School children study the noble efforts of Pilgrims to establish a new society in which they could practice their religious freedom. But few learn that New England's, and most British colonies were established as joint-stock companies to garner profit for investors, a requirement that necessitated exploitation of the new environments and their inhabitants (and most colonists themselves) .Nor do most learn of the religious fanaticism, attitudes of racial superiority, and genocidal violence that made the “New English Canaan” possible. Calling themselves God’s “new chosen people” the Puritans of New England quickly learned to call the natives “Adam’s degenerate seed,” when they were not seen merely as “swarms of lice.” Shortly after the initial settlements were established in Massachusetts Bay in the 1620s, conflict with the Pequot of Narragansett Bay led these colonists of principle to an orgy of mass murder in the name of God, culminating in the virtual extirmination of this people. “Thus was God pleased to smite our enemies and give us their land for our inheritance’” said John Winthrop, evoking Joshua’s slaughter of the Amalekites in the Old Testament. As one of the Puritans' militia captains put matters, the colonists had deliberately sought “to cut off remembrance of them from the earth.”2
The first true war attributed to British colonists in North America was “King Philip’s War,” so called, of the 1670s, and was blamed entirely on the natives, who were depicted as brutal savages, who betrayed the colonists’ trust. The Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Narragansett and other peoples of Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Connecticut had actually been exceedingly generous to the newcomers, effectively sharing land and teaching them how to cultivate it according to local climate and soil conditions. But English notions of land usage, particularly that of private enclosure, quickly brought the colonists and natives into conflict. Increasing European migration, coupled with competition over land, led to attacks by aboriginals on British settlements, then into all out war. Native populations had already been extremely diminished by contact with European diseases to which they had no immunity, and this coupled with the efforts of colonists to exacerbate conflict between tribes, and to thwart intertribal unity, made victory over the British impossible. When the colonists eventually prevailed they inflicted a horrible slaughter on men, women and children alike. For a quarter century the severed head of Metacomet, the son of the colonists’ benefactor, Massasoit, remained impaled on a pike in Plymouth town square, a reminder of the implacability of those who intended to be masters of the land.
English victory cleared the natives of southern New England and” allowed the uninterrupted growth of England’s northern colonies right up to the American Revolution,” and became as well "the brutal model for how the United States would deal with its native population.”3 And, one could add, for all of America’s non-white enemies yet to be. Doctrines of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, fostered to rationalize genocidal attitudes, and to justify the enslavement of Africans, quickly percolated into the culture, to be refined continually up to the present.
Severely weakened, the natives of the coast were driven further and further west, a scenario essentially repeated for the next 150 years that would bear bitter fruit in places like Sand Creek and Wounded Knee. The natives of northern New England, fearing English ferocity, joined with other tribes hostile to the British, and more favorable to the French, thereby setting the stage for the North American chapter of the great continual war between Britain and France that played out over centuries.
What American textbooks often call the “French and Indian War” of 1756-1763, was really a significant episode in this larger conflict, and this war was truly global in scope, being fought also in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. It was also the war in which many American military leaders would get their combat experience in the service of the Crown only to use it against their sovereign a few years later. Without the British army the colonists would have fallen under French rule, or been expelled from North America altogether. The expense to the British Exchequer of providing military protection to the colonies was the primary cause of the increase in taxation levied on the colonies to pay for the war that would ultimately lead to the break with Britain.
Of his, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, Charles A. Beard said “perhaps no other book on the Constitution has been more severely criticized, and so little read.” This groundbreaking study showed clearly how personal pecuniary interests motivated the founders to revolt against the injustices of taxation without representation. While the rhetoric of the American Revolution clearly centered on the principle of representation in Parliament and opposition to tyranny, the fact remains that virtually all of those who signed either the Declaration of Independence or Constitution stood to lose personal fortune should they be required to pay the infamous taxes, and in their rebellion also used their newfound power to augment those fortunes and their political power. Land speculation was "one of the leading activities of capitalists” prior to the Revolution. However, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, one part of the settlement of the French and Indian War, had declared that the Appalachians were to be the limit of westward British expansion, thereby rendering western land values all but null. Later, those merchants and bankers who loaned the Continental Congress the money to pursue the Revolution understood that the framework of the Articles of Confederation could never repay them their principal or interest. Beard’s contribution was to show clearly that it was speculators (including Washington, Franklin, Patrick Henry, Gallatin, and many others), shippers and merchants and manufacturers, and holders of the public debt who wanted a central government capable of discharging debt, fostering monetary stability, and competing directly with England for commercial supremacy, who were the principal promoters of the Constitution.
They were opposed, in the main, by small landholders with little property, and few opportunities to obtain money. Ironically, it was these citizens who had formed the backbone of the Continental Army and the state militias that had won the Revolution, and who were now oppressed by state governments that sought to tax them, often without representation in the various legislatures, and to confiscate their land. Daniel Shays of Massachusetts had served six long years as an officer, leaving his farm in the care of his wife and children. During that time the farm’s productivity fell, while the legislature in Boston, composed of well-heeled draft dodgers, imposed taxes and raised property requirements for voting, thereby cutting Shays and others off from the suffrage. Faced with the confiscation of their land these patriots rose in rebellion against the very sort of arbitrary forces that had occasioned the revolution in the first place, as the Declaration of Independence had told them was their due. The response of the propertied patricians was to demand a government with broad powers to crush such upstarts.
Pennsylvania's Whisky Rebellion occurred after the establishment of the central government, and American elites took rapid advantage of their new powers to cow the small farmers who objected to the newly imposed tax on whisky, which they made to preserve their corn crop and earn currency on the side. Owing to property qualifications, many of these rebels could not vote, and were thus unrepresented in the Congress that had levied the tax. Lest the farmers miss the point, President Washington himself, arrayed in his general's uniform, and astride his war steed, led the army out to crush the rebels.
Though presidents must pay lip service to democracy, the record shows that chief executives are in a constant battle with Congress to usurp that most democratic of the branches of government and increase their own power to act unilaterally, and this conflict began almost immediately. The ink had scarcely dried on the Constitution, when the second president of the United States, embroiled the nation in an undeclared war with France.
Material here on Adam’s conflict with France and Alien and Sedition Acts. War of 1812, Mexican War.