★ CHAPTER 6 The Revolution Within

factions (in New York, for example, the Livingstons and their supporters ended up as patriots, the De Lanc- eys as Loyalists). But in Pennsylvania nearly the entire prewar elite opposed independence, fearing that severing the tie with Britain would lead to rule by the “rabble” and to attacks on property.

The vacuum of political leadership opened the door for the rise of a new pro- independence grouping, based on the artisan and lower- class communi- ties of Philadelphia, and organized in extralegal committees and the local militia. Their leaders included Thomas Paine (the author of Common Sense), Benjamin Rush (a local physician), Tim- othy Matlack (the son of a local brewer), and Thomas Young (who had already been involved in the Sons of Liberty in Albany and Boston). As a group, these were men of modest wealth who stood outside the merchant elite, had little

political influence before 1776, and believed strongly in democratic reform. They formed a temporary alliance with supporters of independence in the Sec- ond Continental Congress (then meeting in Philadelphia), who disapproved of their strong belief in equality but hoped to move Pennsylvania toward a break with Britain.

As the public sphere expanded far beyond its previous boundaries, equality became the rallying cry of Pennsylvania’s radicals. They particularly attacked property qualifications for voting. “God gave mankind freedom by nature,” declared the anonymous author of the pamphlet The People the Best Governors, “and made every man equal to his neighbors.” The people, therefore, were “the best guardians of their own liberties,” and every free man should be eligible to vote and hold office. In June 1776, a broadside (a printed sheet posted in public places) warned citizens to distrust “great and over- grown rich men” who were inclined “to be framing distinctions in society.” Three months after indepen- dence, Pennsylvania adopted a new state constitution that sought to institu- tionalize democracy by concentrating power in a one- house legislature elected annually by all men over age twenty- one who paid taxes. It abolished the office of

A pewter mug made by William Will, an import- ant craftsman in Philadelphia, in the late 1770s. It depicts Captain Peter Ickes, a Pennsylvania militia officer, with the popular slogan “Liberty or Death.”

 

 

DEMOCRATIZING FREEDOM ★ 221

governor, dispensed with property qualifications for officeholding, and provided that schools with low fees be established in every county. It also included clauses guaranteeing “freedom of speech, and of writing,” and religious liberty.

The New Constitutions

Like Pennsylvania, every state adopted a new constitution in the aftermath of independence. Nearly all Americans now agreed that their governments must be republics, meaning that their authority rested on the consent of the gov- erned, and that there would be no king or hereditary aristocracy. The essence of a republic, Paine wrote, was not the “particular form” of government, but its object: the “public good.” But as to how a republican government should be structured so as to promote the public good, there was much disagreement.

Pennsylvania’s new constitution reflected the belief that since the people had a single set of interests, a single legislative house was sufficient to repre- sent it. In part to counteract what he saw as Pennsylvania’s excessive radical- ism, John Adams in 1776 published Thoughts on Government, which insisted that the new constitutions should create balanced governments whose struc- ture would reflect the division of society between the wealthy (represented in the upper house) and ordinary men (who would control the lower). A power- ful governor and judiciary would ensure that neither class infringed on the lib- erty of the other. Adams’s call for two- house legislatures was followed by every state except Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Vermont. But only his own state, Massa- chusetts, gave the governor an effective veto over laws passed by the legislature. Americans had long resented efforts by appointed governors to challenge the power of colonial assemblies. They preferred power to rest with the legislature.

The Right to Vote

The issue of requirements for voting and officeholding proved far more con- tentious. Conservative patriots struggled valiantly to reassert the rationale for the old voting restrictions. It was ridiculous, wrote one pamphleteer, to think that “every silly clown and illiterate mechanic [artisan]” deserved a voice in government. To John Adams, as conservative on the internal affairs of America as he had been radical on independence, freedom and equality were opposites. Men without property, he believed, had no “judgment of their own,” and the removal of property qualifications, therefore, would “confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”

The provisions of the new state constitutions reflected the balance of power between advocates of internal change and those who feared excessive democracy. The least democratization occurred in the southern states, whose highly deferential political traditions enabled the landed gentry to retain their

How did equality become a stronger component of American freedom after the Revolution?

 

 

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control of political affairs. In Virginia and South Carolina, the new constitu- tions retained property qualifications for voting and authorized the gentry- dominated legislature to choose the governor. Maryland combined a low property qualification for voting with high requirements for officeholding, including £5,000— a fortune— for the governor.

The most democratic new constitu- tions moved much of the way toward the idea of voting as an entitlement rather than a privilege, but they gener- ally stopped short of universal suffrage, even for free men. Vermont’s constitu- tion of 1777 was the only one to sever voting completely from financial con siderations, eliminating not only property qualifications but also the requirement that voters pay taxes. Pennsylvania’s constitution no longer required ownership of property, but it retained the taxpaying qualification. As a result, it enfranchised nearly all of the state’s free male population but left a small number, mainly paupers and domestic servants, still barred from voting. Nonetheless, even with the tax- paying requirement, it represented a dramatic departure from the colonial

practice of restricting the suffrage to those who could claim to be economically independent. It elevated “personal liberty,” in the words of one essayist, to a position more important than property ownership in defining the boundaries of the political nation.

Democratizing Government

Overall, the Revolution led to a great expansion of the right to vote. By the 1780s, with the exceptions of Virginia, Maryland, and New York, a large major- ity of the adult white male population could meet voting requirements. New Jersey’s new state constitution, of 1776, granted the suffrage to all “inhabitants”

John Dickinson’s copy of the Pennsylvania con- stitution of 1776, with handwritten proposals for changes. Dickinson, one of the more conservative advocates of independence, felt the new state constitution was far too democratic. He crossed out a provision that all “free men” should be eligible to hold office, and another declaring the people not bound by laws that did not promote “the common good.”

 

 

TOWARD RELIGIOUS TOLERATION ★ 223

who met a property qualification. Until the state added the word “male” (along with “white”) in 1807, property- owning women, mostly widows, did cast bal- lots. The new constitutions also expanded the number of legislative seats, with the result that numerous men of lesser property assumed political office. The debate over the suffrage would, of course, continue for many decades. For white men, the process of democratization did not run its course until the Age of Jackson; for women and non- whites, it would take much longer.

Even during the Revolution, however, in the popular language of politics, if not in law, freedom and an individual’s right to vote had become interchange- able. “The suffrage,” declared a 1776 petition of disenfranchised North Caro- linians, was “a right essential to and inseparable from freedom.” Without it, Americans could not enjoy “equal liberty.” A proposed new constitution for Massachusetts was rejected by a majority of the towns in 1778, partly because it contained a property qualification for voting. “All men were born equally free and independent,” declared the town of Lenox. How could they defend their “life and liberty and property” without a voice in electing public officials? A new draft, which retained a substantial requirement for voting in state elec- tions but allowed virtually all men to vote for town officers, was approved in 1780. And every state except South Carolina provided for annual legislative elections, to ensure that representatives remained closely accountable to the people. Henceforth, political freedom would mean not only, as in the past, a people’s right to be ruled by their chosen representatives but also an individu- al’s right to political participation.

T O W A R D R E L I G I O U S T O L E R A T I O N As remarkable as the expansion of political freedom was the Revolution’s impact on American religion. Religious toleration, declared one Virginia patriot, was part of “the common cause of Freedom.” In Britain, Dissenters— Protestants who belonged to other denominations than the Anglican Church— had long invoked the language of liberty in seeking repeal of the laws that imposed various disabilities on non- Anglicans. (Few, however, included Catholics in their ringing calls for religious freedom.) We have already seen that Rhode Island and Pennsylvania had long made a practice of toleration. But freedom of worship before the Revolution arose more from the reality of reli- gious pluralism than from a well- developed theory of religious liberty. Apart from Rhode Island, New England had little homegrown experience of reli- gious pluralism. Indeed, authorities in England had occasionally pressed the region’s rulers to become more tolerant. Before the Revolution, most colonies supported religious institutions with public funds and discriminated in voting

How did the expansion of religious liberty after the Revolution reflect the new American ideal of freedom?

 

 

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and officeholding against Catholics, Jews, and even Dissenting Protestants. On the very eve of independence, Baptists who refused to pay taxes to support local Congregational ministers were still being jailed in Massachusetts. “While our country are pleading so high for liberty,” the victims complained, “yet they are denying of it to their neighbors.”

Catholic Americans

The War of Independence weakened the deep tradition of American anti- Catholicism. The First Continental Congress denounced the Quebec Act of 1774, which, as noted in the previous chapter, allowed Canadian Catholics to worship freely, as part of a plot to establish “popery” in North America. But a year later, when the Second Continental Congress decided on an ill- fated inva- sion of Canada, it invited the inhabitants of Quebec to join in the struggle against Britain, assuring them that Protestants and Catholics could readily cooperate. In 1778, the United States formed an alliance with France, a Catholic nation. Benedict Arnold justified his treason, in part, by saying that an alliance with “the enemy of the protestant faith” was too much for him to bear. But the indispensable assistance provided by France to American victory strengthened the idea that Catholics had a role to play in the newly independent nation. This represented a marked departure from the traditional notion that the full rights of Englishmen only applied to Protestants. When America’s first Roman Cath- olic bishop, John Carroll of Maryland, visited Boston in 1791, he received a cor- dial welcome.

The Founders and Religion

The end of British rule immediately threw into question the privileged position enjoyed by the Anglican Church in many colonies. In Virginia, for example, back- country Scotch- Irish Presbyterian farmers demanded relief from taxes support- ing the official Anglican Church. “The free exercise of our rights of conscience,” one patriotic meeting resolved, formed an essential part of “our liberties.”

Many of the leaders of the Revolution considered it essential for the new nation to shield itself from the unruly passions and violent conflicts that religious differences had inspired during the past three centuries. Men like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton believed religion necessary as a foundation of public morality. But they viewed religious doctrines through the Enlightenment lens of rationalism and skepti- cism. They believed in a benevolent Creator but not in supernatural interven- tions into the affairs of men. Jefferson wrote a version of the Bible and a life of Jesus that insisted that while Jesus had lived a deeply moral life, he was not divine and performed no miracles. In discussing the natural history of the Blue

 

 

TOWARD RELIGIOUS TOLERATION ★ 225

Ridge Mountains in his book Notes on the State of Virginia, he rejected the biblical account of creation in favor of a prolonged process of geological change.

Separating Church and State

The drive to separate church and state brought together Deists like Jefferson, who hoped to erect a “wall of separation” that would free politics and the exer- cise of the intellect from religious control, with members of evangelical sects, who sought to protect religion from the corrupting embrace of government. Religious leaders continued to adhere to the traditional definition of Christian liberty— submitting to God’s will and leading a moral life— but increasingly felt this could be achieved without the support of government. Christ’s king- dom, as Isaac Backus, the Baptist leader, put it, was “not of this world.”

The movement toward religious freedom received a major impetus during the revolutionary era. Throughout the new nation, states disestablished their established churches— that is, deprived them of public funding and special legal privileges— although in some cases they appropriated money for the general support of Protestant denominations. The seven state constitutions that began with declarations of rights all declared a commitment to “the free exercise of religion.”

To be sure, every state but New York— whose constitution of 1777 estab- lished complete religious liberty— kept intact colonial provisions barring Jews from voting and holding public office. Seven states limited officeholding to Protestants. Massachusetts retained its Congregationalist establishment well into the nineteenth century. Its new constitution declared church attendance compulsory while guaranteeing freedom of individual worship. It would not end public financial support for religious institutions until 1833. Throughout the country, however, Catholics gained the right to worship without persecu- tion. Maryland’s constitution of 1776 restored to the large Catholic population the civil and political rights that had been denied them for nearly a century.

Jefferson and Religious Liberty

In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson drew up a Bill for Establishing Religious Free- dom, which was introduced in the House of Burgesses in 1779 and adopted, after considerable controversy, in 1786. “I have sworn upon the altar of God,” he would write in 1800, “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Jefferson viewed established churches as a major example of such despotism and, as his statement reveals, believed that religious liberty served God’s will. Jefferson’s bill, whose preamble declared that God “hath created the mind free,” eliminated religious requirements for voting and officeholding and government financial support for churches, and barred the state from “forcing”

How did the expansion of religious liberty after the Revolution reflect the new American ideal of freedom?

 

 

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In Side of the Old Lutheran Church in 1800, York, Pa. A watercolor by a local artist depicts the interior of one of the numerous churches that flourished after independence. While the choir sings, a man chases a dog out of the building and another man stokes the stove. The institution- alization of religious liberty was one of the most important results of the American Revolution.

individuals to adopt one or another religious outlook. Late in life, Jefferson would list this measure, along with the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia, as the three accomplishments (leaving out his two terms as president) for which he wished to be remembered.

Religious liberty became the model for the revolutionary generation’s defi- nition of “rights” as private matters that must be protected from governmental interference. In an overwhelmingly Christian (though not necessarily church- going) nation, the separation of church and state drew a sharp line between public authority and a realm defined as “private.” It also offered a new justi- fication for the idea of the United States as a beacon of liberty. In successfully opposing a Virginia tax for the general support of Christian churches, James

 

 

TOWARD RELIGIOUS TOLERATION ★ 227

Madison insisted that one reason for the complete separation of church and state was to reinforce the principle that the new nation offered “asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every nation and religion.”

The Revolution and the Churches

Thus, the Revolution enhanced the diversity of American Christianity and expanded the idea of religious liberty. But even as the separation of church and state created the social and political space that allowed all kinds of religious institutions to flourish, the culture of individual rights of which that separa- tion was a part threatened to undermine church authority.

One example was the experience of the Moravian Brethren, who had emi- grated from Germany to North Carolina on the eve of independence. To the dis- may of the Moravian elders, younger members of the community, like so many other Americans of the revolutionary generation, insisted on asserting “their alleged freedom and human rights.” Many rejected the community’s tradition of arranged marriages, insisting on choosing their own husbands and wives. To the elders, the idea of individual liberty— which they called, disparagingly, “the Amer- ican freedom”— was little more than “an opportunity for temptation,” a threat to the spirit of self- sacrifice and communal loyalty essential to Christian liberty.

But despite such fears, the Revolution did not end the influence of religion on American society— quite the reverse. American churches, in the words of one Presbyterian leader, learned to adapt to living at a time when “a spirit of liberty prevails.” Thanks to religious freedom, the early republic witnessed an amazing proliferation of religious denominations. The most well- established churches— Anglican, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist— found themselves constantly challenged by upstarts like Free- Will Baptists and Universalists. Today, even as debate continues over the proper relationship between spiritual and political authority, more than 1,300 religions are practiced in the United States.

Christian Republicanism

Despite the separation of church and state, colonial leaders were not hostile to religion. Indeed, religious and secular language merged in the struggle for inde- pendence, producing an outlook scholars have called Christian Republicanism. Proponents of evangelical religion and of republican government both believed that in the absence of some kind of moral restraint (provided by religion and government), human nature was likely to succumb to corruption and vice. Both believed that personal virtue was the foundation of a free society and that, by the same token, freedom— religious and political— was necessary for the development of virtue. Samuel Adams, for example, believed the new nation

How did the expansion of religious liberty after the Revolution reflect the new American ideal of freedom?

 

 

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would become a “Christian Sparta,” in which Christianity and personal self- discipline underpinned both personal and national progress. American reli- gious leaders interpreted the American Revolution as a divinely sanctioned event, part of God’s plan to promote the development of a good society. Rather than being so sinful that it would have to be destroyed before Christ returned, as many ministers had previously preached, the world, the Revolution demon- strated, could be perfected.

Most leaders of the Revolution were devout Christians, and even Deists who attended no organized church believed religious values reinforced the moral qualities necessary for a republic to prosper. Public authority continued to support religious values, in laws barring non- Christians from office and in the continued prosecution of blasphemy and breaches of the Sabbath. Pennsyl- vania’s new democratic constitution required citizens to acknowledge the exis- tence of God, and it directed the legislature to enact “laws for the prevention of vice and immorality.” In the nineteenth century, Pennsylvania’s lawmakers took this mandate so seriously that the state became as famous for its laws against swearing and desecrating the Sabbath as it had been in colonial times for religious freedom.

Patriot leaders worried about the character of future citizens, especially how to encourage the quality of “virtue,” the ability to sacrifice self- interest for the public good. Some, like Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Rush, put forward plans for the establishment of free, state- supported public schools. These would instruct future citizens in what Adams called “the principles of freedom,” equip- ping them for participation in the now- expanded public sphere and for the wise election of representatives. A broad diffusion of knowledge was essential for a government based on the will of the people to survive. No nation, Jefferson wrote, could “expect to be ignorant and free.”

D E F I N I N G E C O N O M I C F R E E D O M Toward Free Labor

In economic as well as political and religious affairs, the Revolution rewrote the definition of freedom. In colonial America, slavery was one part of a broad spectrum of kinds of unfree labor. In the generation after independence, with the rapid decline of indentured servitude and apprenticeship and the trans- formation of paid domestic service into an occupation for blacks and white females, the halfway houses between slavery and freedom disappeared, at least for white men. The decline of these forms of labor had many causes. Wage workers became more available as indentured servants completed their terms

 

 

DEFINING ECONOMIC FREEDOM ★ 229

of required labor, and considerable numbers of servants and apprentices took advantage of the turmoil of the Revolution to escape from their masters.

The lack of freedom inherent in apprenticeship and servitude increas- ingly came to be seen as incompatible with republican citizenship. Ebenezer Fox, a young apprentice on a Massachusetts farm, later recalled how he and other youths “made a direct application of the doctrines we heard daily, in relation to the oppression of the mother country, to our own circumstance. . . . I thought that I was doing myself a great injustice by remaining in bondage, when I ought to go free.” Fox became one of many apprentices during the Rev- olution who decided to run away— or, as he put it, to “liberate myself.” On the eve of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, Fox and a friend set off for Rhode Island. After briefly working as a sailor, Fox, still a teenager, joined the Continental army.

In 1784, a group of “respectable” New Yorkers released a newly arrived ship- load of indentured servants on the grounds that their status was “contrary to . . . the idea of liberty this country has so happily established.” By 1800, indentured servitude had all but disappeared from the United States. This development sharpened the distinction between freedom and slavery, and between a north- ern economy relying on what would come to be called “free labor” (that is, working for wages or owning a farm or shop) and a southern economy ever more heavily dependent on the labor of slaves.

The Soul of a Republic

Americans of the revolutionary generation were preoccupied with the social conditions of freedom. Could a republic survive with a sizable dependent class of citizens? “A general and tolerably equal distribution of landed property,” pro- claimed the educator and newspaper editor Noah Webster, “is the whole basis of national freedom.” “Equality,” he added, was “the very soul of a republic.” Even a conservative like John Adams, who distrusted the era’s democratic upsurge, hoped that every member of society could acquire land, “so that the multitude may be possessed of small estates” and the new nation could avoid the emergence of fixed and unequal social classes. At the Revolution’s radical edge, some patriots believed that government had a responsibility to limit accumulations of property in the name of equality. To most free Americans, however, “equality” meant equal oppor- tunity, rather than equality of condition. Many leaders of the Revolution never- theless assumed that in the exceptional circumstances of the New World, with its vast areas of available land and large population of independent farmers and arti- sans, the natural workings of society would produce justice, liberty, and equality.

Like many other Americans of his generation, Thomas Jefferson believed that to lack economic resources was to lack freedom. His proudest achievements

How did the definition of economic freedom change after the Revolution, and who benefited from the changes?

 

 

230 ★ CHAPTER 6 The Revolution Within

included laws passed by Virginia abolishing entail (the limitation of inher- itance to a specified line of heirs to keep an estate within a family) and pri- mogeniture (the practice of passing a family’s land entirely to the eldest son). These measures, he believed, would help to prevent the rise of a “future aristoc- racy.” To the same end, Jefferson proposed to award fifty acres of land to “every person of full age” who did not already possess it, another way government could enhance the liberty of its subjects. Of course, the land Jefferson hoped would secure American liberty would have to come from Indians.

The Politics of Inflation

The Revolution thrust to the forefront of politics debates over whether local or national authorities should take steps to bolster household independence and protect Americans’ livelihoods by limiting price increases. Economic dislocations sharpened the controversy. To finance the war, Congress issued hundreds of millions of dollars in paper money. Coupled with wartime dis- ruption of agriculture and trade and the hoarding of goods by some Ameri- cans hoping to profit from shortages, this produced an enormous inflation as prices rapidly rose. The country, charged a letter to a Philadelphia newspaper in 1778, had been “reduced to the brink of ruin by the infamous practices of monopolizers.”

Between 1776 and 1779, more than thirty incidents took place in which crowds confronted merchants accused of holding scarce goods off the market.

View from Bushongo Tavern, an engraving from The Columbian Magazine, 1788, depicts the landscape of York County, Pennsylvania, exemplifying the kind of rural independence many Americans thought essential to freedom.

 

 

DEFINING ECONOMIC FREEDOM ★ 231

Often, they seized stocks of food and sold them at the traditional “just price,” a form of protest common in eighteenth- century England. In one such incident, a crowd of 100 Massachusetts women accused an “eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant” of hoarding coffee, opened his warehouse, and carted off the goods. “A large concourse of men,” wrote Abigail Adams, “stood amazed, silent specta- tors of the whole transaction.”

The Debate over Free Trade

In 1779, with inflation totally out of control (in one month, prices in Philadelphia jumped 45 percent), Congress urged states to adopt measures to fix wages and prices. The policy embodied the belief that the task of republican government was to promote the public good, not individuals’ self- interest. Bitter comments appeared in the Philadelphia press about the city’s elite expending huge sums on “public dinners and other extravaganzas” while many in the city were “des- titute of the necessities of life.” But when a Committee of Safety tried to enforce price controls, it met spirited opposition from merchants and other advocates of a free market.

Against the traditional view that men should sacrifice for the public good, believers in free trade argued that economic development arose from eco- nomic self- interest. Just as Newton had revealed the inner workings of the natural universe, so the social world also followed unchanging natural laws, among them that supply and demand regulated the prices of goods. Adam Smith’s great treatise on economics, The Wealth of Nations, published in England in 1776, was beginning to become known in the United States. Smith’s argument that the “invisible hand” of the free market directed economic life more effectively and fairly than governmental intervention offered intellec- tual justification for those who believed that the economy should be left to regulate itself.

Advocates of independence had envisioned America, released from the British Navigation Acts, trading freely with all the world. Opponents of price controls advocated free trade at home as well. “Let trade be as free as air,” wrote one merchant. “Natural liberty” would regulate prices. Here were two competing conceptions of economic freedom— one based on the traditional view that the interests of the community took precedence over the property rights of individuals, the other insisting that unregulated economic freedom would produce social harmony and public gain. After 1779, the latter view gained ascendancy. State and federal efforts to regulate prices ceased. But the clash between these two visions of economic freedom would continue long after independence had been achieved.

“Yield to the mighty current of American freedom.” So a member of the South Carolina legislature implored his colleagues in 1777. The current of freedom

How did the definition of economic freedom change after the Revolution, and who benefited from the changes?

 

 

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swept away not only British authority but also the principle of hereditary rule, the privileges of established churches, long- standing habits of deference and hierarchy, and old limits on the political nation. Yet in other areas, the tide of freedom encountered obstacles that did not yield as easily to its powerful flow.

T H E L I M I T S O F L I B E R T Y Colonial Loyalists

Not all Americans shared in the democratization of freedom brought on by the American Revolution. Loyalists— those who retained their allegiance to the crown— experienced the conflict and its aftermath as a loss of liberty. Many leading Loyalists had supported American resistance in the 1760s but drew back at the prospect of independence and war. Loyalists included some of the most prominent Americans and some of the most humble. Altogether, an esti- mated 20 to 25 percent of free Americans remained loyal to the British, and nearly 20,000 fought on their side. At some points in the war, Loyalists serving with the British outnumbered Washington’s army.

There were Loyalists in every colony, but they were most numerous in New York, Pennsylvania, and the backcountry of the Carolinas and Georgia. Some were wealthy men whose livelihoods depended on close working rela- tionships with Britain— lawyers, merchants, Anglican ministers, and imperial officials. Many feared anarchy in the event of an American victory. “Liberty,” one wrote, “can have no existence without obedience to the laws.”

The struggle for independence heightened existing tensions between eth- nic groups and social classes within the colonies. Some Loyalist ethnic minori- ties, like Highland Scots in North Carolina, feared that local majorities would infringe on their freedom to enjoy cultural autonomy. In the South, many back- country farmers who had long resented the domination of public affairs by wealthy planters sided with the British. So did tenants on the New York estates of patriot landlords like the Livingston family. Robert Livingston had signed the Declaration of Independence. When the army of General Burgoyne approached Livingston’s manor in 1777, tenants rose in revolt, hoping the British would con- fiscate his land and distribute it among themselves. Their hopes were dashed by Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga. In the South, numerous slaves sided with the British, hoping an American defeat would bring them freedom.

The Loyalists’ Plight

The War of Independence was in some respects a civil war among Americans. “This country,” wrote a German colonel fighting with the British, “is the scene of

 

 

THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY ★ 233

the most cruel events. Neighbors are on opposite sides, children are against their fathers.” Freedom of expression is often a casualty of war, and many Americans were deprived of basic rights in the name of liberty. After Dr. Abner Beebe, of East Haddam, Connecticut, spoke “very freely” in favor of the British, a mob attacked his house and destroyed his gristmill. Beebe himself was “assaulted, stripped naked, and hot pitch [tar] was poured upon him.” The new state governments, or crowds of patriots, suppressed newspapers thought to be loyal to Britain.

Pennsylvania arrested and seized the property of Quakers, Mennonites, and Moravians— pacifist denominations who refused to bear arms because of their religious beliefs. With the approval of Congress, many states required res- idents to take oaths of allegiance to the new nation. Those who refused were denied the right to vote and in many cases forced into exile. “The flames of discord,” wrote one British observer, “are sprouting from the seeds of liberty.” Some wealthy Loyalists saw their land confiscated and sold at auction. Twenty- eight estates belonging to New Hampshire governor John Wentworth and his family were seized, as were the holdings of great New York Loyalist landlords like the De Lancey and Philipse families. Most of the buyers of this land were merchants, lawyers, and established landowners. Unable to afford the purchase price, tenants had no choice but to continue to labor for the new owners.

The Revolution as a Borderlands Conflict

When the war ended, as many as 60,000 Loyalists were banished from the United States or emigrated voluntarily— mostly to Britain, Canada, or the West Indies— rather than live in an independent United States. So many Loyalists went to Nova Scotia, in Canada, that a new province, New Brunswick, was cre- ated to accommodate them. For those Loyalists who remained in the United States, hostility proved to be short- lived. In the Treaty of Paris of 1783, as noted in Chapter 5, Americans pledged to end the persecution of Loyalists by state and local governments and to restore property seized during the war. American leaders believed the new nation needed to establish an international reputa- tion for fairness and civility. States soon repealed their test oaths for voting and officeholding. Loyalists who did not leave the country were quickly rein- tegrated into American society, although despite the promise of the Treaty of Paris, confiscated Loyalist property was not returned.

The Loyalists’ exile had a profound impact on the future development of North America. The War of Independence severed the British colonies of Nova Scotia and Quebec from the southern thirteen that formed the United States. Despite rejecting American independence, many Loyalists who settled in Canada brought with them not only a loyalty to the British crown but also a commitment to self- rule. They went on to agitate for responsible government in their new homeland. Their ideas would help to inspire rebellions in Canada

How did the Revolution diminish the freedoms of both Loyalists and Native Americans?

 

 

234 ★ CHAPTER 6 The Revolution Within

Halifax

Boston

Charleston

NEWFOUNDLAND

NOVA SCOTIA

MAINE (part of MA)

NEW HAMPSHIRE

MASSACHUSETTS

CONNECTICUT RHODE ISLAND

NEW YORK

PENNSYLVANIA NEW JERSEY

MARYLAND

DELAWARE

VIRGINIA

NORTH CAROLINA

SOUTH CAROLINA

GEORGIA

UPPER CANADA

LOWER CANADA

FLORIDA

CUBA (SPAIN)

St . P ie r re & Mique lon (France)

Bermuda

Ba hama s

Lake Superior

La ke

M ic

hi ga

n Lake H

uron Lak

e E rie

L. O

ntario

M iss

iss ip

pi R

iv er

Gulf of Mexico

Hudson Bay

Atla ntic Ocea n

0

0

200

200

400 miles

400 kilometers

Strongly Loyalist colonists Loyalists or neutral Indians Neutral colonists Strong patriot support Other British territory

L O YA L I S M I N T H E A M E R I C A N R E V O L U T I O N

The Revolutionary War was, in some ways, a civil war within the colonies. There were Loyalists in every colony; they were most numerous in New York and North and South Carolina.

