American Life in
the
Seventeenth
Century, 16071692
Ch.4, p.66-72,
The Unhealthy Chesapeake
• Life in the American wilderness was harsh.
• Diseases like malaria, dysentery, and
typhoid killed many.
• Few people lived to 40 or 50 years.
• The population of the
Chesapeake colonies
throughout the first half
of the 17th century was
notable for its scarcity of
women. So scarce that
men fought over them. A
6:1 male to female ratio is
a good guide.
• Few people knew any
grandparents, and due to
the high death rate in the
Chesapeake colonies,
families were both few
and fragile.
• A third of all brides in one
Maryland county were
already pregnant before
wedding (scandalous!).
• Virginia, with 59,000
people, became the most
populous colony.
The Tobacco Economy
• The Chesapeake was
very good for tobacco
cultivation.
• Chesapeake Bay
exported 1.5 million
pounds of tobacco
yearly in the 1630s,
and by 1700, that
number had risen to
40 million pounds a
year.
– More availability led to
falling prices, and
farmers still grew more.
– The headright system
encouraged growth of
the Chesapeake. Under
this system, if an
aristocrat sponsored
an indentured
servant’s passage to
America, the aristocrat
earned the right to
purchase 50 acres
land, undoubtedly at a
cheap price. This meant
land was being gobbled
by the rich, and running
out for the poor.
– Early on, most of the laborers
were indentured servants.
• Life for them was hard, but
there was hope at the end
of seven years for
freedom. At least
indentured servants
could reasonably expect
a suit of clothes, a few
barrels of corn, and at
times, a small parcel of
land.
• Conditions were brutal,
and in the later years,
owners unwilling to free
their servants extended
their contracts by years for
small mistakes.
Frustrated Freeman and
Bacon’s Rebellion
• By the late 1600s, there
were lots of free, poor,
landless, young single
men frustrated by the
lack of money, work,
women, and the
inability to acquire
land.
• In 1676, Nathaniel
Bacon led a few
thousand of these
men in a rebellion
against the hostile
conditions.
– These backwoods
farmers wanted land
and were resentful of
Virginia governor
William Berkeley’s
friendly policies toward
the Indians.
– Bacon’s men
murderously attacked
Indian settlements
after Berkeley refused
to retaliate for a series
of savage Indian
attacks on the frontier.
• Then, in the middle of
his rebellion, Bacon
suddenly died of
disease, and Berkeley
went on to crush the
uprising.
• Still, Bacon’s legacy
lived on, giving
frustrated poor folks
ideas to rebel, and so a
bit of paranoia amongst
the wealthy went on for
some time afterwards.
Colonial Slavery
• For those
Africans sold
into slavery,
the “middle
passage”
can best be
described as
the
gruesome
ocean
voyage to
America.
•
In the 300 years following Columbus’ discovery of
America, only about 400,000 of a total of 10 million
African slaves were brought over to the United
States.
•
By 1680, though, many landowners were afraid
of possibly mutinous white servants (ie. Bacon’s
Rebellion) and began to turn to less
troublesome laborers.
In addition to this fear, African slave labor in
colonial America also rapidly increased
because:
– Higher wages in England reduced the
number of emigrating indentured servants.
– The British Royal African company lost its
monopoly on the slave trade in colonial
America, so……..
– Americans subsequently rushed to cash in
on the slave trade.
•
•
As a result, by the mid 1680s, for the first time, black
slaves outnumbered white servants among the
plantation colonies’ new arrivals.
•
After 1700, more and more slaves were imported,
and in 1750, blacks accounted for nearly half of the
Virginian population.
– Most of the slaves were from West Africa, from
places like Senegal and Angola.
• Some of the earliest black
slaves gained their
freedom and some became
slaveholders themselves.
• Eventually, to clear up
issues on slave ownership,
the slave codes made it so
that slaves and their
children would remain
slaves to their masters for
life (chattels), unless they
were voluntarily freed.
– Some laws made
teaching slaves to read
a crime, and not even
conversion to
Christianity might qualify
a slave for freedom.
Page 72-78
•Africans in America
•Southern Society
•The New England Family
Africans in America
• Slave life in the Deep South was very tough, as rice growing
was much harder than tobacco growing.
– Many blacks in America evolved their own languages,
blending their native tongues with English.
– Blacks also contributed to music with instruments
like the banjo and bongo drum, all of which directly
contributed to the evolution of jazz as perhaps the
first truly original American music.
• A few of the slaves became
skilled artisans (i.e.
carpenters, bricklayers and
tanners), but most were
relegated to sweaty work
like clearing swamps and
grubbing out trees.
•
• Revolts did occur.
– In 1712, a slave revolt in New York City cost the lives
of a dozen whites and 21 Blacks were executed.
– In 1739, South Carolina blacks along the Stono River
revolted and tried to march to Spanish Florida, but
failed.
•
Just before the Revolutionary War, 70%
of the leaders of the Virginia legislature
came from families established in
Virginia before 1690.
•
•
Social ScaleGreat Planters-owned gangs of slaves
and vast domains of land; ruled the
region's economy and monopolized
political power.
