Unit 1.1 DB: Europe and North America


Analyze and critically evaluate the impact of early exploration and settlement on both Europe and North America. What do you believe was the greatest negative and positive impact of the interaction between Europeans and Native societies? In what respect did these interactions not only change Europe and North America, but instead create a “new” global society?

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When responding to classmates, include additional information for why you agree with their position or information explaining why you do not agree with their position.

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U.S. History

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Table of Contents
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Chapter 1: The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

1.1 The Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1.2 Europe on the Brink of Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
1.3 West Africa and the Role of Slavery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Chapter 2: Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
2.1 Portuguese Exploration and Spanish Conquest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
2.2 Religious Upheavals in the Developing Atlantic World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
2.3 Challenges to Spain’s Supremacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
2.4 New Worlds in the Americas: Labor, Commerce, and the Columbian Exchange . . . . 52

Chapter 3: Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
3.1 Spanish Exploration and Colonial Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
3.2 Colonial Rivalries: Dutch and French Colonial Ambitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
3.3 English Settlements in America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
3.4 The Impact of Colonization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86

Chapter 4: Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
4.5 Wars for Empire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

Chapter 5: Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
5.1 Confronting the National Debt: The Aftermath of the French and Indian War . . . . . . 126
5.2 The Stamp Act and the Sons and Daughters of Liberty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
5.3 The Townshend Acts and Colonial Protest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
5.4 The Destruction of the Tea and the Coercive Acts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
5.5 Disaffection: The First Continental Congress and American Identity . . . . . . . . . . . 148

Chapter 6: America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
6.1 Britain’s Law-and-Order Strategy and Its Consequences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
6.2 The Early Years of the Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
6.3 War in the South . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
6.4 Identity during the American Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175

Chapter 7: Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
7.1 Common Sense: From Monarchy to an American Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
7.2 How Much Revolutionary Change? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
7.3 Debating Democracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
7.4 The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204

Chapter 8: Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
8.1 Competing Visions: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
8.2 The New American Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
8.3 Partisan Politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
8.4 The United States Goes Back to War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234

Chapter 9: Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
9.1 Early Industrialization in the Northeast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244
9.2 A Vibrant Capitalist Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252
9.3 On the Move: The Transportation Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 260
9.4 A New Social Order: Class Divisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263

Chapter 10: Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273
10.1 A New Political Style: From John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson . . . . . . . . . 274
10.2 The Rise of American Democracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280

10.3 The Nullification Crisis and the Bank War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
10.4 Indian Removal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287
10.5 The Tyranny and Triumph of the Majority . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293

Chapter 11: A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301
11.1 Lewis and Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302
11.2 The Missouri Crisis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308
11.3 Independence for Texas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
11.4 The Mexican-American War, 1846–1848 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315
11.5 Free Soil or Slave? The Dilemma of the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323

Chapter 12: Cotton is King: The Antebellum South, 1800–1860 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331
12.1 The Economics of Cotton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332
12.2 African Americans in the Antebellum United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338
12.3 Wealth and Culture in the South . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 345
12.4 The Filibuster and the Quest for New Slave States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355

Chapter 13: Antebellum Idealism and Reform Impulses, 1820–1860 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363
13.1 An Awakening of Religion and Individualism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 364
13.2 Antebellum Communal Experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 370
13.3 Reforms to Human Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375
13.4 Addressing Slavery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 379
13.5 Women’s Rights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384

Chapter 14: Troubled Times: the Tumultuous 1850s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 391
14.1 The Compromise of 1850 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 392
14.2 The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Republican Party . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401
14.3 The Dred Scott Decision and Sectional Strife . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 408
14.4 John Brown and the Election of 1860 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413

Chapter 15: The Civil War, 1860–1865 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421
15.1 The Origins and Outbreak of the Civil War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422
15.2 Early Mobilization and War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 428
15.3 1863: The Changing Nature of the War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433
15.4 The Union Triumphant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 442

Chapter 16: The Era of Reconstruction, 1865–1877 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453
16.1 Restoring the Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454
16.2 Congress and the Remaking of the South, 1865–1866 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 458
16.3 Radical Reconstruction, 1867–1872 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 462
16.4 The Collapse of Reconstruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 470

Chapter 17: Go West Young Man! Westward Expansion, 1840-1900 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483
17.1 The Westward Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 484
17.2 Homesteading: Dreams and Realities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 490
17.3 Making a Living in Gold and Cattle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
17.4 The Loss of American Indian Life and Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500
17.5 The Impact of Expansion on Chinese Immigrants and Hispanic Citizens . . . . . . . . 506

Chapter 18: Industrialization and the Rise of Big Business, 1870-1900 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 515
18.1 Inventors of the Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516
18.2 From Invention to Industrial Growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 521
18.3 Building Industrial America on the Backs of Labor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 528
18.4 A New American Consumer Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 537

Chapter 19: The Growing Pains of Urbanization, 1870-1900 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 545
19.1 Urbanization and Its Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 546
19.2 The African American “Great Migration” and New European Immigration . . . . . . . 554
19.3 Relief from the Chaos of Urban Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 559
19.4 Change Reflected in Thought and Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 567

Chapter 20: Politics in the Gilded Age, 1870-1900 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 579

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20.1 Political Corruption in Postbellum America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 580
20.2 The Key Political Issues: Patronage, Tariffs, and Gold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 587
20.3 Farmers Revolt in the Populist Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 594
20.4 Social and Labor Unrest in the 1890s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 599

Chapter 21: Leading the Way: The Progressive Movement, 1890-1920 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 609
21.1 The Origins of the Progressive Spirit in America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 610
21.2 Progressivism at the Grassroots Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 612
21.3 New Voices for Women and African Americans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 621
21.4 Progressivism in the White House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 627

Chapter 22: Age of Empire: American Foreign Policy, 1890-1914 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 641
22.1 Turner, Mahan, and the Roots of Empire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 642
22.2 The Spanish-American War and Overseas Empire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 648
22.3 Economic Imperialism in East Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 655
22.4 Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” Foreign Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 658
22.5 Taft’s “Dollar Diplomacy” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 663

Chapter 23: Americans and the Great War, 1914-1919 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 669
23.1 American Isolationism and the European Origins of War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 670
23.2 The United States Prepares for War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 676
23.3 A New Home Front . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 682
23.4 From War to Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 686
23.5 Demobilization and Its Difficult Aftermath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 692

Chapter 24: The Jazz Age: Redefining the Nation, 1919-1929 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 701
24.1 Prosperity and the Production of Popular Entertainment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 702
24.2 Transformation and Backlash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 708
24.3 A New Generation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 715
24.4 Republican Ascendancy: Politics in the 1920s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 723

Chapter 25: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? The Great Depression, 1929-1932 . . . . . . . . 731
25.1 The Stock Market Crash of 1929 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 732
25.2 President Hoover’s Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 743
25.3 The Depths of the Great Depression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 748
25.4 Assessing the Hoover Years on the Eve of the New Deal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 756

Chapter 26: Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1941 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 765
26.1 The Rise of Franklin Roosevelt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 766
26.2 The First New Deal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770
26.3 The Second New Deal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 779

Chapter 27: Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941-1945 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 795
27.1 The Origins of War: Europe, Asia, and the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 796
27.2 The Home Front . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 803
27.3 Victory in the European Theater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 815
27.4 The Pacific Theater and the Atomic Bomb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 820

Chapter 28: Post-War Prosperity and Cold War Fears, 1945-1960 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 829
28.1 The Challenges of Peacetime . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 830
28.2 The Cold War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 833
28.3 The American Dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 842
28.4 Popular Culture and Mass Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 848
28.5 The African American Struggle for Civil Rights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 851

Chapter 29: Contesting Futures: America in the 1960s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 863
29.1 The Kennedy Promise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 864
29.2 Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 872
29.3 The Civil Rights Movement Marches On . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 878
29.4 Challenging the Status Quo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 887

Chapter 30: Political Storms at Home and Abroad, 1968-1980 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 895

30.1 Identity Politics in a Fractured Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 896
30.2 Coming Apart, Coming Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 903
30.3 Vietnam: The Downward Spiral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 911
30.4 Watergate: Nixon’s Domestic Nightmare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 916
30.5 Jimmy Carter in the Aftermath of the Storm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 921

Chapter 31: From Cold War to Culture Wars, 1980-2000 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 931
31.1 The Reagan Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 932
31.2 Political and Cultural Fusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 937
31.3 A New World Order . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 943
31.4 Bill Clinton and the New Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 949

Chapter 32: The Challenges of the Twenty-First Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 963
32.1 The War on Terror . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 964
32.2 The Domestic Mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 971
32.3 New Century, Old Disputes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 978
32.4 Hope and Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 983

A The Declaration of Independence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 995
B The Constitution of the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 999
C Presidents of the United States of America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1015
D U.S. Political Map . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1019
E U.S. Topographical Map . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1021
F United States Population Chart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1023
G Further Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1025
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1049

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Welcome to U.S. History, an OpenStax College resource. This textbook has been created with several goals
in mind: accessibility, customization, and student engagement—all while encouraging students toward
high levels of academic scholarship. Instructors and students alike will find that this textbook offers a
strong foundation in U.S. history in an accessible format.

About OpenStax College
OpenStax College is a non-profit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning
materials. Our free textbooks go through a rigorous editorial publishing process. Our texts are developed
and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence
requirements of today’s college courses. Unlike traditional textbooks, OpenStax College resources live
online and are owned by the community of educators using them. Through our partnerships with
companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to
improve access to higher education for all. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University and is made
possible through the generous support of several philanthropic foundations. Since our launch in 2012 our
texts have been used by millions of learners online and over 1,200 institutions worldwide.

About OpenStax College’s Resources
OpenStax College resources provide quality academic instruction. Three key features set our materials
apart from others: they can be customized by instructors for each class, they are a “living” resource that
grows online through contributions from educators, and they are available free or for minimal cost.

OpenStax College learning resources are designed to be customized for each course. Our textbooks are
developed to meet the scope and sequence of a typical course and; therefore, provide a solid foundation
on which instructors can build, and our resources are conceived and written with flexibility in mind.
Instructors can select the sections most relevant to their curricula and create a textbook that speaks directly
to the needs of their classes and student body. Teachers are encouraged to expand on existing examples by
adding unique context via geographically localized applications and topical connections.

U.S. History can be easily customized using our online platform (http://cnx.org/content/col11740/latest/).
Simply select the content most relevant to your current semester and create a textbook that speaks
directly to the needs of your class. U.S. History is organized as a collection of sections that can be
rearranged, modified, and enhanced through localized examples or to incorporate a specific theme of your
course. This customization feature will ensure that your textbook truly reflects the goals of your course.

Our textbooks are available for free online, and also in low-cost print and iBook textbook editions.

About U.S. History
U.S. History has been developed to meet the scope and sequence of most introductory U.S. History courses.
At the same time, the book includes a number of innovative features designed to enhance student learning.
Instructors can also customize the book, adapting it to the approach that works best in their classroom.

Coverage and Scope
To develop U.S. History, we solicited ideas from historians at all levels of higher education, from
community colleges to Ph.D.-granting universities. They told us about their courses, students, challenges,
resources, and how a textbook can best meet their and their students’ needs.

Preface 1

The result is a book that covers the breadth of the chronological history of the United States and also
provides the necessary depth to ensure the course is manageable for instructors and students alike. U.S.
History explores the key forces and major developments that together form the American experience, with
particular attention paid to considering issues of race, class, and gender.

The pedagogical choices, chapter arrangements, and learning objective fulfillment were developed and
vetted with feedback from educators dedicated to the project. They thoroughly read the material and
offered critical and detailed commentary. Reviewer feedback centered around achieving equilibrium
between the various political, social, and cultural dynamics that permeate history. The outcome is a
balanced approach to U.S. history, considering the people, events, and ideas that have shaped the United
States from both the top down (politics, economics, diplomacy) and bottom up (eyewitness accounts, lived

While the book is organized primarily chronologically, as needed, material treating different topics or
regions over the same time period is spread over multiple chapters. For example, chapters 9, 11, and 12
look at economic, political, social, and cultural developments during the first half of the eighteenth century
in the North, West, and South respectively, while chapters 18 to 20 closely examine industrialization,
urbanization, and politics in the period after Reconstruction.

Chapter 1: The Americas, Europe, and Africa before 1492
Chapter 2: Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650
Chapter 3: Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700
Chapter 4: Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763
Chapter 5: Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763–1774
Chapter 6: America’s War for Independence, 1775–1783
Chapter 7: Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790
Chapter 8: Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1815
Chapter 9: Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850
Chapter 10: Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840
Chapter 11: A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1850
Chapter 12: Cotton is King: The Antebellum South, 1800–1860
Chapter 13: Antebellum Idealism and Reform Impulses, 1820–1860
Chapter 14: Troubled Times: The Tumultuous 1850s
Chapter 15: The Civil War, 1860–1865
Chapter 16: The Era of Reconstruction, 1865–1877
Chapter 17: Go West Young Man! Westward Expansion, 1840–1900
Chapter 18: Industrialization and the Rise of Big Business, 1870–1900
Chapter 19: The Growing Pains of Urbanization, 1870–1900
Chapter 20: Politics in the Gilded Age, 1870–1900
Chapter 21: Leading the Way: The Progressive Movement, 1890–1920
Chapter 22: Age of Empire: Modern American Foreign Policy, 1890–1914
Chapter 23: Americans and the Great War, 1914–1919
Chapter 24: The Jazz Age: Redefining the Nation, 1919–1929
Chapter 25: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? The Great Depression, 1929–1932
Chapter 26: Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1941
Chapter 27: Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941–1945
Chapter 28: Postwar Prosperity and Cold War Fears, 1945–1960
Chapter 29: Contesting Futures: America in the 1960s
Chapter 30: Political Storms at Home and Abroad, 1968–1980
Chapter 31: From Cold War to Culture Wars, 1980–2000
Chapter 32: The Challenges of the Twenty-First Century
Appendix A: The Declaration of Independence
Appendix B: The Constitution of the United States

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Appendix C: Presidents of the United States
Appendix D: United States Political Map
Appendix E: United States Topographical Map
Appendix F: United States Population Chart
Appendix G: Suggested Reading

Pedagogical Foundation
Throughout the OpenStax version of U.S. History, you will find featured material that engage the students
in historical inquiry by taking selected topics a step further. Our features include:

Americana: This feature explores the significance of artifacts from American pop culture and
considers what values, views, and philosophies are reflected in these objects.

Defining “American”: This feature analyzes primary sources, including documents, speeches, and
other writings, to consider important issues of the day and present varying points of view on them,
while keeping a focus on the theme of what it means to be American.

My Story: This feature presents first-person accounts (diaries, interviews, letters) of significant or
exceptional events from the American experience.

Link It Up: This feature is a very brief introduction to a website with an interactive experience,
video, or primary sources that help improve student understanding of the material.

Questions for Each Level of Learning
The OpenStax version of U.S. History offers two types of end-of-module questions for students.

Review Questions are simple recall questions from each module in the chapter and are in either
multiple-choice or open-response format. The answers can be looked up in the text.

Critical Thinking Questions are higher-level, conceptual questions that ask students to demonstrate
their understanding by applying what they have learned in each module to the whole of the chapter.
They ask for outside-the-box thinking, for reasoning about the concepts. They push the student to
places they wouldn’t have thought of going themselves.

About Our Team
Our team is a diverse mix of historians representing various institutions across the nation. We’d like to
extend a special thanks to our senior contributors who worked tirelessly to ensure the coverage and level
is appropriate for students.

Senior Contributors
P. Scott Corbett, PhD—Ventura College

Dr. Corbett’s major fields of study are recent American history and American diplomatic history. He
teaches a variety of courses at Ventura College, and he serves as an instructor at California State
University’s Channel Islands campus. A passionate educator, Scott has also taught history to university
students in Singapore and China.