 

 

THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY ★ 235

in 1837 that helped close out the Age of Revolution the American revolt had launched. Although crushed by the British, the rebellions led eventually to the creation in 1867 of a single government for the Canadian provinces.

Thus, the American Revolution transformed the old boundary separating New England and New York from Quebec as provinces of the British empire into an international border. The consequences were profound. Without this development, Canada would not have been a refuge to slaves who left with the British when they evacuated the newly independent United States, or to those who escaped across the border later in the nineteenth century. Nor would Irish nationalists have been shielded from British law during and after the Civil War when they congregated in upstate New York and launched raids across the northern border as a way of striking a blow against British rule of their home- land. In Canada, the loyalist exiles would long be viewed as national founding fathers, and Canadians would often define their identity in opposition to their powerful neighbor to the south, even though goods and ideas always flowed eas- ily across the border (today, each country is the other’s largest trading partner).

The Indians’ Revolution

Another region where the Revolution took on the character of a borderlands conflict as much as a struggle for independence was the trans- Appalachian West. Here, where British authority remained weak even after the expulsion of the French in the Seven Years’ War and Indians enjoyed considerable authority, the patriots’ victory marked a decisive shift of power away from native tribes and toward white settlers. The destruction of the “middle ground” would not be completed until after the War of 1812, but it received a major impetus from American independence.

Despite the Proclamation of 1763, discussed in Chapter 4, colonists had continued to move westward during the 1760s and early 1770s, leading Indian tribes to complain of intrusions on their land. Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s royal governor, observed in 1772 that he had found it impossible “to restrain the Americans. . . . They do not conceive that government has any right to forbid their taking possession of a vast tract of country” or to force them to honor treaties with Indians.

Kentucky, the principal hunting ground of southern Cherokees and numer- ous Ohio Valley Indians, became a flash point of conflict among settlers, land speculators, and Native Americans, with the faraway British government seeking in vain to impose order. Many patriot leaders, including George Washington, Pat- rick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson, were deeply involved in western land specula- tion. Washington himself had acquired more than 60,000 acres of land in western Pennsylvania after the Seven Years’ War by purchasing land vouchers (a form of soldiers’ wages) from his men at discount rates. Indeed, British efforts to restrain

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land speculation west of the line specified by the Proclamation of 1763 had been one of the many grievances of Virginia’s revolutionary generation.

About 200,000 Native Americans lived east of the Mississippi River in 1790. Like white Americans, Indians divided in allegiance during the War of Indepen- dence. Some, like the Stockbridge tribe in Massachusetts, suffered heavy losses fighting the British. Many tribes tried to maintain neutrality, only to see them- selves break into pro- American and pro- British factions. Most of the Iroquois nations sided with the British, but the Oneida joined the Americans. Despite strenuous efforts to avoid conflict, members of the Iroquois Confederacy for the first time faced each other in battle. (After the war, the Oneida submitted to Congress claims for losses suffered during the war, including sheep, hogs, kettles, frying pans, plows, and pewter plates— evidence of how fully they had been integrated into the market economy.) In the South, younger Cherokee leaders joined the British while older chiefs tended to favor the Americans. Other southern tribes like the Choctaw and Creek remained loyal to the crown.

Among the grievances listed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Indepen- dence was Britain’s enlisting “savages” to fight on its side. But in the war that raged throughout the western frontier, savagery was not confined to either combatant. In the Ohio country, the British encouraged Indian allies to burn frontier farms and settlements. For their part, otherwise humane patriot lead- ers ignored the traditional rules of warfare when it came to Indians. William Henry Drayton, a leader of the patriot cause in South Carolina and the state’s chief justice in 1776, advised officers marching against the Cherokees to “cut up every Indian cornfield, burn every Indian town,” and enslave all Indian cap- tives. Three years later, Washington dispatched an expedition, led by General John Sullivan, against hostile Iroquois, with the aim of “the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible.” After his campaign ended, Sullivan reported that he had burned forty Indian towns, destroyed thousands of bushels of corn, and uprooted a vast number of fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Many Iroquois communities faced starvation.

White Freedom, Indian Freedom

Independence created governments democratically accountable to voters who coveted Indian land. Indeed, to many patriots, access to Indian land was one of the fruits of American victory. Driving the Indians from the Ohio Valley, wrote Jefferson, would “add to the Empire of Liberty an extensive and fertile country.” But liberty for whites meant loss of liberty for Indians. “The whites were no sooner free themselves,” a Pequot, William Apess, would later write, than they turned on “the poor Indians.” Independence offered the opportunity to complete the process of dispossessing Indians of their rich lands in upstate

 

 

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New York, the Ohio Valley, and the southern backcountry. The only hope for the Indians, Jefferson wrote, lay in their “removal beyond the Mississippi.” Even as the war raged, Americans forced defeated tribes like the Cherokee to cede most of their land. The practice, which had begun early in the colonial era, continued in the new nation.

American independence, a group of visiting Indians told the Spanish gov- ernor at St. Louis, was “the greatest blow that could have been dealt us.” The Treaty of Paris marked the culmination of a century in which the balance of power in eastern North America shifted away from the Indians and toward white Americans. The displacement of British power to Canada, coming twenty years after the departure of the French, left Indians with seriously diminished options for white support. Some Indian leaders, like Joseph Brant, a young Mohawk in upstate New York, hoped to create an Indian confederacy lying between Canada and the new United States. He sided with the British to try to achieve this goal. But in the Treaty of Paris, the British abandoned their Indian allies, agreeing to recognize American sovereignty over the entire region east of the Mississippi River, completely ignoring the Indian presence.

Like other Americans, they appropriated the language of the Revolution and interpreted it according to their own experiences and for their own pur- poses. The Iroquois, declared one spokesman, were “a free people subject to no power on earth.” Creeks and Choctaws denied having done anything to forfeit their “independence and natural rights.” When Massachusetts established a system of state “guardianship” over previously self- governing tribes, a group of Mashpees petitioned the legislature, claiming for themselves “the rights of man” and complaining of this “infringement of freedom.” “Freedom” had not played a major part in Indians’ vocabulary before the Revolution. By the early nineteenth century, dictionaries of Indian languages for the first time began to include the word. But there seemed to be no permanent place for the descen- dants of the continent’s native population in a new nation bent on creating an empire in the West.

S L A V E R Y A N D T H E R E V O L U T I O N While Indians experienced American independence as a real threat to their own liberty, African- Americans saw in the ideals of the Revolution and the real- ity of war an opportunity to claim freedom. When the United States declared its independence in 1776, the slave population had grown to 500,000, about one- fifth of the new nation’s inhabitants. Slave owning and slave trading were accepted routines of colonial life. Advertisements announcing the sale of slaves and seeking the return of runaways filled colonial newspapers. Sometimes, the

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same issues of patriotic newspapers that published accounts of the activities of the Sons of Liberty or arguments against the Stamp Act also contained slave sale notices.

The Language of Slavery and Freedom

Slavery played a central part in the language of revolution. Apart from “liberty,” it was the word most frequently invoked in the era’s legal and political liter- ature. Eighteenth- century writers frequently juxtaposed freedom and slavery as “the two extremes of happiness and misery in society.” Yet in debates over British rule, slavery was primarily a political category, shorthand for the denial of one’s personal and political rights by arbitrary government. Those who

Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences. This 1792 painting by Samuel Jennings is one of the few visual images of the early republic explicitly linking slavery with tyranny and liberty with abolition. The female figure offers books to newly freed slaves. Other forms of knowledge depicted include a globe and an artist’s palette. Beneath her left foot lies a broken chain. In the background, free slaves enjoy some leisure time.

 

 

SLAVERY AND THE REVOLUTION ★ 239

lacked a voice in public affairs, declared a 1769 petition demanding an expan- sion of the right to vote in Britain, were “enslaved.” By the eve of independence, the contrast between Britain, “a kingdom of slaves,” and America, a “country of free men,” had become a standard part of the language of resistance. Such language was employed without irony even in areas where half the population in fact consisted of slaves. South Carolina, one writer declared in 1774, was a “sacred land” of freedom, where it was impossible to believe that “slavery shall soon be permitted to erect her throne.”

Colonial writers of the 1760s occasionally made a direct connection between slavery as a reality and slavery as a metaphor. Few were as forthright as James Otis of Massachusetts, whose pamphlets did much to popularize the idea that Parliament lacked the authority to tax the colonies and regulate their commerce. Freedom, Otis insisted, must be universal: “What man is or ever was born free if every man is not?” Otis wrote of blacks not as examples of the loss of rights awaiting free Americans, but as flesh and blood British subjects “entitled to all the civil rights of such.”

Otis was hardly typical of patriot leaders. But the presence of hundreds of thousands of slaves powerfully affected the meaning of freedom for the lead- ers of the American Revolution. In a famous speech to Parliament warning against attempts to intimidate the colonies, the British statesman Edmund Burke suggested that familiarity with slavery made colonial leaders unusually sensitive to threats to their own liberties. Where freedom was a privilege, not a common right, he observed, “those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom.” On the other hand, many British observers could not resist pointing out the colonists’ apparent hypocrisy. “How is it,” asked Dr. Samuel Johnson, “that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of negroes?”

Obstacles to Abolition

The contradiction between freedom and slavery seems so self- evident that it is difficult today to appreciate the power of the obstacles to abolition. At the time of the Revolution, slavery was already an old institution in America. It existed in every colony and formed the basis of the economy and social structure from Maryland southward. At least 40 percent of Virginia’s population and even higher proportions in Georgia and South Carolina were slaves.

Virtually every founding father owned slaves at one point in his life, including not only southern planters but also northern merchants, lawyers, and farmers. (John Adams and Tom Paine were notable exceptions.) Thomas Jefferson owned more than 100 slaves when he wrote of mankind’s unalienable right to liberty, and everything he cherished in his own manner of life, from

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lavish entertainments to the leisure that made possible the pursuit of arts and sciences, ultimately rested on slave labor.

Some patriots, in fact, argued that slavery for blacks made freedom possible for whites. Owning slaves offered a route to the economic autonomy widely deemed necessary for genuine freedom, a point driven home by a 1780 Virginia law that rewarded veterans of the War of Independence with 300 acres of land— and a slave. South Carolina and Georgia promised every white military volunteer a slave at the war’s end.

So, too, the Lockean vision of the political community as a group of indi- viduals contracting together to secure their natural rights could readily be invoked to defend bondage. Nothing was more essential to freedom, in this view, than the right of self- government and the protection of property against outside interference. These principles suggested that for the government to seize property— including slave property— against the owner’s will would be an infringement on liberty. To require owners to give up their slave property would reduce them to slavery.

The Cause of General Liberty

Nonetheless, by imparting so absolute a value to liberty and defining freedom as a universal entitlement rather than a set of rights specific to a particular place or people, the Revolution inevitably raised questions about the status of slavery in the new nation. Before independence, there had been little public discussion of the institution, even though enlightened opinion in the Atlantic world had come to view slavery as morally wrong and economically inefficient, a relic of a barbarous past.

As early as 1688, a group of German Quakers issued a “protest” regarding the rights of blacks, declaring it as unjust “to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones.” Samuel Sewall, a Boston merchant, published The Selling of Joseph in 1700, the first antislavery tract printed in America. All “the sons of Adam,” Sewall insisted, were entitled to “have equal right unto liberty.” During the course of the eighteenth century, antislavery sentiments had spread among Pennsylvania’s Quakers, whose belief that all persons possessed the divine “inner light” made them particularly receptive. But it was during the revo- lutionary era that slavery for the first time became a focus of public debate. The Pennsylvania patriot Benjamin Rush in 1773 called upon “advocates for American liberty” to “espouse the cause of . . . general liberty” and warned that slavery was one of those “national crimes” that one day would bring “national punishment.” Although a slaveholder himself, in private Jefferson condemned slavery as a system that every day imposed on its victims “more misery, than ages of that which [the colonists] rose in rebellion to oppose.”

 

 

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Petitions for Freedom

The Revolution inspired widespread hopes that slavery could be removed from American life. Most dramatically, slaves themselves appreciated that by defining freedom as a universal right, the leaders of the Revolution had devised a weapon that could be used against their own bondage. The lan- guage of liberty echoed in slave communities, North and South. Living amid freedom but denied its benefits, slaves appropriated the patriotic ideology for their own purposes. The most insistent advocates of freedom as a univer- sal entitlement were African- Americans, who demanded that the leaders of the struggle for independence live up to their self- proclaimed creed. As early as 1766, white Charlestonians had been shocked when their opposition to the Stamp Act inspired a group of blacks to parade about the city crying “Liberty.”

The first concrete steps toward emancipation in revolutionary America were freedom petitions— arguments for liberty presented to New England’s courts and legislatures in the early 1770s by enslaved African- Americans. How, one such petition asked, could America “seek release from English tyr- anny and not seek the same for disadvantaged Africans in her midst?” Some slaves sued in court for being “illegally detained in slavery.” The turmoil of war offered other avenues to freedom. Many slaves ran away from their masters and tried to pass as freeborn. The number of fugitive- slave advertisements in colo- nial newspapers rose dramatically in the 1770s and 1780s. As one owner put it in accounting for his slave Jim’s escape, “I believe he has nothing in view but freedom.”

In 1776, the year of American independence, Lemuel Haynes, a black member of the Massachusetts militia and later a celebrated minister, urged that Americans “extend” their conception of freedom. If liberty were truly “an innate principle” for all mankind, Haynes insisted, “even an African [had] as equally good a right to his liberty in common with Englishmen.” Blacks sought to make white Americans understand slavery as a concrete reality— the denial of all the essential elements of freedom— not merely as a metaphor for the loss of political self- determination. Petitioning for their freedom in 1773, a group of New England slaves exclaimed, “We have no property! We have no wives! No children! We have no city! No country!”

Most slaves of the revolutionary era were only one or two generations removed from Africa. They did not need the ideology of the Revolution to per- suade them that freedom was a birthright— their experience and that of their parents and grandparents suggested as much. “My love of freedom,” wrote the black poet Phillis Wheatley in 1783, arose from the “cruel fate” of being “snatch’d from Afric’s” shore. Brought as a slave to Boston in 1761, Wheatley learned to read and published her first poem in a New England newspaper in 1765, when

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she was around twelve years old. The fact that a volume of her poems had to be printed with a testimonial from prominent citizens, including patriot leader John Hancock, affirming that she was in fact the author, illustrates that many whites found it difficult to accept the idea of blacks’ intellectual ability. Yet by invoking the Revolu- tion’s ideology of liberty to demand their own rights and by defining free- dom as a universal entitlement, blacks demonstrated how American they had become, even as they sought to redefine what American freedom in fact meant.

British Emancipators

As noted in the previous chapter, some 5,000 slaves fought for American independence and many thereby gained their freedom. Yet far more slaves obtained liberty from the British. Lord Dunmore’s proclamation of 1775, and the Philipsburg Proclamation of General Henry Clinton issued four years later, offered sanctuary to slaves, except those owned by Loyalists, who escaped to British lines. Numerous signers of the Declaration of Independence lost slaves as a result. Thirty of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves ran away to the British, as did slaves owned by Patrick Henry and James Madison. All told, tens of thou- sands of slaves, including one- quarter of all the slaves in South Carolina and one- third of those in Georgia, deserted their owners and fled to British lines. This was by far the largest exodus from the plantations until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Some of these escaped slaves were recaptured as the tide of battle turned in the patriots’ favor. But at the war’s end, some 20,000 were living in three enclaves of British control— New York, Charleston, and Savannah. George Washington insisted they must be returned. Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander in New York, replied that to do so would be “a dishonorable violation of the pub- lic faith,” since they had been promised their freedom. In the end, more than 15,000 black men, women, and children accompanied the British out of the coun- try. They ended up in Nova Scotia, England, and Sierra Leone, a settlement for former slaves from the United States established by the British on the coast of West Africa. Some were re- enslaved in the West Indies. A number of their sto- ries were indeed remarkable. Harry Washington, an African- born slave of George

Bedford Basin near Halifax, a watercolor by the Canadian artist Robert Petley, depicts a family of black Loyalists in Nova Scotia. Thousands of slaves gained their freedom by departing with the British after the War of Independence. Over 3,000 settled in Nova Scotia, where many were able to acquire land.

 

 

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Washington, had run away from Mount Vernon in 1771 but was recaptured. In 1775, he fled to join Lord Dunmore and eventually became a corporal in a black British regiment, the Black Pioneers. He eventually ended up in Sierra Leone, where in 1800 he took part in an unsuccessful uprising by black settlers against the British- appointed government.

The issue of compensation for the slaves who departed with the British poisoned relations between Britain and the new United States for decades to come. Finally, in 1827, Britain agreed to make payments to 1,100 Americans who claimed they had been improperly deprived of their slave property.

Voluntary Emancipations

For a brief moment, the revolutionary upheaval appeared to threaten the continued existence of slavery. During the War of Independence, nearly every state prohibited or discouraged the further importation of slaves from Africa. The war left much of the plantation South in ruins. During the 1780s, a considerable number of slaveholders, especially in Virginia and Maryland, voluntarily emancipated their slaves. In 1796, Robert Carter III, a member of one of Virginia’s wealthiest families, provided for the gradual emancipation of the more than 400 slaves he owned. In the same year, Richard Randolph, a member of another prominent Virginia family, drafted a will that con- demned slavery as an “infamous practice,” provided for the freedom of about ninety slaves, and set aside part of his land for them to own.

Farther south, however, the abolition process never got under way. When the British invaded South Carolina during the war, John Laurens, whose father Henry was Charleston’s leading merchant and revolutionary- era statesman, proposed to “lead a corps of emancipated blacks in the defense of liberty.” South Carolina’s leaders rejected the idea. They would rather lose the war than lose their slaves.

Abolition in the North

Between 1777 (when Vermont drew up a constitution that banned slavery) and 1804 (when New Jersey acted), every state north of Maryland took steps toward emancipation, the first time in recorded history that legislative power had been invoked to eradicate slavery. But even here, where slavery was peripheral to the economy, the method of abolition reflected how property rights impeded emancipation. Generally, abolition laws did not free living slaves. Instead, they provided for the liberty of any child born in the future to a slave mother, but only after he or she had served the mother’s master until adulthood as compen- sation for the owner’s future economic loss. Children born to slave mothers in Pennsylvania after passage of the state’s emancipation act of 1780 had to serve the owner for twenty- eight years, far longer than had been customary for white

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indentured servants. These laws gave indentured servitude, rapidly declining among whites, a new lease on life in the case of northern blacks.

Abolition in the North was a slow, drawn- out process. For slaves alive when the northern laws were passed, hopes for freedom rested on their own abil- ity to escape and the voluntary actions of their owners. And many northern slaveholders proved reluctant indeed when it came to liberating their slaves. New York City, where one- fifth of the white families owned at least one slave in 1790, recorded only seventy- six such voluntary acts between 1783 and 1800. The first national census, in 1790, recorded 21,000 slaves still living in New York and 11,000 in New Jersey. New Yorker John Jay, chief justice of the United States, owned five slaves in 1800. As late as 1830, the census revealed that there were still 3,500 slaves in the North. The last slaves in Connecticut did not become free until 1848. In 1860, eighteen elderly slaves still resided in New Jersey.

Free Black Communities

All in all, the Revolution had a contradictory impact on American slavery and, therefore, on American freedom. Gradual as it was, the abolition of slavery in

A tray painted by an unknown artist in the early nineteenth century portrays Lemuel Haynes, a celebrated black preacher and critic of slavery.

 

 

DAUGHTERS OF LIBERTY ★ 245

the North drew a line across the new nation, creating the dangerous division between free and slave states. Abolition in the North, voluntary manumissions in the Upper South, and the escape of thousands from bondage created, for the first time in American history, a sizable free black population (many of whose members took new family names like Freeman or Freeland).

On the eve of independence, virtually every black person in America had been a slave. Now, free communities, with their own churches, schools, and leaders, came into existence. They formed a standing challenge to the logic of slavery, a haven for fugitives, and a springboard for further efforts at abolition. In 1776, fewer than 10,000 free blacks resided in the United States. By 1810, their numbers had grown to nearly 200,000, most of them living in Maryland and Virginia. In all the states except Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, free black men who met taxpaying or property qualifications enjoyed the right to vote under new state constitutions. As the widespread use of the term “citi- zens of color” suggests, the first generation of free blacks, at least in the North, formed part of the political nation.

For many Americans, white as well as black, the existence of slavery would henceforth be recognized as a standing affront to the ideal of American free- dom, a “disgrace to a free government,” as a group of New Yorkers put it. In 1792, when Samuel Jennings of Philadelphia painted Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, he included among the symbols of freedom a slave’s broken chain, graphically illustrating how freedom had become identified not simply with political independence, but with emancipation. Nonetheless, the stark fact is that slavery survived the War of Independence and, thanks to the natural increase of the slave population, continued to grow. The national census of 1790 revealed that despite all those who had become free through state laws, voluntary emancipation, and escape, the number of slaves in the United States had grown to 700,000— 200,000 more than in 1776.

D A U G H T E R S O F L I B E R T Y Revolutionary Women

The revolutionary generation included numerous women who contributed to the struggle for independence. Deborah Sampson, the daughter of a poor Massachusetts farmer, disguised herself as a man and in 1782, at age twenty- one, enlisted in the Continental army. Sampson displayed remarkable courage, participating in several battles and extracting a bullet from her own leg so as not to have a doctor discover her identity. Ultimately, her commanding officer learned her secret but kept it to himself, and she was honorably discharged at the end of the war. Years later, Congress awarded her a soldier’s pension. Other

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patriotic women participated in crowd actions against merchants accused of seeking profits by holding goods off the market until their prices rose, contrib- uted homespun goods to the army, and passed along information about British army movements.

In Philadelphia, Esther Reed, the wife of patriot leader Joseph Reed, and Sarah Franklin Bache, the daughter of Benjamin Franklin, organized a Ladies’ Association to raise funds to assist American soldiers. They issued pub- lic broadsides calling for the “women of America” to name a “Treasuress” in each county in the United States who would collect funds and forward them to the governor’s wife or, if he were unmarried, to “Mistress Washington.” Referring to themselves as “brave Amer- icans” who had been “born for liberty,” the Ladies’ Association illustrated how the Revolution was propelling women into new forms of public activism.

Within American households, women participated in the political dis- cussions unleashed by independence. “Was not every fireside,” John Adams later recalled, “a theater of politics?”

Adams’s own wife, Abigail Adams, as has been mentioned, was a shrewd analyst of public affairs. Mercy Otis Warren— the sister of James Otis and wife of James Warren, a founder of the Boston Committee of Correspondence— was another commentator on politics. She promoted the revolutionary cause in poems and dramas and later published a history of the struggle for independence.

Gender and Politics

Gender, nonetheless, formed a boundary limiting those entitled to the full blessings of American freedom. Lucy Knox, the wife of General Henry Knox, wrote her husband during the war that when he returned home he should not consider himself “commander in chief of your own house, but be convinced

A cartoon produced in London in 1775, A Society of Patriotic Ladies satirizes a group of women in Edenton, North Carolina, who signed a pledge to boycott British goods. They are depicted as fashionable but grotesque, and as forsaking their female responsibilities. The women on the right wields a gavel while a neglected child sits on the floor and is licked by a dog. Inadvertently, the cartoon makes the point that many colonial women devoted themselves to the patriotic cause.

 

 

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that there is such a thing as equal command.” But the winning of inde- pendence did not alter the family law inherited from Britain. The principle of coverture (described in Chapter 1) remained intact in the new nation. The husband still held legal authority over the person, property, and choices of his wife. The words “to have and to hold” appeared both in deeds conveying land from one owner to another, and in com- mon marriage vows. Despite the expan- sion of democracy, politics remained overwhelmingly a male realm.

For men, political freedom meant the right to self- government, the power to consent to the individuals and politi- cal arrangements that ruled over them. For women, however, the marriage contract superseded the social contract. A woman’s relationship to the larger society was mediated through her rela- tionship with her husband. In both law and social reality, women lacked the essential qualification of political participation— autonomy based on ownership of property or control of one’s own person. Since the common law included women within the legal status of their husbands, women could not be said to have property in themselves in the same sense as men.

Men took pride in qualities like independence and masculinity that dis- tinguished them from women and still considered control over their families an element of freedom. Among the deprivations of slavery cited by a group of black male petitioners in 1774 was that it prevented their wives from “submit- ting themselves to husbands in all things,” as the natural order of the universe required. Many women who entered public debate felt the need to apologize for their forthrightness. A group of Quaker women who petitioned Congress during the War of Independence protesting the mistreatment of men who would not take an oath of loyalty hoped the lawmakers would “take no offense at the freedom of women.”

Most men considered women to be naturally submissive and irrational, and therefore unfit for citizenship. While public debate in the revolutionary

Portrait of John and Elizabeth Lloyd Cadwalader and Their Daughter Anne. This 1772 portrait of a prominent Philadelphia businessman and his family by the American artist Charles Willson Peale illustrates the emerging ideal of the “com- panionate” marriage, which is based on affection rather than male authority.

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From Abigail Adams to John Adams, Braintree, Mass. (March 31, 1776)

From their home in Massachusetts, Abigail Adams maintained a lively correspon- dence with her husband while he was in Philadelphia serving in the Continental Congress. In this letter, she suggests some of the limits of the patriots’ commitment to liberty.

I wish you would write me a letter half as long as I write you, and tell me if you may where your fleet have gone? What sort of defense Virginia can make against our com- mon enemy? Whether it is so situated as to make an able defense? . . . I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain, that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principle of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. . . .

I long to hear that you have declared an independency, and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any such laws in which we have no voice, or representation.

That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impu- nity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex. Regard us then as beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

 

 

From Petitions of Slaves to the Massachusetts Legislature

(1773 and 1777)

Many slaves saw the struggle for independence as an opportunity to assert their own claims to freedom. Among the first efforts toward abolition were petitions by Massa- chusetts slaves to their legislature.

The efforts made by the legislative of this province in their last sessions to free them- selves from slavery, gave us, who are in that deplorable state, a high degree of satisfac- tion. We expect great things from men who have made such a noble stand against the designs of their fellow- men to enslave them. We cannot but wish and hope Sir, that you will have the same grand object, we mean civil and religious liberty, in view in your next session. The divine spirit of freedom, seems to fire every breast on this continent. . . .

* * * Your petitioners apprehend that they have in common with all other men a natu-

ral and unalienable right to that freedom which the great parent of the universe hath bestowed equally on all mankind and which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever but [they] were unjustly dragged by the hand of cruel power from their dearest friends and . . . from a populous, pleasant, and plentiful country and in violation of laws of nature and of nations and in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity brought here . . . to be sold like beast[s] of burden . . . among a people profess- ing the mild religion of Jesus. . . .

In imitation of the laudable example of the good people of these states your petitioners have long and patiently waited the event of peti- tion after petition by them presented to the leg- islative body. . . . They cannot but express their astonishment that it has never been considered that every principle from which America has acted in the course of their unhappy difficulties with Great Britain pleads stronger than a thou- sand arguments in favor of your petitioners [and their desire] to be restored to the enjoyment of that which is the natural right of all men.

QUESTIONS

1. What does Abigail Adams have in mind when she refers to the “unlim- ited power” husbands exercise over their wives?

2. How do the slaves employ the prin- ciples of the Revolution for their own aims?

3. What do these documents suggest about the boundaries of freedom in the era of the American Revolution?

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era viewed men’s rights as natural entitlements, discussions of women’s roles emphasized duty and obligations, not individual liberty. Their rights were non- political, deriving from their roles as wives and mothers.

Overall, the republican citizen was, by definition, male. In a notable case, a Mas- sachusetts court returned to James Martin confiscated property previously owned by his mother, who had fled the state during the Revolution with her Loyalist hus- band. Like other states, Massachusetts seized the land of those who had supported the British. But, the court ruled, it was unreasonable to expect a wife to exercise independent political judgment. To rebel against the king was one thing, but one could hardly ask Mrs. Martin to rebel against her husband. Therefore, the court rea- soned, she should not have been punished for taking the British side.

Republican Motherhood

The Revolution nonetheless did produce an improvement in status for many women. According to the ideology of republican motherhood that emerged as a result of independence, women played an indispensable role by training future citizens. The “foundation of national morality,” wrote John Adams, “must be laid in private families.” Even though republican motherhood ruled out direct female involvement in politics, it encouraged the expansion of edu- cational opportunities for women, so that they could impart political wisdom to their children. Women, wrote Benjamin Rush, needed to have a “suitable education,” to enable them to “instruct their sons in the principles of liberty and government.”

