Modern history

Global Changes Reshape Colonial America

1680-1750

AMERICAN HiSTORIES

In 1729, at age thirty, William Moraley Jr. signed an indenture to serve a five- year term as a “bound servant" in the “American Plantations." This was not what his parents had imagined for him. The only child of a journeyman watchmaker and his wife, Moraley received a good education and was offered a clerkship with a London lawyer. But Moraley preferred London's pleasures to legal training. At age nineteen, out of money, he was forced to return home and become an apprentice watchmaker for his father. Moraley's apprenticeship went no better than his clerkship, and in 1725, fed up with his son's lack of enterprise, Moraley's father rewrote his will, leaving him just 20 shillings. When Moraley's father died unexpectedly, his wife gave her son 20 pounds, and in 1728 Moraley headed back to London.

But London was in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis, and Moraley failed to find work. By May 1729, he was imprisoned for debt. Three months later, he sold his labor for five years in return for passage to America. Moraley sailed for Philadelphia in September and was indentured in January to a Quaker clockmaker in Burlington, New Jersey. Eventually, he tired of this situation as well, and he ran away. But when he was caught, he was not punished by having his contract extended, as happened to most fugitive servants. Instead, he was released before his indenture was up, after serving only three years.

Moraley spent the next twenty months traveling the northern colonies, but found no steady employment. Hounded by creditors, he boarded a ship in Philadelphia bound for Ireland. He returned to his mother's home, penniless and unemployed. In 1743, hoping to cash in on popular interest in adventure tales, he published an account of his travels. In the book, entitled The Infortunate, the Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, an Indentured Servant, he offered a poor man's view of eighteenth- century North America. Like so much else in Moraley's life, the book was not a success.

In 1738, while Moraley was back in England trying to carve out a career as a writer, sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas, the eldest daughter of a career British military officer, arrived in South Carolina. Her father, Colonel George Lucas, had inherited a 600-acre plantation, called Wappoo, six miles south of Charles Town (later Charleston), and moved his family there in hopes that the climate would improve his wife's health. Eliza had been born on Antigua, where her father served with the British army and owned a sugar plantation. Although the move north did not benefit his wife, it created an unusual opportunity for his daughter, who was left in charge of the estate when Colonel Lucas was called back to Antigua in May 1739.

For the next five years, Eliza Lucas managed Wappoo and two other Carolina plantations owned by her father. Rising each day at 5 a.m., she checked on the fields and the enslaved laborers who worked them, balanced the books, nursed her mother, taught her younger sister to read, and wrote to her younger brothers at school in England. In a large bound book, she kept the accounts; copies of her letters to family, friends, commercial agents, and fellow planters; and information on legal affairs.

She also embarked on plans to improve her family estates. With her father's enthusiastic support, Lucas began experimenting with new crops, particularly indigo. The indigo plant, which was first imported to Europe from India in the seventeenth century, produced a blue dye popular for coloring textiles. When her experiments proved successful, Lucas encouraged other planters to follow her lead, and with financial aid from the colonial legislature and Parliament, indigo became a profitable export from South Carolina, second only to rice.

THE AMERICAN HISTORIES of William Moraley and Eliza Lucas were shaped by a profound shift in global trading patterns that resulted in the circulation of labor and goods among Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Between 1680 and 1750, indentured servants, enslaved Africans, planters, soldiers, merchants, and artisans traveled along these new trade networks. So, too, did sugar, rum, tobacco, indigo, cloth, and a host of other items. As England, France, and Spain expanded their empires, colonists developed new crops for export and increased the demand for manufactured goods from home. Yet the vibrant, increasingly global economy was fraught with peril. Economic crises, the uncertainties of maritime navigation, and outbreaks of war caused constant disruptions. For some, the opportunities offered by colonization outweighed the dangers; for others, fortune was less kind, and the results were disappointing, even disastrous. 

English cartoon of industrious American colonists, mid-18th century. © Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

Europeans Expand Their claims

Beginning with the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, English monarchs began granting North American land and commercial rights to men who were loyal to the crown. Shaped in part by rebellions at home and abroad, the policies of English monarchs aimed to expand England’s imperial reach at the lowest possible cost. France and Spain also expanded their empires in North America, frequently coming into conflict with each other in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. At the same time, American Indians challenged various European efforts to displace them from their homelands. A Pueblo rebellion against Spanish authorities in New Mexico provided other Indian nations with access to guns and horses. In Florida, Indian-Spanish conflicts allowed England to gain native allies.

English Colonies Grow and Multiply

To repay the men who helped him return to power, Charles II granted them land and commercial rights in North America (see chapter 2). The king rewarded his most important allies with positions on the newly formed Councils for Trade and Plantations. Many of the appointees also gained other benefits: partnerships in the Royal African Company, vast lands along the South Atlantic coast, or charters for territory in Canada. In addition, he gave his brother James, the Duke of York, control over all the lands between the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers, once known as New Netherland, but now known as New York. He then conveyed the adjacent lands to investors who established the colonies of East and West Jersey. Finally, Charles II repaid debts to Admiral Sir William Penn by granting his son huge tracts of land in the Middle Atlantic region. Six years later, William Penn Jr. left the Church of England and joined the Society of Friends, or Quakers. This radical Protestant sect was severely persecuted in England, so the twenty-two-year-old Penn turned his holdings into a Quaker refuge named Pennsylvania.