Volker Janssen, PhD—California State University–Fullerton

Born and raised in Germany, Dr. Janssen received his BA from the University of Hamburg and his MA and
PhD from the University of California, San Diego. He is a former Fulbright scholar and an active member
of Germany’s advanced studies foundation “Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes.” Volker currently
serves as Associate Professor at California State University’s Fullerton campus, where he specializes in the
social, economic, and institutional history of California, and more recently, the history of technology.

John M. Lund, PhD—Keene State College

Preface 3

Dr. Lund’s primary research focuses on early American history, with a special interest in oaths, Colonial
New England, and Atlantic legal cultures. John has over 20 years of teaching experience. In addition to
working with students at Keene State College, he lectures at Franklin Pierce University, and serves the
online learning community at Southern New Hampshire University.

Todd Pfannestiel, PhD—Clarion University

Dr. Pfannestiel is a Professor in the history department of Clarion University in Pennsylvania, where he
also holds the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Todd has a strong history of service to
his institution, its students, and the community that surrounds it.

Paul Vickery, PhD—Oral Roberts University

Educating others is one of Dr. Vickery’s delights, whether in the classroom, through authoring books and
articles, or via informal teaching during his travels. He is currently Professor of History at Oral Roberts
University, where his emphasis is on the history of ideas, ethics, and the role of the church and theology
in national development. Paul reads Portuguese, Italian, French, and Hebrew, and has taught on five

Sylvie Waskiewicz, PhD—Lead Editor

Dr. Waskiewicz received her BSBA from Georgetown University and her MA and PhD from the Institute
of French Studies at New York University. With over 10 years of teaching experience in English and French
history and language, Sylvie left academia to join the ranks of higher education publishing. She has spent
the last eight years editing college textbooks and academic journals.


Amy Bix Iowa State University

Edward Bond Alabama A&M University

Tammy Byron Dalton State College

Benjamin Carp Brooklyn College, CUNY

Sharon Deubreau Rhodes State College

Gene Fein Fordham University

Joel Franks San Jose State University

Raymond Frey Centenary College

Richard Gianni Indiana University Northwest

Larry Gragg Missouri University of Science and Technology

Laura Graves South Plains College

Elisa Guernsey Monroe Community College

Thomas Chase Hagood University of Georgia

Charlotte Haller Worcester State University

David Head Spring Hill College

Tamora Hoskisson Salt Lake Community College

Jean Keller Palomar College

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Kathleen Kennedy Missouri State University

Mark Klobas Scottsdale Community College

Ann Kordas Johnson & Wales University

Stephanie Laffer Miami International University of Art and Design

Jennifer Lang Delgado Community College

Jennifer Lawrence Tarrant County College

Wendy Maier-Sarti Oakton Community College

Jim McIntyre Moraine Valley Community College

Marianne McKnight Salt Lake Community College

Brandon Morgan Central New Mexico Community College

Caryn Neumann Miami University of Ohio

Michelle Novak Houston Community College

Lisa Ossian Des Moines Area Community College

Paul Ringel High Point University

Jason Ripper Everett Community College

Silvana Siddali Saint Louis University

Brooks Simpson Arizona State University

Steven Smith California State University, Fullerton

David Trowbridge Marshall University

Eugene Van Sickle University of North Georgia

Hubert van Tuyll Augusta State University

OpenStax projects offer an array of ancillaries for students and instructors. Please visit
http://openstaxcollege.org and view the learning resources for this title.

Preface 5

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The Americas, Europe, and Africa
Before 1492

Figure 1.1 In Europe supported by Africa and America (1796), artist William Blake, who was an abolitionist, depicts
the interdependence of the three continents in the Atlantic World; however, he places gold armbands on the Indian
and African women, symbolizing their subjugation. The strand binding the three women may represent tobacco.

Chapter Outline
1.1 The Americas
1.2 Europe on the Brink of Change
1.3 West Africa and the Role of Slavery

Globalization, the ever-increasing interconnectedness of the world, is not a new phenomenon, but it
accelerated when western Europeans discovered the riches of the East. During the Crusades (1095–1291),
Europeans developed an appetite for spices, silk, porcelain, sugar, and other luxury items from the East,
for which they traded fur, timber, and Slavic people they captured and sold (hence the word slave). But
when the Silk Road, the long overland trading route from China to the Mediterranean, became costlier and
more dangerous to travel, Europeans searched for a more efficient and inexpensive trade route over water,
initiating the development of what we now call the Atlantic World.

In pursuit of commerce in Asia, fifteenth-century traders unexpectedly encountered a “New World”
populated by millions and home to sophisticated and numerous peoples. Mistakenly believing they had
reached the East Indies, these early explorers called its inhabitants Indians. West Africa, a diverse and
culturally rich area, soon entered the stage as other nations exploited its slave trade and brought its peoples
to the New World in chains. Although Europeans would come to dominate the New World, they could
not have done so without Africans and native peoples (Figure 1.1).

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 7

1.1 The Americas

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Locate on a map the major American civilizations before the arrival of the Spanish
• Discuss the cultural achievements of these civilizations
• Discuss the differences and similarities between lifestyles, religious practices, and

customs among the native peoples

Between nine and fifteen thousand years ago, some scholars believe that a land bridge existed between
Asia and North America that we now call Beringia. The first inhabitants of what would be named the
Americas migrated across this bridge in search of food. When the glaciers melted, water engulfed Beringia,
and the Bering Strait was formed. Later settlers came by boat across the narrow strait. (The fact that
Asians and American Indians share genetic markers on a Y chromosome lends credibility to this migration
theory.) Continually moving southward, the settlers eventually populated both North and South America,
creating unique cultures that ranged from the highly complex and urban Aztec civilization in what is now
Mexico City to the woodland tribes of eastern North America. Recent research along the west coast of
South America suggests that migrant populations may have traveled down this coast by water as well as
by land.

Researchers believe that about ten thousand years ago, humans also began the domestication of plants
and animals, adding agriculture as a means of sustenance to hunting and gathering techniques. With this
agricultural revolution, and the more abundant and reliable food supplies it brought, populations grew
and people were able to develop a more settled way of life, building permanent settlements. Nowhere in
the Americas was this more obvious than in Mesoamerica (Figure 1.3).

Figure 1.2 (credit: modification of work by Architect of the Capitol)

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Figure 1.3 This map shows the extent of the major civilizations of the Western Hemisphere. In South America, early
civilizations developed along the coast because the high Andes and the inhospitable Amazon Basin made the interior
of the continent less favorable for settlement.

Mesoamerica is the geographic area stretching from north of Panama up to the desert of central Mexico.
Although marked by great topographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity, this region cradled a number
of civilizations with similar characteristics. Mesoamericans were polytheistic; their gods possessed both
male and female traits and demanded blood sacrifices of enemies taken in battle or ritual bloodletting.
Corn, or maize, domesticated by 5000 BCE, formed the basis of their diet. They developed a mathematical
system, built huge edifices, and devised a calendar that accurately predicted eclipses and solstices and that
priest-astronomers used to direct the planting and harvesting of crops. Most important for our knowledge
of these peoples, they created the only known written language in the Western Hemisphere; researchers
have made much progress in interpreting the inscriptions on their temples and pyramids. Though the area
had no overarching political structure, trade over long distances helped diffuse culture. Weapons made
of obsidian, jewelry crafted from jade, feathers woven into clothing and ornaments, and cacao beans that
were whipped into a chocolate drink formed the basis of commerce. The mother of Mesoamerican cultures
was the Olmec civilization.

Flourishing along the hot Gulf Coast of Mexico from about 1200 to about 400 BCE, the Olmec produced a
number of major works of art, architecture, pottery, and sculpture. Most recognizable are their giant head
sculptures (Figure 1.4) and the pyramid in La Venta. The Olmec built aqueducts to transport water into
their cities and irrigate their fields. They grew maize, squash, beans, and tomatoes. They also bred small
domesticated dogs which, along with fish, provided their protein. Although no one knows what happened
to the Olmec after about 400 BCE, in part because the jungle reclaimed many of their cities, their culture
was the base upon which the Maya and the Aztec built. It was the Olmec who worshipped a rain god, a
maize god, and the feathered serpent so important in the future pantheons of the Aztecs (who called him
Quetzalcoatl) and the Maya (to whom he was Kukulkan). The Olmec also developed a system of trade
throughout Mesoamerica, giving rise to an elite class.

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 9

Figure 1.4 The Olmec carved heads from giant boulders that ranged from four to eleven feet in height and could
weigh up to fifty tons. All these figures have flat noses, slightly crossed eyes, and large lips. These physical features
can be seen today in some of the peoples indigenous to the area.

After the decline of the Olmec, a city rose in the fertile central highlands of Mesoamerica. One of the largest
population centers in pre-Columbian America and home to more than 100,000 people at its height in about
500 CE, Teotihuacan was located about thirty miles northeast of modern Mexico City. The ethnicity of this
settlement’s inhabitants is debated; some scholars believe it was a multiethnic city. Large-scale agriculture
and the resultant abundance of food allowed time for people to develop special trades and skills other
than farming. Builders constructed over twenty-two hundred apartment compounds for multiple families,
as well as more than a hundred temples. Among these were the Pyramid of the Sun (which is two
hundred feet high) and the Pyramid of the Moon (one hundred and fifty feet high). Near the Temple
of the Feathered Serpent, graves have been uncovered that suggest humans were sacrificed for religious
purposes. The city was also the center for trade, which extended to settlements on Mesoamerica’s Gulf

The Maya were one Mesoamerican culture that had strong ties to Teotihuacan. The Maya’s architectural
and mathematical contributions were significant. Flourishing from roughly 2000 BCE to 900 CE in what
is now Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala, the Maya perfected the calendar and written language
the Olmec had begun. They devised a written mathematical system to record crop yields and the size of
the population, and to assist in trade. Surrounded by farms relying on primitive agriculture, they built the
city-states of Copan, Tikal, and Chichen Itza along their major trade routes, as well as temples, statues of
gods, pyramids, and astronomical observatories (Figure 1.5). However, because of poor soil and a drought
that lasted nearly two centuries, their civilization declined by about 900 CE and they abandoned their large
population centers.

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Figure 1.5 El Castillo, located at Chichen Itza in the eastern Yucatán peninsula, served as a temple for the god
Kukulkan. Each side contains ninety-one steps to the top. When counting the top platform, the total number of stairs
is three hundred and sixty-five, the number of days in a year. (credit: Ken Thomas)

The Spanish found little organized resistance among the weakened Maya upon their arrival in the 1520s.
However, they did find Mayan history, in the form of glyphs, or pictures representing words, recorded
in folding books called codices (the singular is codex). In 1562, Bishop Diego de Landa, who feared the
converted natives had reverted to their traditional religious practices, collected and burned every codex he
could find. Today only a few survive.

Visit the University of Arizona Library Special Collections
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/mayancodex) to view facsimiles and descriptions of
two of the four surviving Mayan codices.

When the Spaniard Hernán Cortés arrived on the coast of Mexico in the sixteenth century, at the site of
present-day Veracruz, he soon heard of a great city ruled by an emperor named Moctezuma. This city
was tremendously wealthy—filled with gold—and took in tribute from surrounding tribes. The riches and
complexity Cortés found when he arrived at that city, known as Tenochtitlán, were far beyond anything
he or his men had ever seen.

According to legend, a warlike people called the Aztec (also known as the Mexica) had left a city called
Aztlán and traveled south to the site of present-day Mexico City. In 1325, they began construction of
Tenochtitlán on an island in Lake Texcoco. By 1519, when Cortés arrived, this settlement contained
upwards of 200,000 inhabitants and was certainly the largest city in the Western Hemisphere at that time
and probably larger than any European city (Figure 1.6). One of Cortés’s soldiers, Bernal Díaz del Castillo,
recorded his impressions upon first seeing it: “When we saw so many cities and villages built in the water
and other great towns on dry land we were amazed and said it was like the enchantments . . . on account of
the great towers and cues and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our

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Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 11



soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream? . . . I do not know how to describe
it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about.”

Figure 1.6 This rendering of the Aztec island city of Tenochtitlán depicts the causeways that connected the central
city to the surrounding land. Envoys from surrounding tribes brought tribute to the Emperor.

Unlike the dirty, fetid cities of Europe at the time, Tenochtitlán was well planned, clean, and orderly.
The city had neighborhoods for specific occupations, a trash collection system, markets, two aqueducts
bringing in fresh water, and public buildings and temples. Unlike the Spanish, Aztecs bathed daily, and
wealthy homes might even contain a steam bath. A labor force of slaves from subjugated neighboring
tribes had built the fabulous city and the three causeways that connected it to the mainland. To farm, the
Aztec constructed barges made of reeds and filled them with fertile soil. Lake water constantly irrigated
these chinampas, or “floating gardens,” which are still in use and can be seen today in Xochimilco, a
district of Mexico City.

Each god in the Aztec pantheon represented and ruled an aspect of the natural world, such as the heavens,
farming, rain, fertility, sacrifice, and combat. A ruling class of warrior nobles and priests performed ritual
human sacrifice daily to sustain the sun on its long journey across the sky, to appease or feed the gods, and
to stimulate agricultural production. The sacrificial ceremony included cutting open the chest of a criminal
or captured warrior with an obsidian knife and removing the still-beating heart (Figure 1.7).

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Figure 1.7 In this illustration, an Aztec priest cuts out the beating heart of a sacrificial victim before throwing the
body down from the temple. Aztec belief centered on supplying the gods with human blood—the ultimate
sacrifice—to keep them strong and well.

Explore Aztec-History.com (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/azteccreation) to learn
more about the Aztec creation story.


The Aztec Predict the Coming of the Spanish
The following is an excerpt from the sixteenth-century Florentine Codex of the writings of Fray Bernardino
de Sahagun, a priest and early chronicler of Aztec history. When an old man from Xochimilco first saw
the Spanish in Veracruz, he recounted an earlier dream to Moctezuma, the ruler of the Aztecs.

Said Quzatli to the sovereign, “Oh mighty lord, if because I tell you the truth I am to die,
nevertheless I am here in your presence and you may do what you wish to me!” He narrated
that mounted men would come to this land in a great wooden house [ships] this structure was
to lodge many men, serving them as a home; within they would eat and sleep. On the surface
of this house they would cook their food, walk and play as if they were on firm land. They were
to be white, bearded men, dressed in different colors and on their heads they would wear
round coverings.

Ten years before the arrival of the Spanish, Moctezuma received several omens which at the time he
could not interpret. A fiery object appeared in the night sky, a spontaneous fire broke out in a religious
temple and could not be extinguished with water, a water spout appeared in Lake Texcoco, and a woman
could be heard wailing, “O my children we are about to go forever.” Moctezuma also had dreams and
premonitions of impending disaster. These foretellings were recorded after the Aztecs’ destruction. They
do, however, give us insight into the importance placed upon signs and omens in the pre-Columbian

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Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 13


In South America, the most highly developed and complex society was that of the Inca, whose name means
“lord” or “ruler” in the Andean language called Quechua. At its height in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, the Inca Empire, located on the Pacific coast and straddling the Andes Mountains, extended
some twenty-five hundred miles. It stretched from modern-day Colombia in the north to Chile in the south
and included cities built at an altitude of 14,000 feet above sea level. Its road system, kept free of debris and
repaired by workers stationed at varying intervals, rivaled that of the Romans and efficiently connected the
sprawling empire. The Inca, like all other pre-Columbian societies, did not use axle-mounted wheels for
transportation. They built stepped roads to ascend and descend the steep slopes of the Andes; these would
have been impractical for wheeled vehicles but worked well for pedestrians. These roads enabled the rapid
movement of the highly trained Incan army. Also like the Romans, the Inca were effective administrators.
Runners called chasquis traversed the roads in a continuous relay system, ensuring quick communication
over long distances. The Inca had no system of writing, however. They communicated and kept records
using a system of colored strings and knots called the quipu (Figure 1.8).

