The Planting of English America



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1Early English Colonies – Ch. 2 of The American Pageant, “The Planting of English America,” pp. 24-42
Overall main idea: England’s southern colonies in North America were founded and grew in the 1600s due to cash crop agriculture, cheap labor and the conquest of Native American land.
England’s Imperial Stirrings

Main idea: England did little exploration and expansion during the 1500s because of alliances and religious conflicts.



Spain easily controlled the Americas, especially Meso and South America, but North America was largely unclaimed; between 1607-1610, Spain, France, and England would establish their first outposts there

Why didn’t England colonize America during the 1500s, like Spain?

In early 1500s, England and Spain were allies and both Catholic

Religious strife: King Henry VIII of England broke away from the Catholic Church and formed the Protestant Church of England (a.k.a. the Anglican Church, or the Episcopalian Church in America); conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism raged in England

In mid-to-late 1500s, Queen Elizabeth solidified Protestantism in England and made it rivals with Catholic Spain and Ireland

1570-1580 - Elizabeth and English brutally put down Irish rebellion against England’s control; conflicts continue today; English soldiers developed contempt for “savage” Irish that they brought to American Indians


Elizabeth Energizes England

Main idea: Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, England failed at its first colonial ventures but defended itself from the Spanish and set the stage for its own empire.

English “sea dog” pirates raided Spanish ships and settlements in America, including Sir Francis Drake

England failed to colonize under Gilbert in 1583 and at Roanoke (North Carolina) in 1585; the Roanoke colonists famously disappeared

The powerful Spanish Armada of ships was defeated when it attacked England in 1588, weakening Spain’s empire and starting England toward naval dominance in the North Atlantic ocean England was growing more powerful, stable and prepared for its own empire under Elizabeth

“Virginia” = North American lands named after Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen”


England on the Eve of Empire

Main idea: Peace, economic downturn, population growth, primogeniture laws, religious discrimination and joint-stock companies were factors in England’s beginnings of colonization in the early 1600s.

Spain and England signed a peace treaty in 1604

Small farmers lost land and an economic depression hit England

Population in England grew from 3 to 4 million in 50 years

Primogeniture laws only allowed the eldest son to inherit their family estate; younger sons had to find their success elsewhere, such as in America

Joint-stock companies were created where investors pooled their money together to buy stock and finance a business “adventure”; like today’s corporation
England Plants the Jamestown Seedling

Main idea: Because of disease, famine and poor management, England’s first colony at Jamestown, Virginia, struggled to survive its first twenty years.

The Virginia Company was a joint-stock company given a charter to travel to America by King James I, successor to Elizabeth; they expected to find gold or a water route the Asia and a quick return on their investment, not a long-term settlement

Virginia Company charter guaranteed American settlers the same rights and institutions as Englishmen at home; this guarantee was also later extended to other colonies

Jamestown colony was founded in 1607, but struggled; deaths at sea, shipwrecks, disease, malnutrition, starvation killed the majority of the colonists, but more settlers and supplies were sent over the years; it was not a great choice of land for long-term settlement

Captain John Smith - soldier who installed military discipline to help the colony; “He who shall not work shall not eat”

Powhatan - chief of local Native Americans in Virginia

Pocahontas - daughter of Powhatan who “saved” Smith from death in a Native ceremony; also acted as intermediary and peacemaker between Natives and English

By 1625, only 1200 survivors remained of nearly 8000 English who attempted to settle at Jamestown
Cultural Clash in the Chesapeake

Main idea: Virginia colonists clashed with local Natives, who were defeated and pushed off their land because of disease, disorganization, and disposability.

Powhatan and the colonists had tense relations early on which broke out into war; the English often used brutal “Irish tactics”; a truce ended the first fighting in 1614 when John Rolfe married Pocahontas

Natives attacked full-scale in 1622 and 1644, but were defeated both times; colonists took their land and separated Native and colonist settlements

Disease killed many Natives; they were also disorganized and not unified compared to the English; finally, the English had little use for Natives except for their land–-they were disposable
The Indians’ New World

Main idea: Indian life was disrupted and adapted because of European colonization.

Horses transformed some Indian tribes into nomadic warriors of the plains, such as the Sioux, Comanche and Cheyenne

Disease often killed tribal elders who helped orally preserve culture and tradition; many tribes had to reinvent themselves or band together with others

Indians fell victim to European goods, especially guns; instead of bartering, many rushed to acquire furs that they could trade to the Europeans for goods; this led to increased competition and warfare between tribes

The Algonquians and Iroquois Confederacy were two examples of Native groups that absorbed others and held a position of power, a “middleman” between different groups on the interior of North America


Virginia: Child of Tobacco

Main idea: The Virginia colony grew with the development of tobacco plantations, leading to servant and slave labor and the first representative assembly in America.

