In 1492, Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus convinced Spain to back his effort to reach Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic – a route he believed would be shorter and quicker than sailing around Africa
This route led to the discovery of the American continents and established Spain’s claim to a “new world”
Oct. 1492: Columbus landed in the West Indies (islands in the Caribbean Sea, near Florida)
Columbus enslaved and tortured the natives and made them mine for gold
Named governor by the Spanish king, Columbus was removed from office due to corruption and abuse of power
Within 50 years of his arrival, 90% of the natives had died from exposure to European diseases like smallpox, measles, and influenza
Was Columbus First?
Asiatic nomads arrived between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago (the Native Americans)
The Vikings established trading outposts in Newfoundland (Canada) around 1000 AD
Plus, there is some limited evidence to support that the Chinese, Japanese, Africans, and/or Polynesians arrived in the Americas BEFORE Columbus
The Spanish Conquistadores
Following Columbus’ establishment of permanent Spanish settlements in the Caribbean, the Spanish sent military expeditions into the continental Americas to explore and conquer
Spanish conquistadores quickly toppled the large Native empires of the Aztec and Inca peoples and expanded Spanish control of both the people and resources of the Americas
Spanish Advantages Over Natives
So how did a few hundred Spaniards defeat millions of natives?
superior military technology (horses, armor, guns & cannons)
rivalries between native groups kept them from cooperating
disease decimated the native population and destroyed their religious faith systems
The Spanish Empire
Spain developed an American empire stretching from Northern California to South America
Spain’s rivals (primarily England and France, but also the Dutch Republic, Portugal, and even Sweden) began to show an interest in creating their own American empires
What were the primary motivating forces that drew Europeans to the Americas?
God: The opportunity for religious freedom, or to act as Christian missionaries to the Native Americans
Glory: To build empires or to become famous
Gold: To get rich
What primary advantages allowed them to reach these goals?
Germs: Diseases wiped out much of the Native population
Guns: Military advantage over the Natives
Early French Settlers
In 1524, France sent Giovanni da Verrazano to map the North American coastline and search for the Northwest Passage— a hoped-for northern route around North America to the Pacific Ocean.
The Fur Trade
Despite having laid claim to Canada for nearly 70 years, no real effort had been made to colonize the region.
By 1600, however, beaver fur had become very fashionable in Europe and French merchants became interested in colonization to expand the Canadian fur trade.
In 1602 the French king authorized a group of merchants to establish colonies in North America.
Since New France was founded for the fur trade, large numbers of settlers were not needed to clear land or start farms. Consequently, the population grew slowly.
Most of the fur traders did not even live in the colony, but among the Native Americans with whom they traded.
The Mississippi & Louisiana
In 1663, the French government introduced plans designed to increase the colony’s population and strengthen France’s claims to North America.
The French also began exploring North America’s interior; Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi River, and René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle followed the river to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the region, which he named Louisiana, for France.
Settlements, including New Orleans and St. Louis, were established in Louisiana over the next few decades.
The French quickly realized, however, that crops suitable for the region required hard manual labor, which few settlers were willing to do.
By 1721 the French in Louisiana began importing enslaved Africans and forcing them to work the plantations.
Spain Counters in Florida
The Spanish established the town of St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 to protect their claim to the region after the French tried to settle the Carolinas. St. Augustine became the first permanent settlement established by Europeans in the present-day United States.
After the French arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Spanish established a mission in eastern Texas to attempt to block French expansion into that region.
The English Reformation
In the early 1530s, King Henry VIII of England abandoned the Catholic Church and joined the Protestant Reformation by creating the Church of England (or Anglican Church), with himself as head of the Church.
Henry outlawed Catholicism and ordered his entire population to practice only Anglicism; this move angered both loyal Catholics and the members of other Protestant branches of Christianity.
Eventually, strict limits on religious freedom would drive many English dissenters, including Puritans, Quakers, and Catholics, to seek to create new colonies in North America
By the early 1600s, a changeover from grain farming to sheep ranching by wealthy English landowners had left hundreds of thousands of Englishmen impoverished and unemployed. Many of these would seek the opportunity of a new life in America.