Figure 1.8 The Inca had no written language. Instead, they communicated and kept records by means of a system
of knots and colored strings called the quipu. Each of these knots and strings possessed a distinct meaning
intelligible to those educated in their significance.

The Inca people worshipped their lord who, as a member of an elite ruling class, had absolute authority
over every aspect of life. Much like feudal lords in Europe at the time, the ruling class lived off the labor
of the peasants, collecting vast wealth that accompanied them as they went, mummified, into the next life.
The Inca farmed corn, beans, squash, quinoa (a grain cultivated for its seeds), and the indigenous potato
on terraced land they hacked from the steep mountains. Peasants received only one-third of their crops for
themselves. The Inca ruler required a third, and a third was set aside in a kind of welfare system for those
unable to work. Huge storehouses were filled with food for times of need. Each peasant also worked for
the Inca ruler a number of days per month on public works projects, a requirement known as the mita. For
example, peasants constructed rope bridges made of grass to span the mountains above fast-flowing icy
rivers. In return, the lord provided laws, protection, and relief in times of famine.

The Inca worshipped the sun god Inti and called gold the “sweat” of the sun. Unlike the Maya and the
Aztecs, they rarely practiced human sacrifice and usually offered the gods food, clothing, and coca leaves.
In times of dire emergency, however, such as in the aftermath of earthquakes, volcanoes, or crop failure,
they resorted to sacrificing prisoners. The ultimate sacrifice was children, who were specially selected and
well fed. The Inca believed these children would immediately go to a much better afterlife.

In 1911, the American historian Hiram Bingham uncovered the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu (Figure
1.9). Located about fifty miles northwest of Cusco, Peru, at an altitude of about 8,000 feet, the city had

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been built in 1450 and inexplicably abandoned roughly a hundred years later. Scholars believe the city
was used for religious ceremonial purposes and housed the priesthood. The architectural beauty of this
city is unrivaled. Using only the strength of human labor and no machines, the Inca constructed walls and
buildings of polished stones, some weighing over fifty tons, that were fitted together perfectly without the
use of mortar. In 1983, UNESCO designated the ruined city a World Heritage Site.

Figure 1.9 Located in today’s Peru at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet, Machu Picchu was a ceremonial Incan city
built about 1450 CE.

Browse the British Museum’s World Cultures collection
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/inca) to see more examples and descriptions of Incan
(as well as Aztec, Mayan, and North American Indian) art.

With few exceptions, the North American native cultures were much more widely dispersed than the
Mayan, Aztec, and Incan societies, and did not have their population size or organized social structures.
Although the cultivation of corn had made its way north, many Indians still practiced hunting and
gathering. Horses, first introduced by the Spanish, allowed the Plains Indians to more easily follow and
hunt the huge herds of bison. A few societies had evolved into relatively complex forms, but they were
already in decline at the time of Christopher Columbus’s arrival.

In the southwestern part of today’s United States dwelled several groups we collectively call the Pueblo.
The Spanish first gave them this name, which means “town” or “village,” because they lived in towns or
villages of permanent stone-and-mud buildings with thatched roofs. Like present-day apartment houses,
these buildings had multiple stories, each with multiple rooms. The three main groups of the Pueblo
people were the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Anasazi.

The Mogollon thrived in the Mimbres Valley (New Mexico) from about 150 BCE to 1450 CE. They
developed a distinctive artistic style for painting bowls with finely drawn geometric figures and wildlife,
especially birds, in black on a white background. Beginning about 600 CE, the Hohokam built an extensive

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Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 15



irrigation system of canals to irrigate the desert and grow fields of corn, beans, and squash. By 1300,
their crop yields were supporting the most highly populated settlements in the southwest. The Hohokam
decorated pottery with a red-on-buff design and made jewelry of turquoise. In the high desert of New
Mexico, the Anasazi, whose name means “ancient enemy” or “ancient ones,” carved homes from steep
cliffs accessed by ladders or ropes that could be pulled in at night or in case of enemy attack (Figure 1.10).

Figure 1.10 To access their homes, the cliff-dwelling Anasazi used ropes or ladders that could be pulled in at night
for safety. These pueblos may be viewed today in Canyon de Chelly National Monument (above) in Arizona and
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

Roads extending some 180 miles connected the Pueblos’ smaller urban centers to each other and to
Chaco Canyon, which by 1050 CE had become the administrative, religious, and cultural center of their
civilization. A century later, however, probably because of drought, the Pueblo peoples abandoned their
cities. Their present-day descendants include the Hopi and Zuni tribes.

The Indian groups who lived in the present-day Ohio River Valley and achieved their cultural apex from
the first century CE to 400 CE are collectively known as the Hopewell culture. Their settlements, unlike
those of the southwest, were small hamlets. They lived in wattle-and-daub houses (made from woven
lattice branches “daubed” with wet mud, clay, or sand and straw) and practiced agriculture, which they
supplemented by hunting and fishing. Utilizing waterways, they developed trade routes stretching from
Canada to Louisiana, where they exchanged goods with other tribes and negotiated in many different
languages. From the coast they received shells; from Canada, copper; and from the Rocky Mountains,
obsidian. With these materials they created necklaces, woven mats, and exquisite carvings. What remains
of their culture today are huge burial mounds and earthworks. Many of the mounds that were opened by
archaeologists contained artworks and other goods that indicate their society was socially stratified.

Perhaps the largest indigenous cultural and population center in North America was located along the
Mississippi River near present-day St. Louis. At its height in about 1100 CE, this five-square-mile city,
now called Cahokia, was home to more than ten thousand residents; tens of thousands more lived on
farms surrounding the urban center. The city also contained one hundred and twenty earthen mounds or
pyramids, each dominating a particular neighborhood and on each of which lived a leader who exercised
authority over the surrounding area. The largest mound covered fifteen acres. Cahokia was the hub
of political and trading activities along the Mississippi River. After 1300 CE, however, this civilization
declined—possibly because the area became unable to support the large population.

Encouraged by the wealth found by the Spanish in the settled civilizations to the south, fifteenth- and
sixteenth-century English, Dutch, and French explorers expected to discover the same in North America.
What they found instead were small, disparate communities, many already ravaged by European diseases

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brought by the Spanish and transmitted among the natives. Rather than gold and silver, there was an
abundance of land, and the timber and fur that land could produce.

The Indians living east of the Mississippi did not construct the large and complex societies of those to
the west. Because they lived in small autonomous clans or tribal units, each group adapted to the specific
environment in which it lived (Figure 1.11). These groups were by no means unified, and warfare among
tribes was common as they sought to increase their hunting and fishing areas. Still, these tribes shared
some common traits. A chief or group of tribal elders made decisions, and although the chief was male,
usually the women selected and counseled him. Gender roles were not as fixed as they were in the
patriarchal societies of Europe, Mesoamerica, and South America.

Figure 1.11 This map indicates the locations of the three Pueblo cultures the major Eastern Woodland Indian tribes,
and the tribes of the Southeast, as well as the location of the ancient city of Cahokia.

Women typically cultivated corn, beans, and squash and harvested nuts and berries, while men hunted,
fished, and provided protection. But both took responsibility for raising children, and most major Indian
societies in the east were matriarchal. In tribes such as the Iroquois, Lenape, Muscogee, and Cherokee,
women had both power and influence. They counseled the chief and passed on the traditions of the tribe.
This matriarchy changed dramatically with the coming of the Europeans, who introduced, sometimes
forcibly, their own customs and traditions to the natives.

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 17

Clashing beliefs about land ownership and use of the environment would be the greatest area of conflict
with Europeans. Although tribes often claimed the right to certain hunting grounds—usually identified
by some geographical landmark—Indians did not practice, or in general even have the concept of, private
ownership of land. There were tribal hunting grounds, usually identified by some geographical landmark,
but there was no private ownership of land. A person’s possessions included only what he or she had
made, such as tools or weapons. The European Christian worldview, on the other hand, viewed land as
the source of wealth. According to the Christian Bible, God created humanity in his own image with the
command to use and subdue the rest of creation, which included not only land, but also all animal life.
Upon their arrival in North America, Europeans found no fences, no signs designating ownership. Land,
and the game that populated it, they believed, were there for the taking.

1.2 Europe on the Brink of Change

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the European societies that engaged in conversion, conquest, and commerce
• Discuss the motives for and mechanisms of early European exploration

The fall of the Roman Empire (476 CE) and the beginning of the European Renaissance in the late
fourteenth century roughly bookend the period we call the Middle Ages. Without a dominant centralized
power or overarching cultural hub, Europe experienced political and military discord during this time. Its
inhabitants retreated into walled cities, fearing marauding pillagers including Vikings, Mongols, Arabs,
and Magyars. In return for protection, they submitted to powerful lords and their armies of knights. In
their brief, hard lives, few people traveled more than ten miles from the place they were born.

The Christian Church remained intact, however, and emerged from the period as a unified and powerful
institution. Priests, tucked away in monasteries, kept knowledge alive by collecting and copying religious
and secular manuscripts, often adding beautiful drawings or artwork. Social and economic devastation
arrived in 1340s, however, when Genoese merchants returning from the Black Sea unwittingly brought
with them a rat-borne and highly contagious disease, known as the bubonic plague. In a few short
years, it had killed many millions, about one-third of Europe’s population. A different strain, spread by
airborne germs, also killed many. Together these two are collectively called the Black Death (Figure 1.12).
Entire villages disappeared. A high birth rate, however, coupled with bountiful harvests, meant that the
population grew during the next century. By 1450, a newly rejuvenated European society was on the brink
of tremendous change.

Figure 1.12 This image depicts the bodily swellings, or buboes, characteristic of the Black Death.

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Visit EyeWitness to History (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/plague) to learn more
about the Black Death.

During the Middle Ages, most Europeans lived in small villages that consisted of a manorial house or
castle for the lord, a church, and simple homes for the peasants or serfs, who made up about 60 percent of
western Europe’s population. Hundreds of these castles and walled cities remain all over Europe (Figure

Figure 1.13 One of the most beautifully preserved medieval walled cities is Carcassonne, France. Notice the use of
a double wall.

Europe’s feudal society was a mutually supportive system. The lords owned the land; knights gave
military service to a lord and carried out his justice; serfs worked the land in return for the protection
offered by the lord’s castle or the walls of his city, into which they fled in times of danger from invaders.
Much land was communally farmed at first, but as lords became more powerful they extended their
ownership and rented land to their subjects. Thus, although they were technically free, serfs were
effectively bound to the land they worked, which supported them and their families as well as the lord
and all who depended on him. The Catholic Church, the only church in Europe at the time, also owned
vast tracts of land and became very wealthy by collecting not only tithes (taxes consisting of 10 percent of
annual earnings) but also rents on its lands.

A serf’s life was difficult. Women often died in childbirth, and perhaps one-third of children died before
the age of five. Without sanitation or medicine, many people perished from diseases we consider
inconsequential today; few lived to be older than forty-five. Entire families, usually including
grandparents, lived in one- or two-room hovels that were cold, dark, and dirty. A fire was kept lit and
was always a danger to the thatched roofs, while its constant smoke affected the inhabitants’ health and

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Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 19


eyesight. Most individuals owned no more than two sets of clothing, consisting of a woolen jacket or tunic
and linen undergarments, and bathed only when the waters melted in spring.

In an agrarian society, the seasons dictate the rhythm of life. Everyone in Europe’s feudal society had a
job to do and worked hard. The father was the unquestioned head of the family. Idleness meant hunger.
When the land began to thaw in early spring, peasants started tilling the soil with primitive wooden plows
and crude rakes and hoes. Then they planted crops of wheat, rye, barley, and oats, reaping small yields
that barely sustained the population. Bad weather, crop disease, or insect infestation could cause an entire
village to starve or force the survivors to move to another location.

Early summer saw the first harvesting of hay, which was stored until needed to feed the animals in
winter. Men and boys sheared the sheep, now heavy with wool from the cold weather, while women and
children washed the wool and spun it into yarn. The coming of fall meant crops needed to be harvested
and prepared for winter. Livestock was butchered and the meat smoked or salted to preserve it. With the
harvest in and the provisions stored, fall was also the time for celebrating and giving thanks to God. Winter
brought the people indoors to weave yarn into fabric, sew clothing, thresh grain, and keep the fires going.
Everyone celebrated the birth of Christ in conjunction with the winter solstice.

After the fall of Rome, the Christian Church—united in dogma but unofficially divided into western and
eastern branches—was the only organized institution in medieval Europe. In 1054, the eastern branch of
Christianity, led by the Patriarch of Constantinople (a title that because roughly equivalent to the western
Church’s pope), established its center in Constantinople and adopted the Greek language for its services.
The western branch, under the pope, remained in Rome, becoming known as the Roman Catholic Church
and continuing to use Latin. Following this split, known as the Great Schism, each branch of Christianity
maintained a strict organizational hierarchy. The pope in Rome, for example, oversaw a huge bureaucracy
led by cardinals, known as “princes of the church,” who were followed by archbishops, bishops, and then
priests. During this period, the Roman Church became the most powerful international organization in
western Europe.

Just as agrarian life depended on the seasons, village and family life revolved around the Church. The
sacraments, or special ceremonies of the Church, marked every stage of life, from birth to maturation,
marriage, and burial, and brought people into the church on a regular basis. As Christianity spread
throughout Europe, it replaced pagan and animistic views, explaining supernatural events and forces of
nature in its own terms. A benevolent God in heaven, creator of the universe and beyond the realm of
nature and the known, controlled all events, warring against the force of darkness, known as the Devil or
Satan, here on earth. Although ultimately defeated, Satan still had the power to trick humans and cause
them to commit evil or sin.

All events had a spiritual connotation. Sickness, for example, might be a sign that a person had sinned,
while crop failure could result from the villagers’ not saying their prayers. Penitents confessed their sins
to the priest, who absolved them and assigned them penance to atone for their acts and save themselves
from eternal damnation. Thus the parish priest held enormous power over the lives of his parishioners.

Ultimately, the pope decided all matters of theology, interpreting the will of God to the people, but he also
had authority over temporal matters. Because the Church had the ability to excommunicate people, or send
a soul to hell forever, even monarchs feared to challenge its power. It was also the seat of all knowledge.
Latin, the language of the Church, served as a unifying factor for a continent of isolated regions, each with
its own dialect; in the early Middle Ages, nations as we know them today did not yet exist. The mostly
illiterate serfs were thus dependent on those literate priests to read and interpret the Bible, the word of
God, for them.

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The year 622 brought a new challenge to Christendom. Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a prophet named
Muhammad received a revelation that became a cornerstone of the Islamic faith. The Koran, which
Muhammad wrote in Arabic, contained his message, affirming monotheism but identifying Christ not as
God but as a prophet like Moses, Abraham, David, and Muhammad. Following Muhammad’s death in
632, Islam spread by both conversion and military conquest across the Middle East and Asia Minor to India
and northern Africa, crossing the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain in the year 711 (Figure 1.14).

Figure 1.14 In the seventh and eighth centuries, Islam spread quickly across North Africa and into the Middle East.
The religion arrived in Europe via Spain in 711 and remained there until 1492, when Catholic monarchs reconquered
the last of Muslim-held territory after a long war.

The Islamic conquest of Europe continued until 732. Then, at the Battle of Tours (in modern France),
Charles Martel, nicknamed the Hammer, led a Christian force in defeating the army of Abdul Rahman
al-Ghafiqi. Muslims, however, retained control of much of Spain, where Córdoba, known for leather and
wool production, became a major center of learning and trade. By the eleventh century, a major Christian
holy war called the Reconquista, or reconquest, had begun to slowly push the Muslims from Spain.
This drive was actually an extension of the earlier military conflict between Christians and Muslims for
domination of the Holy Land (the Biblical region of Palestine), known as the Crusades.

Visit EyeWitness to History (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/crusades) to read a
personal account of the Crusades.