The idea of republican motherhood reinforced the trend, already evident in the eighteenth century, toward the idea of “companionate” marriage, a vol- untary union held together by affection and mutual dependency rather than male authority. In her letter to John Adams quoted earlier, Abigail Adams rec- ommended that men should willingly give up “the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend.”

The structure of family life itself was altered by the Revolution. In colonial America, those living within the household often included indentured ser- vants, apprentices, and slaves. After independence, southern slaves remained, rhetorically at least, members of the owner’s “family.” In the North, however, with the rapid decline of various forms of indentured servitude and apprentice- ship, a more modern definition of the household as consisting of parents and their children took hold. Hired workers, whether domestic servants or farm laborers, were not considered part of the family.

Like slaves, some free women adapted the rhetoric of the Revolution to their own situation. Ann Baker Carson later recalled how she became estranged from the tyrannical husband she had married at age sixteen. “I was an American,”

 

 

DAUGHTERS OF LIBERTY ★ 251

she wrote. “A land of liberty had given me birth. I felt myself his equal.” She left the marriage rather than continue as a “female slave.” But unlike the case of actual slaves, the subordination of women did not become a major source of public debate until long after American independence.

The Arduous Struggle for Liberty

The Revolution changed the lives of virtually every American. As a result of the long struggle against British rule, the public sphere, and with it the right to vote, expanded markedly. Bound labor among whites declined dramatically, religious groups enjoyed greater liberty, blacks mounted a challenge to slav- ery in which many won their freedom, and women in some ways enjoyed a higher status. On the other hand, for Indians, many Loyalists, and the majority of slaves, American independence meant a deprivation of freedom.

A new nation, which defined itself as an embodiment of freedom, had taken its place on the world stage. “Not only Britain, but all Europe are specta- tors of the conflict, the arduous struggle for liberty,” wrote Ezra Stiles, a future president of Yale College, in 1775. “We consider ourselves as laying the foun- dation of a glorious future empire, and acting a part for the contemplation of the ages.”

Like Stiles, many other Americans were convinced that their struggle for independence had worldwide significance. American independence, indeed, formed part of a larger set of movements that transformed the Atlantic world. The year 1776 saw not only Paine’s Common Sense and Jefferson’s Declaration but also the publication in England of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, which attacked the British policy of closely regulating trade, and Jeremy Bentham’s Fragment on Government, which criticized the nature of British government.

The winds of change were sweeping across the Atlantic world. The ideals of the American Revolution helped to inspire countless subsequent struggles for social equality and national independence, from the French Revolution, which exploded in 1789, to the uprising that overthrew the slave system in Haiti in the 1790s, to the Latin American wars for independence in the early nineteenth century, and numerous struggles of colonial peoples for nation- hood in the twentieth. But within the new republic, the debate over who should enjoy the blessings of liberty would continue long after independence had been achieved.

How did the Revolution af fect the status of women?

 

 

252 ★ CHAPTER 6 The Revolution Within

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. For the lower classes, colonial society had been based on inequality, deference, and obedi- ence. How did the American Revolution challenge that social order?

2. Why did the Revolution cause more radical changes in Pennsylvania than elsewhere, and how was this radicalism demonstrated in the new state constitution?

3. How did ideas of political freedom af fect people’s ideas about economic rights and relationships?

4. What role did the founders foresee for religion in American government and society?

5. What was the impact of the American Revolution on Native Americans?

6. What were the most important features of the new state constitutions?

7. How did popular views of property rights prevent slaves from enjoying all the freedoms of the social contract?

8. How did revolutionary America see both improvements and limitations in women’s roles and rights?

republic (p. 221)

suffrage (p. 222)

Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (p. 225)

inflation (p. 230)

free trade (p. 231)

The Wealth of Nations (p. 231)

Loyalists (p. 232)

Joseph Brant (p. 237)

abolition (p. 239)

freedom petitions (p. 241)

Lemuel Haynes (p. 241)

free blacks (p. 245)

coverture (p. 247)

republican motherhood (p. 250)

KEY TERMS

Go to QIJK To see what you know— and learn what you’ve missed— with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

 

 

★ 253

F O U N D I N G A N A T I O N

★ C H A P T E R 7 ★

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S What were the achievements and problems of the Confed eration government?

What major disagreements and compromises molded the final content of the Constitution?

How did Anti- Federalist concerns raised during the ratification process lead to the creation of the Bill of Rights?

How did the definition of citizenship in the new republic exclude Native Ameri- cans and African- Americans?

During June and July of 1788, civic leaders in cities up and down the Atlantic coast organized colorful pageants to celebrate the ratifica-tion of the United States Constitution. For one day, Benjamin Rush commented of Philadelphia’s parade, social class “forgot its claims,” as thou- sands of marchers— rich and poor, businessman and apprentice— joined in a common public ceremony. New York’s Grand Federal Procession was led by farmers, followed by the members of every craft in the city from butchers and coopers (makers of wooden barrels) to bricklayers, blacksmiths, and printers. Lawyers, merchants, and clergymen brought up the rear. The parades testified to the strong popular support for the Constitution in the nation’s cities. And the prominent role of skilled artisans reflected how the Revolution had secured their place in the American public sphere. Elaborate banners and floats gave

1 7 8 3 – 1 7 9 1

 

 

254 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

voice to the hopes inspired by the new structure of government. “May com- merce flourish and industry be rewarded,” declared Philadelphia’s mariners and shipbuilders.

Throughout the era of the Revolution, Americans spoke of their nation as a “rising empire,” destined to populate and control the entire North American continent. While Europe’s empires were governed by force, America’s would be different. In Jefferson’s phrase, it would be “an empire of liberty,” bound together by a common devotion to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Already, the United States exceeded in size Great Britain, Spain, and France combined. As a new nation, it possessed many advantages, including physical isolation from the Old World (a significant asset between 1789 and 1815, when European powers were almost constantly at war), a youthful population certain to grow much larger, and a broad distribution of property ownership and liter- acy among white citizens.

On the other hand, while Americans dreamed of economic prosperity and continental empire, the nation’s prospects at the time of independence were not entirely promising. Control of its vast territory was by no means secure. Nearly all of the 3.9 million Americans recorded in the first national census of 1790 lived near the Atlantic coast. Large areas west of the Appala- chian Mountains remained in Indian hands. The British retained military posts on American territory near the Great Lakes, and there were fears that Spain might close the port of New Orleans to American commerce on the Mississippi River.

Away from navigable waterways, communication and transportation were primitive. The country was overwhelmingly rural— fewer than one Ameri- can in thirty lived in a place with 8,000 inhabitants or more. The population consisted of numerous ethnic and religious groups and some 700,000 slaves, making unity difficult to achieve. No republican government had ever been established over so vast a territory or with so diverse a population. Local loy- alties outweighed national patriotism. “We have no Americans in America,” commented John Adams. It would take time for consciousness of a common nationality to sink deep roots.

Today, with the United States the most powerful country on earth, it is difficult to recall that in 1783 the future seemed precarious indeed for the fragile nation seeking to make its way in a world of hostile great powers. Profound questions needed to be answered. What course of development should the United States follow? How could the competing claims of local self- government, sectional interests, and national authority be balanced? Who should be considered full- fledged members of the American people, entitled to the blessings of liberty? These issues became the focus of heated debate as the first generation of Americans sought to consolidate their new republic.

 

 

AMERICA UNDER THE CONFEDERATION ★ 255

A M E R I C A U N D E R T H E C O N F E D E R A T I O N The Articles of Confederation

The first written constitution of the United States was the Articles of Confederation, drafted by Congress in 1777 and ratified by the states four years later. The Articles sought to balance the need for national coor- dination of the War of Independence with widespread fear that centralized political power posed a danger to liberty. It explic- itly declared the new national government to be a “perpetual union.” But it resembled less a blueprint for a common government than a treaty for mutual defense— in its own words, a “firm league of friendship” among the states. Under the Articles, the thirteen states retained their individual “sovereignty, freedom, and independence.” The national government consisted of a one- house Con- gress, in which each state, no matter how large or populous, cast a single vote. There was no president to enforce the laws and no judiciary to interpret them. Major decisions required the approval of nine states rather than a simple majority.

The only powers specifically granted to the national government by the Articles of Con- federation were those essential to the struggle for independence— declaring war, conducting foreign affairs, and making treaties with other governments. Congress had no real financial resources. It could coin money but lacked the power to levy taxes or regulate commerce. Its revenue came mainly from contri- butions by the individual states. To amend the Articles required the unanimous consent of the states, a formidable obstacle to change. Various amendments to strengthen the national government were proposed during the seven years (1781–1788) when the Articles of Confederation were in effect, but none received the approval of all the states.

1772 Somerset case

1777 Articles of Confederation drafted

1781 Articles of Confederation ratified

1782 Letters from an American Farmer

1783 Treaty of Paris

1784– Land Ordinances 1785 approved

1785 Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia

1786– Shays’s Rebellion 1787

1787 Constitutional Convention

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

1788 The Federalist

Constitution ratified

1790 Naturalization Act

1790 First national census

1791 Little Turtle defeats Arthur St. Clair’s forces

Bill of Rights ratified

1794 Little Turtle defeated at Battle of Fallen Timbers

1795 Treaty of Greenville

1808 Congress prohibits the slave trade

What were the achievements and problems of the Confed eration government?

 

 

256 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

The Articles made energetic national government impossible. But Congress in the 1780s did not lack for accomplishments. The most important was establish- ing national control over land to the west of the thirteen states and devising rules for its settlement. Disputes over access to western land almost prevented ratifi- cation of the Articles in the first place. Citing their original royal charters, which granted territory running all the way to the “South Sea” (the Pacific Ocean), states like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Connecticut claimed immense tracts of western land. Land speculators, politicians, and prospective settlers from states with

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1787

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NORTH CAROLINA

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The creation of a nationally controlled public domain from western land ceded by the states was one of the main achievements of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation.

 

 

AMERICA UNDER THE CONFEDERATION ★ 257

clearly defined boundaries insisted that such land must belong to the nation at large. Only after the land- rich states, in the interest of national unity, ceded their western claims to the central government did the Articles win ratification.

Congress and the West

Establishing rules for the settlement of this national domain— the area con- trolled by the federal government, stretching from the western boundaries of existing states to the Mississippi River— was by no means easy. Although some Americans spoke of it as if it were empty, over 100,000 Indians in fact inhab- ited the region. In the immediate aftermath of independence, Congress took the position that by aiding the British, Indians had forfeited the right to their lands. Little distinction was made among tribes that had sided with the enemy, those that had aided the patriots, and those in the interior that had played no part in the war at all. At peace conferences at Fort Stanwix, New York, in 1784 and Fort McIntosh near Pittsburgh the following year, American representa- tives demanded and received large surrenders of Indian land north of the Ohio River. Similar treaties soon followed with the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chicka- saw tribes in the South, although here Congress guaranteed the permanency of the Indians’ remaining, much- reduced holdings. The treaties secured national control of a large part of the country’s western territory.

When it came to disposing of western land and regulating its settlement, the Confederation government faced conflicting pressures. Many leaders believed that the economic health of the new republic required that farmers have access to land in the West. But they also saw land sales as a potential source of reve- nue and worried that unregulated settlement would produce endless conflicts with the Indians. Land companies, which lobbied Congress vigorously, hoped to profit by purchasing real estate and reselling it to settlers. The government, they insisted, should step aside and allow private groups to take control of the West’s economic development.

Settlers and the West

The arrival of peace meanwhile triggered a large population movement from settled parts of the original states into frontier areas like upstate New York and across the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee. To set- tlers, the right to take possession of western lands and use them as they saw fit was an essential element of American freedom. When a group of Ohioans petitioned Congress in 1785, assailing landlords and speculators who monop- olized available acreage and asking that preference in land ownership be given to “actual settlements,” their motto was “Grant us Liberty.” Indeed, settlers paid no heed to Indian land titles and urged the government to set a low price on

What were the achievements and problems of the Confed eration government?

 

 

258 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

public land or give it away. They frequently occupied land to which they had no legal title. By the 1790s, Kentucky courts were filled with lawsuits over land claims, and many settlers lost land they thought they owned. Eventually, dis- putes over land forced many early settlers (including the parents of Abraham Lincoln) to leave Kentucky for opportunities in other states.

At the same time, however, like British colonial officials before them, many leaders of the new nation feared that an unregulated flow of population across the Appalachian Mountains would provoke constant warfare with Indians. Moreover, they viewed frontier settlers as disorderly and lacking in proper respect for authority—“our debtors, loose English people, our German ser- vants, and slaves,” Benjamin Franklin had once called them. Establishing law and order in the West and strict rules for the occupation of land there seemed essential to attracting a better class of settlers to the West and avoiding discord between the settled and frontier parts of the new nation.

The Land Ordinances

A series of measures approved by Congress during the 1780s defined the terms by which western land would be marketed and settled. Drafted by Thomas

An engraving from The Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Almanac shows farm families moving west along a primitive road.

 

 

AMERICA UNDER THE CONFEDERATION ★ 259

Jefferson, the Ordinance of 1784 established stages of self- government for the West. The region would be divided into districts initially governed by Con- gress and eventually admitted to the Union as member states. By a single vote, Congress rejected a clause that would have prohibited slavery throughout the West. A second resolution, the Ordinance of 1785, regulated land sales in the region north of the Ohio River, which came to be known as the Old Northwest. Land would be surveyed by the government and then sold in “sections” of a square mile (640 acres) at $1 per acre. In each township, one section would be set aside to provide funds for public education. The system promised to control and concentrate settlement and raise money for Congress. But settlers violated the rules by pressing westward before the surveys had been completed.

Like the British before them, American officials found it difficult to regulate the thirst for new land. The minimum purchase price of $640, however, put public land out of the financial reach of most settlers. They generally ended up buying smaller parcels from speculators and land companies. In 1787, Con- gress decided to sell off large tracts to private groups, including 1.5 million acres to the Ohio Company, organized by New England land speculators and army officers. (This was a different organization from the Ohio Company of the 1750s, mentioned in Chapter 4.) For many years, national land policy benefited private land companies and large buyers more than individual settlers. And for decades, actual and prospective settlers pressed for a reduction in the price of government- owned land, a movement that did not end until the Homestead Act of 1862 offered free land in the public domain.

A final measure, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, called for the even- tual establishment of from three to five states north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. Thus was enacted the basic principle of what Jefferson called the empire of liberty— rather than ruling over the West as a colonial power, the United States would admit the area’s population as equal members of the political system. Territorial expansion and self- government would grow together.

The Northwest Ordinance pledged that “the utmost good faith” would be observed toward local Indians and that their land would not be taken without consent. This was the first official recognition that Indians continued to own their land. Congress realized that allowing settlers and state government sim- ply to seize Indian lands would produce endless, expensive military conflicts on the frontier. “It will cost much less,” one congressman noted, “to concili- ate the good opinion of the Indians than to pay men for destroying them.” But national land policy assumed that whether through purchase, treaties, or voluntary removal, the Indian presence would soon disappear. The Ordinance also prohibited slavery in the Old Northwest, a provision that would have far- reaching consequences when the sectional conflict between North and South

What were the achievements and problems of the Confed eration government?

 

 

260 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

developed. But for years, owners brought slaves into the area, claiming that they had voluntarily signed long- term labor contracts.

The Confederation’s Weaknesses

Whatever the achievements of the Confederation government, in the eyes of many influential Americans they were outweighed by its failings. Both the national government and the country at large faced worsening economic problems. To

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Fort Michilimackinac

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ILLINOIS (1818)

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MICHIGAN (1837)

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MAINE (part of Massachusetts)

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A series of ordinances in the 1780s provided for both the surveying and sale of lands in the public domain north of the Ohio River and the eventual admission of states carved from the area as equal members of the Union.

W E S T E R N O R D I N A N C E S , 1 7 8 4 – 1 7 8 7

 

 

AMERICA UNDER THE CONFEDERATION ★ 261

finance the War of Independence, Congress had borrowed large sums of money by selling interest- bearing bonds and paying soldiers and suppliers in notes to be redeemed in the future. Lacking a secure source of revenue, it found itself unable to pay either interest or the debts themselves. With the United States now outside the British empire, American ships were barred from trading with the West Indies. Imported goods, however, flooded the market, undercutting the business of many craftsmen, driving down wages, and draining money out of the country.

Some American businessmen looked for new areas with which to trade. In 1784, financed by leading New York and Philadelphia merchants, the Empress of China set sail for Canton, the first ship to do so flying the American flag. It carried furs, wine, Spanish silver dollars, and American ginseng. It returned the following year with silk, tea, and Chinese porcelain, a glazed ceramic widely admired for its beauty and resistance to heat and water (and commonly known simply as “China”). One set had been ordered by George Washington for his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. The investors turned a large profit. The voy- age demonstrated the feasibility of trade with Asia, but for the moment, this could not compensate for the loss of nearby markets in the British West Indies.

With Congress unable to act, the states adopted their own economic pol- icies. Several imposed tariff duties on goods imported from abroad. Indebted farmers, threatened with the loss of land because of failure to meet tax or mort- gage payments, pressed state governments for relief, as did urban craftsmen who owed money to local merchants. In order to increase the amount of cur- rency in circulation and make it easier for individuals to pay their debts, several states printed large sums of paper money. Others enacted laws postponing debt collection. Creditors considered such measures attacks on their property rights. In a number of states, legislative elections produced boisterous campaigns in which candidates for office denounced creditors for oppressing the poor and importers of luxury goods for undermining republican virtue.

Shays’s Rebellion

In late 1786 and early 1787, crowds of debt- ridden farmers closed the courts in western Massachusetts to prevent the seizure of their land for failure to pay taxes. They called themselves “regulators”— a term already used by protesters in the Carolina backcountry in the 1760s. The uprising came to be known as Shays’s Rebellion, a name affixed to it by its opponents, after Daniel Shays, one of the leaders and a veteran of the War for Independence. Massachusetts had firmly resisted pressure to issue paper money or in other ways assist needy debt- ors. The participants in Shays’s Rebellion believed they were acting in the spirit of the Revolution. They modeled their tactics on the crowd activities of the 1760s

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262 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

and 1770s and employed liberty trees and liberty poles as symbols of their cause. They received no sympathy from Governor James Bowdoin, who dispatched an army headed by former revolutionary war general Benjamin Lincoln. The rebels were dispersed in January 1787, and more than 1,000 were arrested. Without adherence to the rule of law, Bowdoin declared, Americans would descend into “a state of anarchy, confusion and slavery.”

Observing Shays’s Rebellion from Paris where he was serving as ambassa- dor, Thomas Jefferson refused to be alarmed. “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” he wrote to a friend. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” But the uprising was the culmination of a series of events in the 1780s that persuaded an influen- tial group of Americans that the national government must be strengthened so that it could develop uniform economic policies and protect property owners from infringements on their rights by local majorities. The actions of state leg- islatures (most of them elected annually by an expanded voting population), followed by Shays’s Rebellion, produced fears that the Revolution’s democratic impulse had gotten out of hand.

Among proponents of stronger national authority, liberty had lost some of its luster. The danger to

individual rights, they came to believe, now arose not from a tyrannical central govern-

ment, but from the people themselves. “Liberty,” declared James Madison, “may

be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.” To put it another way, private liberty, espe- cially the secure enjoyment of property rights, could be endangered by public liberty— unchecked power in the hands of the people.

Nationalists of the 1780s

Madison, a diminutive, colorless Vir- ginian and the lifelong disciple and ally of Thomas Jefferson, thought deeply and creatively about the nature of political freedom. He was among the group of talented and well- organized men who spearheaded the movement for a stronger national government.

James Madison, “father of the Constitution,” in a miniature portrait painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1783. Madison was only thirty- six years old when the Constitutional Convention met.

 

 

A NEW CONSTITUTION ★ 263

Another was Alexander Hamilton, who had come to North America as a youth from the West Indies, served at the precocious age of twenty as an army offi- cer during the War of Independence, and married into a prominent New York family. Hamilton was perhaps the most vigorous proponent of an “energetic” government that would enable the new nation to become a powerful com- mercial and diplomatic presence in world affairs. Genuine liberty, he insisted, required “a proper degree of authority, to make and exercise the laws.” Men like Madison and Hamilton were nation- builders. They came to believe during the 1780s that Americans were squandering the fruits of independence and that the country’s future greatness depended on enhancing national authority.

The concerns voiced by critics of the Articles found a sympathetic hearing among men who had developed a national consciousness during the Revolu- tion. Nationalists included army officers, members of Congress accustomed to working with individuals from different states, and diplomats who represented the country abroad. In the army, John Marshall (later a chief justice of the Supreme Court) developed “the habit of considering America as my country, and Congress as my government.” Influential economic interests also desired a stronger national government. Among these were bondholders who despaired of being paid so long as Congress lacked a source of revenue, urban artisans seeking tariff protection from foreign imports, merchants desiring access to British markets, and all those who feared that the states were seriously inter- fering with property rights. While these groups did not agree on many issues, they all believed in the need for a stronger national government.

In September 1786, delegates from six states met at Annapolis, Maryland, to consider ways for better regulating interstate and international commerce. The delegates proposed another gathering, in Philadelphia, to amend the Articles of Confederation. Shays’s Rebellion greatly strengthened the nationalists’ cause. “The late turbulent scenes in Massachusetts,” wrote Madison, underscored the need for a new constitution. “No respect,” he complained, “is paid to the federal authority.” Without a change in the structure of government, either anarchy or monarchy was the likely outcome, bringing to an end the experiment in republican government. Every state except Rhode Island, which had gone the furthest in developing its own debtor relief and trade policies, sent delegates to the Philadelphia convention. When they assembled in May 1787, they decided to scrap the Articles of Confeder- ation entirely and draft a new constitution for the United States.

A N E W C O N S T I T U T I O N The fifty- five men who gathered for the Constitutional Convention included some of the most prominent Americans. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, serving as diplomats in Europe, did not take part. But among the delegates were

What major disagreements and compromises molded the final content of the Constitution?

 

 

264 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

George Washington (whose willingness to lend his prestige to the gathering and to serve as presiding officer was an enormous asset), George Mason (author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights of 1776), and Benjamin Franklin (who had returned to Philadelphia after helping to negotiate the Treaty of Paris of 1783, and was now eighty- one years old). John Adams described the convention as a gathering of men of “ability, weight, and experience.” He might have added, “and wealth.” Although a few, like Alexander Hamilton, had risen from humble ori- gins, most had been born into proper- tied families. They earned their livings as lawyers, merchants, planters, and large farmers.

At a time when fewer than one- tenth of 1 percent of Americans attended col- lege, more than half the delegates had college educations. A majority had partic- ipated in interstate meetings of the 1760s

and 1770s, and twenty- two had served in the army during the Revolution. Their shared social status and political experiences bolstered their common belief in the need to strengthen national authority and curb what one called “the excesses of democracy.” To ensure free and candid debate, the deliberations took place in pri- vate. Madison, who believed the outcome would have great consequences for “the cause of liberty throughout the world,” took careful notes. They were not published, however, until 1840, four years after he became the last delegate to pass away.

The Structure of Government

It quickly became apparent that the delegates agreed on many points. The new Constitution would create a legislature, an executive, and a national judiciary. Congress would have the power to raise money without relying on the states. States would be prohibited from infringing on the rights of property. And the government would represent the people. Hamilton’s proposal for a president and Senate serving life terms, like the king and House of Lords of England, received virtually no support. The “rich and well- born,” Hamilton told the convention, must rule, for the masses “seldom judge or determine right.” Most delegates, how- ever, hoped to find a middle ground between the despotism of monarchy and

Alexander Hamilton, another youthful leader of the nationalists of the 1780s, was born in the West Indies in 1755. This life- size portrait was commissioned by five New York merchants and painted by John Trumbull in 1792, when Hamil- ton was secretary of the Treasury.

 

 

A NEW CONSTITUTION ★ 265

aristocracy and what they considered the excesses of popular self- government. “We had been too democratic,” observed George Mason, but he warned against the danger of going to “the opposite extreme.” The key to stable, effective republican government was finding a way to balance the competing claims of liberty and power.

Differences quickly emerged over the proper balance between the federal and state governments and between the interests of large and small states. Early in the proceedings, Madison pre- sented what came to be called the Vir- ginia Plan. It proposed the creation of a two- house legislature with a state’s population determining its representation in each. Smaller states, fearing that populous Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania would dominate the new government, rallied behind the New Jersey Plan. This called for a single- house Congress in which each state cast one vote, as under the Articles of Confedera- tion. In the end, a compromise was reached— a two- house Congress consisting of a Senate in which each state had two members, and a House of Representa- tives apportioned according to population. Senators would be chosen by state legislatures for six- year terms. They were thus insulated from sudden shifts in public opinion. Representatives were to be elected every two years directly by the people.

The Limits of Democracy

Under the Articles of Confederation, no national official had been chosen by popular vote. Thus, the mode of choosing the House of Representatives rep- resented an expansion of democracy. Popular election of at least one part of the political regime, Madison declared, was “essential to every plan of free gov- ernment.” The Constitution, moreover, imposed neither property nor religious qualifications for voting, leaving it to the states to set voting rules.

Overall, however, the new structure of government was less than demo- cratic. The delegates sought to shield the national government from the pop- ular enthusiasms that had alarmed them during the 1780s and to ensure that the right kind of men held office. The people would remain sovereign, but they would choose among the elite to staff the new government. The delegates

A fifty- dollar note issued by the Continental Congress during the War of Independence. Congress’s inability to raise funds to repay such paper money in gold or silver was a major reason why nationalists desired a stronger federal government.

What major disagreements and compromises molded the final content of the Constitution?

 

 

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assumed that the Senate would be composed of each state’s most distinguished citizens. They made the House of Representatives quite small (initially 65 mem- bers, at a time when the Massachusetts assembly had 200), on the assumption that only prominent individuals could win election in large districts.

Nor did the delegates provide for direct election of either federal judges or the president. Members of the Supreme Court would be appointed by the pres- ident for life terms. The president would be chosen either by members of an electoral college or by the House of Representatives. The number of electors for each state was determined by adding together its allocation of senators and representatives. Electors would be prominent, well- educated individuals better qualified than ordinary voters to choose the head of state.

The actual system of election seemed a recipe for confusion. Each elector was to cast votes for two candidates for president, with the second- place fin- isher becoming vice president. If no candidate received a majority of the elec- toral ballots— as the delegates seem to have assumed would normally be the case— the president would be chosen from among the top three finishers by the House of Representatives, with each state casting one vote. The Senate would then elect the vice president. The delegates devised this extremely cum- bersome system of indirect election because they did not trust ordinary voters to choose the president and vice president directly.

The Division and Separation of Powers

Hammered out in four months of discussion and compromise, the Constitution is a spare document of only 4,000 words that provides only the briefest outline of the new structure of government. (See the Appendix for the full text.) It embod- ies two basic political principles— federalism, sometimes called the division of powers, and the system of checks and balances between the different branches of the national government, also known as the separation of powers.

Federalism refers to the relationship between the national government and the states. Compared to the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution signifi- cantly strengthened national authority. It charged the president with enforcing the law and commanding the military. It empowered Congress to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, declare war, deal with foreign nations and Indians, and promote the “general welfare.” Madison proposed to allow Con- gress to veto state laws, but this proved too far- reaching for most delegates. The Constitution did, however, declare national legislation the “supreme Law of the Land.” And it included strong provisions to prevent the states from infring- ing on property rights. They were barred from issuing paper money, impairing contracts, interfering with interstate commerce, and levying their own import or export duties. On the other hand, most day- to- day affairs of government,

 

 

A NEW CONSTITUTION ★ 267

from education to law enforcement, remained in the hands of the states. This principle of divided sovereignty was a recipe for debate, which continues to this day, over the balance of power between the national government and the states.

The “separation of powers,” or the system of “checks and balances,” refers to the way the Constitution seeks to prevent any branch of the national govern- ment from dominating the other two. To prevent an accumulation of power dangerous to liberty, authority within the government is diffused and balanced against itself. Congress enacts laws, but the president can veto them, and a two- thirds majority is required to pass legislation over his objection. Federal judges are nominated by the president and approved by the Senate, but to ensure their independence, the judges then serve for life. The president can be impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Debate over Slavery

The structure of government was not the only source of debate at the Consti- tutional Convention. As Madison recorded, “the institution of slavery and its implications” divided the delegates at many sessions. Those who gathered in Philadelphia included numerous slaveholders, as well as some dedicated advo- cates of abolition. Madison, like Jefferson a Virginia slaveholder who detested slavery, told the convention that the “distinction of color” had become the basis for “the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” Yet he later assured the Virginia ratifying convention that the Constitution offered slavery “better security than any that now exists.”