English merchants also needed new markets as English industries began overproducing goods. Many organized joint-stock companies, pooling the money of many investors for large projects, such as establishing colonies.
Military Rivalry With Spain
To more easily attack Spanish ships in the Caribbean, England wanted to establish colonies in America.
Walter Raleigh was sent by Queen Elizabeth I to explore the American coastline. In 1585, his ships landed on Roanoke, an island in present-day North Carolina, and he named the surrounding land Virginia, in honor of the “virgin” queen.
The “Lost Colony”
The colony established at Roanoke in 1587, consisted of 115 men and women.
When a relief ship returned to the island in 1590, no trace of the colonists remained and their fate remains a mystery to this day.
In 1606, King James I of England granted the Virginia Company, a joint-stock company, a charter to establish a colony in Virginia.
In 1607, 104 men established the settlement of Jamestown on an island in the James River in modern-day Virginia.
While Jamestown would become the first permanent English colony in North America, it had to overcome many problems in order to survive.
Jamestown, since it was founded by a joint-stock company, was intended to be profitable
As a result, the settlers spent more time looking for gold or other valuables than they did creating a safe, stable, self-sustaining colony
Jamestown had also been poorly sited – the area was swampy and mosquito ridden, so the settlers forced to battle disease as well as hunger
To make matters even worse, the local Algonquin Indians were often openly hostile, forcing the settlers to spend time building a fort (which they needed in case of Spanish attack, as well)
Captain John Smith
The strict discipline of Captain John Smith and the assistance of the friendlier Powhatan Indian Confederacy, helped the Jamestown colony survive, but neither Smith nor the Indians were very popular with the settlers
According to Smith’s account, he was able to convince the Powhatan to help the colonists only after being captured by the Indians
The Indian chief, Powhatan, was going to kill Smith, but Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas begged her father to spare him and help the colonists
Modern historians doubt Smith’s account – Smith was a glory-seeking adventurer who stood to profit greatly from being the man who “saved” Jamestown and he recorded the story only after returning to England and writing a book in 1616.
The Starving Time
The Jamestown Company offered free land to people who worked for the colony for seven years. New settlers arrived (and John Smith left) in 1609, but there was not enough food to support them.
The new settlers stole food from the Powhatan, who retaliated by attacking them if they left the safety of the fort.
Recent evidence suggests that the colonists resorted to cannibalism to survive.
By spring of 1610 only 60 out of about 500 settlers survived at Jamestown.
In June 1610, the survivors decided to abandon the town. It was only the arrival of the new governor, Lord De La Ware, and his supply ships that brought the colonists back to the fort and saved the colony.
Although the suffering did not totally end at Jamestown for decades, some years of peace and prosperity followed after the wedding of the Indian princess Pocahontas to colonist John Rolfe (although Pocahontas died in 1617).
Tobacco Saves the Colony
It was this same John Rolfe who had developed a strain of tobacco that was marketable in England, providing Jamestown with the ability to finally turn a profit for its investors.
The Jamestown settlers soon began growing large quantities of tobacco, but needed to import slave labor to maximize production. The first African slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619.
The House of Burgesses
To attract more settlers to Jamestown, the Virginia Company gave the colony the right to elect its own general assembly. The elected representatives were called burgesses, and the legislative body was called the House of Burgesses.
The Virginia House of Burgesses was the first representative law-making assembly in the New World.
A Growing Population
The Virginia Company also introduced the system of headrights. Under this system, new settlers who bought a share in the company or paid for their passage were granted 50 acres. They received more land for each family member or servant they brought to Virginia.
The Native Americans near Jamestown grew alarmed at the increasing population. In 1622, they attacked the settlements around Jamestown, killing nearly 350 settlers.
The attack, coupled with evidence of mismanagement by the Virginia Company, led King James to declare Jamestown a royal colony.
Catholics were persecuted in England for their religious beliefs. Lord Baltimore, a Catholic member of British Parliament, decided to found a colony in America where Catholics could practice their religion without persecution.
The king granted Baltimore an area of land northeast of Virginia, which Baltimore named Maryland. Baltimore legally owned Maryland, making it the first proprietary colony.