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Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 21


The city of Jerusalem is a holy site for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It was here King Solomon built
the Temple in the tenth century BCE. It was here the Romans crucified Jesus in 33 CE, and from here,
Christians maintain, he ascended into heaven, promising to return. From here, Muslims believe,
Muhammad traveled to heaven in 621 to receive instructions about prayer. Thus claims on the area go
deep, and emotions about it run high, among followers of all three faiths. Evidence exists that the three
religions lived in harmony for centuries. In 1095, however, European Christians decided not only to retake
the holy city from the Muslim rulers but also to conquer what they called the Holy Lands, an area that
extended from modern-day Turkey in the north along the Mediterranean coast to the Sinai Peninsula and
that was also held by Muslims. The Crusades had begun.

Religious zeal motivated the knights who participated in the four Crusades. Adventure, the chance to
win land and a title, and the Church’s promise of wholesale forgiveness of sins also motivated many.
The Crusaders, mostly French knights, retook Jerusalem in June 1099 amid horrific slaughter. A French
writer who accompanied them recorded this eyewitness account: “On the top of Solomon’s Temple, to
which they had climbed in fleeing, many were shot to death with arrows and cast down headlong from
the roof. Within this Temple, about ten thousand were beheaded. If you had been there, your feet would
have been stained up to the ankles with the blood of the slain. What more shall I tell? Not one of them was
allowed to live. They did not spare the women and children.” A Muslim eyewitness also described how
the conquerors stripped the temple of its wealth and looted private homes.

In 1187, under the legendary leader Saladin, Muslim forces took back the city. Reaction from Europe was
swift as King Richard I of England, the Lionheart, joined others to mount yet another action. The battle
for the Holy Lands did not conclude until the Crusaders lost their Mediterranean stronghold at Acre (in
present-day Israel) in 1291 and the last of the Christians left the area a few years later.

The Crusades had lasting effects, both positive and negative. On the negative side, the wide-scale
persecution of Jews began. Christians classed them with the infidel Muslims and labeled them “the killers
of Christ.” In the coming centuries, kings either expelled Jews from their kingdoms or forced them to pay
heavy tributes for the privilege of remaining. Muslim-Christian hatred also festered, and intolerance grew.

On the positive side, maritime trade between East and West expanded. As Crusaders experienced the feel
of silk, the taste of spices, and the utility of porcelain, desire for these products created new markets for
merchants. In particular, the Adriatic port city of Venice prospered enormously from trade with Islamic
merchants. Merchants’ ships brought Europeans valuable goods, traveling between the port cities of
western Europe and the East from the tenth century on, along routes collectively labeled the Silk Road.
From the days of the early adventurer Marco Polo, Venetian sailors had traveled to ports on the Black Sea
and established their own colonies along the Mediterranean Coast. However, transporting goods along the
old Silk Road was costly, slow, and unprofitable. Muslim middlemen collected taxes as the goods changed
hands. Robbers waited to ambush the treasure-laden caravans. A direct water route to the East, cutting out
the land portion of the trip, had to be found. As well as seeking a water passage to the wealthy cities in
the East, sailors wanted to find a route to the exotic and wealthy Spice Islands in modern-day Indonesia,
whose location was kept secret by Muslim rulers. Longtime rivals of Venice, the merchants of Genoa and
Florence also looked west.

Although Norse explorers such as Leif Ericson, the son of Eric the Red who first settled Greenland, had
reached and established a colony in northern Canada roughly five hundred years prior to Christopher
Columbus’s voyage, it was explorers sailing for Portugal and Spain who traversed the Atlantic throughout
the fifteenth century and ushered in an unprecedented age of exploration and permanent contact with
North America.

Located on the extreme western edge of Europe, Portugal, with its port city of Lisbon, soon became the
center for merchants desiring to undercut the Venetians’ hold on trade. With a population of about one

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million and supported by its ruler Prince Henry, whom historians call “the Navigator,” this independent
kingdom fostered exploration of and trade with western Africa. Skilled shipbuilders and navigators who
took advantage of maps from all over Europe, Portuguese sailors used triangular sails and built lighter
vessels called caravels that could sail down the African coast.

Just to the east of Portugal, King Ferdinand of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castile in 1469, uniting
two of the most powerful independent kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula and laying the foundation for
the modern nation of Spain. Isabella, motivated by strong religious zeal, was instrumental in beginning
the Inquisition in 1480, a brutal campaign to root out Jews and Muslims who had seemingly converted to
Christianity but secretly continued to practice their faith, as well as other heretics. This powerful couple
ruled for the next twenty-five years, centralizing authority and funding exploration and trade with the
East. One of their daughters, Catherine of Aragon, became the first wife of King Henry VIII of England.


Motives for European Exploration
Historians generally recognize three motives for European exploration—God, glory, and gold. Particularly
in the strongly Catholic nations of Spain and Portugal, religious zeal motivated the rulers to make
converts and retake land from the Muslims. Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal described his “great
desire to make increase in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and to bring him all the souls that should be

Sailors’ tales about fabulous monsters and fantasy literature about exotic worlds filled with gold, silver,
and jewels captured the minds of men who desired to explore these lands and return with untold wealth
and the glory of adventure and discovery. They sparked the imagination of merchants like Marco Polo,
who made the long and dangerous trip to the realm of the great Mongol ruler Kublai Khan in 1271. The
story of his trip, printed in a book entitled Travels, inspired Columbus, who had a copy in his possession
during his voyage more than two hundred years later. Passages such as the following, which describes
China’s imperial palace, are typical of the Travels:

You must know that it is the greatest Palace that ever was. . . . The roof is very lofty, and
the walls of the Palace are all covered with gold and silver. They are also adorned with
representations of dragons [sculptured and gilt], beasts and birds, knights and idols, and
sundry other subjects. And on the ceiling too you see nothing but gold and silver and painting.
[On each of the four sides there is a great marble staircase leading to the top of the marble
wall, and forming the approach to the Palace.]

The hall of the Palace is so large that it could easily dine 6,000 people; and it is quite a marvel
to see how many rooms there are besides. The building is altogether so vast, so rich, and so
beautiful, that no man on earth could design anything superior to it. The outside of the roof
also is all colored with vermilion and yellow and green and blue and other hues, which are
fixed with a varnish so fine and exquisite that they shine like crystal, and lend a resplendent
lustre to the Palace as seen for a great way round. This roof is made too with such strength
and solidity that it is fit to last forever.

Why might a travel account like this one have influenced an explorer like Columbus? What does this tell
us about European explorers’ motivations and goals?

The year 1492 witnessed some of the most significant events of Ferdinand and Isabella’s reign. The couple
oversaw the final expulsion of North African Muslims (Moors) from the Kingdom of Granada, bringing
the nearly eight-hundred-year Reconquista to an end. In this same year, they also ordered all unconverted
Jews to leave Spain.

Also in 1492, after six years of lobbying, a Genoese sailor named Christopher Columbus persuaded the
monarchs to fund his expedition to the Far East. Columbus had already pitched his plan to the rulers of
Genoa and Venice without success, so the Spanish monarchy was his last hope. Christian zeal was the

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 23

prime motivating factor for Isabella, as she imagined her faith spreading to the East. Ferdinand, the more
practical of the two, hoped to acquire wealth from trade.

Most educated individuals at the time knew the earth was round, so Columbus’s plan to reach the
East by sailing west was plausible. Though the calculations of Earth’s circumference made by the Greek
geographer Eratosthenes in the second century BCE were known (and, as we now know, nearly accurate),
most scholars did not believe they were dependable. Thus Columbus would have no way of knowing
when he had traveled far enough around the Earth to reach his goal—and in fact, Columbus greatly
underestimated the Earth’s circumference.

In August 1492, Columbus set sail with his three small caravels (Figure 1.15). After a voyage of about
three thousand miles lasting six weeks, he landed on an island in the Bahamas named Guanahani by the
native Lucayans. He promptly christened it San Salvador, the name it bears today.

Figure 1.15 Columbus sailed in three caravels such as these. The Santa Maria, his largest, was only 58 feet long.

1.3 West Africa and the Role of Slavery

At the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Locate the major West African empires on a map
• Discuss the roles of Islam and Europe in the slave trade

It is difficult to generalize about West Africa, which was linked to the rise and diffusion of Islam. This
geographical unit, central to the rise of the Atlantic World, stretches from modern-day Mauritania to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo and encompasses lush rainforests along the equator, savannas on either
side of the forest, and much drier land to the north. Until about 600 CE, most Africans were hunter-
gatherers. Where water was too scarce for farming, herders maintained sheep, goats, cattle, or camels. In
the more heavily wooded area near the equator, farmers raised yams, palm products, or plantains. The
savanna areas yielded rice, millet, and sorghum. Sub-Saharan Africans had little experience in maritime
matters. Most of the population lived away from the coast, which is connected to the interior by five main
rivers—the Senegal, Gambia, Niger, Volta, and Congo.

Although there were large trading centers along these rivers, most West Africans lived in small villages
and identified with their extended family or their clan. Wives, children, and dependents (including slaves)
were a sign of wealth among men, and polygyny, the practice of having more than one wife at a time, was
widespread. In time of need, relatives, however far away, were counted upon to assist in supplying food

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or security. Because of the clannish nature of African society, “we” was associated with the village and
family members, while “they” included everyone else. Hundreds of separate dialects emerged; in modern
Nigeria, nearly five hundred are still spoken.

Read The Role of Islam in African Slavery (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
islamslavery) to learn more about the African slave trade.

Following the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, Islam continued to spread quickly across North
Africa, bringing not only a unifying faith but a political and legal structure as well. As lands fell under
the control of Muslim armies, they instituted Islamic rule and legal structures as local chieftains converted,
usually under penalty of death. Only those who had converted to Islam could rule or be engaged in
trade. The first major empire to emerge in West Africa was the Ghana Empire (Figure 1.16). By 750, the
Soninke farmers of the sub-Sahara had become wealthy by taxing the trade that passed through their area.
For instance, the Niger River basin supplied gold to the Berber and Arab traders from west of the Nile
Valley, who brought cloth, weapons, and manufactured goods into the interior. Huge Saharan salt mines
supplied the life-sustaining mineral to the Mediterranean coast of Africa and inland areas. By 900, the
monotheistic Muslims controlled most of this trade and had converted many of the African ruling elite.
The majority of the population, however, maintained their tribal animistic practices, which gave living
attributes to nonliving objects such as mountains, rivers, and wind. Because Ghana’s king controlled the
gold supply, he was able to maintain price controls and afford a strong military. Soon, however, a new
kingdom emerged.

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Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 25



Figure 1.16 This map shows the locations of the major West African empires before 1492. Along the Mediterranean
coast, Muslim states prevailed.

By 1200 CE, under the leadership of Sundiata Keita, Mali had replaced Ghana as the leading state in
West Africa. After Sundiata’s rule, the court converted to Islam, and Muslim scribes played a large part
in administration and government. Miners then discovered huge new deposits of gold east of the Niger
River. By the fourteenth century, the empire was so wealthy that while on a hajj, or pilgrimage to the holy
city of Mecca, Mali’s ruler Mansu Musa gave away enough gold to create serious price inflation in the cities
along his route. Timbuktu, the capital city, became a leading Islamic center for education, commerce and
the slave trade. Meanwhile, in the east, the city of Gao became increasingly strong under the leadership of
Sonni Ali and soon eclipsed Mali’s power. Timbuktu sought Ali’s assistance in repelling the Tuaregs from
the north. By 1500, however, the Tuareg empire of Songhay had eclipsed Mali, where weak and ineffective
leadership prevailed.

The institution of slavery is not a recent phenomenon. Most civilizations have practiced some form of
human bondage and servitude, and African empires were no different (Figure 1.17). Famine or fear of
stronger enemies might force one tribe to ask another for help and give themselves in a type of bondage in
exchange. Similar to the European serf system, those seeking protection, or relief from starvation, would

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become the servants of those who provided relief. Debt might also be worked off through a form of
servitude. Typically, these servants became a part of the extended tribal family. There is some evidence of
chattel slavery, in which people are treated as personal property to be bought and sold, in the Nile Valley.
It appears there was a slave-trade route through the Sahara that brought sub-Saharan Africans to Rome,
which had slaves from all over the world.

Figure 1.17 Traders with a group of slaves. Note how the slaves are connected at the neck. Muslim traders brought
slaves to the North African coast, where they might be sent to Europe or other parts of Africa.

Arab slave trading, which exchanged slaves for goods from the Mediterranean, existed long before Islam’s
spread across North Africa. Muslims later expanded this trade and enslaved not only Africans but also
Europeans, especially from Spain, Sicily, and Italy. Male captives were forced to build coastal fortifications
and serve as galley slaves. Women were added to the harem.

The major European slave trade began with Portugal’s exploration of the west coast of Africa in search of a
trade route to the East. By 1444, slaves were being brought from Africa to work on the sugar plantations of
the Madeira Islands, off the coast of modern Morocco. The slave trade then expanded greatly as European
colonies in the New World demanded an ever-increasing number of workers for the extensive plantations
growing tobacco, sugar, and eventually rice and cotton (Figure 1.18).

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 27

Figure 1.18 This map shows the routes that were used in the course of the slave trade and the number of enslaved
people who traveled each route. As the figures indicate, most African slaves were bound for Brazil and the
Caribbean. While West Africans made up the vast majority of the enslaved, the east coast of Africa, too, supplied
slaves for the trade.

In the New World, the institution of slavery assumed a new aspect when the mercantilist system
demanded a permanent, identifiable, and plentiful labor supply. African slaves were both easily identified
(by their skin color) and plentiful, because of the thriving slave trade. This led to a race-based slavery
system in the New World unlike any bondage system that had come before. Initially, the Spanish tried to
force Indians to farm their crops. Most Spanish and Portuguese settlers coming to the New World were
gentlemen and did not perform physical labor. They came to “serve God, but also to get rich,” as noted
by Bernal Díaz del Castillo. However, enslaved natives tended to sicken or die from disease or from the
overwork and cruel treatment they were subjected to, and so the indigenous peoples proved not to be a
dependable source of labor. Although he later repented of his ideas, the great defender of the Indians,
Bartolomé de Las Casas, seeing the near extinction of the native population, suggested the Spanish send
black (and white) laborers to the Indies. These workers proved hardier, and within fifty years, a change
took place: The profitability of the African slave trade, coupled with the seemingly limitless number of
potential slaves and the Catholic Church’s denunciation of the enslavement of Christians, led race to
become a dominant factor in the institution of slavery.

In the English colonies along the Atlantic coast, indentured servants initially filled the need for labor in the
North, where family farms were the norm. In the South, however, labor-intensive crops such as tobacco,
rice, and indigo prevailed, and eventually the supply of indentured servants was insufficient to meet

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the demand. These workers served only for periods of three to seven years before being freed; a more
permanent labor supply was needed. Thus, whereas in Africa permanent, inherited slavery was unknown,
and children of those bound in slavery to the tribe usually were free and intermarried with their captors,
this changed in the Americas; slavery became permanent, and children born to slaves became slaves. This
development, along with slavery’s identification with race, forever changed the institution and shaped its
unique character in the New World.


The Beginnings of Racial Slavery
Slavery has a long history. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle posited that some peoples were
homunculi, or humanlike but not really people—for instance, if they did not speak Greek. Both the
Bible and the Koran sanction slavery. Vikings who raided from Ireland to Russia brought back slaves
of all nationalities. During the Middle Ages, traders from the interior of Africa brought slaves along well-
established routes to sell them along the Mediterranean coast. Initially, slavers also brought European
slaves to the Caribbean. Many of these were orphaned or homeless children captured in the cities of
Ireland. The question is, when did slavery become based on race? This appears to have developed in
the New World, with the introduction of gruelingly labor-intensive crops such as sugar and coffee. Unable
to fill their growing need from the ranks of prisoners or indentured servants, the European colonists
turned to African laborers. The Portuguese, although seeking a trade route to India, also set up forts
along the West African coast for the purpose of exporting slaves to Europe. Historians believe that by
the year 1500, 10 percent of the population of Lisbon and Seville consisted of black slaves. Because of
the influence of the Catholic Church, which frowned on the enslavement of Christians, European slave
traders expanded their reach down the coast of Africa.