•
Landowning Small Farmers-largest
social group of the colonial American
South; tilled their own modest plots and
may have owned one or two slaves.
•
Landless Whites-many were former
indentured servants.
•
Black Slaves
•
Urban development in the colonial
South was slow to emerge.
Southern Society
The New England Family
• In contrast with the Chesapeake, the New Englanders tended to migrate in
families as opposed to single individuals, thus the New England family was
very stable institution.
• There were low premarital pregnancy rates, in contrast with the Chesapeake
• Because southern men frequently died young, leaving widows with
small children to support, the southern colonies generally allowed
married women to retain separate title to their property and gave
widows the right to inherit their husband's estates.
• But in New England, Puritan
lawmakers worried that
recognizing women's separate
property rights would undercut
the unity of married persons by
acknowledging conflicting
interests between husband and
wife. When a man died, the
Church inherited the property, not
the wife.
• New England women usually
gave up their property rights
when they married. In contrast to
old England, the laws of New
England made secure provisions
for the property of widows and
even extended important
protections to women with
marriage.
• Above all, the laws of Puritan
New England sought to defend
the integrity of marriages.
Page 78-82
•Life in New England Towns
•The Half-Way Covenant and Salem
Witch Trials
•The New England Way of Life
•Early Settlers Days and Ways
Life in the New England Towns
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
New towns were legally chartered by the
colonial authorities in the following
fashion:
- a land grant was given by the
legislature.
- a meeting house was built (often the
church or town hall, sometimes the same
place)
- Every family received several parcels of
land.
Towns of more than 50 families had to
have an elementary school.
Just 8 years after Massachusetts was
formed, the colony established Harvard
College, in 1636. Virginia established its first
college, William and Mary, in 1693.
Puritans ran their own churches, and
democracy in Congregational Church
government led logically to democracy in
political government.
Massachusetts was at the front of the
colonies attempting to abolish black slavery
The Half-Way Covenant and the
Salem Witch Trials
• About the middle of the 17th century, a
new form of sermon began to be heard
from Puritan pulpits - the “Jeremiad.”
• Troubled ministers in 1662 announced
a new formula for church membership,
the Half-Way Covenant. This new
arrangement modified the covenant,
or the agreement between the
church and its adherents, to admit
to baptism-but not "full
communion"-the unconverted
children of existing members. This
move upped the churches'
memberships. This boost in
membership was just what the moneystricken church needed.
• A group of adolescent girls in Salem, Massachusetts, claimed to
have been bewitched by certain older, property-owning women, a
threat to male-dominated Puritan New England. A witch hunt ensued,
leading to the legal lynching of 20 women in 1692.
• In 1693, the witchcraft hysteria ended when the governor of
Massachusetts prohibited any further trials and pardoned those already
convicted. In 1713, the Massachusetts legislature annulled the
"conviction" of the "witches" and made reparation to their heirs.
The New England Way of Life
• The soil of New England was
stony and hard to plant with.
• There was less diversity in
New England than in the
South because European
immigrants did not want to
come to a place where there
was bad soil. The summers
in New England were very
hot and the winters very cold.
• The Native Americans
recognized their right to USE
the land, but the concept of
OWNING was unknown.
ECONOMY
• The New England economy
depended heavily on
fishing, shipbuilding, and
commerce.
• They became experts at
shipbuilding and commerce
due to the timber found in the
dense forests. They also
fished for cod off the coasts.
• The combination of
Calvinism, soil, and climate in
New England made for
energy, purposefulness,
sternness, stubbornness,
self-reliance, and
resourcefulness.
The Early Settlers’ Days and Ways
• Women, slave or free, on southern plantations or northern
farms, wove, cooked, cleaned, and care for children. Men
cleared land; fenced, planted, and cropped the land; cut
firewood; and butchered livestock as needed.
• Resentment against upper-class pretensions helped to spark
outbursts like Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 in Virginia and the
uprising of Maryland's Protestants toward the end of the 17th
century.
• New York, animosity between lordly landholders and aspiring
merchants fueled Leisler's Rebellion, an ill-starred and bloody
insurgence that rocked New York City from 1689-1691.
• In 1651, Massachusetts prohibited poorer folk from "wearing
gold or silver lace," and in 18th century Virginia, a tailor was
fined and jailed for arranging to race his horse-"a sport only
for gentlemen."
• The English justified taking land from the native inhabitants on the
grounds that the Indians:
- wasted the earth.
All in all, compared with most 17th century Europeans, Americans
lived in affluent abundance.
Chronology
• 1619
• 1636
• 1662
• 1670
•
•
•
•
•
•
1676
1680s
1689-1691
1692
1693
1698
• 1712
• 1739
- First Africans arrive in Virginia
- Harvard College founded
- Half-Way Covenant for Congregational Church
membership established
- Virginia assembly disfranchises landless
freeman
- Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia
- Mass expansion of slavery in colonies
- Leisler's Rebellion in New York
- Salem witch trials in Massachusetts
- College of William and Mary founded
- Royal African Company slave trade monopoly
ended
- New York City slave revolt
- South Carolina slave revolt
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Ch.4, p.66-72, Erin Hall