American Life in the
17th Century
1607-1692
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Virginia and Maryland
Harsh Life: Malaria, Dysentery, and Typhoid.
Cut ten years off the life of an Englishmen
½ of people didn’t reach 20th Birthday
Mostly men in the their late teens or early
20s migrated to region. 6:1 m/f ratio
Few families
Population increased toward the end of the
century.
The Chesapeake
The #1 crop of the region. Some grew it
before food crops.
 Cultivation led to more movement west
into Indian land.
 Cultivation grew from 1.5 million pounds
in 1630s to 40 million by end of century.
 Labor Intensive:
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◦ Indians died too fast
◦ African slaves cost too much.
◦ Answer: Indentured Servants
Tobacco
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Many were unemployed of homeless people
Mortgaged labor in return for passage to New
World and “freedom dues”
◦ Barrels of Corn
◦ Suit of Clothes
◦ Some received Land
Headright System
Whoever paid the passage of laborer received 50
acres of land. Led to huge land owners and growing
plantation system.
By 1700 Indentured Servants made up ¾ of all
immigrants to Virginia and Maryland
Indentured Servants
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House of Burgesses feared that newly
freed servants would cause trouble.
Governor Berkeley was left with little
answers.
Newly freed men sought to travel west for
land, despite peace treaties with Indians.
Government didn’t want to jeopardize fur
trade with Indians.
Trouble was brewing
Bacon’s Rebellion
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Nathaniel Bacon waged a war on the Indians in 1676.
Sparked by Indian attacks on settlers that were
ignored by Berkeley
Attacked villages, chased Berkeley out of Jamestown,
and burned the capital.
Led to widespread looting and poor uprisings.
Bacon suddenly died, killing the rebellion
Berkeley then crushed the rebellion and hanged over
20 Rebels
Tension between the rich and poor would remain.
Led rich farmers to look for a less volatile workforce
(slaves)
Bacons’ Rebellion
Approximately 400,000Africans were
brought to the U.S. in the 3 centuries
following Columbus’ voyage.
 1st slaves: 1619 in Jamestown
 1670: only around 2,000 in Va.
 After Bacon’s Rebellion their numbers
increased dramatically.
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◦ Stronger economy
◦ Distrust of Indentured Servants
Colonial Slavery
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1698: Royal African Company lost monopoly
on carrying slaves to colonies.
◦ Led to more colonists getting involved in the
lucrative trade
◦ Rhode Islander were big traders
◦ 1700-1710: over 10,000 Africans brought to
colonies
◦ 1750: Half the population of Va. And outnumbered
whites in S.C. 2:1
◦ Most were west Africans who had been captured by
other African tribes and sold to European and
American traders.
Colonial Slavery
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Voyage from Africa to New World
Death rate as high as 20% in some
voyages
Packed boats to capacity
Newport, R.I. and Charleston, S.C. were
main harbors.
Most went to West Indies or Brazil
Very few free blacks: some owned slaves.
The Middle Passage
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Laws restricting black freedoms
Made slaves and children property for life
Crime to teach children to read and write
in some colonies
Made clear distinction between Ind.
Servants and slaves.
Marriages were illegal in some colonies
Discrimination Increased
Slave Codes
Created their own language: Gullah, a
mixture of English with African languages.
 Created own music: Banjo and Bongo
 Virginia tobacco plantations allowed for
closer ties for Africans than in the rice
fields of the south. More families and
better life in the upper south than deep
south. Virginia also saw a more natural
increase in slave population than in the
deep south where families were scarce.
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Slave Culture
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The growth of slavery led to gaps in social class
Land and slave owners controlled the economy and politics,
a system that would last until the Civil War
Top:FFV: First Families of Virginia: Lees and Washingtons.
Dominated the House of Burgesses
Middle: Small farmers: Largest group: May own a couple of
slaves, but focused on feeding family and keeping land.
Freed Indentured Servants
Indentured Servants
Slaves
Few towns in the South due to plantations and agriculture
focus
Rivers were chief means of transportation.
Southern Society
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Family
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More families migrated to New England
Less disease, cleaner water
People lived longer
Larger families: 8 children the average
Men were the leaders and women were to have
children and take care of the home
◦ Women were also denied inheritance rights and
land, as it went to their husband
New England Society
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Towns
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More villages than in the South
Puritan background led to tighter communities
Less Slavery
Land given to trusted “proprietors” who helped create
and run towns. Generally these were elders who were
well respected.
◦ Most towns had
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Meetinghouse: place of worship and meetings
Village Green: park and place of militant drilling
Family parcels: wood lot, farming area, and pasture
Towns of over 50 people were required to provide
elementary education
◦ 1636 Harvard established
New England Society
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More democracy
◦ Freemen voted in town halls
 Elected officials
 Schoolmasters
 Road construction
New England Society
Partial membership rights to people not
yet converted to Puritanism. (1662)
 Passed due to low level of conversions
 Caused new preaching
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◦ Jeremiads: Teachings of Jeremiah on Hellfire
and brimstone: Scare tactics
◦ Tried to scare people into conversion
Half-Way Covenant
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Early 1690s
Adolescent girls claimed to be bewitched by older
women
Led to “witch hunt”
1692 Lynchings
20 killed: 19 hanged and 1 pressed. 2 dogs hanged
Displayed class differences
◦ Accusers were from poor farming families
◦ Accused were higher class: merchants
◦ Feared that Puritan ideas were giving way to Yankee
commercialism
◦ Ended in 1693 when Governor’s wife was threatened
◦ “Witch Hunt” became common term for trying to find a
scapegoat for social resentment or problems.
Salem Witch Trials
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Salem Witch Trials
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American Life in the 17th Century