When Europeans settled Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America, they thus established a system of
racially based slavery. Here, the need for a massive labor force was greater than in western Europe. The
land was ripe for growing sugar, coffee, rice, and ultimately cotton. To fulfill the ever-growing demand
for these crops, large plantations were created. The success of these plantations depended upon the
availability of a permanent, plentiful, identifiable, and skilled labor supply. As Africans were already
familiar with animal husbandry as well as farming, had an identifying skin color, and could be readily
supplied by the existing African slave trade, they proved the answer to this need. This process set the
stage for the expansion of New World slavery into North America.

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 29


Black Death


chattel slavery



feudal society









Key Terms

an ancient land bridge linking Asia and North America

two strains of the bubonic plague that simultaneously swept western Europe in the
fourteenth century, causing the death of nearly half the population

Incan relay runners used to send messages over great distances

a system of servitude in which people are treated as personal property to be bought and

floating Aztec gardens consisting of a large barge woven from reeds, filled with dirt and
floating on the water, allowing for irrigation

a series of military expeditions made by Christian Europeans to recover the Holy Land from
the Muslims in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries

a social arrangement in which serfs and knights provided labor and military service to
noble lords, receiving protection and land use in return

a campaign by the Catholic Church to root out heresy, especially among converted Jews and

the sacred book of Islam, written by the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century

a society in which women have political power

the Incan labor tax, with each family donating time and work to communal projects

the practice of taking more than one wife

an ancient Incan device for recording information, consisting of variously colored threads knotted
in different ways

Spain’s nearly eight-hundred-year holy war against Islam, which ended in 1492

a peasant tied to the land and its lord

1.1 The Americas
Great civilizations had risen and fallen in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans. In North
America, the complex Pueblo societies including the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Anasazi as well as the city
at Cahokia had peaked and were largely memories. The Eastern Woodland peoples were thriving, but they
were soon overwhelmed as the number of English, French, and Dutch settlers increased.

Mesoamerica and South America had also witnessed the rise and fall of cultures. The once-mighty
Mayan population centers were largely empty. In 1492, however, the Aztecs in Mexico City were at their
peak. Subjugating surrounding tribes and requiring tribute of both humans for sacrifice and goods for
consumption, the island city of Tenochtitlán was the hub of an ever-widening commercial center and the
equal of any large European city until Cortés destroyed it. Further south in Peru, the Inca linked one of
the largest empires in history through the use of roads and disciplined armies. Without the use of the
wheel, they cut and fashioned stone to build Machu Picchu high in the Andes before abandoning the city

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for unknown reasons. Thus, depending on what part of the New World they explored, the Europeans
encountered peoples that diverged widely in their cultures, traditions, and numbers.

1.2 Europe on the Brink of Change
One effect of the Crusades was that a larger portion of western Europe became familiar with the goods
of the East. A lively trade subsequently developed along a variety of routes known collectively as the Silk
Road to supply the demand for these products. Brigands and greedy middlemen made the trip along this
route expensive and dangerous. By 1492, Europe—recovered from the Black Death and in search of new
products and new wealth—was anxious to improve trade and communications with the rest of the world.
Venice and Genoa led the way in trading with the East. The lure of profit pushed explorers to seek new
trade routes to the Spice Islands and eliminate Muslim middlemen.

Portugal, under the leadership of Prince Henry the Navigator, attempted to send ships around the
continent of Africa. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile hired Columbus to find a route to the East
by going west. As strong supporters of the Catholic Church, they sought to bring Christianity to the East
and any newly found lands, as well as hoping to find sources of wealth.

1.3 West Africa and the Role of Slavery
Before 1492, Africa, like the Americas, had experienced the rise and fall of many cultures, but the continent
did not develop a centralized authority structure. African peoples practiced various forms of slavery, all of
which differed significantly from the racial slavery that ultimately developed in the New World. After the
arrival of Islam and before the Portuguese came to the coast of West Africa in 1444, Muslims controlled the
slave trade out of Africa, which expanded as European powers began to colonize the New World. Driven
by a demand for labor, slavery in the Americas developed a new form: It was based on race, and the status
of slave was both permanent and inherited.

Review Questions
1. Which of the following Indian peoples built
homes in cliff dwellings that still exist?

A. Anasazi
B. Cherokee
C. Aztec
D. Inca

2. Which culture developed the only writing
system in the Western Hemisphere?

A. Inca
B. Iroquois
C. Maya
D. Pueblo

3. Which culture developed a road system
rivaling that of the Romans?

A. Cherokee
B. Inca
C. Olmec
D. Anasazi

4. What were the major differences between the
societies of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya and the
Indians of North America?

5. The series of attempts by Christian armies to
retake the Holy Lands from Muslims was known
as ________.

A. the Crusades
B. the Reconquista
C. the Black Death
D. the Silk Road

6. ________ became wealthy trading with the

A. Carcassonne
B. Jerusalem
C. Rome
D. Venice

7. In 1492, the Spanish forced these two religious
groups to either convert or leave.

Chapter 1 The Americas, Europe, and Africa Before 1492 31

A. Jews and Muslims
B. Christians and Jews
C. Protestants and Muslims
D. Catholics and Jews

8. How did European feudal society operate?
How was this a mutually supportive system?

9. Why did Columbus believe he could get to the
Far East by sailing west? What were the problems
with this plan?

10. The city of ________ became a leading center
for Muslim scholarship and trade.

A. Cairo
B. Timbuktu

C. Morocco
D. Mali

11. Which of the following does not describe a
form of slavery traditionally practiced in Africa?

A. a system in which those in need of supplies
or protection give themselves in servitude

B. a system in which debtors repay those
whom they owe by giving themselves in

C. a system in which people are treated as
chattel—that is, as personal property to be
bought and sold

D. a system in which people are enslaved
permanently on account of their race

Critical Thinking Questions
12. The Inca were able to control an empire that stretched from modern Colombia to southern Chile.
Which of their various means for achieving such control do you think were most effective, and why?

13. How did the Olmec, Aztec, Inca, Maya, and North American Indians differ in their ways of life
and cultural achievements? How did their particular circumstances—geography, history, or the
accomplishments of the societies that had preceded them, for example—serve to shape their particular
traditions and cultures?

14. What were the lasting effects of the Crusades? In what ways did they provide opportunities—both
negative and positive—for cross-cultural encounters and exchanges?

15. Was race identified with slavery before the era of European exploration? Why or why not? How did
slavery’s association with race change the institution’s character?

16. What are the differences between the types of slavery traditionally practiced in Africa and the slavery
that developed in the New World? How did other types of servitude, such as European serfdom, compare
to slavery?

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Early Globalization: The Atlantic
World, 1492–1650

Figure 2.1 After Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World, he sent letters home to Spain describing the
wonders he beheld. These letters were quickly circulated throughout Europe and translated into Italian, German, and
Latin. This woodcut is from the first Italian verse translation of the letter Columbus sent to the Spanish court after his
first voyage, Lettera delle isole novamente trovata by Giuliano Dati.

Chapter Outline
2.1 Portuguese Exploration and Spanish Conquest
2.2 Religious Upheavals in the Developing Atlantic World
2.3 Challenges to Spain’s Supremacy
2.4 New Worlds in the Americas: Labor, Commerce, and the Columbian Exchange

The story of the Atlantic World is the story of global migration, a migration driven in large part by the
actions and aspirations of the ruling heads of Europe. Columbus is hardly visible in this illustration of his
ships making landfall on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Figure 2.1). Instead, Ferdinand II of Spain (in
the foreground) sits on his throne and points toward Columbus’s landing. As the ships arrive, the Arawak
people tower over the Spanish, suggesting the native population density of the islands.

This historic moment in 1492 sparked new rivalries among European powers as they scrambled to create
New World colonies, fueled by the quest for wealth and power as well as by religious passions. Almost
continuous war resulted. Spain achieved early preeminence, creating a far-flung empire and growing
rich with treasures from the Americas. Native Americans who confronted the newcomers from Europe
suffered unprecedented losses of life, however, as previously unknown diseases sliced through their
populations. They also were victims of the arrogance of the Europeans, who viewed themselves as
uncontested masters of the New World, sent by God to bring Christianity to the “Indians.”

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 33

2.1 Portuguese Exploration and Spanish Conquest

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe Portuguese exploration of the Atlantic and Spanish exploration of the

Americas, and the importance of these voyages to the developing Atlantic World
• Explain the importance of Spanish exploration of the Americas in the expansion of

Spain’s empire and the development of Spanish Renaissance culture

Portuguese colonization of Atlantic islands in the 1400s inaugurated an era of aggressive European
expansion across the Atlantic. In the 1500s, Spain surpassed Portugal as the dominant European power.
This age of exploration and the subsequent creation of an Atlantic World marked the earliest phase of
globalization, in which previously isolated groups—Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans—first
came into contact with each other, sometimes with disastrous results.

Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator spearheaded his country’s exploration of Africa and the Atlantic
in the 1400s. With his support, Portuguese mariners successfully navigated an eastward route to Africa,
establishing a foothold there that became a foundation of their nation’s trade empire in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries.

Portuguese mariners built an Atlantic empire by colonizing the Canary, Cape Verde, and Azores Islands,
as well as the island of Madeira. Merchants then used these Atlantic outposts as debarkation points for
subsequent journeys. From these strategic points, Portugal spread its empire down the western coast of
Africa to the Congo, along the western coast of India, and eventually to Brazil on the eastern coast of

Figure 2.2

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South America. It also established trading posts in China and Japan. While the Portuguese didn’t rule over
an immense landmass, their strategic holdings of islands and coastal ports gave them almost unrivaled
control of nautical trade routes and a global empire of trading posts during the 1400s.

The travels of Portuguese traders to western Africa introduced them to the African slave trade, already
brisk among African states. Seeing the value of this source of labor in growing the profitable crop of
sugar on their Atlantic islands, the Portuguese soon began exporting African slaves along with African
ivory and gold. Sugar fueled the Atlantic slave trade, and the Portuguese islands quickly became home
to sugar plantations. The Portuguese also traded these slaves, introducing much-needed human capital to
other European nations. In the following years, as European exploration spread, slavery spread as well. In
time, much of the Atlantic World would become a gargantuan sugar-plantation complex in which Africans
labored to produce the highly profitable commodity for European consumers.


Elmina Castle
In 1482, Portuguese traders built Elmina Castle (also called São Jorge da Mina, or Saint George’s of
the Mine) in present-day Ghana, on the west coast of Africa (Figure 2.3). A fortified trading post, it had
mounted cannons facing out to sea, not inland toward continental Africa; the Portuguese had greater
fear of a naval attack from other Europeans than of a land attack from Africans. Portuguese traders soon
began to settle around the fort and established the town of Elmina.

Figure 2.3 Elmina Castle on the west coast of Ghana was used as a holding pen for slaves before
they were brought across the Atlantic and sold. Originally built by the Portuguese in the fifteenth
century, it appears in this image as it was in the 1660s, after being seized by Dutch slave traders in

Although the Portuguese originally used the fort primarily for trading gold, by the sixteenth century they
had shifted their focus. The dungeon of the fort now served as a holding pen for African slaves from the
interior of the continent, while on the upper floors Portuguese traders ate, slept, and prayed in a chapel.
Slaves lived in the dungeon for weeks or months until ships arrived to transport them to Europe or the
Americas. For them, the dungeon of Elmina was their last sight of their home country.

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 35

The Spanish established the first European settlements in the Americas, beginning in the Caribbean
and, by 1600, extending throughout Central and South America. Thousands of Spaniards flocked to the
Americas seeking wealth and status. The most famous of these Spanish adventurers are Christopher
Columbus (who, though Italian himself, explored on behalf of the Spanish monarchs), Hernán Cortés, and
Francisco Pizarro.

The history of Spanish exploration begins with the history of Spain itself. During the fifteenth century,
Spain hoped to gain advantage over its rival, Portugal. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella
of Castile in 1469 unified Catholic Spain and began the process of building a nation that could compete
for worldwide power. Since the 700s, much of Spain had been under Islamic rule, and King Ferdinand II
and Queen Isabella I, arch-defenders of the Catholic Church against Islam, were determined to defeat the
Muslims in Granada, the last Islamic stronghold in Spain. In 1492, they completed the Reconquista: the
centuries-long Christian conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The Reconquista marked another step forward
in the process of making Spain an imperial power, and Ferdinand and Isabella were now ready to look
further afield.

Their goals were to expand Catholicism and to gain a commercial advantage over Portugal. To those
ends, Ferdinand and Isabella sponsored extensive Atlantic exploration. Spain’s most famous explorer,
Christopher Columbus, was actually from Genoa, Italy. He believed that, using calculations based on
other mariners’ journeys, he could chart a westward route to India, which could be used to expand
European trade and spread Christianity. Starting in 1485, he approached Genoese, Venetian, Portuguese,
English, and Spanish monarchs, asking for ships and funding to explore this westward route. All those he
petitioned—including Ferdinand and Isabella at first—rebuffed him; their nautical experts all concurred
that Columbus’s estimates of the width of the Atlantic Ocean were far too low. However, after three years
of entreaties, and, more important, the completion of the Reconquista, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed
to finance Columbus’s expedition in 1492, supplying him with three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the
Santa Maria. The Spanish monarchs knew that Portuguese mariners had reached the southern tip of Africa
and sailed the Indian Ocean. They understood that the Portuguese would soon reach Asia and, in this
competitive race to reach the Far East, the Spanish rulers decided to act.

Columbus held erroneous views that shaped his thinking about what he would encounter as he sailed
west. He believed the earth to be much smaller than its actual size and, since he did not know of the
existence of the Americas, he fully expected to land in Asia. On October 12, 1492, however, he made
landfall on an island in the Bahamas. He then sailed to an island he named Hispaniola (present-day
Dominican Republic and Haiti) (Figure 2.4). Believing he had landed in the East Indies, Columbus called
the native Taínos he found there “Indios,” giving rise to the term “Indian” for any native people of the
New World. Upon Columbus’s return to Spain, the Spanish crown bestowed on him the title of Admiral of
the Ocean Sea and named him governor and viceroy of the lands he had discovered. As a devoted Catholic,
Columbus had agreed with Ferdinand and Isabella prior to sailing west that part of the expected wealth
from his voyage would be used to continue the fight against Islam.

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Figure 2.4 This sixteenth-century map shows the island of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic).
Note the various fanciful elements, such as the large-scale ships and sea creatures, and consider what the creator of
this map hoped to convey. In addition to navigation, what purpose would such a map have served?

Columbus’s 1493 letter—or probanza de mérito (proof of merit)—describing his “discovery” of a New
World did much to inspire excitement in Europe. Probanzas de méritos were reports and letters written
by Spaniards in the New World to the Spanish crown, designed to win royal patronage. Today they
highlight the difficult task of historical work; while the letters are primary sources, historians need to
understand the context and the culture in which the conquistadors, as the Spanish adventurers came to be
called, wrote them and distinguish their bias and subjective nature. While they are filled with distortions
and fabrications, probanzas de méritos are still useful in illustrating the expectation of wealth among the
explorers as well as their view that native peoples would not pose a serious obstacle to colonization.

