Over 400 years ago our founding fathers made the tough voyage from Great Britain to America. They had little supplies, money, and connections to people in the New World. They came to find peace, gold, religious freedom, and easy living. Instead they found drought, starvation, death, and violence. They were afraid of the native people and thought they were freaks and savages.
Settlers came to the New World for all types of reasons. In the south, men came looking for silver and gold. Instead they found a cash crop in tobacco. Up north in New England the Pilgrims and Puritans wanted to create a “model Christian society (TB 52).” They wanted to limit who could be church members to only visible saints, which is just those who are destined to go to heaven. They wanted to eliminate all gambling, swearing, and sabbath breaking from the church. They also came to America because they believed King Charles I would not support them politically.Order now
The first English colony in the New World was in Virginia. It was named Jamestown after King James I. It was built by the Virginia Company in 1607, after they received a charter from King James I. It was owned by a bunch of wealthy merchants looking to profit from gold and silver deposits in Virginia. The colony got off to a rocky start because the men sent there prioritized finding gold and silver over building proper living spaces and creating farms for food. Plus most of the men were not fit for the task of domesticating the wild. “They were either poor townsmen unfamiliar with farming or “gentlemen” adventurers who despised manual labor (TB 45).” Luckily for them, a man by the name of John Rolfe started to experiment in 1612 with tobacco. Tobacco took off in Virginia and by 1620 they were exporting 50,000 pounds of tobacco to England.
Just above Virginia on the northern shore of the Chesapeake Bay a new colony settled in 1634. It was Maryland, named in honor of Queen Henrieeta Maria. It was the first proprietary colony in the New World. Its 12 million acres were granted to Sir George Calvert, one of the King’s favorites, by King Charles I. Although the actual charter was given to his son Cecilius by King James II because Sir George Calvert died before the charter had been made. The Calverts were Catholic and wanted Maryland to be a safe haven for English Catholics. To avoid some of the problems Virginia faced, they recruited families that actually wanted to live in the colony, built fortified towns with an emphasis on social interaction, and to avoid big differences of wealth they made sure that the government would “do justice to every man (TB 52).” Like Virginia, the crop that got them on their feet financially was tobacco, although they had an easier time since they got to learn from Virginia’s mistakes.
Even farther up north in New England people were starting to settle in the Massachusetts Bay area. In 1629, King Charles I gives a royal charter to the Massachusetts Bay company. It is comprised of a bunch of Puritans led by a strong willed lawyer with intense religious beliefs by the name of John Winthrop. Winthrop was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He wanted Massachusetts Bay Colony to be “a haven for Puritans and a model Christian community.” He was a cunning man so when he and his party left England they took the royal charter with them since it did not require the company to maintain their home office in England, which switched the governing power from London to Massachusetts (TB 55). Winthrop was a harsh leader who believed that the role of the government was to “enforce religious beliefs and ensure social stability (TB 55).” In Winthrop’s paper On Liberty, he talks about two liberties, one is natural and one is civil. Natural liberty is the ability to do bad and good, the freedom to do whatever you want. Civil liberty is all that is good, just, and honest, it is not possible without an authority. Civil liberty submits to the authority and natural liberty does not. He also talks about how people should look at their own flaws before they judge one of their leaders because they make mistakes just like them. Although, if the leader fails in his faithfulness rather than skill, that he has to answer for. Winthrop hated other denominations like Catholics and Quakers and he would jail them or banish them. He used to especially hate the Quakers and would have his men slit their nostrils, sever their ears and brand their foreheads with an H for heretic.
During the time it had taken the English to colonize the east coast, the French had been colonizing Canada and a few areas west of the Appalachians. Soon began a race between the French and English to control the Ohio Valley. The Ohio valley was so important because whoever controlled the area could control the continent by using the acces they gain to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Ultimately the British won and the French were completely kicked out of North America. The effects of the war left an imprint on colonial America. The Proclamation Line of 1763 was drawn to keep relations with the Indians on good terms by keeping the settlers from moving west of the Appalachians. The Navigation Act was passed to help eliminate smuggling by making it so only British or Colonial ships could carry goods. This ensured that all ships went to Britain and all taxes could be properly imposed. The Quartering Act in 1765 said all Americans had to provide room and board for British soldiers. Americans thought this was just a way for the British to assert their dominance. The Stamp Act also in 1765 required colonists to buy stamped paper for everything. All the colonies hated this rule and it was the first internal tax. The Townshend Acts in 1767 increased the costs of colonial imports of paper, tea, paint, and glass. And lastly the Writs of Assistance were passed to combat smuggling by giving royal officers the right to search anything for contraband.
The outraged colonists rebelled against the British military presence in Boston. The Boston Massacre happened on March 5, 1770 when a rowdy crowd of men of all backgrounds started taunting a group of British soldiers. The soldiers withstood the verbal abuse but when the mob started throwing hard objects and yelling ”Fire, Damn you fire” the soldiers fired into the crowd. They ended up killing five people. Boston was engulfed with anger at Britain, so Parliament repealed all the Townshend duties except for the tea tax.
The Boston Massacre led to the Boston Tea Party which was a more bold act of rebellion against Britain. The Boston Tea Party happened on December 6, 1773 when the new British Prime Minister, Lord North, tried to help the East India Company sell about 17 million pounds of tea before it went bad. Lord North disregarded the taxes on importing tea which allowed the East India Company to sell their tea for cheaper then the local merchants. When the local merchants found out, they were mad and told their fellow peers about the whole situation. The people in the colonies felt cheated too, so to get back at Britain a group of men dressed up as Indians, climbed aboard three British ships in the Boston harbor and threw overboard 342 chests filled with 46 tons of tea.
This greatly angered Great Britain which led them to pass a series of harsh acts later known as “The Intolerable Acts of 1774”. These laws are what set Americans on the path to the revolution. The British shut down Boston Harbor until the city paid for all the tea. They reinstated the Quartering Act upon Americans. The Impartial Administration Act stated that any royal officer accused of a major crime in America would be tried in Britain (TB 141). This was especially troublesome because this would make for a bias trial probably resulting in a guilty man going free. The Massachusetts Government Act stated that the royal governor had the right to appoint the colony’s legislative council (TB 141-142). The colonists started forming unofficial legislative assemblies, eventually taking control of local governments. They also started to stockpile weapons in the countryside which just goes to show how they were prepared to go to war with their homeland.
The Intolerable Acts of 1774 led to the Declaration of Independence which was the final step that sent America over the edge into the revolution. The colonists used the Declaration of Independence to solidify their breaking away from Great Britain. They state in it “That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness (pg 11)”. They feel as though Great Britain has repeatedly treated America unfairly and has not let them exercise their “certain unalienable rights”.