Although Maryland was founded as a Catholic refuge, most of the colony’s settlers were Protestant.
The Settlement of New England
Separatist Puritans (Today, we call them the Pilgrims)
Religious dissenters who fled England for Holland in 1608
Once there, they worried that they were losing their English way of life
September, 1620: 102 passengers set sail for Virginia on board the Mayflower
Hardships: blown off course, food ran out, much illness, 1 death
Arrived off Cape Cod in November and landed at Plymouth
The Mayflower Compact
The settlers, understanding that they were now outside of English law, on land that they knew little about, agreed to “solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and of one another” create a new government and to obey its laws
The Pilgrims were industrious and planned on staying, unlike the Jamestown settlers who were just looking for wealth
Began building a village, but plague killed off half the settlers within the first few months
A friendly Native American named Squanto took pity on the settlers and instructed them in farming corn and how to locate good fishing grounds
Squanto had once been captured by English traders and had lived in England, so he spoke English
Squanto also negotiated a peace agreement between the settlers and the local tribes
The Pilgrims celebrated their one-year anniversary of survival and their alliance with the local Natives by holding a “Thanksgiving” festival, sometime in autumn 1621
After 1625, religious persecution of Puritans in England increased, driving more of these dissenters to flee to America
Economic problems in England’s wool industry at this same time also increased the number of settlers
John Winthrop, an investor in the Massachusetts Bay Company (a joint-stock company which held a royal charter to create a colony in New England), led 900 Puritan settlers to New England in March 1630
Winthrop delivered a rousing sermon, A Model of Christian Charity: “The Lord will make our name a praise and glory, so that men shall say of succeeding plantations: The Lord make it like that of New England. For we must consider that we shall be like a City upon a Hill; the eyes of all people are upon us.”
As conditions in England grew worse, thousands more Puritans left for the New England colony, mostly for its new capital of Boston.
By 1643, New England had an estimated 20,000 settlers
Only those settlers who owned stock in the Massachusetts Bay Company could participate in elections and in making the law
Winthrop, as the first governor, briefly tried to run the colony as a dictatorship, but after only four years was forced to share power with a representative assembly
Winthrop did manage to tie the government of the colony to the Puritan church
Church attendance was required by law; taxes were used to support the church; gambling, blasphemy, adultery, and drunkenness were all severely punished
Heretics (those who disagreed with the church) were banished from the colony
1631: Roger Williams began ministering in Salem, Mass., but was critical of the church, of the King, and of John Winthrop
Winthrop, fearful of losing his royal charter if word got back to the king of Williams’ criticism, had Williams banished
Williams went south and founded the colony of Providence, a settlement of greater religious tolerance
Penn established a government in which he appointed the governor, but allowed all men who owned land or paid taxes (so long as they were Christian) to vote for a legislative assembly
Non-Christians were still welcome and tolerated in Pennsylvania, but were not allowed to vote
In 1682, to increase his holdings, Penn purchased the region of Delaware from the Duke of York
Initially administered as part of Pennsylvania, Delaware quickly became its own separate colony
In an effort to block Spanish expansion northward, or French expansion eastward, Charles awarded the region south of Virginia, known as “Carolina” to several of his friends and political allies in 1662
The colony developed slowly due to poor access from the sea (all potential harbors were blocked by the Outer Banks)
By 1700, only 3000 colonists had settled, mostly tobacco farmers who had moved down from Virginia
First settlers arrived in 1670, quickly establishing the port of Charles Town (Charleston)
Attempts were made at creating sugar cane plantations, but the climate wasn’t right
First successful exports were deerskins and Indian slaves
In the 1720s, James Oglethorpe petitioned King George II for a colony south of Carolina for the purpose of resettling English poor who had been imprisoned for failure to pay their debts
George granted the request, seeing this new colony of Georgia as a way to protect English South Carolina from Spanish Florida
Oglethorpe arrived at the mouth of the Savannah River with his first settlers in 1733, establishing the port of Savannah
Oglethorpe, in the interest of helping these poor debtors start a new life free of the sins of their past, banned rum, brandy, and slavery in the colony and limited plantations to 500 acres
The bans, however, were unpopular and did not last into the 1740s