The words “slave” and “slavery” do not appear in the original Constitution— a concession to the sensibilities of delegates who feared they would “contaminate the glorious fabric of American liberty.” As Luther Martin of Maryland wrote, his fellow delegates “anxiously sought to avoid the admission of expressions which might be odious to the ears of Americans.” But, he continued, they were “willing to admit into their system those things which the expressions signified.” The document prohibited Congress from abolishing the importation of slaves from abroad for twenty years. It required states to return to their owners fugi- tives from bondage. And the three- fifths clause provided that three- fifths of the slave population would be counted in determining each state’s representation in the House of Representatives and its electoral votes for president.

South Carolina’s delegates had come to Philadelphia determined to defend slavery, and they had a powerful impact on the final document. They originated the fugitive slave clause and the electoral college. They insisted on strict limits on the power of Congress to levy taxes within the states, fearing future efforts to

What major disagreements and compromises molded the final content of the Constitution?

 

 

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raise revenue by taxing slave property. They threatened disunion if the Atlan- tic slave trade were prohibited imme- diately, as the New England states and Virginia, with its abundance of native- born slaves, demanded. Their threats swayed many delegates. Gouverneur Morris, one of Pennsylvania’s delegates, declared that he was being forced to decide between offending the southern states and doing injustice to “human nature.” For the sake of national unity, he said, he would choose the latter.

Slavery in the Constitution

The Constitution’s slavery clauses were compromises, efforts to find a

middle ground between the institution’s critics and defenders. Taken together, however, they embedded slavery more deeply than ever in American life and politics. The slave trade clause allowed a commerce condemned by civilized society— one that had been suspended during the War of Independence— to continue until 1808. On January 1, 1808, the first day that Congress was allowed under the Constitution, it prohibited the further importation of slaves. But in the interim, partly to replace slaves who had escaped to the British and partly to provide labor for the expansion of slavery to fertile land away from the coast, some 170,000 Africans were brought to the new nation as slaves. South Carolina and Georgia imported 100,000. This number rep- resented more than one- quarter of all the slaves brought to mainland North America after 1700.

The fugitive slave clause accorded slave laws “extraterritoriality”— that is, the condition of bondage remained attached to a person even if he or she escaped to a state where slavery had been abolished. In the famous Somerset case of 1772, the lawyer for a West Indian slave brought to Britain had obtained his client’s freedom by invoking the memorable words, “the air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe” (that is, the moment any person sets foot on British soil, he or she becomes free). Yet the new federal Constitution required all the states, North and South, to recognize and help police the institution of slavery. For slaves, there was no “free air” in America. Nonetheless, the clause was strikingly ambiguous. It did not say who was responsible for apprehending a fugitive slave— the states, the

This advertisement by a slave-trading company appeared in a Richmond, Virginia newspaper only a few months after the signing of the Con- stitution. The company seeks to buy 100 slaves to sell to purchasers in states farther south. Slavery was a major subject of debate at the Constitutional Convention.

 

 

A NEW CONSTITUTION ★ 269

federal government, or the owner himself— or what judicial procedures would be employed to return him or her to bondage. As time went on, these questions would become a major source of conflict between the North and the South.

The Constitution gave the national government no power to interfere with slavery in the states. And the three- fifths clause allowed the white South to exercise far greater power in national affairs than the size of its free population warranted. The clause greatly enhanced the number of southern votes in the House of Representatives and therefore in the electoral college (where, as noted above, the number of electors for each state was determined by adding together its number of senators and representatives). Of the first sixteen presidential elections, between 1788 and 1848, all but four placed a southern slaveholder in the White House.

Even the initial failure to include a Bill of Rights resulted, in part, from the presence of slavery. As South Carolina delegate Charles C. Pinckney explained, “such bills generally begin with declaring that all men are by nature born free,” a declaration that would come “with a very bad grace, when a large part of our property consists in men who are actually born slaves.”

But some slaveholders detected a potential threat buried in the Constitu- tion. Patrick Henry, who condemned slavery but feared abolition, warned that, in time of war, the new government might take steps to arm and liberate the slaves. “May Congress not say,” he asked, “that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this [in the] last war?” What Henry could not anticipate was that the war that eventually destroyed slavery would be launched by the South itself to protect the institution.

The Final Document

Gouverneur Morris put the finishing touches on the final draft of the new Constitution, trying to make it, he explained, “as clear as our language would permit.” For the original preamble, which began, “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts,” etc., he substituted the far more powerful “We the people of the United States.” He added a statement of the Constitution’s purposes, including to “establish justice,” promote “the general welfare,” and “secure the blessings of liberty”— things the Articles of Confederation, in the eyes of most of the delegates, had failed to accomplish.

The last session of the Constitutional Convention took place on Septem- ber 17, 1787. Benjamin Franklin urged the delegates to put aside individual objections and approve the document, whatever its imperfections. “The older I grow,” he remarked, “the more apt I am to . . . pay more respect to the judgment of others.” Of the forty- five delegates who remained in Philadelphia, thirty- nine

What major disagreements and compromises molded the final content of the Constitution?

 

 

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signed the Constitution. It was then sent to the states for ratification.

The Constitution created a new framework for American development. By assigning to Congress power over tariffs, interstate commerce, the coin- ing of money, patents, rules for bank- ruptcy, and weights and measures, and by prohibiting states from interfering with property rights, it made possible a national economic market. It created national political institutions, reduced the powers of the states, and sought to place limits on popular democracy. “The same enthusiasm, now pervades all classes in favor of government,” observed Benjamin Rush, “that actu- ated us in favor of liberty in the years 1774 and 1775.” Whether “all classes”

truly agreed may be doubted, for the ratification process unleashed a nation- wide debate over the best means of preserving American freedom.

T H E R A T I F I C A T I O N D E B A T E A N D T H E O R I G I N O F T H E B I L L O F R I G H T S The Federalist Even though the Constitution provided that it would go into effect when nine states, not all thirteen as required by the Articles of Confederation, had given their approval, ratification was by no means certain. Each state held an election for delegates to a special ratifying convention. A fierce public battle ensued, pro- ducing hundreds of pamphlets and newspaper articles and spirited campaigns to elect delegates. To generate support, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay composed a series of eighty- five essays that appeared in newspapers under the pen name Publius and were gathered as a book, The Federalist, in 1788. Hamilton wrote fifty, Madison thirty, and Jay the remainder. Today, the essays are regarded as among the most important American contributions to political thought. At the time, however, they represented only one part of a much larger national debate over ratification, reflected in innumerable pamphlets, newspaper articles, and public meetings.

In this late- eighteenth- century engraving, Amer- icans celebrate the signing of the Constitution beneath a temple of liberty.

 

 

Again and again, Hamilton and Madison repeated that rather than posing a danger to Americans’ liberties, the Constitution in fact protected them. Ham- ilton’s essays sought to disabuse Americans of their fear of political power. Government, he insisted, was an expression of freedom, not its enemy. Any government could become oppressive, but with its checks and balances and division of power, the Constitution made political tyranny almost impossible. Hamilton insisted that he was “as zealous an advocate for liberty as any man whatever.” But “want of power” had been the fatal flaw of the Articles. At the New York ratifying convention, Hamilton assured the delegates that the Con- stitution had created “the perfect balance between liberty and power.”

“Extend the Sphere”

Madison, too, emphasized how the Constitution was structured to prevent abuses of authority. But in several essays, especially Federalist nos. 10 and 51, he moved beyond such assurances to develop a strikingly new vision of the rela- tionship between government and society in the United States. Madison iden- tified the essential dilemma, as he saw it, of the new republic— government must be based on the will of the people, yet the people had shown themselves susceptible to dangerous enthusiasms. Most worrisome, they had threatened property rights, whose protection was the “first object of government.” The problem of balancing democracy and respect for property would only grow in the years ahead because, he warned, economic development would inevita- bly increase the numbers of poor. What was to prevent them from using their political power to secure “a more equal distribution” of wealth by seizing the property of the rich?

The answer, Madison explained, lay not simply in the way power balanced power in the structure of government, but in the nation’s size and diversity. Previous republics had existed only in small territories— the Dutch republic, or Italian city- states of the Renaissance. But, argued Madison, the very size of the United States was a source of stability, not, as many feared, weakness. “Extend the sphere,” he wrote. In a nation as large as the United States, so many distinct interests— economic, regional, and political— would arise, that no single one would ever be able to take over the government and oppress the rest. Every majority would be a coalition of minorities, and thus “the rights of individuals” would be secure.

Madison’s writings did much to shape the early nation’s understanding of its new political institutions. In arguing that the size of the republic helped to secure Americans’ rights, they reinforced the tradition that saw continuous westward expansion as essential to freedom. And in basing the preservation of freedom on the structure of government and size of the republic, not the character of the people, his essays represented a major shift away from the

RATIFICATION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS ★ 271

How did Anti- Federalist concerns raised during the ratification process lead to the creation of the Bill of Rights?

 

 

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“republican” emphasis on a virtuous citizenry devoted to the common good as the foundation of proper government. Madison helped to popularize the “lib- eral” idea that men are generally motivated by self- interest, and that the good of society arises from the clash of these private interests.

The Anti- Federalists

Opponents of ratification, called Anti- Federalists, insisted that the Consti- tution shifted the balance between liberty and power too far in the direction of the latter. Anti- Federalists lacked the coherent leadership of the Constitu- tion’s defenders. They included state politicians fearful of seeing their influ- ence diminish, among them such revolutionary heroes as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry. Small farmers, many of whom supported the state debtor- relief measures of the 1780s that the Constitution’s supporters deplored, also saw no need for a stronger central government. Some opponents of the Constitution denounced the document’s protections for slavery; others warned that the powers of Congress were so broad that it might enact a law for abolition.

Anti- Federalists repeatedly predicted that the new government would fall under the sway of merchants, creditors, and others hostile to the interests of ordinary Americans. Repudiating Madison’s arguments in Federalist nos. 10 and 51, Anti- Federalists insisted that “a very extensive territory cannot be gov- erned on the principles of freedom.” Popular self- government, they claimed, flourished best in small communities, where rulers and ruled interacted daily. Only men of wealth, “ignorant of the sentiments of the middling and lower class of citizens,” would have the resources to win election to a national govern- ment. The result of the Constitution, warned Melancton Smith of New York, a member of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, would be domina- tion of the “common people” by the “ well- born.” “This,” Smith predicted, “will be a government of oppression.”

Liberty was the Anti- Federalists’ watchword. America’s happiness, they insisted, “arises from the freedom of our institutions and the limited nature of our government,” both threatened by the new Constitution. Maryland Anti- Federalists had caps manufactured bearing the word “Liberty,” to wear to the polls when members of the state’s ratification convention were elected. To the vision of the United States as an energetic great power, Anti- Federalists coun- terposed a way of life grounded in local, democratic institutions. “What is Liberty?” asked James Lincoln of South Carolina. “The power of governing yourselves. If you adopt this constitution, have you this power? No.”

Anti- Federalists also pointed to the Constitution’s lack of a Bill of Rights, which left unprotected rights such as trial by jury and freedom of speech and

 

 

the press. The absence of a Bill of Rights, declared Patrick Henry, was “the most absurd thing to mankind that ever the world saw.” State constitutions had bills of rights, yet the states, Henry claimed, were now being asked to surrender most of their powers to the federal government, with no requirement that it respect Americans’ basic liberties.

In general, pro- Constitution sentiment flourished in the nation’s cities and in rural areas closely tied to the commercial marketplace. The Constitution’s most energetic supporters were men of substantial property. But what George Bryan of Pennsylvania, a supporter of ratification, called the “golden phantom”

Banner of the Society of Pewterers. A banner carried by one of the many artisan groups that took part in New York City’s Grand Federal Procession of 1788 celebrating the ratification of the Constitution. The banner depicts artisans at work in their shop and some of their products. The words “Solid and Pure,” and the inscription at the upper right, link the quality of their pewter to their opinion of the new frame of government and hopes for the future. The inscription reads:

“The Federal Plan Most Solid and Secure Americans Their Freedom Will Endure All Arts Shall Flourish in Columbia’s Land And All Her Sons Join as One Social Band”

RATIFICATION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS ★ 273

How did Anti- Federalist concerns raised during the ratification process lead to the creation of the Bill of Rights?

 

 

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of prosperity also swung urban artisans, laborers, and sailors behind the move- ment for a government that would use its “energy and power” to revive the depressed economy. Anti- Federalism drew its support from small farmers in more isolated rural areas such as the Hudson Valley of New York, western Mas- sachusetts, and the southern backcountry.

In the end, the supporters’ energy and organization, coupled with their domination of the colonial press, carried the day. Ninety- two newspapers and magazines existed in the United States in 1787. Of these, only twelve published a significant number of Anti- Federalist pieces. Madison also won support for the new Constitution by promising that the first Congress would enact a Bill of Rights. By mid- 1788, the required nine states had rati- fied. Although there was strong dissent in Massachusetts, New York, and Vir- ginia, only Rhode Island and North Carolina voted against ratification, and they subsequently had little choice but to join the new government. Anti- Federalism died. But as with other movements in American history that did not immediately achieve their goals— for example, the Populists of the late nineteenth century— some of the Anti- Federalists’ ideas eventually entered the political mainstream. To this day, their belief that a too- powerful central government is a threat to liberty continues to influence American political culture.

The Bill of Rights

Ironically, the parts of the Constitution Americans most value today— the freedoms of speech, the press, and religion; protection against unjust crimi- nal procedures; equality before the law— were not in the original document. All of these but the last (which was enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War) were contained in the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. Madison was so convinced that the balances of the Consti- tution would protect liberty that he believed a Bill of Rights “redundant or pointless.” Amendments restraining federal power, he believed, would have no effect on the danger to liberty posed by unchecked majorities in the states, and no list of rights could ever anticipate the numerous ways that Congress might operate in the future. “Parchment barriers” to the abuse of authority, he observed, would prove least effective when most needed. Madison’s pre- diction would be amply borne out at future times of popular hysteria, such as during the Red Scare following World War I and the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when all branches of government joined in trampling on freedom of expression, and during World War II, when hatred of a foreign enemy led to the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese- Americans, most of them citizens of the United States.

 

 

Nevertheless, every new state constitution contained some kind of declara- tion of citizens’ rights, and large numbers of Americans— Federalist and Anti- Federalist alike— believed the new national Constitution should also have one. Indeed, many delegates at state conventions had refused to vote for ratification unless promised that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution. In order to “conciliate the minds of the people,” as Madison put it, he presented to Congress a series of amendments that became the basis of the Bill of Rights, which was ratified by the states in 1791. The First Amendment prohibited Congress from legislating with regard to religion or infringing on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or the right of assembly. The Second upheld the people’s right to “keep and bear arms” in conjunction with “a well- regulated militia.” Others prohibited abuses such as arrests without warrants and forcing a person accused of a crime to testify against himself and reaffirmed the right to trial by jury.

In a sense, the Bill of Rights offered a definition of the “unalienable rights” Jefferson had mentioned in the Declaration of Independence— rights inherent in the human condition. Not having been granted by government in the first place, they could not be rescinded by government. In case any had been acci- dentally omitted, the Ninth Amendment declared that rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution were “retained by the people.” Its suggestion that the Constitution was not meant to be complete opened the door to future legal recognition of rights not grounded in the actual text (such as the right to privacy). The Tenth Amendment, meant to answer fears that the federal government would ride roughshod over the states, affirmed that powers not delegated to the national government or prohibited to the states continued to reside with the states.

The roots and even the specific language of some parts of the Bill of Rights lay far back in English history. The Eighth Amendment, prohibiting excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishments, incorporates language that originated in a declaration by the House of Lords in 1316 and was repeated centuries later in the English Bill of Rights and the constitutions of a number of American states.

Other provisions reflected the changes in American life brought about by the Revolution. The most remarkable of these was constitutional recognition of religious freedom. Unlike the Declaration of Independence, which invokes the blessing of divine providence, the Constitution is a purely secular document that contains no reference to God and bars religious tests for federal office- holders. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from legislat- ing on the subject of religion— a complete departure from British and colonial precedent. Under the Constitution it was and remains possible, as one critic complained, for “a papist, a Mohomatan, a deist, yea an atheist” to become pres- ident of the United States. Madison was so adamant about separating church

RATIFICATION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS ★ 275

How did Anti- Federalist concerns raised during the ratification process lead to the creation of the Bill of Rights?

 

 

V O I C E S O F F R E E D O M

276 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

From David Ramsay, The History of the American  Revolution (1789)

A member of the Continental Congress from South Carolina, David Ramsay pub- lished his history of the Revolution the year after the Constitution was ratified. In this excerpt, he lauds the principles of representative government and the right of future amendment, embodied in the state constitutions and adopted in the national one, as unique American political principles and the best ways of securing liberty.

The world has not hitherto exhibited so fair an opportunity for promoting social happi- ness. It is hoped for the honor of human nature, that the result will prove the fallacy of those theories that mankind are incapable of self government. The ancients, not know- ing the doctrine of representation, were apt in their public meetings to run into confu- sion, but in America this mode of taking the sense of the people, is so well understood, and so completely reduced to system, that its most populous states are often peaceably convened in an assembly of deputies, not too large for orderly deliberation, and yet rep- resenting the whole in equal proportion. These popular branches of legislature are min- iature pictures of the community, and from their mode of election are likely to be influenced by the same interests and feelings with the people whom they represent. . . .

In no age before, and in no other country, did man ever possess an election of the kind of government, under which he would choose to live. The constituent parts of the ancient free governments were thrown together by accident. The freedom of modern European governments was, for the most part, obtained by concessions, or liberality of monarchs, or military leaders. In America alone, reason and liberty concurred in the formation of constitutions. . . . In one thing they were all perfect. They left the people in the power of altering and amending them, whenever they pleased. In this happy pecu- liarity they placed the science of politics on a footing with the other sciences, by open- ing it to improvements from experience, and the discoveries of future ages. By means of this power of amending American constitutions, the friends of mankind have fondly hoped that oppression will one day be no more.

 

 

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 277

From James Winthrop, Anti- Federalist Essay Signed “Agrippa” (1787)

A local official in Middlesex, Massachusetts, James Winthrop published sixteen public letters between November 1787 and February 1788 opposing ratification of the Constitution.

It is the opinion of the ablest writers on the subject, that no extensive empire can be governed upon republican principles, and that such a government will degenerate into a despotism, unless it be made up of a confederacy of smaller states, each having the full powers of internal regulation. This is precisely the principle which has hitherto pre- served our freedom. No instance can be found of any free government of considerable extent which has been supported upon any other plan. Large and consolidated empires may indeed dazzle the eyes of a distant spectator with their splendor, but if examined more nearly are always found to be full of misery. . . . It is under such tyranny that the Spanish provinces languish, and such would be our misfortune and degradation, if we should submit to have the concerns of the whole empire managed by one empire. To promote the happiness of the people it is necessary that there should be local laws; and it is necessary that those laws should be made by the representatives of those who are immediately subject to [them]. . . .

It is impossible for one code of laws to suit Georgia and Massachusetts. They must, therefore, legislate for themselves. Yet there is, I believe, not one point of legislation that is not surrendered in the proposed plan. Questions of every kind respecting prop- erty are determinable in a continental court, and so are all kinds of criminal causes. The continental legislature has, therefore, a right to make rules in all cases. . . . No rights are reserved to the citizens. . . . This new system is, therefore, a consolidation of all the states into one large mass, however diverse the parts may be of which it is composed. . . .

A bill of rights . . . serves to secure the minority against the usurpation and tyranny of the majority. . . . The expe- rience of all mankind has proved the prevalence of a disposition to use power wantonly. It is therefore as necessary to defend an individual against the major- ity in a republic as against the king in a monarchy.

QUESTIONS

1. Why does Ramsay feel that the power to amend the Constitution is so important a political innovation?

2. Why does Winthrop believe that a Bill of Rights is essential in the Constitution?

3. How do Ramsay and Winthrop differ con- cerning how the principle of representation operates in the United States?

 

 

278 ★ CHAPTER 7 Founding a Nation

and state that he even opposed the appointment of chaplains to serve Congress and the military.

Today, when Americans are asked to define freedom, they instinctively turn to the Bill of Rights and especially the First Amendment, with its guarantees of freedom of speech, the press, and religion. Yet the Bill of Rights aroused little enthusiasm on ratification and for decades was all but ignored. Not until the twentieth century would it come to be revered as an indispensable expression of American freedom. Nonetheless, the Bill of Rights subtly affected the lan- guage of liberty. Applying only to the federal government, not the states, it

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R AT I F I C AT I O N O F T H E C O N S T I T U T I O N

Federalists— those who supported the new Constitution— tended to be concentrated in cities and nearby rural areas, while backcountry farmers were more likely to oppose the new frame of government.

 

 

“WE THE PEOPLE” ★ 279

reinforced the idea that concentrated national power posed the greatest threat to freedom. And it contributed to the long process whereby freedom came to be discussed in the vocabulary of rights.

Among the most important rights were freedom of speech and the press, vital building blocks of a democratic public sphere. Once an entitlement of members of Parliament and colonial assemblies, free speech came to be seen as a basic right of citizenship. Although the legal implementation remained to be worked out, and serious infringements would occur at many points in Ameri- can history, the Bill of Rights did much to establish freedom of expression as a cornerstone of the popular understanding of American freedom.

“ W E T H E P E O P L E ” National Identity

The colonial population had been divided by ethnicity, religion, class, and sta- tus and united largely by virtue of their allegiance to Britain. The Revolution created not only a new nation but also a new collective body, the American people, whose members were to enjoy freedom as citizens in a new political community. Since government in the United States rested on the will of the people, it was all the more important to identify who the people were.

The Constitution opens with the words “We the People,” describing those who, among other things, are to possess “the Blessings of Liberty” as a birthright and pass them on to “Posterity.” (Abraham Lincoln would later cite these words to argue that since the nation had been created by the people, not the states, the states could not dissolve it.) Although one might assume that the “people” of the United States included all those living within the nation’s borders, the text made clear that this was not the case. The Constitution identifies three popu- lations inhabiting the United States: Indians, treated as members of indepen- dent tribes and not part of the American body politic; “other persons”— that is, slaves; and the “people.” Only the third were entitled to American freedom.

Every nation confronts the task of defining its identity. Historians have traditionally distinguished between “civic nationalism,” which envisions the nation as a community open to all those devoted to its political institutions and social values, and “ethnic nationalism,” which defines the nation as a com- munity of descent based on a shared ethnic heritage, language, and culture. At first glance, the United States appears to conform to the civic model. It lacked a clear ethnic identity or long- established national boundaries— the politi- cal principles of the Revolution held Americans together. To be an American, all one had to do was commit oneself to an ideology of liberty, equality, and democracy. From the outset, however, American nationality combined both

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civic and ethnic definitions. For most of our history, American citizenship has been defined by blood as well as by political allegiance.

Indians in the New Nation

The early republic’s policies toward Indians and African- Americans illustrate the conflicting principles that shaped American nationality. American lead- ers agreed that the West should not be left in Indian hands, but they disagreed about the Indians’ ultimate fate. The government hoped to encourage the west- ward expansion of white settlement, which implied one of three things: the removal of the Indian population to lands even farther west, their total disap- pearance, or their incorporation into white “civilization” with the expectation that they might one day become part of American society.

Many white Americans, probably most, deemed Indians savages unfit for citizenship. Indian tribes had no representation in the new government, and the Constitution excluded Indians “not taxed” from being counted in determin- ing each state’s number of congressmen. The treaty system gave them a unique status within the American political system. But despite this recognition of their sovereignty, treaties were essentially ways of transferring land from Indi- ans to the federal government or the states. Often, a treaty was agreed to by only a small portion of a tribe, but the whole tribe was then forced to accept its legitimacy.

During Washington’s administration, Secretary of War Henry Knox hoped to deal with Indians with a minimum of warfare and without undermining the new nation’s honor. He recognized, he said in 1794, that American treat- ment of the continent’s native inhabitants had been even “more destructive to the Indian” than Spain’s conduct in Mexico and Peru. His conciliatory policy had mixed results. Congress forbade the transfer of Indian land without federal approval. But several states ignored this directive and continued to negotiate their own agreements.

Open warfare continued in the Ohio Valley. In 1791, Little Turtle, leader of the Miami Confederacy, inflicted a humiliating defeat on American forces led by Arthur St. Clair, the American governor of the Northwest Territory. With 630 dead, this was the costliest loss ever suffered by the United States Army at the hands of Indians. In 1794, 3,000 American troops under Anthony Wayne defeated Little Turtle’s forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. This led directly to the Treaty of Greenville of 1795, in which twelve Indian tribes ceded most of Ohio and Indiana to the federal government. The treaty also established the annuity system— yearly grants of federal money to Indian tribes that institu- tionalized continuing government influence in tribal affairs and gave outsiders considerable control over Indian life.

 

 

“WE THE PEOPLE” ★ 281

Many prominent figures, however, rejected the idea that Indians were innately inferior to white Americans. Thomas Jefferson believed that Indians merely lived at a less advanced stage of civilization. Indians could become full- fledged members of the republic by abandoning communal landholding and hunting in favor of small- scale farming. Once they “possessed property,” Jeffer- son told one Indian group, they could “join us in our government” and, indeed, “mix your blood with ours.”

To pursue the goal of assimilation, Congress in the 1790s authorized Pres- ident Washington to distribute agricultural tools and livestock to Indian men

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and spinning wheels and looms to Indian women. To whites, the adoption of American gender norms, with men working the land and women tending to their homes, would be a crucial sign that the Indians were becoming “civ- ilized.” But the American notion of civilization required so great a transfor- mation of Indian life that most tribes rejected it. To Indians, freedom meant retaining tribal autonomy and identity, including the ability to travel widely in search of game. “Since our acquaintance with our brother white people,” declared a Mohawk speaker at a 1796 treaty council, “that which we call free- dom and liberty, becomes an entire stranger to us.” There was no room for Indi- ans who desired to retain their traditional way of life in the American empire of liberty.

Blacks and the Republic

By 1790, the number of African- Americans far exceeded the Indian population within the United States. The status of free blacks was somewhat indeterminate.

The signing of the Treaty of Greenville of 1795, painted by an unknown member of General Anthony Wayne’s staff. In the treaty, a group of tribes ceded most of the area of the current states of Ohio and Indiana, along with the site that became the city of Chicago, to the United States.

 

 

“WE THE PEOPLE” ★ 283

Nowhere does the original Constitution define who in fact are citizens of the United States. The individual states were left free to determine the boundaries of liberty. The North’s gradual emancipation acts assumed that former slaves would remain in the country, not be colonized abroad. Northern statesmen like Hamil- ton, Jay, and Franklin worked for abolition, and some helped to establish schools for black children. During the era of the Revolution, free blacks enjoyed at least some of the legal rights accorded to whites, including, in most states, the right to vote. Some cast ballots in the election of delegates to conventions that ratified the Constitution. The large majority of blacks, of course, were slaves, and slavery ren- dered them all but invisible to those imagining the American community. Slaves, as Edmund Randolph, the nation’s first attorney general, put it, were “not . . . con- stituent members of our society,” and the language of liberty did not apply to them.

One of the era’s most widely read books, Letters from an American Farmer, published in France in 1782 by Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, strikingly illus- trated this process of exclusion. Born in France, Crèvecoeur had taken part in the unsuccessful defense of Quebec during the Seven Years’ War. Instead of return- ing home, he came to New York City in 1759. As a trader and explorer, he vis- ited most of the British mainland colonies, as well as the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. Crèvecoeur eventually married the daughter of a prominent New York landowner and lived with his own family on a farm in Orange County. Seeking to remain neutral during the War of Independence, he suffered persecution by both patriots and the British, and eventually returned to France.

In Letters from an American Farmer, Crèvecoeur popularized the idea, which would become so common in the twentieth century, of the United States as a melting pot. “Here,” he wrote, “individuals of all nations are melted into a new one.” The American left behind “all his ancient prejudices and manners [and received] new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced.” Crève- coeur was well aware of what he called “the horrors of slavery.” But when he posed the famous question, “What then is the American, this new man?” he answered, “A mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes. . . . He is either a European, or the descendant of a European.” This at a time when fully one- fifth of the population (the highest proportion in U.S. his- tory) consisted of Africans and their descendants.

Like Crèvecoeur, many white Americans excluded blacks from their concep- tion of the American people. The Constitution empowered Congress to create a uniform system by which immigrants became citizens, and the Naturalization Act of 1790 offered the first legislative definition of American nationality. With no debate, Congress restricted the process of becoming a citizen from abroad to “free white persons.”