Between 1660 and 1685, Penn and other English gentlemen were established as the proprietors of a string of proprietary colonies from Carolina to New York. These powerful aristocrats could govern largely as they wished as long as they conformed broadly to English traditions. Most envisioned a manorial system in which they and other gentry presided over workers producing goods for export. In practice, however, local conditions dictated what was possible, and by the 1680s a range of labor relationships had emerged. Following Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia (see chapter 2), small farmers and laborers in northern Carolina rose up and forced proprietors there to offer land at reasonable prices and a semblance of self-government. In the southern part of Carolina, however, English West Indian planters dominated. They created a mainland version of Barbados by introducing enslaved Africans as laborers, carving plantations out of coastal swamps, and trading with the West Indies.

William Penn provided a more progressive model of colonial rule. He established friendly relations with the local Lenni-Lenape Indians and drew up a Frame of Government in 1681 that recognized religious freedom for all Christians. It also allowed all propertyowning men to vote and hold office. Under Penn’s leadership, Pennsylvania attracted thousands of middling farm families, most of them Quakers, as well as artisans and merchants. By the time Charles II died in 1685, Pennsylvania was the most successful of his proprietary colonies.

Charles’s death marked an abrupt shift in crown-colony relations. Charles’s successor, James II, instituted a more authoritarian regime both at home and abroad. He consolidated the colonies in the Northeast and established tighter controls. His royal officials banned town meetings, challenged land titles granted under the original colonial charters, and imposed new taxes. Fortunately for the colonists, the Catholic James II alienated his subjects in England as well as in the colonies, inspiring a bloodless coup in 1688. His Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange (r. 1689—1702) then ascended the throne, introducing more democratic systems of governance in England and the colonies. This so-called Glorious Revolution inspired John Locke to write his famous treatise justifying the changes made by William and Mary. Locke challenged the divine right of monarchs and insisted that government depended on the consent of the governed.

Eager to restore political order and create a commercially profitable empire, William and Mary established the new colony of Massachusetts (which included Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, and Maine) and restored town meetings and an elected assembly. But the 1692 charter also granted the English crown the right to appoint a royal governor and officials to enforce customs regulations. It ensured religious freedom to members of the Church of England and allowed all male property owners (not just Puritans) to be elected to the assembly. In Maryland, too, the crown imposed a royal governor and replaced the Catholic Church with the Church of England as the established religion. And in New York, wealthy English merchants won the backing of the newly appointed royal governor, who instituted a representative assembly and supported a merchant-dominated Board of Aldermen. Thus, taken as a whole, William and Mary’s policies asserted royal authority at the same time that they sought to create a partnership between England and colonial elites by allowing colonists to retain long-standing local governmental institutions (Table 3.1). 

TABLE 3.1 English Colonies Established in North America, 1607-1750

Colony

Date

Original Colony Type

Religion

Status in 1750

Economic Activity

Virginia

1624

Proprietary

Church of England

Royal

Tobacco, wheat

Massachusetts

1630

Proprietary

Congregationalist

Royal

Fishing, mixed farming, shipbuilding materials, shipping

Maryland

1632

Royal

Catholic

Royal

Tobacco, wheat

Carolina

1663

Proprietary

Church of England

Royal

 

North

1691

     

Shipbuilding materials, farming

South

1691

     

Rice, indigo

New Jersey

1664

Proprietary

Church of England

Royal

Wheat

New York

1664

Proprietary

Church of England

Royal

Furs, naval stores, mixed farming, shipping

Pennsylvania

1681

Proprietary

Quaker

Proprietary

Wheat

Delaware

1704

Proprietary

Lutheran/Quaker

Proprietary

Furs, farming, shipping

Georgia

1732

Trustees

Church of England

Royal

Rice

New Hampshire (separated from Massachusetts)

1741

Royal

Congregationalist

Royal

Mixed farming, lumber, shipbuilding materials

In the early eighteenth century, England’s North American colonies took the form that they would retain until the revolution in 1776. In 1702 East and West Jersey united into the colony of New Jersey. Delaware separated from Pennsylvania in 1704. By 1710 North Carolina became fully independent of South Carolina, forming its own assembly and receiving its own charter. Finally, in 1732, the colony of Georgia was established as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the increasingly lucrative plantations of South Carolina. At the same time, settlers pushed back the frontier in all directions. Wealthy Englishmen like Robert Livingston bought up land on the upper Hudson River and joined Dutch patroons who had earlier established vast estates in the region. Meanwhile families in Massachusetts carved out farms and villages on the New Hampshire and Maine frontier, while migrants and immigrants pushed the boundaries of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas westward.