John Rolfe introduced a sweeter strain of tobacco that he helped cultivate in Jamestown; Europeans developed such a desire for tobacco that Jamestown colonists planted it everywhere to ship and sell

The Virginia colony grew as colonists cultivated more land for tobacco, creating plantations up the rivers, encroaching on Indian lands

Tobacco is harsh on soil, esp. if not well-managed; much labor was needed; first African slaves were imported to Jamestown in 1619, but for most of the 1600s the majority of the laborers were white indentured servants

House of Burgesses - the first representative assembly and self-government in America, established in 1619

James revoked the Virginia Co. charter in 1624 and made Virginia a royal colony

Maryland: Catholic Haven

Main idea: Maryland was created as a Catholic haven and prospered because of tobacco farming.

Lord Baltimore founded Maryland in 1634, partly for profit but also to establish a feudal-type refuge for English Catholic aristocracy

Mostly Protestants moved there, establishing backcountry tobacco farms

Vast majority of early workers in America were indentured servants - workers who bound themselves to work for a number of years in exchange for passage to America; slaves weren’t imported in large numbers until late 1600s

Act of Toleration - passed by Maryland’s assembly in 1649 to guarantee toleration for all Christians, Catholic and Protestant; however, discriminated still against other religions


The West Indies: Way Station to Mainland America

Main idea: The English colonized the West Indies with huge sugar plantations, resulting in the importation of thousands of Africa slaves and the model for plantation slavery to be exported elsewhere.



Spain’s empire was weakening in the mid-1600s and the English took claim to some of their Caribbean islands, a.k.a. the West Indies

Sugar was the cash crop of the Caribbean, but it was a rich man’s crop, requiring extensive capital, land, processing and labor; rich planters soon crowded out other colonists

Slaves were imported from Africa in the late 1600s and eventually outnumbered the whites four to one; today the Caribbean is still mostly black

Slave codes - laws to control slaves that defined their legal status and limited their rights and liberties

Some of the smaller English farmers moved to the Carolinas in 1670, bringing the model of West Indies plantations and slave codes with them
Colonizing the Carolinas

Main idea: Carolina was colonized to coordinate with the West Indies colonies, but prospered because of rice farming.

English colonization stopped in the 1640s due to English civil war, but afterward, the “Lords Proprietors” were granted the new colony of Carolina by Charles II in 1670 as a reward for their loyalty during the war

Carolina started by coordinating with the West Indies, providing food, supplies, and Native American slaves; the Savannah Indians were wiped out by Carolinians by 1710

Carolina’s cash crop turned out to be rice (until the 1700s), grown on large plantations of standing water, worked by thousands of imported African slaves familiar with rice farming

Charles Town grew rapidly as the busiest seaport in the South

The Spanish disliked the growing Protestant English so close to Spanish Florida, and fighting broke out between the colonists, Spain, and Native Americans, but Carolina survived
The Emergence of North Carolina

Main idea: Repelled by aristocratic Virginia and South Carolina, North Carolina was developed by small farmers who quickly fought and pushed Native Americans out of the colony.



Most of North Carolina’s early settlers were poor backcountry farmers and religious dissenters from Virginia who disliked the aristocracy and the Church of England there; they raised tobacco and other crops on small farms without slaves; similar to Rhode Island in their independence and anti-aristocracy; “a vale of humility between two mountains of conceit”

North Carolina was somewhat isolated because of wilderness, mountains, and Cape Hatteras

North Carolina split from South Carolina in 1712

Coastal Indians of North Carolina were attacked and defeated by the Carolinians who pushed them off the land and sold them into slavery


Late-Coming Georgia: The Buffer Colony

Main idea: Georgia was the last English colony founded and grew slowly due to fighting with the Spanish and Indians and restrictions on development and slavery.

Though last to be founded, Georgia was geographically similar (and eventually economically similar) to the Southern colonies; named after King George II

Georgia was intended as a buffer colony between British colonies and Spanish, French, and Indians elsewhere; it even received royal money to aid its development

James Oglethorpe and other founders had philanthropic intentions for the colony and put strict rules on its development, including no slavery, land limitations, alcohol limitations, etc. They wanted it to be a refuge for the poor and debt-ridden, but very few debtors or prisoners actually settled there

Savannah was a prospering and multicultural port city like Charleston was in South Carolina


The Plantation Colonies

Main idea: Southern English colonies were similar in cash crop exportation, the use of slavery, aristocratic plantations, lack of cities and religion, mostly due to geography.

Southern colonies: Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia

Economy was mostly based on agriculture, especially cash crops: tobacco in VA, MD and NC, rice in South Carolina; harsh use of soil drove settlers west

Slavery existed in all Southern colonies, but grew more slowly in NC and GA

Large tracts of land were owned by a few wealthy people, mostly plantation owners; less true in NC and GA, where more backcountry small farmers existed

Large tracts of land and self-sufficient-style plantations limited the growth of cities, schools, and church communities

Church of England was the dominant religion, but weak in NC

Conflict with Indians over land was common

Most of these similarities resulted from agricultural economy, which was due to geography - all had long growing seasons, good soil and lots of rivers for transportation that were conducive to plantations; also access to slavery


Makers of America: The Iroquois

Main idea: Five Native American tribes made up the Iroquois Confederacy, a nation of Indians who played “middlemen” to the Europeans before falling in the late 1700s.


Overall main idea: England’s southern colonies in North America were founded and grew in the 1600s due to cash crop agriculture, cheap labor and the conquest of Native American land.



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