The law initiated a policy that some historians, with only partial accuracy, call open immigration. For Europeans, the process was indeed open. Only in

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the last quarter of the nineteenth century were groups of whites, beginning with prostitutes, convicted felons, lunatics, and persons likely to become a “public charge,” barred from entering the country. For the first century of the republic, virtually the only white persons in the entire world ineligible to claim Ameri- can citizenship were those unwilling to renounce hereditary titles of nobility, as required in an act of 1795. And yet, the word “white” in the Naturalization Act excluded a large majority of the world’s population from emigrating to the “asy- lum for mankind” and partaking in the blessings of American freedom. For eighty years, no non- white immigrant could become a naturalized citizen. Africans were allowed to do so in 1870, but not until the 1940s did persons of Asian origin become eligible. (Native Americans were granted American citizenship in 1924.)

Jefferson, Slavery, and Race

Man’s liberty, John Locke had written, flowed from “his having reason.” To deny liberty to those who were not considered rational beings did not seem to be a contradiction. White Americans increasingly viewed blacks as permanently deficient in the qualities that made freedom possible— the capacity for self- control, reason, and devotion to the larger community. These were the character- istics that Jefferson, in a famous comparison of the races in his book Notes on the State of Virginia, published in 1785, claimed blacks lacked, partly due to natural incapacity and partly because the bitter experience of slavery had (quite under- standably, he felt) rendered them disloyal to the nation. Jefferson was reluctant to “degrade a whole race of men from the rank in the scale of beings which their Creator may perhaps have given them.” He therefore voiced the idea “as a sus- picion only” that blacks “are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Yet this “unfortunate” circumstance, he went on, “is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people.”

Jefferson was obsessed with the connection between heredity and environ- ment, race and intelligence. His belief that individuals’ abilities and achieve- ments are shaped by social conditions inclined him to hope that no group was fixed permanently in a status of inferiority. He applied this principle, as has been noted, to Indians, whom he believed naturally the equal of whites in intelligence. In the case of blacks, however, he could not avoid the “suspicion” that nature had permanently deprived them of the qualities that made repub- lican citizenship possible. Benjamin Banneker, a free African- American from Maryland who had taught himself the principles of mathematics, sent Jeffer- son a copy of an astronomical almanac he had published, along with a plea for the abolition of slavery. Jefferson replied, “Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to the other colors of men.” To his friend Joel Barlow, however,

 

 

“WE THE PEOPLE” ★ 285

Jefferson suggested that a white person must have helped Banneker with his calculations.

“Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate,” wrote Jefferson, “than that these people are to be free.” Yet he felt that America should have a homogeneous citizenry with com- mon experiences, values, and inborn abilities. Black Americans, Jefferson affirmed, should eventually enjoy the natural rights enumerated in the Dec- laration of Independence, but in Africa or the Caribbean, not in the United States. He foresaw Indians merging with whites into a single people, but he was horrified by the idea of miscegena- tion between blacks and whites. Unlike Indians, blacks, he believed, were unfit for economic independence and politi- cal self- government. Freeing the slaves without removing them from the country would endanger the nation’s freedom.

Jefferson reflected the divided mind of his generation. Some promi- nent Virginians assumed that blacks could become part of the American nation. Edward Coles, an early gover- nor of Illinois, brought his slaves from Virginia, freed them, and settled them on farms. Washington, who died in 1799, provided in his will that his 277 slaves would become free after the death of his wife, Martha. (Feeling uncom- fortable living among men and women who looked forward to her death, she emancipated them the following year.) Jefferson thought of himself as a humane owner. Believing the slave trade immoral, Jefferson tried to avoid sell- ing slaves to pay off his mounting debts. But his will provided for the freedom of only five, all relatives of his slave Sally Hemings, with whom he appears to have fathered one or more children. When he died in 1826, Jefferson owed so much money that his property, including the majority of his more than 200 slaves, was sold at auction, thus destroying the slave community he had tried to keep intact.

This painting by artist Gilbert Stuart, best known for his portraits of George Washington, is thought to depict Hercules, Washington’s slave and the chief cook at his estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia. As president, Washington brought Hercules to Philadelphia, then the nation’s cap- ital, in violation of Pennsylvania’s 1780 emanci- pation law, which freed any slave who resided in the state for six months. In 1797, as Washington and his family were preparing to return home at the end of his term in office, Hercules escaped. Washington died two years later; his will freed his slaves, including Hercules.

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Principles of Freedom

Even as the decline of apprenticeship and indentured servitude narrowed the gradations of freedom among the white population, the Revolution widened the divide between free Americans and those who remained in slavery. Race, one among many kinds of legal and social inequality in colonial America, now emerged as a convenient justification for the existence of slavery in a land that claimed to be committed to freedom. Blacks’ “natural faculties,” Alexander Hamilton noted in 1779, were “probably as good as ours.” But the existence of slavery, he added, “makes us fancy many things that are founded neither in reason nor experience.”

“We the people” increasingly meant only white Americans. “Principles of freedom, which embrace only half mankind, are only half systems,” declared the anonymous author of a Fourth of July speech in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1800. “Declaration of Independence,” he wondered, “where art thou now?” The answer came from a Richmond newspaper: “Tell us not of principles. Those principles have been annihilated by the existence of slavery among us.”

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. How did the limited central government created by the Articles of Confederation reflect the issues behind the Revolution and fears for individual liberties?

2. What were the ideas and motivations that pushed Americans to expand west?

3. What events and ideas led to the belief in 1786 and 1787 that the Articles of Confederation were not working well?

4. The Constitution has been described as a “bundle of compromises.” Which compromises were the most significant in shaping the direction of the new nation and why?

5. What were the major arguments in support of the Constitution given by the Federalists?

6. What were the major arguments against the Constitution put forth by the Anti- Federalists?

7. How accurate was Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s description of America as a melting pot?

 

 

Articles of Confederation (p. 255)

Ordinance of 1784 (p. 259)

Ordinance of 1785 (p. 259)

Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (p. 259)

empire of liberty (p. 259)

Shays’s Rebellion (p. 261)

Constitutional Convention (pp. 263)

Virginia Plan (p. 265)

New Jersey Plan (p. 265)

federalism (p. 266)

division of powers (p. 266)

checks and balances (p. 266)

separation of powers (p. 266)

three- fifths clause (p. 267)

The Federalist (p. 270)

Anti- Federalists (p. 272)

Bill of Rights (p. 272)

Treaty of Greenville (p. 280)

annuity system (p. 280)

gradual emancipation (p. 283)

Letters from an American Farmer (p. 283)

open immigration (p. 283)

Notes on the State of Virginia (p. 284)

Go to QIJK To see what you know— and learn what you’ve missed— with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

KEY TERMS

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S E C U R I N G T H E R E P U B L I C

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F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S What issues made the politics of the 1790s so divisive?

How did competing views of freedom and global events promote the political divi- sions of the 1790s?

What were the achievements and failures of Jefferson’s presidency?

What were the causes and significant results of the War of 1812?

On April 30, 1789, in New York City, the nation’s temporary capital, George Washington became the first president under the new Constitution. All sixty- nine electors had awarded him their votes. Dressed in a plain suit of “superfine American broad cloth” rather than European finery, Washington took the oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall before a large crowd that reacted with “loud and repeated shouts” of approval. He then retreated inside to deliver his inaugural address before members of Congress and other dignitaries.

Washington’s speech expressed the revolutionary generation’s conviction that it had embarked on an experiment of enormous historical importance, whose outcome was by no means certain. “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government,” Washing- ton proclaimed, depended on the success of the American experiment in self- government. Most Americans seemed to agree that freedom was the special genius of American institutions. In a resolution congratulating Washington on his inauguration, the House of Representatives observed that he had been cho- sen by “the freest people on the face of the earth.” When the time came to issue

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the nation’s first coins, Congress directed that they bear the image not of the head of state (as would be the case in a monarchy) but “an impression emblematic of liberty,” with the word itself prominently displayed.

American leaders believed that the success of the new government depended, above all, on maintaining political harmony. They were especially anxious to avoid the emergence of organized political parties, which had already appeared in several states. Parties were consid- ered divisive and disloyal. “They serve to orga- nize faction,” Washington would later declare, and to substitute the aims of “a small but artful” minority for the “will of the nation.” The Con- stitution makes no mention of political parties, and the original method of electing the presi- dent assumes that candidates will run as indi- viduals, not on a party ticket (otherwise, the second- place finisher would not have become vice president). Nonetheless, national political parties quickly arose. Originating in Congress, they soon spread to the general populace. Instead of harmony, the 1790s became, in the words of one historian, an “age of passion,” with each party questioning the loyalty of the other and lambasting its opponent in the most extreme terms. Political rhetoric became inflamed because the stakes seemed so high— nothing less than the legacy of the Revolution, the new nation’s future, and the survival of American freedom.

P O L I T I C S I N A N A G E O F P A S S I O N President Washington provided a much- needed symbol of national unity. Hav- ing retired to private life after the War of Independence (despite some army officers’

1789 Inauguration of George Washington

French Revolution begins

1791 First Bank of the United States

Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures

1791– Haitian Revolution 1804

1791 Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man

1792 Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

1793 First federal fugitive slave law

1794 Whiskey Rebellion

Jay’s Treaty

1797 Inauguration of John Adams

1798 XYZ affair

Alien and Sedition Acts

1800 Gabriel’s Rebellion

1801 Inauguration of Thomas Jefferson

1801– First Barbary War 1805

1803 Louisiana Purchase

1804– Lewis and Clark 1806 expedition

1809 Inauguration of James Madison

1812– War of 1812 1814

1814 Treaty of Ghent

Hartford Convention

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suggestion that he set himself up as a dictator), he was a model of self- sacrificing republican virtue. His vice president, John Adams, was widely respected as one of the main leaders in the drive for independence. Washington brought into his cabinet some of the new nation’s most prominent political leaders, includ- ing Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state and Alexander Hamilton to head the Treasury Department. He also appointed a Supreme Court of six members, headed by John Jay of New York. But harmonious government proved short- lived.

Hamilton’s Program

Political divisions first surfaced over the financial plan developed by Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton in 1790 and 1791. Hamilton’s immediate aims were to establish the nation’s financial stability, bring to the government’s support the country’s most powerful financial interests, and encourage economic develop- ment. His long- term goal was to make the United States a major commercial and military power. Hamilton’s model was Great Britain. The goal of national greatness, he believed, could never be realized if the government suffered from the same weaknesses as under the Articles of Confederation.

Hamilton’s program had five parts. The first step was to establish the new nation’s credit- worthiness— that is, to create conditions under which persons would loan money to the government by purchasing its bonds, confident that they would be repaid. Hamilton proposed that the federal government assume responsibility for paying off at its full face value the national debt inherited from the War of Independence, as well as outstanding debts of the states. Sec- ond, he called for the creation of a new national debt. The old debts would be replaced by new interest- bearing bonds issued to the government’s creditors. This would give men of economic substance a stake in promoting the new nation’s stability, since the stronger and more economically secure the federal government, the more likely it would be to pay its debts.

The third part of Hamilton’s program called for the creation of a Bank of the United States, modeled on the Bank of England, to serve as the nation’s main financial agent. A private corporation rather than a branch of the government, it would hold public funds, issue bank notes that would serve as currency, and make loans to the government when necessary, all the while returning a tidy profit to its stockholders. Fourth, to raise revenue, Hamilton proposed a tax on producers of whiskey. Finally, in a Report on Manufactures delivered to Con- gress in December 1791, Hamilton called for the imposition of a tariff (a tax on imported foreign goods) and government subsidies to encourage the develop- ment of factories that could manufacture products currently purchased from abroad. Privately, Hamilton promoted an unsuccessful effort to build an indus- trial city at present- day Paterson, New Jersey. He also proposed the creation of a national army to deal with uprisings like Shays’s Rebellion.

 

 

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The Emergence of Opposition

Hamilton’s vision of a powerful commercial republic won strong support from American financiers, manufacturers, and merchants. But it alarmed those who believed the new nation’s destiny lay in charting a different path of development. Hamilton’s plans hinged on close ties with Britain, America’s main trading partner. To James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the future lay in westward expansion, not connections with Europe. They had little desire to promote manufacturing or urban growth or to see economic policy shaped in the interests of bankers and business leaders. Their goal was a republic of independent farmers marketing grain, tobacco, and other products freely to the entire world. Free trade, they believed, not a system of government favoritism through tariffs and subsidies, would promote American prosperity while fos- tering greater social equality. Jefferson and Madison quickly concluded that the greatest threat to American freedom lay in the alliance of a powerful central government with an emerging class of commercial capitalists, such as Hamil- ton appeared to envision.

To Jefferson, Hamilton’s system “flowed from principles adverse to liberty, and was calculated to undermine and demolish the republic.” Hamilton’s plans for a standing army seemed to his critics a bold threat to freedom. The national bank and assumption of state debts, they feared, would introduce into Amer- ican politics the same corruption that had undermined British liberty, and enrich those already wealthy at the expense of ordinary Americans. During the 1780s, speculators had bought up at great discounts (often only a few cents on the dollar) government bonds and paper notes that had been used to pay those who fought in the Revolution or supplied the army. Under Hamilton’s plan, speculators would reap a windfall by being paid at face value while the original holders received nothing. Because transportation was so poor, moreover, many backcountry farmers were used to distilling their grain harvest into whiskey, which could then be carried more easily to market. Hamilton’s whiskey tax seemed to single them out unfairly in order to enrich bondholders.

The Jefferson– Hamilton Bargain

At first, opposition to Hamilton’s program arose almost entirely from the South, the region that had the least interest in manufacturing development and the least diversified economy. It also had fewer holders of federal bonds than the Middle States and New England. (Virginia had pretty much paid off its war debt; it did not see why it should be taxed to benefit states like Mas- sachusetts that had failed to do so.) Hamilton insisted that all his plans were authorized by the Constitution’s ambiguous clause empowering Congress to enact laws for the “general welfare.” As a result, many southerners who had

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supported the new Constitution now became “strict constructionists,” who insisted that the federal government could only exercise powers specifi- cally listed in the document. Jefferson, for example, believed the new national bank unconstitutional, since the right of Congress to create a bank was not mentioned in the Constitution.

Opposition in Congress threatened the enactment of Hamilton’s plans. Behind- the- scenes negotiations followed. They culminated at a famous dinner in 1790 at which Jefferson brokered an agreement whereby southerners accepted Hamilton’s fiscal program (with the exception of subsidies to man- ufacturers) in exchange for the estab- lishment of the permanent national capital on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. Southerners hoped that the location would enhance their own power in the government while removing it from the influence of the northern financiers and merchants with whom Hamilton seemed to be allied. Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French- born veteran of the War of Inde- pendence, designed a grandiose plan for the “federal city” modeled on the great urban centers of Europe, with wide boulevards, parks, and fountains. The job of surveying was done, in part, by

Benjamin Banneker, the free African- American scientist mentioned in the pre- vious chapter. When it came to constructing public buildings in the nation’s new capital, most of the labor was done by slaves.

The Impact of the French Revolution

Political divisions began over Hamilton’s fiscal program, but they deepened in response to events in Europe. When the French Revolution began in 1789, nearly all Americans welcomed it, inspired in part by the example of their own

Liberty and Washington, painted by an unknown artist around 1800, depicts a female figure of liberty placing a wreath on a bust of the first president. She carries an American flag and stands on a royal crown, which has been thrown to the ground. In the background is a liberty cap. Washington had died in 1799 and was now immortalized as a symbol of freedom, independence, and national pride.

 

 

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rebellion. John Marshall later recalled, “I sincerely believed human liberty to depend in a great measure on the success of the French Revolution.” But in 1793, the Revolution took a more radical turn with the execution of King Louis XVI along with numerous aristocrats and other foes of the new government, and war broke out between France and Great Britain.

Events in France became a source of bitter conflict in America. Jefferson and his followers believed that despite its excesses the Revolution marked a historic victory for the idea of popular self- government, which must be defended at all costs. Enthusiasm for France inspired a rebirth of symbols of liberty. Liberty poles and caps reappeared on the streets of American towns and cities. To Washington, Hamilton, and their supporters, however, the Revolution raised the specter of anarchy. America, they believed, had no choice but to draw closer to Britain.

American leaders feared being divided into parties “swayed by rival Euro- pean powers,” in the words of John Quincy Adams. But the rivalry between Britain and France did much to shape early American politics. The “permanent” alliance between France and the United States, which dated to 1778, compli- cated the situation. No one advocated that the United States should become involved in the European war, and Washington in April 1793 issued a proclama- tion of American neutrality. But that spring the French Revolution’s American admirers organized tumultuous welcomes for Edmond Genet, a French envoy seeking to arouse support for his beleaguered government. When Genet began commissioning American ships to attack British vessels under the French flag, the Washington administration asked for his recall. (Deeming the situation in France too dangerous, he decided to remain in America and married the daugh- ter of George Clinton, the governor of New York.)

Meanwhile, the British seized hundreds of American ships trading with the French West Indies and resumed the hated practice of impressment— kidnapping sailors, including American citizens of British origin, to serve in their navy. Sent to London to present objections, while still serving as chief jus- tice, John Jay negotiated an agreement in 1794 that produced the greatest pub- lic controversy of Washington’s presidency. Jay’s Treaty contained no British concessions on impressment or the rights of American shipping. Britain did agree to abandon outposts on the western frontier, which it was supposed to have done in 1783. In return, the United States guaranteed favored treatment to British imported goods. In effect, the treaty canceled the American- French alliance and recognized British economic and naval supremacy as unavoidable facts of life. Critics of the administration charged that it aligned the United States with monarchical Britain in its conflict with republican France. Ulti- mately, Jay’s Treaty sharpened political divisions in the United States and led directly to the formation of an organized opposition party.

What issues made the politics of the 1790s so divisive?

 

 

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Political Parties

By the mid- 1790s, two increasingly coherent parties had appeared in Congress, calling themselves Federalists and Republicans. (The latter had no connection with today’s Republican Party, which was founded in the 1850s.) Both parties

The prominent Connecticut artist Amos Doolittle created this engraving, A Display of the United States of America, in 1794, during George Washington’s second term as president. Washington is at the center with the motto “The protector of his country and the supporter of the rights of mankind.” He is surrounded by the seals of the original thirteen states, plus the seal of Vermont in the lower right corner. The seals contain various images of commerce and liberty.

 

 

POLITICS IN AN AGE OF  PASSION ★ 295

laid claim to the language of liberty, and each accused its opponent of engaging in a conspiracy to destroy it.

The Federalists, supporters of the Washington administration, favored Ham- ilton’s economic program and close ties with Britain. Prosperous merchants, farmers, lawyers, and established political leaders (especially outside the South) tended to support the Federalists. Their outlook was generally elitist, reflecting the traditional eighteenth- century view of society as a fixed hierarchy and of public office as reserved for men of economic substance— the “rich, the able, and the well- born,” as Hamilton put it. Freedom, Federalists insisted, did not mean the right to stand up in opposition to the government. Federalists feared that the “spirit of lib- erty” unleashed by the American Revolution was degenerating into anarchy and “licentiousness.” When the New York Federalist leader Rufus King wrote an essay on the “words . . . with wrong meaning” that had “done great harm” to American society, his first example was “Liberty.”

The Whiskey Rebellion

The Federalists may have been the only major party in American history forth- rightly to proclaim democracy and freedom dangerous in the hands of ordinary citizens. The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, which broke out when backcoun- try Pennsylvania farmers sought to block collection of the new tax on distilled spirits, reinforced this conviction. The “rebels” invoked the symbols of 1776, displaying liberty poles and banners reading “Liberty or Death.” “The citizens of the western country,” one group wrote to the president, “consider [the tax] as repugnant to liberty, [and] an invasion of those privileges which the revolu- tion bestowed upon them.” But Washington dispatched 13,000 militiamen to western Pennsylvania (a larger force than he had commanded during the Revo- lution). He accompanied them part of the way to the scene of the disturbances, the only time in American history that the president has actually commanded an army in the field. The “rebels” offered no resistance. His vigorous response, Washington wrote, was motivated in part by concern for “the impression” the restoration of public order “will make on others”—the “others” being Europeans who did not believe the American experiment in self- government could survive.

The Republican Party

Republicans, led by Madison and Jefferson, were more sympathetic to France than the Federalists and had more faith in democratic self- government. They drew their support from an unusual alliance of wealthy southern planters and ordinary farmers throughout the country. Enthusiasm for the French Revolution increasingly drew urban artisans into Republican ranks as well.

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Republicans preferred what a New Hampshire editor called the “boisterous sea of liberty” to the “calm of despotism.” They were far more critical than the Fed- eralists of social and economic inequality, and more accepting of broad demo- cratic participation as essential to freedom.

Each emerging party considered itself the representative of the nation and the other an illegitimate “faction.” As early as 1792, Madison composed an imaginary dialogue between spokesmen for the two groups. The Federalist described ordinary people as “stupid, suspicious, licentious” and accused the Republican of being “an accomplice of atheism and anarchy.” The latter called the Federalist an opponent of liberty and “an idolater of tyranny.”

In real life, too, political language became more and more heated. Federalists denounced Republicans as French agents, anarchists, and traitors. Republicans called their opponents monarchists intent on transforming the new national government into a corrupt, British- style aristocracy. Each charged the other with betraying the principles of the War of Independence and of American freedom. Washington himself received mounting abuse. When he left office, a Republican newspaper declared that his name had become synonymous with “political iniquity” and “legalized corruption.” One contemporary complained that the American press, “one of the great safeguards of free government,” had become “the most scurrilous in the civilized world.”

An Expanding Public Sphere

The debates of the 1790s produced not only one of the most intense periods of partisan warfare in American history but also an enduring expansion of the public sphere, and with it the democratic content of American freedom. More and more citizens attended political meetings and became avid readers of pam- phlets and newspapers. The establishment of nearly 1,000 post offices made possible the wider circulation of personal letters and printed materials. The era witnessed the rapid growth of the American press— the number of newspapers rose from around 100 to 260 during the 1790s, and reached nearly 400 by 1810.

Hundreds of “obscure men” wrote pamphlets and newspaper essays and formed political organizations. The decade’s democratic ferment was reflected in writings like The Key of Liberty by William Manning, a self- educated Massa- chusetts farmer who had fought at the battle of Concord that began the War of Independence. Although not published until many years later, Manning’s work, addressed to “friends to liberty and free government,” reflected the era’s popular political thought. The most important division in society, Manning declared, was between the “few” and the “many.” He called for the latter to form a national political association to prevent the “few” from destroying “free gov- ernment” and “tyrannizing over” the people.

 

 

POLITICS IN AN AGE OF  PASSION ★ 297

The Democratic- Republican Societies

Inspired by the Jacobin clubs of Paris, supporters of the French Revolution and critics of the Washington administration in 1793 and 1794 formed nearly fifty Democratic- Republican societies. The Republican press publicized their meetings, replete with toasts to French and American liberty. The declaration of the Democratic Society of Addison County, Vermont, was typical: “That all men are naturally free, and possess equal rights. That all legitimate govern- ment originates in the voluntary social compact of the people.”

Federalists saw the societies as another example of how liberty was getting out of hand. The government, not “ self- created societies,” declared the president, was the authentic voice of the American people. Forced to justify their existence, the societies developed a defense of the right of the people to debate political issues and organize to affect public policy. To the societies, “free inquiry” and “free communication” formed the first line of defense of “the unalienable rights of free men.” Political liberty meant not simply voting at elections but constant involvement in public affairs. “We make no apology for thus associating our- selves,” declared the Addison County society. “Political freedom” included the right to “exercise watchfulness and inspection, upon the conduct of public offi- cers.” Blamed by Federalists for helping to inspire the Whiskey Rebellion, the societies disappeared by the end of 1795. But much of their organization and outlook was absorbed into the emerging Republican Party. They helped to legit- imize the right of “any portion of the people,” regardless of station in life, to express political opinions and take an active role in public life.

The Republicans also gained support from immigrants from the British Isles, where war with France inspired a severe crackdown on dissent. Thomas Paine had returned to Britain in 1787. Five years later, after publishing The Rights of Man, a defense of the French Revolution and a stirring call for demo- cratic change at home, he was forced to flee to France one step ahead of the law. But his writings inspired the emergence of a mass movement for political and social change, which authorities brutally suppressed.

The Rights of Women

The democratic ferment of the 1790s inspired renewed discussion about wom- en’s rights. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published in England her extraordinary pamphlet, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Inspired by Paine’s Rights of Man, she asserted that the “rights of humanity” should not be “confined to the male line.” Wollstonecraft did not directly challenge traditional gender roles. Her call for greater access to education and to paid employment for women rested on the idea that this would enable single women to support themselves and married women to perform more capably as wives and mothers. But she did “drop a hint,”

What issues made the politics of the 1790s so divisive?

 

 

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From Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes”

(1790)

A prominent writer of plays, novels, and poetry, Judith Sargent Murray of Massa- chusetts was one of the first women to demand equal educational opportunities for women.

Is it upon mature consideration we adopt the idea, that nature is thus partial in her distributions? Is it indeed a fact, that she hath yielded to one half of the human species so unquestionable a mental superiority? I know that to both sexes elevated understand- ings, and the reverse, are common. But, suffer me to ask, in what the minds of females are so notoriously deficient, or unequal. . . .

Are we deficient in reason? We can only reason from what we know, and if an oppor- tunity of acquiring knowledge hath been denied us, the inferiority of our sex cannot fairly be deduced from thence. . . . Will it be said that the judgment of a male of two years old, is more sage than that of a female’s of the same age? I believe the reverse is gen- erally observed to be true. But from that period what partiality! How is the one exalted, and the other depressed, by the contrary modes of education which are adopted! The one is taught to aspire, and the other is early confined and limited. As their years increase, the sister must be wholly domesticated, while the brother is led by the hand through all the flowery paths of science. Grant that their minds are by nature equal, yet who shall wonder at the apparent superiority. . . . At length arrived at womanhood, the unculti- vated fair one feels a void, which the employments allotted her are by no means capable of filling. . . . She herself is most unhappy; she feels the want of a cultivated mind. . . . Should it . . . be vociferated, “Your domestic employments are sufficient”—I would calmly ask, is it reasonable, that a candidate for immortality, for the joys of heaven, an intelligent being, who is to spend an eternity in contemplating the works of Deity, should at present be so degraded, as to be allowed no other ideas, than those which are suggested by the mechanism of a pudding, or the sewing the seams of a garment? . . .

Yes, ye lordly, ye haughty sex, our souls are by nature equal to yours.

 

 

VOICES OF FREEDOM ★ 299

From Address of the Democratic- Republican Society of Pennsylvania

(December 18, 1794)

The creation of around fifty Democratic- Republican societies in 1793 and 1794 reflected the expansion of the public sphere. The Pennsylvania society issued an address defend ing itself against critics who questioned its right to criticize the administration of George Washington.

The principles and proceedings of our Association have lately been caluminated [tarred by malicious falsehoods]. We should think ourselves unworthy to be ranked as Free- men, if awed by the name of any man, however he may command the public gratitude for past services, we could suffer in silence so sacred a right, so important a principle, as the freedom of opinion to be infringed, by attack on Societies which stand on that constitutional basis.

Freedom of thought, and a free communication of opinions by speech through the medium of the press, are the safeguards of our Liberties. . . . By the freedom of opinion, cannot be meant the right of thinking merely; for of this right the greatest Tyrant can- not deprive his meanest slave; but, it is freedom in the communication of sentiments [by] speech or through the press. This liberty is an imprescriptable [unlimitable] right, independent of any Constitution or social compact; it is as complete a right as that which any man has to the enjoyment of his life. These principles are eternal— they are recognized by our Constitution; and that nation is already enslaved that does not acknowledge their truth. . . .

If freedom of opinion, in the sense we understand it, is the right of every Citizen, by what mode of reasoning can that right be denied to an assem- blage of Citizens? . . . The Society are free to declare that they never were more strongly impressed with . . . the importance of associations . . . than at the present time. The germ of an odious Aristocracy is planted among us— it has taken root. . . . Let us remain firm in attachment to principles. . . . Let us be particularly watchful to preserve invi- olate the freedom of opinion, assured that it is the most effectual weapon for the protection of our liberty.

QUESTIONS

1. How does Murray answer the argument that offering education to women will lead them to neglect their “domestic employments”?

2. Why does the Democratic- Republican Soci- ety insist on the centrality of “free communi- cation of opinions” in preserving American liberty?

3. How do these documents reflect expand- ing ideas about who should enjoy the freedom to express one’s ideas in the early republic?