In 1493, Columbus sent two copies of a probanza de mérito to the Spanish king and queen and their minister
of finance, Luis de Santángel. Santángel had supported Columbus’s voyage, helping him to obtain funding
from Ferdinand and Isabella. Copies of the letter were soon circulating all over Europe, spreading news
of the wondrous new land that Columbus had “discovered.” Columbus would make three more voyages
over the next decade, establishing Spain’s first settlement in the New World on the island of Hispaniola.
Many other Europeans followed in Columbus’s footsteps, drawn by dreams of winning wealth by sailing
west. Another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci, sailing for the Portuguese crown, explored the South American
coastline between 1499 and 1502. Unlike Columbus, he realized that the Americas were not part of Asia but
lands unknown to Europeans. Vespucci’s widely published accounts of his voyages fueled speculation and
intense interest in the New World among Europeans. Among those who read Vespucci’s reports was the
German mapmaker Martin Waldseemuller. Using the explorer’s first name as a label for the new landmass,
Waldseemuller attached “America” to his map of the New World in 1507, and the name stuck.

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 37


Columbus’s Probanza de mérito of 1493
The exploits of the most famous Spanish explorers have provided Western civilization with a narrative of
European supremacy and Indian savagery. However, these stories are based on the self-aggrandizing
efforts of conquistadors to secure royal favor through the writing of probanzas de méritos (proofs of
merit). Below are excerpts from Columbus’s 1493 letter to Luis de Santángel, which illustrates how
fantastic reports from European explorers gave rise to many myths surrounding the Spanish conquest
and the New World.

This island, like all the others, is most extensive. It has many ports along the sea-coast
excelling any in Christendom—and many fine, large, flowing rivers. The land there is elevated,
with many mountains and peaks incomparably higher than in the centre isle. They are most
beautiful, of a thousand varied forms, accessible, and full of trees of endless varieties, so
high that they seem to touch the sky, and I have been told that they never lose their foliage.
. . . There is honey, and there are many kinds of birds, and a great variety of fruits. Inland
there are numerous mines of metals and innumerable people. Hispaniola is a marvel. Its
hills and mountains, fine plains and open country, are rich and fertile for planting and for
pasturage, and for building towns and villages. The seaports there are incredibly fine, as also
the magnificent rivers, most of which bear gold. The trees, fruits and grasses differ widely from
those in Juana. There are many spices and vast mines of gold and other metals in this island.
They have no iron, nor steel, nor weapons, nor are they fit for them, because although they
are well-made men of commanding stature, they appear extraordinarily timid. The only arms
they have are sticks of cane, cut when in seed, with a sharpened stick at the end, and they
are afraid to use these. Often I have sent two or three men ashore to some town to converse
with them, and the natives came out in great numbers, and as soon as they saw our men
arrive, fled without a moment’s delay although I protected them from all injury.

What does this letter show us about Spanish objectives in the New World? How do you think it might
have influenced Europeans reading about the New World for the first time?

The 1492 Columbus landfall accelerated the rivalry between Spain and Portugal, and the two powers vied
for domination through the acquisition of new lands. In the 1480s, Pope Sixtus IV had granted Portugal
the right to all land south of the Cape Verde islands, leading the Portuguese king to claim that the lands
discovered by Columbus belonged to Portugal, not Spain. Seeking to ensure that Columbus’s finds would
remain Spanish, Spain’s monarchs turned to the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI, who issued two papal
decrees in 1493 that gave legitimacy to Spain’s Atlantic claims at the expense of Portugal. Hoping to
salvage Portugal’s Atlantic holdings, King João II began negotiations with Spain. The resulting Treaty of
Tordesillas in 1494 drew a north-to-south line through South America (Figure 2.5); Spain gained territory
west of the line, while Portugal retained the lands east of the line, including the east coast of Brazil.

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Figure 2.5 This 1502 map, known as the Cantino World Map, depicts the cartographer’s interpretation of the world
in light of recent discoveries. The map shows areas of Portuguese and Spanish exploration, the two nations’ claims
under the Treaty of Tordesillas, and a variety of flora, fauna, figures, and structures. What does it reveal about the
state of geographical knowledge, as well as European perceptions of the New World, at the beginning of the
sixteenth century?

Columbus’s discovery opened a floodgate of Spanish exploration. Inspired by tales of rivers of gold and
timid, malleable natives, later Spanish explorers were relentless in their quest for land and gold. Hernán
Cortés hoped to gain hereditary privilege for his family, tribute payments and labor from natives, and an
annual pension for his service to the crown. Cortés arrived on Hispaniola in 1504 and took part in the
conquest of that island. In anticipation of winning his own honor and riches, Cortés later explored the
Yucatán Peninsula. In 1519, he entered Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec (Mexica) Empire. He and his
men were astonished by the incredibly sophisticated causeways, gardens, and temples in the city, but they
were horrified by the practice of human sacrifice that was part of the Aztec religion. Above all else, the
Aztec wealth in gold fascinated the Spanish adventurers.

Hoping to gain power over the city, Cortés took Moctezuma, the Aztec ruler, hostage. The Spanish then
murdered hundreds of high-ranking Mexica during a festival to celebrate Huitzilopochtli, the god of war.
This angered the people of Tenochtitlán, who rose up against the interlopers in their city. Cortés and
his people fled for their lives, running down one of Tenochtitlán’s causeways to safety on the shore.
Smarting from their defeat at the hands of the Aztec, Cortés slowly created alliances with native peoples
who resented Aztec rule. It took nearly a year for the Spanish and the tens of thousands of native allies
who joined them to defeat the Mexica in Tenochtitlán, which they did by laying siege to the city. Only by
playing upon the disunity among the diverse groups in the Aztec Empire were the Spanish able to capture
the grand city of Tenochtitlán. In August 1521, having successfully fomented civil war as well as fended
off rival Spanish explorers, Cortés claimed Tenochtitlán for Spain and renamed it Mexico City.

The traditional European narrative of exploration presents the victory of the Spanish over the Aztec as
an example of the superiority of the Europeans over the savage Indians. However, the reality is far more
complex. When Cortés explored central Mexico, he encountered a region simmering with native conflict.
Far from being unified and content under Aztec rule, many peoples in Mexico resented it and were ready
to rebel. One group in particular, the Tlaxcalan, threw their lot in with the Spanish, providing as many as
200,000 fighters in the siege of Tenochtitlán. The Spanish also brought smallpox into the valley of Mexico.
The disease took a heavy toll on the people in Tenochtitlán, playing a much greater role in the city’s demise
than did Spanish force of arms.

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 39

Cortés was also aided by a Nahua woman called Malintzin (also known as La Malinche or Doña Marina,
her Spanish name), whom the natives of Tabasco gave him as tribute. Malintzin translated for Cortés in his
dealings with Moctezuma and, whether willingly or under pressure, entered into a physical relationship
with him. Their son, Martín, may have been the first mestizo (person of mixed indigenous American and
European descent). Malintzin remains a controversial figure in the history of the Atlantic World; some
people view her as a traitor because she helped Cortés conquer the Aztecs, while others see her as a victim
of European expansion. In either case, she demonstrates one way in which native peoples responded to
the arrival of the Spanish. Without her, Cortés would not have been able to communicate, and without the
language bridge, he surely would have been less successful in destabilizing the Aztec Empire. By this and
other means, native people helped shape the conquest of the Americas.

Spain’s acquisitiveness seemingly knew no bounds as groups of its explorers searched for the next trove of
instant riches. One such explorer, Francisco Pizarro, made his way to the Spanish Caribbean in 1509, drawn
by the promise of wealth and titles. He participated in successful expeditions in Panama before following
rumors of Inca wealth to the south. Although his first efforts against the Inca Empire in the 1520s failed,
Pizarro captured the Inca emperor Atahualpa in 1532 and executed him one year later. In 1533, Pizarro
founded Lima, Peru. Like Cortés, Pizarro had to combat not only the natives of the new worlds he was
conquering, but also competitors from his own country; a Spanish rival assassinated him in 1541.

Spain’s drive to enlarge its empire led other hopeful conquistadors to push further into the Americas,
hoping to replicate the success of Cortés and Pizarro. Hernando de Soto had participated in Pizarro’s
conquest of the Inca, and from 1539 to 1542 he led expeditions to what is today the southeastern United
States, looking for gold. He and his followers explored what is now Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas,
Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. Everywhere they traveled,
they brought European diseases, which claimed thousands of native lives as well as the lives of the
explorers. In 1542, de Soto himself died during the expedition. The surviving Spaniards, numbering a little
over three hundred, returned to Mexico City without finding the much-anticipated mountains of gold and

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was born into a noble family and went to Mexico, then called New Spain,
in 1535. He presided as governor over the province of Nueva Galicia, where he heard rumors of wealth
to the north: a golden city called Quivira. Between 1540 and 1542, Coronado led a large expedition of
Spaniards and native allies to the lands north of Mexico City, and for the next several years, they explored
the area that is now the southwestern United States (Figure 2.6). During the winter of 1540–41, the
explorers waged war against the Tiwa in present-day New Mexico. Rather than leading to the discovery
of gold and silver, however, the expedition simply left Coronado bankrupt.

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Figure 2.6 This map traces Coronado’s path through the American Southwest and the Great Plains. The regions
through which he traveled were not empty areas waiting to be “discovered”: rather, they were populated and
controlled by the groups of native peoples indicated. (credit: modification of work by National Park Service)

The exploits of European explorers had a profound impact both in the Americas and back in Europe. An
exchange of ideas, fueled and financed in part by New World commodities, began to connect European
nations and, in turn, to touch the parts of the world that Europeans conquered. In Spain, gold and
silver from the Americas helped to fuel a golden age, the Siglo de Oro, when Spanish art and literature
flourished. Riches poured in from the colonies, and new ideas poured in from other countries and new
lands. The Hapsburg dynasty, which ruled a collection of territories including Austria, the Netherlands,
Naples, Sicily, and Spain, encouraged and financed the work of painters, sculptors, musicians, architects,
and writers, resulting in a blooming of Spanish Renaissance culture. One of this period’s most famous
works is the novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes. This two-
volume book (1605 and 1618) told a colorful tale of an hidalgo (gentleman) who reads so many tales of
chivalry and knighthood that he becomes unable to tell reality from fiction. With his faithful sidekick
Sancho Panza, Don Quixote leaves reality behind and sets out to revive chivalry by doing battle with what
he perceives as the enemies of Spain.

Explore the collection at The Cervantes Project (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
cervantes) for images, complete texts, and other resources relating to Cervantes’s

Click and Explore

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 41



Spain attracted innovative foreign painters such as El Greco, a Greek who had studied with Italian
Renaissance masters like Titian and Michelangelo before moving to Toledo. Native Spaniards created
equally enduring works. Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor), painted by Diego Velázquez in 1656, is one of
the best-known paintings in history. Velázquez painted himself into this imposingly large royal portrait
(he’s shown holding his brush and easel on the left) and boldly placed the viewer where the king and
queen would stand in the scene (Figure 2.7).

Figure 2.7 Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor), painted by Diego Velázquez in 1656, is unique for its time because it
places the viewer in the place of King Philip IV and his wife, Queen Mariana.

2.2 Religious Upheavals in the Developing Atlantic World

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the changes brought by the Protestant Reformation and how it influenced the

development of the Atlantic World
• Describe Spain’s response to the Protestant Reformation

Until the 1500s, the Catholic Church provided a unifying religious structure for Christian Europe. The
Vatican in Rome exercised great power over the lives of Europeans; it controlled not only learning and
scholarship but also finances, because it levied taxes on the faithful. Spain, with its New World wealth,
was the bastion of the Catholic faith. Beginning with the reform efforts of Martin Luther in 1517 and John
Calvin in the 1530s, however, Catholic dominance came under attack as the Protestant Reformation, a split
or schism among European Christians, began.

During the sixteenth century, Protestantism spread through northern Europe, and Catholic countries
responded by attempting to extinguish what was seen as the Protestant menace. Religious turmoil between
Catholics and Protestants influenced the history of the Atlantic World as well, since different nation-states
competed not only for control of new territories but also for the preeminence of their religious beliefs

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there. Just as the history of Spain’s rise to power is linked to the Reconquista, so too is the history of early
globalization connected to the history of competing Christian groups in the Atlantic World.

Martin Luther (Figure 2.8) was a German Catholic monk who took issue with the Catholic Church’s
practice of selling indulgences, documents that absolved sinners of their errant behavior. He also objected
to the Catholic Church’s taxation of ordinary Germans and the delivery of Mass in Latin, arguing that it
failed to instruct German Catholics, who did not understand the language.

Figure 2.8 Martin Luther, a German Catholic monk and leader of the Protestant Reformation, was a close friend of
the German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder. Cranach painted this and several other portraits of Luther.

Many Europeans had called for reforms of the Catholic Church before Martin Luther did, but his protest
had the unintended consequence of splitting European Christianity. Luther compiled a list of what he
viewed as needed Church reforms, a document that came to be known as The Ninety-Five Theses, and
nailed it to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. He called for the publication of the
Bible in everyday language, took issue with the Church’s policy of imposing tithes (a required payment
to the Church that appeared to enrich the clergy), and denounced the buying and selling of indulgences.
Although he had hoped to reform the Catholic Church while remaining a part of it, Luther’s action instead
triggered a movement called the Protestant Reformation that divided the Church in two. The Catholic
Church condemned him as a heretic, but a doctrine based on his reforms, called Lutheranism, spread
through northern Germany and Scandinavia.

Visit Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/fordham) for access to many primary sources relating
to the Protestant Reformation.

Click and Explore

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 43



Like Luther, the French lawyer John Calvin advocated making the Bible accessible to ordinary people; only
by reading scripture and reflecting daily about their spiritual condition, he argued, could believers begin
to understand the power of God. In 1535, Calvin fled Catholic France and led the Reformation movement
from Geneva, Switzerland.

Calvinism emphasized human powerlessness before an omniscient God and stressed the idea of
predestination, the belief that God selected a few chosen people for salvation while everyone else was
predestined to damnation. Calvinists believed that reading scripture prepared sinners, if they were among
the elect, to receive God’s grace. In Geneva, Calvin established a Bible commonwealth, a community of
believers whose sole source of authority was their interpretation of the Bible, not the authority of any
prince or monarch. Soon Calvin’s ideas spread to the Netherlands and Scotland.

Protestantism spread beyond the German states and Geneva to England, which had been a Catholic nation
for centuries. Luther’s idea that scripture should be available in the everyday language of worshippers
inspired English scholar William Tyndale to translate the Bible into English in 1526. The seismic break with
the Catholic Church in England occurred in the 1530s, when Henry VIII established a new, Protestant state

A devout Catholic, Henry had initially stood in opposition to the Reformation. Pope Leo X even awarded
him the title “Defender of the Faith.” The tides turned, however, when Henry desired a male heir to the
Tudor monarchy. When his Spanish Catholic wife, Catherine (the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella), did
not give birth to a boy, the king sought an annulment to their marriage. When the Pope refused his request,
Henry created a new national Protestant church, the Church of England, with himself at its head. This left
him free to annul his own marriage and marry Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn also failed to produce a male heir, and when she was accused of adultery, Henry had her
executed. His third wife, Jane Seymour, at long last delivered a son, Edward, who ruled for only a short
time before dying in 1553 at the age of fifteen. Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and his discarded first wife
Catherine, then came to the throne, committed to restoring Catholicism. She earned the nickname “Bloody
Mary” for the many executions of Protestants, often by burning alive, that she ordered during her reign.

Religious turbulence in England was finally quieted when Elizabeth, the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII
and Anne Boleyn, ascended the throne in 1558. Under Elizabeth, the Church of England again became the
state church, retaining the hierarchical structure and many of the rituals of the Catholic Church. However,
by the late 1500s, some English members of the Church began to agitate for more reform. Known as
Puritans, they worked to erase all vestiges of Catholicism from the Church of England. At the time, the
term “puritan” was a pejorative one; many people saw Puritans as holier-than-thou frauds who used
religion to swindle their neighbors. Worse still, many in power saw Puritans as a security threat because
of their opposition to the national church.