France Seeks Lands and Control

When James II became king of England, he modeled himself after Louis XIV of France. Like Louis, James saw himself as ruling by divine right and with absolute power, but the French king was far more successful in establishing and sustaining his authority. During his long reign from 1661 to 1715, Louis XIV dominated European affairs and oversaw an expansion of North American possessions. Still, in 1680 New France comprised only ten thousand inhabitants, and one potential source of settlers—Protestant Huguenots—was denied the right to emigrate.

The French government thus extended the boundaries of its North American colonies more through exploration and trade than through settlement. In 1682 French adventurers and their Indian allies journeyed down the lower Mississippi River. Led by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the party traveled to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed all the land drained by its tributaries for Louis XIV. The new territory of Louisiana (named for the king) promised great wealth, but its development stalled when La Salle failed in his attempt to establish a colony.

Still eager for a southern outlet for furs, the French did not give up. After several more attempts at colonization in the early eighteenth century, French settlers maintained a toehold along Louisiana’s Gulf coast. Most important, Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville, a Canadian military officer, and his brother established forts at Biloxi and Mobile bays, where they traded with local Choctaw Indians. They recruited settlers from Canada and France, and the small outpost survived despite conflicts among settlers, pressure from the English, a wave of epidemics, and a lack of supplies from France. Still, Louisiana counted only three hundred French settlers by 1715.

Continuing to promote commercial relations with diverse Indian nations, the French built a string of missions and forts along the upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. These outposts in the continent’s interior allowed France to challenge both English and Spanish claims to North America. And extensive trade with a range of Indian nations ensured that French power was far greater than the small number of French settlers would suggest.

The Pueblo Revolt and Spain’s Fragile Empire

As New France pushed westward and southward, Spain continued to oversee an empire that was spread dangerously thin on its northern reaches. In New Mexico, tensions between Spanish missionaries and encomenderos and the Pueblo nation had simmered for decades (see chapter 2). Relations worsened in the 1670s when a drought led to famine among many area Indians and brought a revival of Indian rituals that the Spaniards viewed as a threat to Christianity. In addition, Spanish forces failed to protect the Pueblos against devastating raids by Apache and Navajo warriors. Finally, Catholic prayers proved unable to stop Pueblo deaths in a 1671 epidemic. When some of the Pueblos returned to their traditional priests, Spanish officials hanged three Indian leaders for idolatry and whipped and incarcerated forty-three others. Among those punished was Pope, a militant Pueblo who upon his release began planning a broad-based revolt.

On August 10, 1680, seventeen thousand Pueblo Indians initiated a coordinated assault on numerous Spanish missions and forts. They destroyed buildings and farms, burned crops and houses, and smeared excrement on Christian altars. The Spaniards retreated to Mexico without launching any significant counterattack.

Yet the Spaniards returned in the 1690s and reconquered parts of New Mexico, aided by growing internal conflict among the Pueblos and fierce Apache raids. The governor general of New Spain worked hard to subdue the province and in 1696 crushed the rebels and opened new lands for settlement. Meanwhile Franciscan missionaries established better relations with the Pueblos by allowing them to retain more indigenous practices and built new missions in the region.

Yet despite the Spanish reconquest, in the long run the Pueblo revolt limited Spanish expansion by strengthening other indigenous peoples in the region. In the aftermath of the revolt, some Pueblo refugees moved north and taught the Navajos how to grow corn, raise sheep, and ride horses. Through the Navajos, the Ute and Comanche peoples also gained access to horses. By the 1730s, the Comanches, who had become a fully equestrian society, launched mounted bison hunts and traded over vast areas. One key trading center formed at Taos in northern New Mexico, where Spanish control was weak. There Comanches sold captives as slaves and gained more horses, metal tools, and guns. Thus the Pueblos provided other Indian nations with the means to support larger populations, wider commercial networks, and more warriors. These nations would continue to contest Spanish rule.

At the same time, Spain sought to reinforce its claims to Texas (named after the Tejas Indians) in response to French settlements in the lower Mississippi valley. Thus, in the early eighteenth century, Spanish missions and forts appeared along the route from San Juan Batista to the border of present-day Louisiana. Although small and scattered, these outposts were meant to ensure Spain’s claim to Texas. But the presence of large and powerful Indian nations, including the Caddo and the Apache, forced Spanish residents to accept many native customs in order to maintain their presence in the region.

Spain also faced challenges to its authority in Florida, where Indians resisted the spread of cattle ranching in the 1670s. Authorities imposed harsh punishments on those killing cows or raiding herds and forced hundreds of Indians to construct a stone fortress, San Marcos, at St. Augustine. Meanwhile the English wooed Florida natives by exchanging European goods for deerskins. Some Indians then moved their settlements north to the Carolina border. The growing tensions along this Anglo-Spanish border would turn violent when Europe itself erupted into war.

REVIEW & RELATE

• What role did the crown play in the expansion of the English North American colonies in the second half of the seventeenth century?

• How did the development of the Spanish and French colonies in the late seventeenth century differ from that of the English colonies?

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