 

 

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as she put it, that women “ought to have representation” in government. Within two years, American editions of Woll- stonecraft’s work had appeared, along with pamphlets defending and attack- ing her arguments. A short- lived wom- en’s rights magazine was published in 1795 in New York City. For generations, Wollstonecraft’s writings would remain an inspiration to women seeking greater rights. “She is alive and active,” the British novelist Virginia Woolf wrote in the 1920s, “she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influ- ence even now among the living.”

The expansion of the public sphere offered new opportunities to women. Increasing numbers began expressing their thoughts in print. Hannah Adams of Massachusetts became the first American woman to support herself as

an author, publishing works on religious history and the history of New England. Other women took part in political discussions, read newspapers, and listened to orations, even though outside of New Jersey none could vote.

Judith Sargent Murray, one of the era’s most accomplished American women, wrote essays for the Massachusetts Magazine under the pen name “The Gleaner.” Murray’s father, a prosperous Massachusetts merchant, had taken an enlightened view of his daughter’s education. Although Judith could not attend college because of her sex, she studied alongside her brother with a tutor prepar- ing the young man for admission to Harvard. In her essay “On the Equality of the Sexes,” written in 1779 and published in 1790, Murray insisted that women had as much right as men to exercise all their talents and should be allowed equal educational opportunities to enable them to do so. Women’s apparent mental inferiority to men, she insisted, simply reflected the fact that they had been denied “the opportunity of acquiring knowledge.” “The idea of the incapability of women,” she maintained, was “totally inadmissable in this enlightened age.”

Women and the Republic

Were women part of the new body politic? Until after the Civil War, the word “male” did not appear in the Constitution. Women were counted fully in deter- mining representation in Congress, and there was nothing explicitly limiting

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the pioneering work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in a 1797 portrait.

 

 

THE ADAMS PRESIDENCY ★ 301

the rights outlined in the Constitution to men. A few contributors to the pam- phlet debate on women’s rights admit- ted that, according to the logic of democracy, women ought to have a voice in government. The Constitu- tion’s use of the word “he” to describe officeholders, however, reflected an assumption so widespread that it scarcely required explicit defense: poli- tics was a realm for men. The time had not yet arrived for a broad assault on gender inequality. But like the activities of the Democratic- Republican societies, the discussion of women’s status helped to popularize the language of rights in the new republic.

The men who wrote the Constitu- tion did not envision the active and continuing involvement of ordinary citizens in affairs of state. But the rise of political parties seeking to mobilize voters in hotly contested elections, the emergence of the “ self- created soci- eties,” the stirrings of women’s polit- ical consciousness, and even armed uprisings like the Whiskey Rebellion broadened and deepened the democra- tization of public life set in motion by the American Revolution.

T H E A D A M S P R E S I D E N C Y In 1792, Washington won unanimous reelection. Four years later, he decided to retire from public life, in part to establish the precedent that the presidency is not a life office. In his Farewell Address (mostly drafted by Hamilton and published in the newspapers rather than delivered orally; see the Appendix for excerpts from the speech), Washington defended his administration against criticism, warned against the party spirit, and advised his countrymen to steer clear of international power politics by avoiding “permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

An 1804 embroidery by sixteen- year- old Mary Green of Worcester, Massachusetts, based on Liberty in the Form of the Goddess of Youth, a widely reprinted engraving linking liberty and nationhood. Atop the American flag sits a liberty cap. At the goddess’s feet lie symbols of Old World monarchy, including the key to the Bastille (the Paris prison stormed by a crowd at the outset of the French Revolution) and a broken royal scepter.

How did competing views of freedom and global events promote the political divisions of the 1790s?

 

 

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The Election of 1796

George Washington’s departure unleashed fierce party competition over the choice of his successor. In this, the first contested presidential election, two tickets presented themselves: John Adams, with Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina for vice president, representing the Federalists, and Thomas Jefferson, with Aaron Burr of New York, for the Republicans. In a majority of the sixteen states (Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee had been added to the original thir- teen during Washington’s presidency), the legislature chose presidential elec- tors. But in the six states where the people voted for electors directly, intense campaigning took place. Adams received seventy- one electoral votes to Jef- ferson’s sixty- eight. Because of factionalism among the Federalists, Pinckney received only fifty- nine votes, so Jefferson, the leader of the opposition party, became vice president. Voting fell almost entirely along sectional lines: Adams carried New England, New York, and New Jersey, while Jefferson swept the South, along with Pennsylvania.

In 1797, John Adams assumed leadership of a divided nation. Brilliant but austere, stubborn, and self- important, he was disliked even by those who hon- ored his long career of service to the cause of independence. His presidency was beset by crises.

On the international front, the country was nearly dragged into the ongo- ing European war. As a neutral nation, the United States claimed the right to trade nonmilitary goods with both Britain and France, but both countries seized American ships with impunity. In 1797, American diplomats were sent to Paris to negotiate a treaty to replace the old alliance of 1778. French officials presented them with a demand for bribes before negotiations could proceed. When Adams made public the envoys’ dispatches, the French officials were designated by the last three letters of the alphabet. This XYZ affair poisoned America’s relations with its former ally. By 1798, the United States and France were engaged in a “ quasi- war” at sea, with French ships seizing American vessels in the Caribbean and a newly enlarged American navy harassing the French. In effect, the United States had become a military ally of Great Britain. But despite pressure from Hamilton, who desired a declaration of war, Adams in 1800 negotiated peace with France.

Adams was less cautious in domestic affairs. Unrest continued in many rural areas. In 1799, farmers in southeastern Pennsylvania obstructed the assessment of a tax on land and houses that Congress had imposed to help fund an expanded army and navy. A crowd led by John Fries, a local militia leader and auctioneer, released arrested men from prison. No shots were fired in what came to be called Fries’s Rebellion, but Adams dispatched units of the federal army to the area. The army arrested Fries for treason and proceeded to terror- ize his supporters, tear down liberty poles, and whip Republican newspaper

 

 

THE ADAMS PRESIDENCY ★ 303

editors. Adams pardoned Fries in 1800, but the area, which had supported his election in 1796, never again voted Federalist.

The “Reign of Witches”

But the greatest crisis of the Adams administration arose over the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Confronted with mounting opposition, some of it voiced by immigrant pamphleteers and editors, Federalists moved to silence their critics. A new Naturalization Act extended from five to fourteen years the res- idency requirement for immigrants seeking American citizenship. The Alien Act allowed the deportation of persons from abroad deemed “dangerous” by federal authorities. The Sedition Act (which was set to expire in 1801, by which time Adams hoped to have been reelected) authorized the prosecution of vir- tually any public assembly or publication critical of the government. While more lenient than many such measures in Europe (it did not authorize legal action before publication and allowed for trials by jury), the new law meant that opposition editors could be prosecuted for almost any political comment they printed. The main target was the Republican press, seen by Federalists as a group of upstart workingmen (most editors had started out as printers) whose persistent criticism of the administration fomented popular rebelliousness and endangered “genuine liberty.”

The passage of these measures launched what Jefferson— recalling events in Salem, Massachusetts, a century earlier— termed a “reign of witches.” Eighteen individuals, including several Republican newspaper editors, were charged under the Sedition Act. Ten were convicted for spreading “false, scan- dalous, and malicious” information about the government. Matthew Lyon, a member of Congress from Vermont and editor of a Republican newspaper, The Scourge of Aristocracy, received a sentence of four months in prison and a fine of $1,000. (Lyon had been the first former printer and most likely the first former indentured servant elected to Congress.) In Massachusetts, authorities indicted several men for erecting a liberty pole bearing the inscription “No Stamp Act, no Sedition, no Alien Bill, no Land Tax; Downfall to the Tyrants of America.”

The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

The Alien and Sedition Acts failed to silence the Republican press. Some news- papers ceased publication, but new ones, with names like Sun of Liberty and Tree of Liberty, entered the field. The Sedition Act thrust freedom of expression to the center of discussions of American liberty. Madison and Jefferson mobi- lized opposition, drafting resolutions adopted by the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures. The Virginia and Kentucky resolutions attacked the Sedition Act as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. Virginia’s, written

How did competing views of freedom and global events promote the political divisions of the 1790s?

 

 

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by Madison, called on the federal courts to protect free speech. The original version of Jefferson’s Kentucky resolution went further, asserting that states could nullify laws of Congress that violated the Constitution— that is, states could unilaterally prevent the enforcement of such laws within their borders. The legislature prudently deleted this passage. The resolutions were directed against assaults on freedom of expression by the federal government, not the states. Jefferson took care to insist that the states “fully possessed” the authority to punish “seditious” speech, even if the national government did not. Indeed, state- level prosecutions of newspapers for seditious libel did not end when the Sedition Act expired in 1801.

No other state endorsed the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions. Many Americans, including many Republicans, were horrified by the idea of state action that might endanger the Union. But the “crisis of freedom” of the late 1790s strongly reinforced the idea that “freedom of discussion” was an indis- pensable attribute of American liberty and of democratic government. Free speech, as Massachusetts Federalist Harrison Gray Otis noted, had become the people’s “darling privilege.” The broad revulsion against the Alien and Sedition Acts contributed greatly to Jefferson’s election as president in 1800.

The “Revolution of 1800”

“Jefferson and Liberty” became the watchword of the Republican campaign. By this time, Republicans had developed effective techniques for mobilizing voters, such as printing pamphlets, handbills, and newspapers and holding mass meetings to promote their cause. The Federalists, who viewed politics as an activity for a small group of elite men, found it difficult to match their opponents’ mobilization. Nonetheless, they still dominated New England and enjoyed considerable support in the Middle Atlantic states. Jefferson tri- umphed, with seventy- three electoral votes to Adams’s sixty- five.

Before assuming office, Jefferson was forced to weather an unusual consti- tutional crisis. Each party arranged to have an elector throw away one of his two votes for president, so that its presidential candidate would come out a vote ahead of the vice presidential. But the designated Republican elector failed to do so. As a result, both Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, received seventy- three electoral votes. With no candidate having a majority, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives that had been elected in 1798, where the Federalists enjoyed a slight majority. For thirty- five ballots, neither man received a majority of the votes. Finally, Hamilton intervened. He disliked Jefferson but believed him enough of a statesman to recognize that the Feder- alist financial system could not be dismantled. Burr, he warned, was obsessed with power, “an embryo Caesar.”

 

 

THE ADAMS PRESIDENCY ★ 305

Hamilton’s support for Jefferson tipped the balance. To avoid a repetition of the crisis, Congress and the states soon adopted the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, requiring electors to cast separate votes for president and vice president. The election of 1800 also set in motion a chain of events that culmi- nated four years later when Burr killed Hamilton in a duel. Burr appears to have subsequently engaged in a plot to form a new nation in the West from land detached from the United States and the Spanish empire. Acquitted of treason in 1807, he went into exile in Europe, eventually returning to New York, where he practiced law until his death in 1836.

The events of the 1790s demonstrated that a majority of Americans believed ordinary people had a right to play an active role in politics, express their opinions freely, and contest the policies of their government. His party, wrote Samuel Goodrich, a prominent Connecticut Federalist, was overthrown because democracy had become “the watchword of popular liberty.” To their

8 7 7

21 5

4 3 8

4

8 4

3 5

12 4

6 16

94

Non-voting territory

Party Candidate Republican Jefferson* Burr**

Federalist Adams Pinckney Jay

73 73

65 64

1

53%

47%

Electoral Vote

Share of Electoral Vote

*Chosen as president by House of Representatives **Chosen as vice president by House of Representatives

T H E P R E S I D E N T I A L E L E C T I O N   O F   1 8 0 0

How did competing views of freedom and global events promote the political divisions of the 1790s?

 

 

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credit, Federalists never considered resistance to the election result. Adams’s acceptance of defeat established the vital precedent of a peaceful transfer of power from a defeated party to its successor.

Slavery and Politics

Lurking behind the political battles of the 1790s lay the potentially divisive issue of slavery. Jefferson, after all, received every one of the South’s forty- one electoral votes. He always referred to his victory as the Revolution of 1800 and saw it not simply as a party success but as a vindication of American freedom, securing for posterity the fruits of independence. Yet the triumph of “Jefferson and Liberty” would not have been possible without slavery. Had three- fifths of the slaves not been counted in apportionment, John Adams would have been reelected in 1800.

The issue of slavery would not disappear. The very first Congress under the new Constitution received petitions calling for emancipation. One bore the weighty signature of Benjamin Franklin, who in 1787 had agreed to serve as president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The blessings of liberty, Franklin’s petition insisted, should be available “without distinction of color to all descriptions of people.”

A long debate followed, in which speakers from Georgia and South Carolina vigorously defended the institution and warned that behind north- ern criticism of slavery they heard “the trumpets of civil war.” Madison found their forthright defense of slavery an embarrassment. But he concluded that the slavery question was so divisive that it must be kept out of national politics. He opposed Congress’s even receiving a petition from North Carolina slaves on the grounds that they were not part of the American people and had “no claim” on the lawmakers’ “attention.” In 1793, to implement the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause, Congress enacted a law providing for local officials to facilitate the return of escaped slaves.

The Haitian Revolution

Events during the 1790s underscored how powerfully slavery defined and distorted American freedom. The same Jeffersonians who hailed the French Revolution as a step in the universal progress of liberty reacted in horror against the slave revolution that began in 1791 in Saint Domingue, the jewel of the French overseas empire situated not far from the southern coast of the United States. Toussaint L’Ouverture, an educated slave on a sugar plantation, forged the rebellious slaves into an army able to defeat British forces seeking to seize the island and then an expedition hoping to reestablish French authority.

 

 

THE ADAMS PRESIDENCY ★ 307

The slave uprising led to the estab- lishment of Haiti as an independent nation in 1804.

Although much of the country was left in ruins by years of warfare, the Haitian Revolution affirmed the universality of the revolutionary era’s creed of liberty. It inspired hopes for freedom among slaves in the United States. Throughout the nineteenth century, black Americans would look to Toussaint as a hero and celebrate the winning of Haitian independence. During the 1820s, several thousand free African- Americans emigrated to Haiti, whose government promised newcomers political rights and eco- nomic opportunity they did not enjoy in the United States.

Among white Americans, the response to the Haitian Revolution was different. Thousands of refugees from Haiti poured into the United States, fleeing the upheaval. Many spread tales of the massacres of slaveowners and the burning of their planta- tions, which reinforced white Americans’ fears of slave insurrection at home. To most whites, the rebellious slaves seemed not men and women seeking lib- erty in the tradition of 1776, but a danger to American institutions. That the slaves had resorted to violence was widely taken to illustrate blacks’ unfitness for republican freedom. Ironically, the Adams administration, which hoped that American merchants could replace their French counterparts in the island’s lucrative sugar trade, encouraged the independence of black Haiti. When Jefferson became president, on the other hand, he sought to quarantine and destroy the hemisphere’s second independent republic.

Gabriel’s Rebellion

The momentous year of 1800 witnessed not only the “revolution” of Jeffer- son’s election but also an attempted real one, a plot by slaves in Virginia itself to gain their freedom. It was organized by a Richmond blacksmith, Gabriel, and his brothers Solomon, also a blacksmith, and Martin, a slave preacher.

Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the slave revolu- tion in Saint Domingue ( modern- day Haiti). Painted in 1800 as part of a series of portraits of French military leaders, it depicts him as a courageous general.

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The conspirators planned to march on the city, which had recently become the state capital, from surrounding plantations. They would kill some white inhabitants and hold the rest, including Governor James Monroe, hostage until their demand for the abolition of slavery was met. Gabriel hoped that “poor white people” would join the insurrection, and he ordered that Quakers and Methodists (many of whom were critics of slavery) and “French people” (whose country was engaged in the “ quasi- war” with the United States described ear- lier) be spared. On the night when the slaves were to gather, a storm washed out the roads to Richmond. The plot was soon discovered and the leaders arrested. Twenty- six slaves, including Gabriel, were hanged and dozens more trans- ported out of the state.

Blacks in 1800 made up half of Richmond’s population. One- fifth were free. A black community had emerged in the 1780s and 1790s, and the conspiracy was rooted in its institutions. Gabriel gathered recruits at black Baptist churches, funerals, barbecues, and other gatherings. In cities like Richmond, many skilled slave craftsmen, including Gabriel himself, could read and write and enjoyed the privilege of hiring themselves out to employers— that is, negotiating their own labor arrangements, with their owner receiving their “wages.” Their relative autonomy helps account for slave artisans’ prominent role in the conspiracy.

Gabriel’s Rebellion was a product of its age. Gabriel himself had been born in 1776. Like other Virginians, the participants in the conspiracy spoke the lan- guage of liberty forged in the American Revolution and reinvigorated during the 1790s. The rebels even planned to carry a banner emblazoned with the slo- gan, reminiscent of Patrick Henry, “Death or Liberty.” “We have as much right,” one conspirator declared, “to fight for our liberty as any men.” Another likened himself to George Washington, who had rebelled against established authority to “obtain the liberty of [his] countrymen.”

If Gabriel’s conspiracy demonstrated anything, commented the prominent Virginian George Tucker, it was that slaves possessed “the love of freedom” as fully as other men. Gabriel’s words, he added, reflected “the advance of knowl- edge” among Virginia’s slaves, including knowledge of the American language of liberty. When slaves escaped to join Lord Dunmore during the War of Inde- pendence, he wrote, “they sought freedom merely as a good; now they also claim it as a right.” Tucker believed Virginians should emancipate their slaves and settle them outside of the state. The legislature, however, moved in the opposite direction. It tightened controls over the black population— making it illegal for them to congregate on Sundays without white supervision— and severely restricted the possibility of masters voluntarily freeing their slaves. Any slave freed after 1806 was required to leave Virginia or be sold back into slavery. The door to manumission, thrown open during the American Revolu- tion, had been slammed shut.

 

 

JEFFERSON IN POWER ★ 309

J E F F E R S O N I N P O W E R The first president to begin his term in Washington, D.C., Jefferson assumed office on March 4, 1801. The city, with its unpaved streets, impoverished res- idents, and unfinished public buildings, scarcely resembled L’Enfant’s grand plan. At one point, part of the roof of the Capitol collapsed, narrowly missing the vice president. The capital’s condition seemed to symbolize Jefferson’s intention to reduce the importance of the national government in American life.

Jefferson’s inaugural address was conciliatory toward his opponents. “Every difference of opinion,” he declared, “is not a difference of principle. . . . We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” He went on to expound the policies his administration would follow— economy in government, unrestricted trade, freedom of religion and the press, friendship to all nations but “entangling alli- ances” with none. America, “the world’s best hope,” would flourish if a limited government allowed its citizens to be “free to regulate their own pursuits.”

Jefferson hoped to dismantle as much of the Federalist system as possible. Among his first acts as president was to pardon all those imprisoned under the Sedition Act. During his eight years as president, he reduced the number of government employees and slashed the army and navy. He abolished all taxes except the tariff, including the hated tax on whiskey, and paid off part of the national debt. He aimed to minimize federal power and eliminate government oversight of the economy. His policies ensured that the United States would not become a centralized state on a European model, as Hamilton had envisioned.

Judicial Review

Nonetheless, as Hamilton predicted, it proved impossible to uproot national authority entirely. Jefferson distrusted the unelected judiciary and always believed in the primacy of local self- government. But during his presidency, and for many years thereafter, Federalist John Marshall headed the Supreme Court. Marshall had served John Adams as secretary of state and was appointed by the president to the Court shortly before Jefferson took office. A strong believer in national supremacy, Marshall established the Court’s power to review laws of Congress and the states.

The first landmark decision of the Marshall Court came in 1803, in the case of Marbury v. Madison. On the eve of leaving office, Adams had appointed a number of justices of the peace for the District of Columbia. Madison, Jefferson’s secretary of state, refused to issue commissions (the official documents entitling them to assume their posts) to these “midnight judges.” Four, including William Marbury, sued for their offices. Marshall’s decision declared unconstitutional the section of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that allowed the courts to order executive officials to

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310 ★ CHAPTER 8 Securing the Republic

deliver judges’ commissions. It exceeded the power of Congress as outlined in the Constitution and was therefore void. Marbury, in other words, may have been entitled to his commission, but the Court had no power under the Constitution to order Madison to deliver it. On the immediate issue, therefore, the administra- tion got its way. But the cost, as Jefferson saw it, was high. The Supreme Court had assumed the right to determine whether an act of Congress violates the Constitution— a power known as “judicial review.”

Seven years later, in Fletcher v. Peck, the Court extended judicial review to state laws. In 1794, four land companies had paid nearly every member of the state legislature, Georgia’s two U.S. senators, and a number of federal judges to secure their right to purchase land in present- day Alabama and Mississippi claimed by Georgia. They then sold the land to individual buyers at a large profit. Two years later, many of the corrupt lawmakers were defeated for reelection and the new legislature rescinded the land grant and subsequent sales. What- ever the circumstances of the legislature’s initial action, Marshall declared, the Constitution forbade Georgia from taking any action that impaired a contract. Therefore, the individual purchasers could keep their land and the legislature could not repeal the original grant.

The Louisiana Purchase

But the greatest irony of Jefferson’s presidency involved his greatest achieve- ment, the Louisiana Purchase. This resulted not from astute American diplo- macy but because the rebellious slaves of Saint Domingue defeated forces sent by the ruler of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, to reconquer the island. Moreover, to take advantage of the sudden opportunity to purchase Louisiana, Jefferson had to abandon his conviction that the federal government was limited to pow- ers specifically mentioned in the Constitution, since the document said noth- ing about buying territory from a foreign power.

This vast Louisiana Territory, which stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, had been ceded by France to Spain in 1762 as part of the reshuffling of colonial possessions at the end of the Seven Years’ War. France secretly reacquired it in 1800. Soon after taking office, Jefferson learned of the arrangement. He had long been con- cerned about American access to the port of New Orleans, which lay within Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The right to trade through New Orleans, essential to western farmers, had been acknowledged in the Treaty of San Lorenzo (also known as Pinckney’s Treaty) of 1795 between the United States and Spain. But Jefferson feared that the far more powerful French might try to interfere with American commerce. He dispatched envoys to France offering to purchase the city. Needing money for military campaigns in Europe

 

 

JEFFERSON IN POWER ★ 311

and with his dreams of American empire in ruins because of his inability to reestablish control over Saint Domingue, Napoleon offered to sell the entire Louisiana Territory. The cost, $15 million (the equivalent of perhaps $250 mil- lion in today’s money), made the Louisiana Purchase one of history’s greatest real- estate bargains.

In a stroke, Jefferson had doubled the size of the United States and ended the French presence in North America. Federalists were appalled. “We are to give money, of which we have too little,” one declared, “for land, of which we already have too much.” Jefferson admitted that he had “done an act beyond the Constitution.” But he believed the benefits justified his transgression. Farmers, Jefferson had written, were “the chosen people of God,” and the country would remain “virtuous” as long as it was “chiefly agricultural.” Madison, in Federalist no. 10, had explained that the large size of the republic made self- government possible. Now, Jefferson believed, he had ensured the agrarian character of the United States and its political stability for centuries to come.

Lewis and Clark

Within a year of the purchase, Jefferson dispatched an expedition led by Meri- wether Lewis and William Clark, two Virginia- born veterans of Indian wars in the Ohio Valley, to explore the new territory. Their objectives were both scien- tific and commercial— to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and to discover how the region could be exploited economically. Jefferson hoped the Lewis and Clark expedition would establish trading relations with western Indians and locate a water route to the Pacific Ocean— an updated version of the old dream of a Northwest Passage that could facilitate commerce with Asia.

In the spring of 1804, Lewis and Clark’s fifty- member “corps of discov- ery” set out from St. Louis on the most famous exploring party in American history. They spent the winter in the area of present- day North Dakota and then resumed their journey in April 1805. They were now accompanied by a fifteen- year- old Shoshone Indian woman, Sacajawea, the wife of a French fur trader, who served as their guide and interpreter. After crossing the Rocky Mountains, the expedition reached the Pacific Ocean in the area of present- day Oregon (which lay beyond the nation’s new boundaries) in November 1805. They returned in 1806, bringing with them an immense amount of infor- mation about the region as well as numerous plant and animal specimens. Reports about geography, plant and animal life, and Indian cultures filled their daily journals. Although Lewis and Clark failed to find a commercial route to Asia, they demonstrated the possibility of overland travel to the Pacific coast. They found Indians in the trans- Mississippi West accustomed to dealing with European traders and already connected to global markets. The success of their

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312 ★ CHAPTER 8 Securing the Republic

journey helped to strengthen the idea that American territory was destined to reach all the way to the Pacific.

Incorporating Louisiana

The only part of the Louisiana Purchase with a significant non- Indian popula- tion in 1803 was the region around New Orleans. When the United States took control, the city had around 8,000 inhabitants, including nearly 3,000 slaves and 1,300 free persons of color. Incorporating this diverse population into the United States was by no means easy. French and Spanish law accorded free blacks, many of whom were the offspring of unions between white military officers and slave women, nearly all the rights of white citizens. Slaves in Louisiana, as in Florida and Texas under Spanish rule, enjoyed legal protections unknown in the United States. Spain made it easy for slaves to obtain their freedom through purchase or voluntary emancipation by the owners. Slave women had the right to go to court for protection against cruelty or rape by their owners.

Great Falls

Mandan Villages

St. Louis

New Orleans

Santa Fe

Clark 18 06

Lewis 1806

Lewis and Clark 1804

Fort Clatsop

MISSISSIPPI TERRITORY GEORGIA

SPANISH FLORIDA

SOUTH CAROLINA

NORTH CAROLINATENNESSEE

KENTUCKY VIRGINIA

OHIOINDIANA TERRITORY

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NEW YORK

NEW JERSEY DELAWARE

MARYLAND

CONNECTICUT

RHODE ISLAND

MASSACHUSETTS

VERMONT NEW HAMPSHIRE

MAINE (part of

Massachusetts)

MISSOURI COUNTRY

BRITISH NORTH AMERICA

OREGON COUNTRY

(claimed by Spain, Britain, and the United States)

SPANISH TERRITORY

Lewi s an d Clark Pass

Lemhi Pass

M iss

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.

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Red R.

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Great Salt Lake

L. H uron

Gulf of Mexico

Hudson Bay

Paci f ic O ce an

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

250

250

500 miles

500 kilometers

Lewis and Clark’s expedition, 1804–1806 Louisiana Purchase, 1803 United States, 1803

T H E L O U I S I A N A P U R C H A S E

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 doubled the land area of the United States.

 

 

JEFFERSON IN POWER ★ 313

The treaty that transferred Louisiana to the United States promised that all free inhabitants would enjoy “the rights, advantages, and immunities of citi- zens.” Spanish and French civil codes, unlike British and American law, recog- nized women as co- owners of family property. Under American rule, Louisiana retained this principle of “community property” within marriage. But free blacks suffered a steady decline in status. And the local legislature soon adopted one of the most sweeping slave codes in the South, forbidding blacks to “ever consider themselves the equal of whites” and limiting the practice of manumission and access to the courts. Louisiana’s slaves had enjoyed far more freedom under the rule of tyrannical Spain than as part of the liberty- loving United States.

The Barbary Wars

Among other things, the Louisiana Purchase demonstrated that despite its vaunted isolation from the Old World, the United States continued to be deeply affected by events throughout the Atlantic world. At a time when Americans still relied on British markets to purchase their farm produce and British suppliers for imported manufactured goods, European wars directly influenced the livelihood of American farmers, merchants, and artisans. Jefferson hoped to avoid foreign entanglements, but he found it impossible as president to avoid being drawn into the continuing wars of Europe. Even as he sought to limit the power of the national government, foreign relations compelled him to expand it. The first war fought by the United States was to protect American commerce in a dangerous world.

Only a few months after taking office, Jefferson employed the very navy whose expansion by John Adams he had strongly criticized. The Barbary states on the northern coast of Africa had long preyed on shipping in the Mediter- ranean and Atlantic, receiving tribute from several countries, including the United States, to protect their vessels. Between 1785 and 1796, pirates captured thirteen American ships and held more than 100 sailors as “slaves,” paralyzing American trade with the Mediterranean. The federal government paid hun- dreds of thousands of dollars in ransom and agreed to annual sums to purchase peace. In 1801, Jefferson refused demands for increased payments and the pasha of Tripoli, in modern- day Libya, declared war on the United States. The naval conflict lasted until 1804, when an American squadron won a victory at Tripoli harbor (a victory commemorated in the official hymn of the Marine Corps, which mentions fighting on “the shores of Tripoli”). The treaty end- ing the war guaranteed the freedom of American commerce, but Tripoli soon resumed harassing American ships. Only after the War of 1812 and one final American show of force did Barbary interference with American shipping end.