Under Elizabeth, whose long reign lasted from 1558 to 1603, Puritans grew steadily in number. After James
I died in 1625 and his son Charles I ascended the throne, Puritans became the target of increasing state
pressure to conform. Many crossed the Atlantic in the 1620s and 1630s instead to create a New England,
a haven for reformed Protestantism where Puritan was no longer a term of abuse. Thus, the religious
upheavals that affected England so much had equally momentous consequences for the Americas.

By the early 1500s, the Protestant Reformation threatened the massive Spanish Catholic empire. As the
preeminent Catholic power, Spain would not tolerate any challenge to the Holy Catholic Church. Over
the course of the 1500s, it devoted vast amounts of treasure and labor to leading an unsuccessful effort to
eradicate Protestantism in Europe.

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Spain’s main enemies at this time were the runaway Spanish provinces of the North Netherlands. By
1581, these seven northern provinces had declared their independence from Spain and created the Dutch
Republic, also called Holland, where Protestantism was tolerated. Determined to deal a death blow to
Protestantism in England and Holland, King Philip of Spain assembled a massive force of over thirty
thousand men and 130 ships, and in 1588 he sent this navy, the Spanish Armada, north. But English sea
power combined with a maritime storm destroyed the fleet.

The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was but one part of a larger but undeclared war between
Protestant England and Catholic Spain. Between 1585 and 1604, the two rivals sparred repeatedly. England
launched its own armada in 1589 in an effort to cripple the Spanish fleet and capture Spanish treasure.
However, the foray ended in disaster for the English, with storms, disease, and the strength of the Spanish
Armada combining to bring about defeat.

The conflict between Spain and England dragged on into the early seventeenth century, and the newly
Protestant nations, especially England and the Dutch Republic, posed a significant challenge to Spain (and
also to Catholic France) as imperial rivalries played out in the Atlantic World. Spain retained its mighty
American empire, but by the early 1600s, the nation could no longer keep England and other European
rivals—the French and Dutch—from colonizing smaller islands in the Caribbean (Figure 2.9).

Figure 2.9 This portrait of Elizabeth I of England, painted by George Gower in about 1588, shows Elizabeth with her
hand on a globe, signifying her power over the world. The pictures in the background show the English defeat of the
Spanish Armada.

Religious intolerance characterized the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an age of powerful state
religions with the authority to impose and enforce belief systems on the population. In this climate,
religious violence was common. One of the most striking examples is the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
of 1572, in which French Catholic troops began to kill unarmed French Protestants (Figure 2.10). The
murders touched off mob violence that ultimately claimed nine thousand lives, a bloody episode that
highlights the degree of religious turmoil that gripped Europe in the aftermath of the Protestant

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 45

Figure 2.10 Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1772-84), by François Dubois, shows the horrific violence of the
St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. In this scene, French Catholic troops slaughter French Protestant Calvinists.

2.3 Challenges to Spain’s Supremacy

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify regions where the English, French, and Dutch explored and established

• Describe the differences among the early colonies
• Explain the role of the American colonies in European nations’ struggles for


For Europeans, the discovery of an Atlantic World meant newfound wealth in the form of gold and silver
as well as valuable furs. The Americas also provided a new arena for intense imperial rivalry as different
European nations jockeyed for preeminence in the New World. The religious motives for colonization
spurred European expansion as well, and as the Protestant Reformation gained ground beginning in the
1520s, rivalries between Catholic and Protestant Christians spilled over into the Americas.

Disruptions during the Tudor monarchy—especially the creation of the Protestant Church of England
by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the return of the nation to Catholicism under Queen Mary in the 1550s,
and the restoration of Protestantism under Queen Elizabeth—left England with little energy for overseas
projects. More important, England lacked the financial resources for such endeavors. Nonetheless, English
monarchs carefully monitored developments in the new Atlantic World and took steps to assert England’s
claim to the Americas. As early as 1497, Henry VII of England had commissioned John Cabot, an Italian
mariner, to explore new lands. Cabot sailed from England that year and made landfall somewhere along
the North American coastline. For the next century, English fishermen routinely crossed the Atlantic to
fish the rich waters off the North American coast. However, English colonization efforts in the 1500s were
closer to home, as England devoted its energy to the colonization of Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth favored England’s advance into the Atlantic World, though her main concern was
blocking Spain’s effort to eliminate Protestantism. Indeed, England could not commit to large-scale
colonization in the Americas as long as Spain appeared ready to invade Ireland or Scotland. Nonetheless,

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Elizabeth approved of English privateers, sea captains to whom the home government had given
permission to raid the enemy at will. These skilled mariners cruised the Caribbean, plundering Spanish
ships whenever they could. Each year the English took more than £100,000 from Spain in this way; English
privateer Francis Drake first made a name for himself when, in 1573, he looted silver, gold, and pearls
worth £40,000.

Elizabeth did sanction an early attempt at colonization in 1584, when Sir Walter Raleigh, a favorite of
the queen’s, attempted to establish a colony at Roanoke, an island off the coast of present-day North
Carolina. The colony was small, consisting of only 117 people, who suffered a poor relationship with the
local Indians, the Croatans, and struggled to survive in their new land (Figure 2.11). Their governor,
John White, returned to England in late 1587 to secure more people and supplies, but events conspired
to keep him away from Roanoke for three years. By the time he returned in 1590, the entire colony had
vanished. The only trace the colonists left behind was the word Croatoan carved into a fence surrounding
the village. Governor White never knew whether the colonists had decamped for nearby Croatoan Island
(now Hatteras) or whether some disaster had befallen them all. Roanoke is still called “the lost colony.”

Figure 2.11 In 1588, a promoter of English colonization named Thomas Hariot published A Briefe and True Report
of the New Found Land of Virginia, which contained many engravings of the native peoples who lived on the Carolina
coast in the 1580s. This print, “The brovvyllinge of their fishe ouer the flame” (1590) by Theodor de Bry, shows the
ingenuity and wisdom of the “savages” of the New World. (credit: UNC Chapel Hill)

English promoters of colonization pushed its commercial advantages and the religious justification that
English colonies would allow the establishment of Protestantism in the Americas. Both arguments struck a
chord. In the early 1600s, wealthy English merchants and the landed elite began to pool their resources to
form joint stock companies. In this novel business arrangement, which was in many ways the precursor
to the modern corporation, investors provided the capital for and assumed the risk of a venture in order
to reap significant returns. The companies gained the approval of the English crown to establish colonies,
and their investors dreamed of reaping great profits from the money they put into overseas colonization.

The first permanent English settlement was established by a joint stock company, the Virginia Company.
Named for Elizabeth, the “virgin queen,” the company gained royal approval to establish a colony on the
east coast of North America, and in 1606, it sent 144 men and boys to the New World. In early 1607, this
group sailed up Chesapeake Bay. Finding a river they called the James in honor of their new king, James
I, they established a ramshackle settlement and named it Jamestown. Despite serious struggles, the colony

Many of Jamestown’s settlers were desperate men; although they came from elite families, they were
younger sons who would not inherit their father’s estates. The Jamestown adventurers believed they
would find instant wealth in the New World and did not actually expect to have to perform work. Henry
Percy, the eighth son of the Earl of Northumberland, was among them. His account, excerpted below,
illustrates the hardships the English confronted in Virginia in 1607.

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 47


George Percy and the First Months at Jamestown
The 144 men and boys who started the Jamestown colony faced many hardships; by the end of the first
winter, only 38 had survived. Disease, hunger, and poor relationships with local natives all contributed
to the colony’s high death toll. George Percy, who served twice as governor of Jamestown, kept records
of the colonists’ first months in the colony. These records were later published in London in 1608. This
excerpt is from his account of August and September of 1607.

The fourth day of September died Thomas Jacob Sergeant. The fifth day, there died Benjamin
Beast. Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases, as Swellings, Fluxes, Burning Fevers,
and by wars, and some departed suddenly, but for the most part they died of mere famine.
There were never Englishmen left in a foreign Country in such misery as we were in this new
discovered Virginia. . . . Our food was but a small Can of Barley sod* in water, to five men a
day, our drink cold water taken out of the River, which was at a flood very salty, at a low tide
full of slime and filth, which was the destruction of many of our men. Thus we lived for the
space of five months in this miserable distress, not having five able men to man our Bulwarks
upon any occasion. If it had not pleased God to have put a terror in the Savages’ hearts, we
had all perished by those wild and cruel Pagans, being in that weak estate as we were; our
men night and day groaning in every corner of the Fort most pitiful to hear. If there were any
conscience in men, it would make their hearts to bleed to hear the pitiful murmurings and
outcries of our sick men without relief, every night and day, for the space of six weeks, some
departing out of the World, many times three or four in a night; in the morning, their bodies
trailed out of their Cabins like Dogs to be buried. In this sort did I see the mortality of diverse
of our people.


According to George Percy’s account, what were the major problems the Jamestown settlers
encountered? What kept the colony from complete destruction?

By any measure, England came late to the race to colonize. As Jamestown limped along in the 1610s, the
Spanish Empire extended around the globe and grew rich from its global colonial project. Yet the English
persisted, and for this reason the Jamestown settlement has a special place in history as the first permanent
colony in what later became the United States.

After Jamestown’s founding, English colonization of the New World accelerated. In 1609, a ship bound
for Jamestown foundered in a storm and landed on Bermuda. (Some believe this incident helped inspire
Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Tempest.) The admiral of the ship, George Somers, claimed the island for the
English crown. The English also began to colonize small islands in the Caribbean, an incursion into the
Spanish American empire. They established themselves on small islands such as St. Christopher (1624),
Barbados (1627), Nevis (1628), Montserrat (1632), and Antigua (1632).

From the start, the English West Indies had a commercial orientation, for these islands produced cash
crops: first tobacco and then sugar. Very quickly, by the mid-1600s, Barbados had become one of the most
important English colonies because of the sugar produced there. Barbados was the first English colony
dependent on slaves, and it became a model for other English slave societies on the American mainland.
These differed radically from England itself, where slavery was not practiced.

English Puritans also began to colonize the Americas in the 1620s and 1630s. These intensely religious
migrants dreamed of creating communities of reformed Protestantism where the corruption of England
would be eliminated. One of the first groups of Puritans to remove to North America, known as Pilgrims
and led by William Bradford, had originally left England to live in the Netherlands. Fearing their children
were losing their English identity among the Dutch, however, they sailed for North America in 1620 to
settle at Plymouth, the first English settlement in New England. The Pilgrims differed from other Puritans

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in their insistence on separating from what they saw as the corrupt Church of England. For this reason,
Pilgrims are known as Separatists.

Like Jamestown, Plymouth occupies an iconic place in American national memory. The tale of the 102
migrants who crossed the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower and their struggle for survival is a well-known
narrative of the founding of the country. Their story includes the signing of the Mayflower Compact, a
written agreement whereby the English voluntarily agreed to help each other. Some interpret this 1620
document as an expression of democratic spirit because of the cooperative and inclusive nature of the
agreement to live and work together. In 1630, a much larger contingent of Puritans left England to escape
conformity to the Church of England and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the following years,
thousands more arrived to create a new life in the rocky soils and cold climates of New England.

In comparison to Catholic Spain, however, Protestant England remained a very weak imperial player in
the early seventeenth century, with only a few infant colonies in the Americas in the early 1600s. The
English never found treasure equal to that of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, and England did not quickly
grow rich from its small American outposts. The English colonies also differed from each other; Barbados
and Virginia had a decidedly commercial orientation from the start, while the Puritan colonies of New
England were intensely religious at their inception. All English settlements in America, however, marked
the increasingly important role of England in the Atlantic World.

Spanish exploits in the New World whetted the appetite of other would-be imperial powers, including
France. Like Spain, France was a Catholic nation and committed to expanding Catholicism around the
globe. In the early sixteenth century, it joined the race to explore the New World and exploit the resources
of the Western Hemisphere. Navigator Jacques Cartier claimed northern North America for France,
naming the area New France. From 1534 to 1541, he made three voyages of discovery on the Gulf of St.
Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River. Like other explorers, Cartier made exaggerated claims of mineral
wealth in America, but he was unable to send great riches back to France. Due to resistance from the
native peoples as well as his own lack of planning, he could not establish a permanent settlement in North

Explorer Samuel de Champlain occupies a special place in the history of the Atlantic World for his role
in establishing the French presence in the New World. Champlain explored the Caribbean in 1601 and
then the coast of New England in 1603 before traveling farther north. In 1608 he founded Quebec, and he
made numerous Atlantic crossings as he worked tirelessly to promote New France. Unlike other imperial
powers, France—through Champlain’s efforts—fostered especially good relationships with native
peoples, paving the way for French exploration further into the continent: around the Great Lakes, around
Hudson Bay, and eventually to the Mississippi. Champlain made an alliance with the Huron confederacy
and the Algonquins and agreed to fight with them against their enemy, the Iroquois (Figure 2.12).

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 49

Figure 2.12 In this engraving, titled Defeat of the Iroquois and based on a drawing by explorer Samuel de
Champlain, Champlain is shown fighting on the side of the Huron and Algonquins against the Iroquois. He portrays
himself in the middle of the battle, firing a gun, while the native people around him shoot arrows at each other. What
does this engraving suggest about the impact of European exploration and settlement on the Americas?

The French were primarily interested in establishing commercially viable colonial outposts, and to that
end, they created extensive trading networks in New France. These networks relied on native hunters to
harvest furs, especially beaver pelts, and to exchange these items for French glass beads and other trade
goods. (French fashion at the time favored broad-brimmed hats trimmed in beaver fur, so French traders
had a ready market for their North American goods.) The French also dreamed of replicating the wealth of
Spain by colonizing the tropical zones. After Spanish control of the Caribbean began to weaken, the French
turned their attention to small islands in the West Indies, and by 1635 they had colonized two, Guadeloupe
and Martinique. Though it lagged far behind Spain, France now boasted its own West Indian colonies.
Both islands became lucrative sugar plantation sites that turned a profit for French planters by relying on
African slave labor.

To see how cartographers throughout history documented the exploration of the
Atlantic World, browse the hundreds of digitized historical maps that make up the
collection American Shores: Maps of the Middle Atlantic Region to 1850
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/nypl) at the New York Public Library.

Dutch entrance into the Atlantic World is part of the larger story of religious and imperial conflict in the
early modern era. In the 1500s, Calvinism, one of the major Protestant reform movements, had found
adherents in the northern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands. During the sixteenth century, these
provinces began a long struggle to achieve independence from Catholic Spain. Established in 1581 but
not recognized as independent by Spain until 1648, the Dutch Republic, or Holland, quickly made itself
a powerful force in the race for Atlantic colonies and wealth. The Dutch distinguished themselves as

Click and Explore

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commercial leaders in the seventeenth century (Figure 2.13), and their mode of colonization relied on
powerful corporations: the Dutch East India Company, chartered in 1602 to trade in Asia, and the Dutch
West India Company, established in 1621 to colonize and trade in the Americas.

Figure 2.13 Amsterdam was the richest city in the world in the 1600s. In Courtyard of the Exchange in Amsterdam,
a 1653 painting by Emanuel de Witt, merchants involved in the global trade eagerly attend to news of shipping and
the prices of commodities.

While employed by the Dutch East India Company in 1609, the English sea captain Henry Hudson
explored New York Harbor and the river that now bears his name. Like many explorers of the time,
Hudson was actually seeking a northwest passage to Asia and its wealth, but the ample furs harvested
from the region he explored, especially the coveted beaver pelts, provided a reason to claim it for the
Netherlands. The Dutch named their colony New Netherlands, and it served as a fur-trading outpost
for the expanding and powerful Dutch West India Company. With headquarters in New Amsterdam
on the island of Manhattan, the Dutch set up several regional trading posts, including one at Fort
Orange—named for the royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau—in present-day Albany. (The color orange
remains significant to the Dutch, having become particularly associated with William of Orange,
Protestantism, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.) A brisk trade in furs with local Algonquian and
Iroquois peoples brought the Dutch and native peoples together in a commercial network that extended
throughout the Hudson River Valley and beyond.