The Barbary Wars were the new nation’s first encounter with the Islamic world. In the 1790s, as part of an attempt to establish peaceful relations, the fed- eral government declared that the United States was “not, in any sense, founded

What were the achievements and failures of Jefferson’s presidency?

 

 

314 ★ CHAPTER 8 Securing the Republic

on the Christian religion.” But the conflicts helped to establish a long- lasting pattern in which Americans viewed Muslims as an exotic people whose way of life did not adhere to Western standards. In the eyes of many Americans, Islam joined monarchy and aristocracy as forms of Old World despotism that stood as opposites to freedom.

The Embargo

Far more serious in its impact on the United States was warfare between Britain and France, which resumed in 1803 after a brief lull. According to international law, neutral nations had a right to trade nonmilitary goods with countries at war. By 1806, however, each combatant had declared the other under blockade, seek- ing to deny trade with America to its rival. Engaged in a life- and- death struggle with Napoleon, Britain needed thousands of new sailors each year. The Royal Navy resumed the practice of impressment. By the end of 1807, it had seized more than 6,000 American sailors (claiming they were British citizens and deserters), including men from the U.S. warship Chesapeake, which the British frigate Leopard bombarded and boarded in American waters off the coast of Maryland.

The Attack Made on Tripoli, a print from 1805, celebrates the bombardment of Tripoli (in present- day Libya) by the U.S. Navy as part of the Barbary Wars, the first American encoun- ter with the Islamic world.

 

 

JEFFERSON IN POWER ★ 315

To Jefferson, the economic health of the United States required freedom of trade with which no foreign government had a right to interfere. American farmers needed access to markets in Europe and the Caribbean. As colonial patriots had done in the 1760s and 1770s, he decided to use trade as a weapon. In December 1807, he persuaded Congress to enact the Embargo Act, a ban on all American vessels sailing for foreign ports. For a believer in limited govern- ment, this was an amazing exercise of federal power.

Enforcement of the Embargo brought back memories of the Intolerable Acts of 1774, with the navy sealing off ports and seizing goods without warrants and the army arresting accused smugglers. Jefferson hoped it would lead Europeans to stop their interference with American shipping and also reduce the occasion for impressment. In 1808, American exports plummeted by 80 percent. Unfortu- nately, neither Britain nor France, locked in a death struggle, took much notice. But the Embargo devastated the economies of American port cities. Just before his term ended, in March 1809, Jefferson signed the Non- Intercourse Act, banning trade only with Britain and France but providing that if either side rescinded its edicts against American shipping, commerce with that country would resume.

Madison and Pressure for War

Jefferson left office at the lowest point of his career. He had won a sweeping reelec- tion in 1804, receiving 162 electoral votes to only 14 for the Federalist candidate, Charles C. Pinckney. With the exception of Connecticut, he even carried the Fed- eralist stronghold of New England. Four years later, his handpicked successor, James Madison, also won an easy victory. The Embargo, however, had failed to achieve its diplomatic aims and was increasingly violated by American shippers and resented by persons whose livelihoods depended on trade. In 1810, Madison adopted a new policy. Congress enacted a measure known as Macon’s Bill No. 2, which allowed trade to resume but provided that if either France or Britain ceased interfering with American rights, the president could reimpose an embargo on the other. With little to lose, since Britain controlled the seas, the French emperor Napoleon announced that he had repealed his decrees against neutral shipping. But the British continued to attack American vessels and, with their navy hard- pressed for manpower, stepped up the impressment of American sailors. In the spring of 1812, Madison reimposed the embargo on trade with Britain.

Meanwhile, a group of younger congressmen, mostly from the West, were call- ing for war with Britain. Known as the War Hawks, this new generation of polit- ical leaders had come of age after the winning of independence and were ardent nationalists. Their leaders included Henry Clay of Kentucky, elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1810, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The War Hawks spoke passionately of defending the national honor against British insults, but they also had more practical goals in mind, notably the annexation of

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316 ★ CHAPTER 8 Securing the Republic

Canada. “Agrarian cupidity [greed], not maritime rights,” declared Congressman John Randolph of Virginia, “urges the war. We have heard but one word . . . Can- ada! Canada! Canada!” Randolph exaggerated, for many southern War Hawks also pressed for the conquest of Florida, a haven for fugitive slaves owned by Britain’s ally Spain. Members of Congress also spoke of the necessity of upholding the prin- ciple of free trade and liberating the United States once and for all from European infringements on its independence. Unimpeded access to overseas markets was essential if the agrarian republic were to prosper.

T H E “ S E C O N D W A R O F I N D E P E N D E N C E ” The growing crisis between the United States and Britain took place against the background of deteriorating Indian relations in the West, which also helped pro- pel the United States down the road to war. Jefferson had long favored the removal beyond the Mississippi River of Indian tribes who refused to cooperate in “civi- lizing” themselves. The Louisiana Purchase made this policy more feasible. “The acquisition of Louisiana,” he wrote, “will, it is hoped, put in our power the means of inducing all the Indians on this side [of the Mississippi River] to transplant themselves to the other side.” Jefferson enthusiastically pursued efforts to pur- chase Indian lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. He encouraged traders to lend money to Indians, in the hope that accumulating debt would force them to sell some of their holdings, thus freeing up more land for “our increasing num- bers.” On the other hand, the government continued President Washington’s policy of promoting settled farming among the Indians. Benjamin Hawkins, a friend of Jefferson who served as American agent for Indian affairs south of the Ohio River, also encouraged the expansion of African- American slavery among the tribes as one of the elements of advancing civilization.

The Indian Response

By 1800, nearly 400,000 American settlers lived west of the Appalachian Mountains. They far outnumbered the remaining Indians, whose seemingly irreversible decline in power led some Indians to rethink their opposition to assimilation. Among the Creek and Cherokee, a group led by men of mixed Indian- white ances try like Major Ridge and John Ross enthusiastically endorsed the federal policy of promoting “civilization.” Many had established businesses as traders and slaveown ing farmers with the help of their white fathers. Their views, in turn, infuriated “nativists,” who wished to root out European influ- ences and resist further white encroachment on Indian lands.

The period from 1800 to 1812 was an “age of prophecy” among the Indians. Movements for the revitalization of Indian life arose among the Creeks, Cherokees,

 

 

THE “SECOND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE” ★ 317

Shawnees, Iroquois, and other tribes. Handsome Lake of the Seneca, who had overcome an earlier addiction to alcohol, preached that Indians must refrain from fighting, gambling, drinking, and sexual promiscuity. He believed Indians could regain their autonomy without directly challenging whites or repudiating all white ways, and he urged his people to take up farming and attend school.

Tecumseh’s Vision

A more militant message was expounded by two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa. Tecumseh was a chief who had refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, and Tenskwatawa was a religious prophet who called for complete separation from whites, the revival of traditional Indian cul- ture, and resistance to federal policies. White people, Tenskwatawa preached, were the source of all evil in the world, and Indians should abandon Ameri- can alcohol, clothing, food, and manufactured goods. His followers gathered at Prophetstown, located on the Wabash River in Indiana.

Tecumseh meanwhile traversed the Mississippi Valley, seeking to revive Neolin’s pan- Indian alliance of the 1760s (discussed in Chapter 4). The

War Party at Fort Douglas, a watercolor by the Swiss- born Canadian artist Peter Rindis- bacher. Painted in 1823, it depicts an incident during the War of 1812 when Indian allies of Great Britain fired rifles into the air to greet their commander, Captain Andrew Bulger, pictured on the far right.

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318 ★ CHAPTER 8 Securing the Republic

alternative to resistance was extermination. “Where today are the Pequot?” he asked. “Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pocanet, and other pow- erful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice [greed] and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun.” Indians, he pro- claimed, must recognize that they were a single people and unite in claiming “a common and equal right in the land.” He repudiated chiefs who had sold land to the federal government: “Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his chil- dren?” In 1810, Tecumseh called for attacks on American frontier settlements. In November 1811, while he was absent, American forces under William Henry Harrison destroyed Prophetstown in the Battle of Tippecanoe.

The War of 1812

In 1795, James Madison had written that war is the greatest enemy of “true lib- erty.” “War,” he explained, “is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes, and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” Nonetheless, Madison became a war president. Reports that the British were encouraging Tecumseh’s efforts contributed to the coming of the War of 1812. In June 1812, with assaults on American shipping continuing, Madison asked Congress for a declaration of war. American nationality, the president declared, was at stake— would Amer- icans remain “an independent people” or become “colonists and vassals” of Great Britain? The vote revealed a deeply divided country. Both Federalists and Republicans representing the states from New Jersey northward, where most of the mercantile and financial resources of the country were concentrated, voted against war. The South and West were strongly in favor. The bill passed the House by a vote of 79–49 and the Senate by 19–13. It was the first time the United States declared war on another country, and was approved by the small- est margin of any declaration of war in American history.

In retrospect, it seems remarkably foolhardy for a disunited and militarily unprepared nation to go to war with one of the world’s two major powers. And with the expiration in 1811 of the charter of the Bank of the United States and the refusal of northern merchants and bankers to loan money, the federal gov- ernment found it increasingly difficult to finance the war. Before the conflict ended, it was essentially bankrupt. Fortunately for the United States, Great Britain at the outset was preoccupied with the struggle in Europe. But it eas- ily repelled two feeble American invasions of Canada and imposed a blockade that all but destroyed American commerce. In 1814, having finally defeated Napoleon, Britain invaded the United States. Its forces seized Washington, D.C., and burned the Capitol and the White House, while the government fled for safety.

 

 

THE “SECOND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE” ★ 319

Americans did enjoy a few military successes. In August 1812, the American frig- ate Constitution defeated the British warship Guerriere. Commodore Oliver H. Perry defeated a British naval force in September 1813 on Lake Erie (a startling result considering that Britain prided itself on having the world’s most powerful navy— although the Americans outgunned them on the Great Lakes). In the following year, a British assault on Baltimore was repulsed when Fort McHenry at the entrance to the harbor withstood a British bombardment. This was the occasion when Francis Scott Key composed “The Star- Spangled Banner,” an ode to the “land of the free and home of the brave” that became the national anthem during the 1930s.

Like the War of Independence, the War of 1812 was a two- front struggle— against the British and against the Indians. The war produced significant victo- ries over western Indians who sided with the British. In 1813, pan- Indian forces led by Tecumseh (who had been commissioned a general in the British army) were defeated, and he himself was killed, at the Battle of the Thames, near Detroit, by an American force led by William Henry Harrison. In March 1814, an army of Americans and pro- assimilation Cherokees and Creeks under the command of Andrew Jackson defeated hostile Creeks known as the Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama, killing more than 800 of them. “The power of the

The bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor in September 1814 was of minor military importance, but it is remembered as the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s poem, “The Star- Spangled Banner.”

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Creeks is forever broken,” Jackson wrote, and he dictated terms of surrender that required the Indians, hostile and friendly alike, to cede more than half their land, more than 23 million acres in all, to the federal government.

Jackson then proceeded to New Orleans, where he engineered the war’s greatest American victory, fighting off a British invasion in January 1815. Although a slaveholder, Jackson recruited the city’s free men of color into his forces, appealing to them as “sons of freedom” and promising them the same pay and land bounties as white recruits. Jackson and Harrison would ride their reputations as military heroes all the way to the White House. Colonel Richard M. Johnson, who claimed to have actually killed Tecumseh, would later be elected vice president.

Pensacola

Cincinnati Baltimore

Montreal

British set up blockade of American ports 1812

Battle of the Thames October 5, 1813

Commodore Perry defeats British navy

September 1813

Americans defend Fort McHenry from British attack (August 1814)

Battle of Horseshoe Bend March 27, 1814

General Jackson wins Battle of New Orleans

January 8, 1815

British capture and burn Washington, D.C.

August 24, 1814

Battle of Tippecanoe November 7, 1811

Fort Dearborn

Fort Niagara

Jackson

SPANISH TERRITORY

GEORGIA

MISSISSIPPI TERRITORY

LOUISIANA

SOUTH CAROLINA

NORTH CAROLINA TENNESSEE

KENTUCKY VIRGINIA

INDIANA TERRITORY

ILLINOIS TERRITORY

UNORGANIZED TERRITORY

MICHIGAN TERRITORY

OHIO

PENNSYLVANIA

NEW YORK

VERMONT NEW

HAMPSHIRE

MASSACHUSETTS

CONNECTICUT

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MAINE (part of Massachusetts)

NEW JERSEY

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Lake Champlain

Gulf of Mexico

Atlantic Ocean

0

0

100

100

200 miles

200 kilometers

U.S. victory U.S. victory over Native Americans British victory U.S. forces British forces British naval blockade

T H E WA R O F 1 8 1 2

Although the British burned the nation’s capital, the War of 1812 essentially was a military draw.

 

 

THE “SECOND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE” ★ 321

With neither side wishing to continue the conflict, the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war. Although the treaty was signed in December 1814, ships carrying news of the agreement did not reach America until after the Battle of New Orleans had been fought. The treaty restored the previous status quo. No territory exchanged hands, nor did any provisions relate to impressment or neutral shipping rights. Considering that the war had not been a military success for the United States, the Treaty of Ghent was about as good an outcome as could be expected.

The Treaty of Ghent produced an unusual episode in American diplomacy. As in the War of Independence, thousands of slaves found freedom by escaping to British forces during the War of 1812. The peace treaty specified that they must be returned, but the British refused to hand them over to their former owners. After five years of inconclusive negotiations, both countries agreed to international arbitration of the dispute— by one of the world’s leading despots, Czar Nicholas I of Russia. He ruled in favor of the United States, and Britain paid a few million dollars in compensation. The freed slaves themselves mostly settled in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The War’s Aftermath

A number of contemporaries called the War of 1812 the Second War of Inde- pendence. Despite widespread opposition to the conflict, it confirmed the ability of a republican government to conduct a war without surrendering its institutions. Jackson’s victory at New Orleans not only made him a national hero but also became a celebrated example of the ability of virtuous citizens of a republic to defeat the forces of despotic Europe.

Moreover, the war completed the conquest of the area east of the Missis- sippi River, which had begun during the Revolution. Never again would the British or Indians pose a threat to American control of this vast region. The war broke the remaining power of Indians in the Old Northwest and significantly reduced their holdings in the South. In its aftermath, white settlers poured into Indiana, Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi, bringing with them their distinc- tive forms of social organization. “I have no doubt,” Jackson wrote to his wife, “but in a few years the banks of the Alabama will present a beautiful view of elegant mansions and extensive rich and productive farms.” He did not men- tion that those mansions would be built and the farms worked by slaves.

The War of 1812 and the Canadian Borderland

Like the American Revolution, the War of 1812 had a profound impact along the border between the United States and Canada, further solidifying it as a dividing line. Much of the fighting took place on this porous border in the

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long- contested region near Detroit and on the Great Lakes. A great deal of trade had developed between Vermont and Quebec, and across the lakes, which became a flourishing smuggling busi- ness during Jefferson’s Embargo. When war broke out, Canadians began to see American traders as spies. The unsuc- cessful American attacks on Canada during the war (some led by Irish immi- grants resentful at British rule over their country of birth) strengthened anti- Americanism even among Cana- dians not connected to revolutionary- era Loyalists. To be sure, as in so many borderland regions, many people had family ties on both sides and the exchange of goods and ideas continued after the war ended. But far more Ameri- cans now turned their sights toward the western frontier rather than Canada. For both Canadians and Americans, the war reaffirmed a sense of national iden- tity, and both came to see the conflict as a struggle for freedom— for the United States, freedom from dependence on Great Britain; for Canada, freedom from domination by the United States.

Britain’s defeat of Napoleon inaugurated a long period of peace in Europe. With diplomatic affairs playing less and less of a role in American public life, Americans’ sense of separateness from the Old World grew ever stronger. The war also strengthened a growing sense of nationalism in Canada, based in part on separateness from the United States. As in 1775, Canadians did not rise up to welcome an army from the south, but instead repelled the invading Amer- ican forces, to the puzzlement of Americans who could not understand why they did not wish to become part of the empire of liberty. Each side developed stereotypes of the other that resonate to this day: Americans saw Canadians as monarchical, European, and lacking in an understanding of liberty; Canadians viewed Americans as a people unusually prone to violence.

The End of the Federalist Party

Jefferson and Madison succeeded in one major political aim— the elimination of the Federalist Party. At first, the war led to a revival of Federalist fortunes. With

This colorful painting by the artist John Archibald Woodside from around the time of the War of 1812 contains numerous symbols of freedom, among them the goddess of liberty with her liberty cap, a broken chain at the sailor’s feet, the fallen crown (under his left foot), a broken royal scepter, and the sailor himself, since English interference with American shipping was one of the war’s causes.

 

 

antiwar sentiment at its peak in 1812, Madison had been reelected by the relatively narrow margin of 128 electoral votes to 89 over his Federalist opponent, DeWitt Clinton of New York. But then came a self- inflicted blow. In December 1814, a group of New England Federalists gathered at Hartford, Connecticut, to give voice to their party’s long- standing grievances, especially the domination of the federal government by Virginia presidents and their own region’s declining influence as new western states entered the Union. They called for amending the Constitution to eliminate the three- fifths clause that strengthened southern political power, and to require a two- thirds vote of Congress for the admission of new states, declara- tions of war, and laws restricting trade. Contrary to later myth, the Hartford Con- vention did not call for secession or disunion. But it affirmed the right of a state to “interpose” its authority if the federal government violated the Constitution.

The Hartford Convention had barely adjourned before Jackson electrified the nation with his victory at New Orleans. “Rising Glory of the American Republic,” one newspaper exulted. In speeches and sermons, political and religious leaders alike proclaimed that Jackson’s triumph revealed, once again, that a divine hand oversaw America’s destiny. The Federalists could not free themselves from the charge of lacking patriotism. Within a few years, their party no longer existed. Its stance on the war was only one cause of the party’s demise. The urban com- mercial and financial interests it championed represented a small minority in an expanding agricultural nation. Their elitism and distrust of popular self- government placed Federalists more and more at odds with the new nation’s democratic ethos. Yet in their dying moments Federalists had raised an issue— southern domination of the national government— that would long outlive their political party. And the country stood on the verge of a profound economic and social transformation that strengthened the very forces of commercial devel- opment that Federalists had welcomed and many Republicans feared.

C H A P T E R R E V I E W

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. Identify the major parts of Hamilton’s financial plan, who supported these proposals, and why they created such passionate opposition.

2. How did the French Revolution and ensuing global struggle between Great Britain and France shape early American politics?

3. How did the United States become involved in foreign affairs in this period?

4. How did the expansion of the public sphere and a new language of rights offer opportuni- ties to women?

What were the causes and significant results of the War of 1812?

CHAPTER REVIEW ★ 323

 

 

324 ★ CHAPTER 8 Securing the Republic

5. What caused the demise of the Federalists?

6. What impact did the Haitian Revolution have on the United States?

7. How did the Louisiana Purchase affect the situation of Native Americans in that region?

8. Whose status was changed the most by the War of 1812—that of Great Britain, the United States, or Native Americans?

KEY TERMS

Bank of the United States (p. 290)

impressment (p. 293)

Jay’s Treaty (p. 293)

Federalists and Republicans (p. 294)

Whiskey Rebellion (p. 295)

Democratic- Republican societies (p. 297)

Judith Sargent Murray (p. 300)

XYZ affair (p. 302)

Alien and Sedition Acts (p. 303)

Virginia and Kentucky resolutions (p. 303)

Revolution of 1800 (p. 306)

Haitian Revolution (p. 307)

Gabriel’s Rebellion (p. 308)

Marbury v. Madison (p. 309)

Louisiana Purchase (p. 310)

Lewis and Clark expedition (p. 311)

Barbary Wars (p. 313)

Embargo Act (p. 315)

Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (p. 317)

War of 1812 (p. 318)

Fort McHenry (p. 319)

Battle of New Orleans (p. 321)

Hartford Convention (p. 323)

Go to QIJK To see what you know— and learn what you’ve missed— with personalized feedback along the way.

Visit the Give Me Liberty! Student Site for primary source documents and images, interactive maps, author videos featuring Eric Foner, and more.

 

 

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T H E M A R K E T R E V O L U T I O N

★ C H A P T E R   9 ★

F O C U S Q U E S T I O N S What were the main elements of the market revolution?

How did the market revolution spark social change?

How did the meanings of American freedom change in this period?

How did the market revolution af fect the lives of workers, women, and African- Americans?

In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette visited the United States. Nearly fifty years had passed since, as a youth of twenty, the French nobleman fought at Washington’s side in the War of Independence. Now, his thirteen- month tour became a triumphant Jubilee of Liberty. Since 1784, when he had last journeyed to the United States, the nation’s population had tripled to nearly 12 million, its land area had more than doubled, and its political institutions had thrived. Lafayette’s tour demonstrated how profoundly the nation had changed. The thirteen states of 1784 had grown to twenty- four, and he visited every one— a journey that would have been almost impossible forty years earlier. Lafayette traveled up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers by steamboat, a recent invention that was helping to bring economic development to the

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trans- Appalachian West, and crossed upstate New York via the Erie Canal, the world’s longest man- made waterway, which linked the region around the Great Lakes with the Atlantic coast via the Hudson River.

Americans in the first half of the nineteenth century were fond of describ- ing liberty as the defining quality of their new nation, the unique genius of its institutions. The poet Walt Whitman wrote of his countrymen’s “deathless attachment to freedom.” Likenesses of the goddess of liberty, a familiar figure in eighteenth- century British visual imagery, became even more common in the United States, appearing in paintings and sculpture and on folk art from weather vanes to quilts and tavern signs. Never, declared President Andrew Jackson in his farewell address in 1837, had any population “enjoyed so much freedom and happiness as the people of these United States.” The celebration of freedom could be found in sermons, newspaper editorials, and political pronouncements in every region of the country. In Democracy in America, the French historian and politician Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of the “holy cult of freedom” he encountered on his own visit to the United States during the early 1830s.

Even as Lafayette, Tocqueville, and numerous other visitors from abroad toured the United States, however, Americans’ understandings of freedom were changing. Three historical processes unleashed by the Revolution accel- erated after the War of 1812: the spread of market relations, the westward movement of the population, and the rise of a vigorous political democracy. (The first two will be discussed in this chapter, the third in Chapter 10.) All powerfully affected the development of American society. They also helped to reshape the idea of freedom, identifying it ever more closely with economic opportunity, physical mobility, and participation in a vibrantly democratic political system.

But American freedom also continued to be shaped by the presence of slav- ery. Lafayette, who had purchased a plantation in the West Indies and freed its slaves, once wrote, “I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slav- ery.” Yet slavery was moving westward with the young republic. The same steamboats and canals that enabled millions of farm families to send their goods to market also facilitated the growth of slave- based cotton plantations in the South. And slavery drew a strict racial boundary around American democ- racy, making voting, officeholding, and participation in the public sphere privileges for whites alone. In several southern cities, public notices warned “persons of color” to stay away from the ceremonies honoring Lafayette. Half a century after the winning of independence, the coexistence of liberty and slav- ery, and their simultaneous expansion, remained the central contradiction of American life.

 

 

A NEW ECONOMY ★ 327

A N E W E C O N O M Y In the first half of the nineteenth century, an economic transformation known to his- torians as the market revolution swept over the United States. Its catalyst was a series of innovations in transportation and commu- nication. American technology had hardly changed during the colonial era. No import- ant alterations were made in sailing ships, no major canals were built, and manufacturing continued to be done by hand, with skills passed on from artisan to journeyman and apprentice. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, most roads were little more than rutted paths through the woods. Transport- ing goods thirty miles inland by road cost as much as shipping the same cargo from England. In 1800, it took fifty days to move goods from Cincinnati to New York City, via a flatboat ride down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and then a journey by sail along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

To be sure, the market revolution rep- resented an acceleration of developments already under way in the colonial era. As noted in previous chapters, southern plant- ers were marketing the products of slave labor in the international market as early as the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth, many colonists had been drawn into Britain’s commercial empire. Consumer goods like sugar and tea, and market- oriented tactics like the boycott of British goods, had been central to the political battles leading up to independence.

Nonetheless, as Americans moved across the Appalachian Mountains, and into interior regions of the states along the Atlantic coast, they found them- selves more and more isolated from markets. In 1800, American farm families produced at home most of what they needed, from clothing to farm imple- ments. What they could not make themselves, they obtained by bartering with their neighbors or purchasing from local stores and from rural craftsmen like

1793 Eli Whitney’s cotton gin

1790 s– Second Great Awakening 1830s

1806 Congress approves funds for the National Road

1807 Robert Fulton’s steamboat

1814 Waltham textile factory

1819 Dartmouth College v. Woodward

Adams- Onís Treaty with Spain

1825 Erie Canal opens

1829 Lydia Maria Child’s The Frugal Housewife

1831 Cyrus McCormick’s reaper

1837 John Deere’s steel plow

Depression begins

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The American Scholar”

1844 Telegraph put into commercial operation

1845 John O’Sullivan coins phrase “manifest destiny”

1845– Ireland’s Great Famine 1851

1854 Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

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328 ★ CHAPTER 9 The Market Revolution

blacksmiths and shoemakers. Those farmers not located near cities or naviga- ble waterways found it almost impossible to market their produce.

The early life of Abraham Lincoln was typical of those who grew up in the pre- market world. Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809 and seven years later moved with his family to Indiana, where he lived until 1831. His father occasion- ally took pork down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to market in New Orleans, and Lincoln himself at age nineteen traveled by flatboat to that city to sell the goods of a local merchant. But essentially, the Lincoln family was self- sufficient. They hunted game for much of their food and sewed most of their clothing at home. They relied little on cash; Lincoln’s father sometimes sent young Abraham to work for neighbors as a way of settling debts. As an adult, however, Lincoln embraced the market revolution. In the Illinois legislature in the 1830s, he eagerly promoted the improvement of rivers to facilitate access to markets. As a lawyer, he eventually came to represent the Illinois Central Railroad, which opened large areas of Illinois to commercial farming.

Roads and Steamboats

In the first half of the nineteenth century, in rapid succession, the steamboat, canal, railroad, and telegraph wrenched America out of its economic past. These innovations opened new land to settlement, lowered transportation costs, and made it far easier for economic enterprises to sell their products. They linked farmers to national and world markets and made them major consumers of manufactured goods. Americans, wrote Tocqueville, had “annihilated space and time.”

The first advance in overland transportation came through the construc- tion of toll roads, or “turnpikes,” by localities, states, and private companies. Between 1800 and 1830, the New England and Middle Atlantic states alone chartered more than 900 companies to build new roads. In 1806, Congress authorized the construction of the paved National Road from Cumberland, Maryland, to the Old Northwest. It reached Wheeling, on the Ohio River, in 1818 and by 1838 extended to Illinois, where it ended.

Because maintenance costs were higher than expected and many towns built “shunpikes”—short detours that enabled residents to avoid tollgates— most private toll roads never turned a profit. Even on the new roads, horse- drawn wagons remained an inefficient mode of getting goods to market, except over short distances. It was improved water transportation that most dramati- cally increased the speed and lowered the expense of commerce.

Robert Fulton, a Pennsylvania- born artist and engineer, had experimented with steamboat designs while living in France during the 1790s. He even launched a steamboat on the Seine River in Paris in 1803. But not until 1807,

 

 

A NEW ECONOMY ★ 329

A watercolor from 1829 by John William Hill depicts the Erie Canal five years after it opened. Boats carrying passengers and goods traverse the waterway, along whose banks farms and villages have sprung up.

when Fulton’s ship the Clermont navigated the Hudson River from New York City to Albany, was the steamboat’s technological and commercial feasibil- ity demonstrated. The invention made possible upstream commerce (that is, travel against the current) on the country’s major rivers as well as rapid trans- port across the Great Lakes and, eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. By 1811, the first steamboat had been introduced on the Mississippi River; twenty years later some 200 plied its waters.

The Erie Canal

The completion in 1825 of the 363-mile Erie Canal across upstate New York (a remarkable feat of engineering at a time when America’s next-largest canal was only twenty- eight miles long) allowed goods to flow between the Great Lakes and New York City. Almost instantaneously, the canal attracted an influx of farmers migrating from New England, giving birth to cities like Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse along its path. Its water, wrote the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne after a trip on the canal, served as a miraculous “fertilizer,” for “it

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The improvement of existing roads and building of new roads and canals sharply reduced transportation times and costs and stimulated the growth of the market economy.

causes towns with their masses of brick and stone, their churches and theaters, their business . . . to spring up.”

New York governor DeWitt Clinton, who oversaw the construction of the state- financed canal, predicted that it would make New York City “the granary of the world, the emporium of commerce, the seat of manufactures, the focus of great moneyed operations.” And, indeed, the canal gave New York City primacy over competing ports in access to trade with the Old Northwest. In its financ- ing by the state government, the Erie Canal typified the developing transporta- tion infrastructure. With the federal government generally under the control of political leaders hostile to federal funding for internal improvements, the

 

 

A NEW ECONOMY ★ 331

burden fell on the states. Between 1787 and 1860, the federal government spent about $60 million building roads and canals and improving harbors; the states spent nearly ten times that sum.

The completion of the Erie Canal set off a scramble among other states to match New York’s success. Several borrowed so much money to finance elaborate programs of canal construction that they went bankrupt during the economic depression that began in 1837. By then, however, more than 3,000 miles of canals had been built, creating a network linking the Atlantic states with the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys and drastically reducing the cost of transportation.

Railroads and the Telegraph

Canals connected existing waterways. The railroad opened vast new areas of the American interior to settlement, while stimulating the mining of coal for fuel and the manufacture of iron for locomotives and rails. Work on the Baltimore and Ohio, the nation’s first commercial railroad, began in 1828. Five years later, the South Carolina Canal and Railroad, which stretched from Charleston across the state to Hamburg, became the first long- distance line to begin operation. By 1860, the railroad network had grown to 30,000 miles, more than the total in the rest of the world combined.

At the same time, the telegraph made possible instantaneous communi- cation throughout the nation. The device was invented during the 1830s by Samuel F. B. Morse, an artist and amateur scientist living in New York City, and was put into commercial operation in 1844. Using Morse code, messages could be sent over electric wires, with each letter and number represented by its own pattern of electrical pulses. Within sixteen years, some 50,000 miles of tele- graph wire had been strung. Initially, the telegraph was a service for businesses, and especially newspapers, rather than individuals. It helped speed the flow of information and brought uniformity to prices throughout the country.

The Rise of the West

Improvements in transportation and communication made possible the rise of the West as a powerful, self- conscious region of the new nation. Between 1790 and 1840, some 4.5 million people crossed the Appalachian Mountains— more than the entire U.S. population at the time of Washington’s first inaugura- tion. Most of this migration took place after the War of 1812, which unleashed a flood of land- hungry settlers moving from eastern states. In the six years fol- lowing the end of the war in 1815, six new states entered the Union (Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Maine— the last an eastern fron- tier for New England).

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Few Americans moved west as lone pioneers. More frequently, people trav- eled in groups and, once they arrived in the West, cooperated with each other to clear land, build houses and barns, and establish communities. One stream of migration, including both small farmers and planters with their slaves, flowed out of the South to create the new Cotton Kingdom of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Many farm families from the Upper South crossed into southern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. A third population stream moved from New England across New York to the Upper Northwest— northern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and Michigan and Wisconsin.

Some western migrants became “squatters,” setting up farms on unoccu- pied land without a clear legal title. Those who purchased land acquired it either from the federal government, at the price, after 1820, of $1.25 per acre payable in cash, or from land speculators on long- term credit. By 1840, settle- ment had reached the Mississippi River and two large new regions— the Old Northwest and Old Southwest— had entered the Union. The West became the home of regional cultures very much like those the migrants had left behind. Upstate New York and the Upper Northwest resembled New England, with its small towns, churches, and schools, while the Lower South replicated the plantation- based society of the southern Atlantic states.

An 1884 watercolor, Locomotive DeWitt Clinton, recalls the early days of rail travel, and also depicts modes of transportation on canal and river. The train is driven by a steam- powered locomotive and the cars strongly resemble horse- drawn stagecoaches.

 

 

A NEW ECONOMY ★ 333

As population moved west, the nation’s borders expanded. National bound- aries made little difference to territorial expansion— in Florida, and later in Texas and Oregon, American settlers rushed in to claim land under the jurisdic- tion of foreign countries (Spain, Mexico, and Britain) or Indian tribes, confident that American sovereignty would soon follow in their wake. Nor did the desire of local inhabitants to remain outside the American republic deter the nation’s expansion. Florida, for example, fell into American hands despite the resis- tance of local Indians and Spain’s rejection of American offers to buy the area. In 1810, American residents of West Florida rebelled and seized Baton Rouge, and the United States soon annexed the area. The drive for the acquisition of East Florida was spurred by Georgia and Alabama planters who wished to elim- inate a refuge for fugitive slaves and hostile Seminole Indians. Andrew Jackson led troops into the area in 1818. While on foreign soil, he created an interna- tional crisis by executing two British traders and a number of Indian chiefs. Although Jackson withdrew, Spain, aware that it could not defend the territory, sold it to the United States in the Adams- Onís Treaty of 1819 negotiated by John Quincy Adams.

Successive censuses told the remarkable story of western growth. In 1840, by which time the government had sold to settlers and land companies nearly 43 million acres of land, 7 million Americans— two- fifths of the total population— lived beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Between 1810 and 1830, Ohio’s population grew from 231,000 to more than 900,000. It reached nearly 2 million in 1850, when it ranked third among all the states. The careers of the era’s leading public figures reflected the westward movement. Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and many other statesmen had been born in states along the Atlantic coast but made their mark in politics after moving west.

An Internal Borderland

Before the War of 1812, the Old Northwest was a prime example of a border- land, a meeting- ground of Native Americans and various people of English, French, and American descent, where cultural boundaries remained unstable and political authority uncertain. The American victory over the British and Indians erased any doubt over who would control the region. But a new, inter- nal borderland region quickly developed.

Because the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery in the Old Northwest, the Ohio River came to mark a boundary between free and slave societies. But for many years it was easier for people and goods to travel between the slave state Kentucky and the southern counties of Ohio, Indiana, and Illi- nois than to the northern parts of those states. The region stretching northward from the Ohio River retained much of the cultural flavor of the Upper South. Its food, speech, settlement patterns, family ties, and economic relations had

What were the main elements of the market revolution?

 

 

334 ★ CHAPTER 9 The Market Revolution

more in common with Kentucky and Tennessee than with the northern coun- ties of their own states, soon to be settled by New Englanders. Until the 1850s, farmers in the southern counties of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were far more likely to ship their produce southward via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers than northward or to the East. The large concentration of people of southern ances- try would make Indiana and Illinois key political battlegrounds as the slavery controversy developed.

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In the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the westward movement of the population brought settlement to and across the Mississippi River. Before canals— and later, railroads— opened previously landlocked areas to commercial farming, settlement was concentrated near rivers.

 

 

A NEW ECONOMY ★ 335

The Cotton Kingdom

Although the market revolution and westward expansion occurred simul- taneously in the North and the South, their combined effects heightened the nation’s sectional divisions. In some ways, the most dynamic feature of the American economy in the first thirty years of the nineteenth century was the rise of the Cotton Kingdom. The early industrial revolution, which began in England and soon spread to parts of the North, centered on facto- ries producing cotton textiles with water- powered spinning and weaving machinery. These factories generated an immense demand for cotton, a crop the Deep South was particularly suited to growing because of its climate and soil fertility. Until 1793, the marketing of cotton had been slowed by the labori- ous task of removing seeds from the plant itself. But in that year, Eli Whitney, a Yale graduate working in Georgia as a private tutor, invented the cotton gin. A fairly simple device consisting of rollers and brushes, the gin quickly separated the seed from the cotton. It made possible the growing and selling of cotton on a large scale.

Coupled with rising demand for cotton and the opening of new lands in the West to settlement, Whitney’s invention revolutionized American slav- ery. An institution that many Americans had expected to die out because its major crop, tobacco, exhausted the soil, now embarked on a period of unprec- edented expansion. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, cotton plan- tations spread into the South Carolina upcountry (the region inland from the Atlantic coast previously dominated by small farms), a major reason why the state reopened the African slave trade between 1803 and 1808. After the War of 1812, the federal government moved to consolidate American control over the Deep South, forcing defeated Indians to cede land, encouraging white settle- ment, and acquiring Florida. With American sovereignty came the expansion of slavery. Settlers from the older southern states flooded into the region. Plant- ers monopolized the most fertile land, while poorer farmers were generally confined to less productive and less accessible areas in the “hill country” and piney woods. After Congress prohibited the Atlantic slave trade in 1808—the earliest date allowed by the Constitution— a massive trade in slaves developed within the United States, supplying the labor force required by the new Cotton Kingdom.

Table 9.1 Population Growth of Selected Western States, 1800–1850 (Excluding Indians)

State 1810 1830 1850

Alabama 9,000 310,000 772,000

Illinois 12,000 157,000 851,000

Indiana 25,000 343,000 988,000

Louisiana 77,000 216,000 518,000

Mississippi 31,000 137,000 607,000

Missouri 20,000 140,000 682,000

Ohio 231,000 938,000 1,980,000

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The Unfree Westward Movement

Historians estimate that around 1 million slaves were shifted from the older slave states to the Deep South between 1800 and 1860. Some traveled with their owners to newly established plantations, but the majority were trans- ported by slave traders to be sold at auction for work in the cotton fields. Slave trading became a well- organized business, with firms gathering slaves in Mary- land, Virginia, and South Carolina and shipping them to markets in Mobile, Natchez, and New Orleans. Slave coffles— groups chained to one another on forced marches to the Deep South— became a common sight. A British visitor

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Cotton Production 1840

Maps of cotton production graphically illustrate the rise of the Cotton Kingdom stretching from South Carolina to Louisiana.

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to the United States in the 1840s encountered what he called a “disgusting and hideous spectacle,” a file of “about two hundred slaves, manacled and chained together,” being marched from Virginia to Louisiana. A source of greater free- dom for many whites, the westward movement meant to African- Americans the destruction of family ties, the breakup of long- standing communities, and receding opportunities for liberty.

In 1793, when Whitney designed his invention, the United States produced 5 million pounds of cotton. By 1820, the crop had grown to nearly 170 million pounds. As the southern economy expanded westward, it was cotton produced on slave plantations that became the linchpin of southern development and by far the most important export of the empire of liberty.

M A R K E T S O C I E T Y Since cotton was produced solely for sale in national and international mar- kets, the South was in some ways the most commercially oriented region of the United States. Yet rather than spurring economic change, the South’s expansion westward simply reproduced the agrarian, slave- based social order of the older states. The region remained overwhelmingly rural. In 1860, roughly 80 percent of southerners worked the land— the same proportion as in 1800. The South’s transportation and banking systems remained adjuncts of the plantation econ- omy, geared largely to transporting cotton and other staple crops to market and financing the purchase of land and slaves.

Commercial Farmers

In the North, however, the market revolution and westward expansion set in motion changes that transformed the region into an integrated economy of commercial farms and manufacturing cities. As in the case of Lincoln’s family, the initial pioneer stage of settlement reinforced the farmer’s self- sufficiency, for the tasks of felling trees, building cabins, breaking the soil, and feeding the family left little time for agriculture geared to the market. But as the Old Northwest became a more settled society, bound by a web of transportation and credit to eastern cen- ters of commerce and banking, farmers found themselves drawn into the new market economy. They increasingly concentrated on growing crops and raising livestock for sale, while purchasing at stores goods previously produced at home.

Western farmers found in the growing cities of the East a market for their produce and a source of credit. Loans originating with eastern banks and insur- ance companies financed the acquisition of land and supplies and, in the 1840s and 1850s, the purchase of fertilizer and new agricultural machinery to expand production. The steel plow, invented by John Deere in 1837 and mass- produced

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by the 1850s, made possible the rapid subduing of the western prairies. The reaper, a horse- drawn machine that greatly increased the amount of wheat a farmer could harvest, was invented by Cyrus McCormick in 1831 and produced in large quantities soon afterward. Tens of thousands were in use on the eve of the Civil War. Between 1840 and 1860, America’s output of wheat nearly tripled. Unlike cotton, however, the bulk of the crop was consumed within the coun- try. Eastern farmers, unable to grow wheat and corn as cheaply as their western counterparts, increasingly concentrated on producing dairy products, fruits, and vegetables for nearby urban centers.

The Growth of Cities

From the beginning, cities formed part of the western frontier. Western cit- ies like Cincinnati and St. Louis that stood at the crossroads of inter- regional trade experienced extraordinary growth. Cincinnati was known as Porkopolis, after its slaughterhouses, where hundreds of thousands of pigs were butch- ered each year and the meat was shipped to eastern consumers. The greatest of all the western cities was Chicago. In the early 1830s, it was a tiny settlement on the shore of Lake Michigan. By 1860, thanks to the railroad, Chicago had become the nation’s fourth-largest city, where farm products from throughout the Northwest were gathered to be sent east.

Like rural areas, urban centers witnessed dramatic changes due to the market revolution. The number of cities with populations exceeding 5,000 rose from 12 in 1820 to nearly 150 three decades later, by which time the urban population numbered more than 6 million. Urban merchants, bankers, and master craftsmen took advantage of the economic opportunities created by the expanding market among commercial farmers. The drive among these businessmen to increase pro- duction and reduce labor costs fundamentally altered the nature of work. Tradi- tionally, skilled artisans had manufactured goods at home, where they controlled the pace and intensity of their own labor. Now, entrepreneurs gathered artisans into large workshops in order to oversee their work and subdivide their tasks. Craftsmen who traditionally produced an entire pair of shoes or piece of furni- ture saw the labor process broken down into numerous steps requiring far less skill and training. They found themselves subjected to constant supervision by their employers and relentless pressure for greater output and lower wages.

The Factory System

In some industries, most notably textiles, the factory superseded traditional craft production altogether. Factories gathered large groups of workers under central supervision and replaced hand tools with power- driven machinery. Samuel Slater, an immigrant from England, established America’s first factory

 

 

MARKET SOCIETY ★ 339

in 1790 at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Since British law made it illegal to export the plans for industrial machinery, Slater, a skilled mechanic, built from mem- ory a power- driven spinning jenny, one of the key inventions of the early indus- trial revolution.

Spinning factories such as Slater’s produced yarn, which was then sent to traditional hand- loom weavers and farm families to be woven into cloth. This “outwork” system, in which rural men and women earned money by taking in jobs from factories, typified early industrialization. Before shoe production was fully mechanized, for example, various parts of the shoe were produced

New Orleans

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340 ★ CHAPTER 9 The Market Revolution

in factories, then stitched together in nearby homes, and then returned to the factories for finishing. Eventually, however, the entire manufacturing process in textiles, shoes, and many other products was brought under a single factory roof.

The cutoff of British imports because of the Embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812 stimulated the establishment of the first large- scale American factory utilizing power looms for weaving cotton cloth. This was constructed in 1814 at Waltham, Massachusetts, by a group of merchants who came to be called the Boston Associates. In the 1820s, they expanded their enterprise by creating an entirely new factory town (incorporated as the city of Lowell in 1836) on the Mer- rimack River, twenty- seven miles from Boston. Here they built a group of modern textile factories that brought together all phases of production from the spinning of thread to the weaving and finishing of cloth. By 1850, Lowell’s fifty- two mills employed more than 10,000 workers. Across New England, small industrial cities

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The early industrial revolution was concentrated in New England, where factories producing textiles from raw cotton sprang up along the region’s many rivers, taking advantage of water power to drive their machinery.

 

 

MARKET SOCIETY ★ 341

sprang up patterned on Waltham and Lowell. Massachusetts soon became the second most industrialized region of the world, after Great Britain.

The earliest factories, including those at Pawtucket, Waltham, and Lowell, were located along the “fall line,” where waterfalls and river rapids could be harnessed to provide power for spinning and weaving machinery. By the 1840s, steam power made it possible for factory owners to locate in towns like New Bedford nearer to the coast, and in large cities like Philadelphia and Chicago with their immense local markets. In 1850, manufacturers produced in facto- ries not only textiles but also a wide variety of other goods, including tools, firearms, shoes, clocks, ironware, and agricultural machinery. What came to be called the American system of manufactures relied on the mass produc- tion of interchangeable parts that could be rapidly assembled into standard- ized finished products. This technique was first perfected in the manufacture of clocks by Eli Terry, a Connecticut craftsman, and in small- arms production by Eli Whitney, who had previously invented the cotton gin. More impressive, in a way, than factory production was the wide dispersion of mechanical skills throughout northern society. Every town, it seemed, had its sawmill, paper mill, iron works, shoemaker, hatmaker, tailor, and a host of other such small enterprises.

The early industrial revolution was largely confined to New England and a few cities outside it. Lacking a strong internal market, and with its slavehold- ing class generally opposed to industrial development, the South lagged in fac- tory production. And outside New England, most northern manufacturing was still done in small- scale establishments employing a handful of workers, not in factories. In Cincinnati, for example, most workers in 1850 still labored in small unmechanized workshops.

The Industrial Worker

The market revolution helped to change Americans’ conception of time itself. Farm life continued to be regulated by the rhythms of the seasons. But in cities, clocks became part of daily life, and work time and leisure time came to be clearly marked off from one another. In artisan workshops of the colonial and early national eras, bouts of intense work alternated with periods of leisure. Artisans would set down their tools to enjoy a drink at a tavern or attend a political discussion. As the market revolution accelerated, work in factories, workshops, and even for servants in Americans’ homes took place for a speci- fied number of hours per day. In colonial America, an artisan’s pay was known as his “price,” since it was linked to the goods he produced. In the nineteenth century, pay increasingly became a “wage,” paid according to an hourly or daily rate. The increasing reliance on railroads, which operated according to

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342 ★ CHAPTER 9 The Market Revolution

fixed schedules, also made Americans more conscious of arranging their lives according to “clock time.”

Closely supervised work tending a machine for a period determined by a clock seemed to violate the independence Americans considered an essential element of freedom. Consequently, few native- born men could be attracted to work in the early factories. Employers turned instead to those who lacked other ways of earning a living.

The “Mill Girls”

Although some factories employed entire families, the early New England textile mills relied largely on female and child labor. At Lowell, the most famous center of early textile manufacturing, young unmarried women from Yankee farm families dominated the workforce that tended the spinning machines. To persuade parents to allow their daughters to leave home to work in the mills, Lowell owners set up boarding houses with strict rules regulating personal behavior. They also established lecture halls and churches to occupy the wom- en’s free time.

The constant supervision of the workers’ private lives seems impossibly restrictive from a modern point of view. But this was the first time in history that large numbers of women left their homes to participate in the public world. Most valued the opportunity to earn money independently at a time when few other jobs were open to women. Home life, Lucy Larcom later recalled, was narrow and confining, while living and working at Lowell gave the mill girls a “larger, firmer idea of womanhood,” teaching them “to go out of themselves and enter into the lives of others. . . . It was like a young man’s pleasure in entering upon business for himself.” But women like Larcom did not become a permanent class of factory workers. They typically remained in the factories for only a few years, after which they left to return home, marry, or move west. Larcom herself migrated to Illinois, where she became a teacher and writer. The shortage of industrial labor continued, easing only when large- scale immigration began in the 1840s and 1850s.

The Growth of Immigration

Economic expansion fueled a demand for labor, which was met, in part, by increased immigration from abroad. Between 1790 and 1830, immigrants con- tributed only marginally to American population growth. But between 1840 and 1860, over 4 million people (more than the entire population of 1790) entered the United States, the majority from Ireland and Germany. About 90 percent headed for the northern states, where job opportunities were most abundant and the new arrivals would not have to compete with slave labor.

 

 

MARKET SOCIETY ★ 343

Immigrants were virtually unknown in the slave states, except in cities on the periphery of the South, such as New Orleans, St. Louis, and Baltimore. In the North, however, they became a visible presence in both urban and rural areas. In 1860, the 814,000 resi- dents of New York City, the major port of entry, included more than 384,000 immigrants, and one- third of the popu- lation of Wisconsin was foreign- born.

Numerous factors inspired this massive flow of population across the Atlantic. In Europe, the moderniza- tion of agriculture and the industrial revolution disrupted centuries- old patterns of life, pushing peasants off the land and eliminating the jobs of traditional craft workers. The introduc- tion of the oceangoing steamship and the railroad made long- distance travel more practical. The Cunard Line began regular sailings with inexpensive fares from Britain to Boston and New York City in the 1840s. Beginning around 1840, emigration from Europe accelerated, not only to the United States but to Can- ada and Australia as well. Frequently, a male family member emigrated first; he would later send back money for the rest of the family to follow.

Irish and German Newcomers

To everyone discontented in Europe, commented the New York Times, “thoughts come of the New Free World.” America’s political and religious freedoms attracted Europeans who chafed under the continent’s repressive governments and rigid social hierarchies, including political refugees from the failed revolu- tions of 1848. “In America,” wrote a German newcomer, “there aren’t any mas- ters, here everyone is a free agent.”

The largest number of immigrants, however, were refugees from disaster— Irish men and women fleeing the Great Famine of 1845–1851, when a blight destroyed the potato crop on which the island’s diet rested. An estimated 1 million persons starved to death and another million emigrated in those years, most of them to the United States. Lacking industrial skills and capital, these impoverished agricultural laborers and small farmers ended up filling the low- wage unskilled jobs native- born Americans sought to avoid. Male Irish immigrants built America’s railroads, dug canals, and worked as com- mon laborers, servants, longshoremen, and factory operatives. Irish women

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England 14% (51,800)

Germany 21% (77,700)

Ireland 44% (162,800)

Other 21% (77,700)

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frequently went to work as servants in the homes of native- born Americans, although some preferred factory work to domestic service. “It’s the freedom that we want when the day’s work is done,” one Irish woman explained. “Our day is ten hours long, but when it’s done it’s done”; however, servants were on call at any time. By the end of the 1850s, the Lowell textile mills had largely replaced Yankee farm women with immigrant Irish families. Four- fifths of Irish immigrants remained in the Northeast. In Boston, New York, and smaller industrial cities, they congregated in overcrowded urban ghettos notorious for poverty, crime, and disease.

The second- largest group of immigrants, Germans, included a considerably larger number of skilled craftsmen than the Irish. Germans also settled in tightly knit neighborhoods in eastern cities, but many were able to move to the West, where they established themselves as craftsmen, shopkeepers, and farmers. The “German triangle,” as the cities of Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Milwaukee were sometimes called, attracted large German populations. A vibrant German- language culture, with its own schools, newspapers, associations, and churches, developed wherever large numbers of Germans settled. “As one passes along

Although our image of the West emphasizes the lone pioneer, many migrants settled in tightly knit communities and worked cooperatively. This painting by Olof Krans, who came to the United States from Sweden with his family in 1850 at the age of twelve, shows a group of women preparing to plant corn at the immigrant settlement of Bishop Hill, Illinois.

 

 

MARKET SOCIETY ★ 345

the Bowery,” one observer noted of a part of New York City known as Klein- deutschland (Little Germany), “almost everything is German.”

Some 40,000 Scandinavians also emigrated to the United States in these years, most of whom settled on farms in the Old Northwest. The continuing expansion of industry and the failure of the Chartist movement of the 1840s, which sought to democratize the system of government in Britain, also inspired many English workers to emigrate to the United States.

The Rise of Nativism

Immigrants from England (whose ranks included the actor Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth) were easily absorbed, but those from Ire- land encountered intense hostility. As Roman Catholics, they faced discrimi- nation in a largely Protestant society in which the tradition of “ anti- popery” still ran deep. The Irish influx greatly enhanced the visibility and power of the Catholic Church, previously a minor presence in most parts of the country. During the 1840s and 1850s, Archbishop John Hughes of New York City made the church a more assertive institution. Hughes condemned the use of the Prot- estant King James Bible in New York City’s public schools, pressed Catholic parents to send their children to an expanding network of parochial schools, and sought government funding to pay for them. He aggressively sought to win converts from Protestantism.

Many Protestants found such activities alarming. Catholicism, they feared, threatened American institutions and American freedom. In 1834, Lyman Beecher, a prominent Presbyterian minister (and father of the religious leader Henry Ward Beecher and the writers Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catharine Beecher), delivered a sermon in Boston, soon published as “A Plea for the West.” Beecher warned that Catholics were seeking to dominate the American West, where the future of Christianity in the world would be worked out. His sermon inspired a mob to burn a Catholic convent in the city.

The idea of the United States as a refuge for those seeking economic opportu- nity or as an escape from oppression has always coexisted with suspicion of and hostility to foreign newcomers. American history has witnessed periods of intense anxiety over immigration. The Alien Act of 1798 reflected fear of immigrants with radical political views. During the early twentieth century, as will be discussed below, there was widespread hostility to the “new immigration” from southern and eastern Europe. In the early twenty- first century, the question of how many persons should be allowed to enter the United States, and under what circum- stances, remains a volatile political issue.

The Irish influx of the 1840s and 1850s thoroughly alarmed many native- born Americans. Those who feared the impact of immigration on American political and social life were called “nativists.” They blamed immigrants for

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urban crime, political corruption, and a fondness for intoxicating liquor, and they accused them of undercutting native- born skilled laborers by working for starvation wages. The Irish were quickly brought into the urban political machines of the Democratic Party, whose local bosses provided jobs and poor relief to struggling newcomers. Nativists contended that the Irish, supposedly unfamiliar with American conceptions of liberty and subservient to the Catho- lic Church, posed a threat to democratic institutions, social reform, and public education. Stereotypes similar to those directed at blacks flourished regarding the Irish as well— childlike, lazy, and slaves of their passions, they were said to be unsuited for republican freedom.

Nativism would not become a national political movement until the 1850s, as we will see in Chapter 13. But in the 1840s, New York City and Phil- adelphia witnessed violent anti- immigrant riots. Appealing mainly to skilled native- born workers who feared that immigrants were taking their jobs and undercutting their wages, a nativist candidate was elected New York City’s mayor in 1844.

The Transformation of Law

American law increasingly supported the efforts of entrepreneurs to partici- pate in the market revolution, while shielding them from interference by local governments and liability for some of the less desirable results of economic growth. The corporate form of business organization became central to the new market economy. A corporate firm enjoys special privileges and powers granted in a charter from the government, among them that investors and directors are not personally liable for the company’s debts. Unlike companies owned by an individual, family, or limited partnership, in other words, a cor- poration can fail without ruining its directors and stockholders. Corporations were therefore able to raise far more capital than the traditional forms of enter- prise. By the 1830s, many states had replaced the granting of charters through specific acts of legislation with “general incorporation laws,” allowing any company to obtain a corporate charter if it paid a specified fee.

Many Americans distrusted corporate charters as a form of government- granted special privilege. But the courts upheld their validity, while opposing efforts by established firms to limit competition from newcomers. In Dart- mouth College v. Woodward (1819), John Marshall’s Supreme Court defined cor- porate charters issued by state legislatures as contracts, which future lawmakers could not alter or rescind. Five years later, in Gibbons v. Ogden, the Court struck down a monopoly the New York legislature had granted for steamboat naviga- tion. And in 1837, with Roger B. Taney now the chief justice, the Court ruled that the Massachusetts legislature did not infringe the charter of an existing com- pany that had constructed a bridge over the Charles River when it empowered a

 

 

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second company to build a competing bridge. The community, Taney declared, had a legitimate interest in promoting transportation and prosperity.

Local judges, meanwhile, held businessmen blameless for property dam- age done by factory construction (such as the flooding of upstream farmlands and the disruption of fishing when dams were built to harness water power). Numerous court decisions also affirmed employers’ full authority over the workplace and invoked the old common law of conspiracy to punish work- ers who sought to strike for higher wages. Not until 1842, in Commonwealth v. Hunt, did Massachusetts chief justice Lemuel Shaw decree that there was noth- ing inherently illegal in workers organizing a union or a strike.

T H E F R E E I N D I V I D U A L By the 1830s, the market revolution and westward expansion had produced a society that amazed European visitors: energetic, materialistic, and seemingly in constant motion. Arriving in Chicago in 1835, the British writer Harriet Mar- tineau found the streets “crowded with land speculators, hurrying from one sale to another. . . . As the gentlemen of our party walked the streets, store- keepers hailed them from their doors, with offers of farms, and all manner of land- lots, advising them to speculate before the price of land rose higher.” Alexis de Toc- queville was struck by Americans’ restless energy and apparent lack of attach- ment to place. “No sooner do you set foot on American soil,” he observed, “than you find yourself in a sort of tumult. All around you, everything is on the move.” Westward migration and urban development created a large mobile population no longer tied to local communities who sought to seize the oppor- tunities offered by economic change. “In the United States,” wrote Tocqueville, “a man builds a house in which to spend his old age, and sells it before the roof is on; he plants a garden and [rents] it just as the trees are coming into bearing; he brings a field into tillage and leaves other men to gather the crops.”

The West and Freedom

Westward expansion and the market revolution profoundly affected the lives of all Americans. They reinforced some older ideas of freedom and helped to create new ones. American freedom, for example, had long been linked with the availability of land in the West. A New York journalist, John L.