The Dutch West India Company in turn established colonies on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, St. Martin,
St. Eustatius, and Saba. With their outposts in New Netherlands and the Caribbean, the Dutch had
established themselves in the seventeenth century as a commercially powerful rival to Spain. Amsterdam
became a trade hub for all the Atlantic World.

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 51

2.4 New Worlds in the Americas: Labor, Commerce, and the
Columbian Exchange

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe how Europeans solved their labor problems
• Describe the theory of mercantilism and the process of commodification
• Analyze the effects of the Columbian Exchange

European promoters of colonization claimed the Americas overflowed with a wealth of treasures.
Burnishing national glory and honor became entwined with carving out colonies, and no nation wanted
to be left behind. However, the realities of life in the Americas—violence, exploitation, and particularly
the need for workers—were soon driving the practice of slavery and forced labor. Everywhere in America
a stark contrast existed between freedom and slavery. The Columbian Exchange, in which Europeans
transported plants, animals, and diseases across the Atlantic in both directions, also left a lasting
impression on the Americas.

Physical power—to work the fields, build villages, process raw materials—is a necessity for maintaining a
society. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, humans could derive power only from the wind,
water, animals, or other humans. Everywhere in the Americas, a crushing demand for labor bedeviled
Europeans because there were not enough colonists to perform the work necessary to keep the colonies
going. Spain granted encomiendas—legal rights to native labor—to conquistadors who could prove their
service to the crown. This system reflected the Spanish view of colonization: the king rewarded successful
conquistadors who expanded the empire. Some native peoples who had sided with the conquistadors, like
the Tlaxcalan, also gained encomiendas; Malintzin, the Nahua woman who helped Cortés defeat the Mexica,
was granted one.

The Spanish believed native peoples would work for them by right of conquest, and, in return, the
Spanish would bring them Catholicism. In theory the relationship consisted of reciprocal obligations, but
in practice the Spaniards ruthlessly exploited it, seeing native people as little more than beasts of burden.
Convinced of their right to the land and its peoples, they sought both to control native labor and to impose
what they viewed as correct religious beliefs upon the land’s inhabitants. Native peoples everywhere
resisted both the labor obligations and the effort to change their ancient belief systems. Indeed, many
retained their religion or incorporated only the parts of Catholicism that made sense to them.

The system of encomiendas was accompanied by a great deal of violence (Figure 2.14). One Spaniard,
Bartolomé de Las Casas , denounced the brutality of Spanish rule. A Dominican friar, Las Casas had
been one of the earliest Spanish settlers in the Spanish West Indies. In his early life in the Americas, he
owned Indian slaves and was the recipient of an encomienda. However, after witnessing the savagery with
which encomenderos (recipients of encomiendas) treated the native people, he reversed his views. In 1515, Las
Casas released his native slaves, gave up his encomienda, and began to advocate for humane treatment of
native peoples. He lobbied for new legislation, eventually known as the New Laws, which would eliminate
slavery and the encomienda system.

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Figure 2.14 In this startling image from the Kingsborough Codex (a book written and drawn by native
Mesoamericans), a well-dressed Spaniard is shown pulling the hair of a bleeding, severely injured native. The
drawing was part of a complaint about Spanish abuses of their encomiendas.

Las Casas’s writing about the Spaniards’ horrific treatment of Indians helped inspire the so-called Black
Legend, the idea that the Spanish were bloodthirsty conquerors with no regard for human life. Perhaps
not surprisingly, those who held this view of the Spanish were Spain’s imperial rivals. English writers and
others seized on the idea of Spain’s ruthlessness to support their own colonization projects. By demonizing
the Spanish, they justified their own efforts as more humane. All European colonizers, however, shared a
disregard for Indians.

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 53


Bartolomé de Las Casas on the Mistreatment of Indians
Bartolomé de Las Casas’s A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, written in 1542 and published
ten years later, detailed for Prince Philip II of Spain how Spanish colonists had been mistreating natives.

Into and among these gentle sheep, endowed by their Maker and Creator with all the qualities
aforesaid, did creep the Spaniards, who no sooner had knowledge of these people than they
became like fierce wolves and tigers and lions who have gone many days without food or
nourishment. And no other thing have they done for forty years until this day, and still today
see fit to do, but dismember, slay, perturb, afflict, torment, and destroy the Indians by all
manner of cruelty—new and divers and most singular manners such as never before seen or
read or heard of—some few of which shall be recounted below, and they do this to such a
degree that on the Island of Hispaniola, of the above three millions souls that we once saw,
today there be no more than two hundred of those native people remaining. . . .

Two principal and general customs have been employed by those, calling themselves
Christians, who have passed this way, in extirpating and striking from the face of the earth
those suffering nations. The first being unjust, cruel, bloody, and tyrannical warfare. The
other—after having slain all those who might yearn toward or suspire after or think of freedom,
or consider escaping from the torments that they are made to suffer, by which I mean all the
native-born lords and adult males, for it is the Spaniards’ custom in their wars to allow only
young boys and females to live—being to oppress them with the hardest, harshest, and most
heinous bondage to which men or beasts might ever be bound into.

How might these writings have been used to promote the “black legend” against Spain as well as
subsequent English exploration and colonization?

Indians were not the only source of cheap labor in the Americas; by the middle of the sixteenth century,
Africans formed an important element of the labor landscape, producing the cash crops of sugar and
tobacco for European markets. Europeans viewed Africans as non-Christians, which they used as a
justification for enslavement. Denied control over their lives, slaves endured horrendous conditions.
At every opportunity, they resisted enslavement, and their resistance was met with violence. Indeed,
physical, mental, and sexual violence formed a key strategy among European slaveholders in their effort to
assert mastery and impose their will. The Portuguese led the way in the evolving transport of slaves across
the Atlantic; slave “factories” on the west coast of Africa, like Elmina Castle in Ghana, served as holding
pens for slaves brought from Africa’s interior. In time, other European imperial powers would follow in
the footsteps of the Portuguese by constructing similar outposts on the coast of West Africa.

The Portuguese traded or sold slaves to Spanish, Dutch, and English colonists in the Americas, particularly
in South America and the Caribbean, where sugar was a primary export. Thousands of African slaves
found themselves growing, harvesting, and processing sugarcane in an arduous routine of physical labor.
Slaves had to cut the long cane stalks by hand and then bring them to a mill, where the cane juice was
extracted. They boiled the extracted cane juice down to a brown, crystalline sugar, which then had to be
cured in special curing houses to have the molasses drained from it. The result was refined sugar, while
the leftover molasses could be distilled into rum. Every step was labor-intensive and often dangerous.

Las Casas estimated that by 1550, there were fifty thousand slaves on Hispaniola. However, it is a mistake
to assume that during the very early years of European exploration all Africans came to America as slaves;
some were free men who took part in expeditions, for example, serving as conquistadors alongside Cortés
in his assault on Tenochtitlán. Nonetheless, African slavery was one of the most tragic outcomes in the
emerging Atlantic World.

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Browse the PBS collection Africans in America: Part 1 (http://openstaxcollege.org/
l/afinam) to see information and primary sources for the period 1450 through 1750.

The economic philosophy of mercantilism shaped European perceptions of wealth from the 1500s to
the late 1700s. Mercantilism held that only a limited amount of wealth, as measured in gold and silver
bullion, existed in the world. In order to gain power, nations had to amass wealth by mining these
precious raw materials from their colonial possessions. During the age of European exploration, nations
employed conquest, colonization, and trade as ways to increase their share of the bounty of the New
World. Mercantilists did not believe in free trade, arguing instead that the nation should control trade
to create wealth. In this view, colonies existed to strengthen the colonizing nation. Mercantilists argued
against allowing their nations to trade freely with other nations.

Spain’s mercantilist ideas guided its economic policy. Every year, slaves or native workers loaded
shipments of gold and silver aboard Spanish treasure fleets that sailed from Cuba for Spain. These ships
groaned under the sheer weight of bullion, for the Spanish had found huge caches of silver and gold in the
New World. In South America, for example, Spaniards discovered rich veins of silver ore in the mountain
called Potosí and founded a settlement of the same name there. Throughout the sixteenth century, Potosí
was a boom town, attracting settlers from many nations as well as native people from many different

Colonial mercantilism, which was basically a set of protectionist policies designed to benefit the nation,
relied on several factors: colonies rich in raw materials, cheap labor, colonial loyalty to the home
government, and control of the shipping trade. Under this system, the colonies sent their raw materials,
harvested by slaves or native workers, back to their mother country. The mother country sent back finished
materials of all sorts: textiles, tools, clothing. The colonists could purchase these goods only from their
mother country; trade with other countries was forbidden.

The 1500s and early 1600s also introduced the process of commodification to the New World. American
silver, tobacco, and other items, which were used by native peoples for ritual purposes, became European
commodities with a monetary value that could be bought and sold. Before the arrival of the Spanish, for
example, the Inca people of the Andes consumed chicha, a corn beer, for ritual purposes only. When the
Spanish discovered chicha, they bought and traded for it, turning it into a commodity instead of a ritual
substance. Commodification thus recast native economies and spurred the process of early commercial
capitalism. New World resources, from plants to animal pelts, held the promise of wealth for European
imperial powers.

As Europeans traversed the Atlantic, they brought with them plants, animals, and diseases that changed
lives and landscapes on both sides of the ocean. These two-way exchanges between the Americas and
Europe/Africa are known collectively as the Columbian Exchange (Figure 2.15).

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Figure 2.15 With European exploration and settlement of the New World, goods and diseases began crossing the
Atlantic Ocean in both directions. This “Columbian Exchange” soon had global implications.

Of all the commodities in the Atlantic World, sugar proved to be the most important. Indeed, sugar carried
the same economic importance as oil does today. European rivals raced to create sugar plantations in the
Americas and fought wars for control of some of the best sugar production areas. Although refined sugar
was available in the Old World, Europe’s harsher climate made sugarcane difficult to grow, and it was not
plentiful. Columbus brought sugar to Hispaniola in 1493, and the new crop was growing there by the end
of the 1490s. By the first decades of the 1500s, the Spanish were building sugar mills on the island. Over
the next century of colonization, Caribbean islands and most other tropical areas became centers of sugar

Though of secondary importance to sugar, tobacco achieved great value for Europeans as a cash crop as
well. Native peoples had been growing it for medicinal and ritual purposes for centuries before European
contact, smoking it in pipes or powdering it to use as snuff. They believed tobacco could improve
concentration and enhance wisdom. To some, its use meant achieving an entranced, altered, or divine
state; entering a spiritual place.

Tobacco was unknown in Europe before 1492, and it carried a negative stigma at first. The early Spanish
explorers considered natives’ use of tobacco to be proof of their savagery and, because of the fire and
smoke produced in the consumption of tobacco, evidence of the Devil’s sway in the New World.
Gradually, however, European colonists became accustomed to and even took up the habit of smoking,
and they brought it across the Atlantic. As did the Indians, Europeans ascribed medicinal properties to

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tobacco, claiming that it could cure headaches and skin irritations. Even so, Europeans did not import
tobacco in great quantities until the 1590s. At that time, it became the first truly global commodity; English,
French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese colonists all grew it for the world market.

Native peoples also introduced Europeans to chocolate, made from cacao seeds and used by the Aztec in
Mesoamerica as currency. Mesoamerican Indians consumed unsweetened chocolate in a drink with chili
peppers, vanilla, and a spice called achiote. This chocolate drink—xocolatl—was part of ritual ceremonies
like marriage and an everyday item for those who could afford it. Chocolate contains theobromine, a
stimulant, which may be why native people believed it brought them closer to the sacred world.

Spaniards in the New World considered drinking chocolate a vile practice; one called chocolate “the
Devil’s vomit.” In time, however, they introduced the beverage to Spain. At first, chocolate was available
only in the Spanish court, where the elite mixed it with sugar and other spices. Later, as its availability
spread, chocolate gained a reputation as a love potion.

Visit Nature Transformed (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/naturetrans) for a collection
of scholarly essays on the environment in American history.

The crossing of the Atlantic by plants like cacao and tobacco illustrates the ways in which the discovery
of the New World changed the habits and behaviors of Europeans. Europeans changed the New World
in turn, not least by bringing Old World animals to the Americas. On his second voyage, Christopher
Columbus brought pigs, horses, cows, and chickens to the islands of the Caribbean. Later explorers
followed suit, introducing new animals or reintroducing ones that had died out (like horses). With less
vulnerability to disease, these animals often fared better than humans in their new home, thriving both in
the wild and in domestication.

Europeans encountered New World animals as well. Because European Christians understood the world
as a place of warfare between God and Satan, many believed the Americas, which lacked Christianity,
were home to the Devil and his minions. The exotic, sometimes bizarre, appearances and habits of
animals in the Americas that were previously unknown to Europeans, such as manatees, sloths, and
poisonous snakes, confirmed this association. Over time, however, they began to rely more on observation
of the natural world than solely on scripture. This shift—from seeing the Bible as the source of all
received wisdom to trusting observation or empiricism—is one of the major outcomes of the era of early

Travelers between the Americas, Africa, and Europe also included microbes: silent, invisible life forms that
had profound and devastating consequences. Native peoples had no immunity to diseases from across
the Atlantic, to which they had never been exposed. European explorers unwittingly brought with them
chickenpox, measles, mumps, and smallpox, which ravaged native peoples despite their attempts to treat
the diseases, decimating some populations and wholly destroying others (Figure 2.16).

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Figure 2.16 This sixteenth-century Aztec drawing shows the suffering of a typical victim of smallpox. Smallpox and
other contagious diseases brought by European explorers decimated Indian populations in the Americas.

In eastern North America, some native peoples interpreted death from disease as a hostile act. Some
groups, including the Iroquois, engaged in raids or “mourning wars,” taking enemy prisoners in order
to assuage their grief and replace the departed. In a special ritual, the prisoners were
“requickened”—assigned the identity of a dead person—and adopted by the bereaved family to take the
place of their dead. As the toll from disease rose, mourning wars intensified and expanded.

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Black Legend


Columbian Exchange





joint stock company


mourning wars



probanza de mérito

Protestant Reformation






Key Terms

Spain’s reputation as bloodthirsty conquistadors

a branch of Protestantism started by John Calvin, emphasizing human powerlessness before
an omniscient God and stressing the idea of predestination

the movement of plants, animals, and diseases across the Atlantic due to
European exploration of the Americas

the transformation of something—for example, an item of ritual significance—into a
commodity with monetary value

legal rights to native labor as granted by the Spanish crown

the island in the Caribbean, present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic, where Columbus
first landed and established a Spanish colony

documents for purchase that absolved sinners of their errant behavior

a business entity in which investors provide the capital and assume the risk in
order to reap significant returns

the protectionist economic principle that nations should control trade with their colonies to
ensure a favorable balance of trade

raids or wars that tribes waged in eastern North America in order to replace members
lost to smallpox and other diseases

Separatists, led by William Bradford, who established the first English settlement in New

sea captains to whom the British government had given permission to raid Spanish ships at

proof of merit: a letter written by a Spanish explorer to the crown to gain royal

the schism in Catholicism that began with Martin Luther and John Calvin in the
early sixteenth century

a group of religious reformers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who wanted to
“purify” the Church of England by ridding it of practices associated with the Catholic Church and
advocating greater purity of doctrine and worship

the first English colony in Virginia, which mysteriously disappeared sometime between 1587
and 1590

a faction of Puritans who advocated complete separation from the Church of England

a disease that Europeans accidentally brought to the New World, killing millions of Indians,
who had no immunity to the disease

one of the primary crops of the Americas, which required a tremendous amount of labor to

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 59

2.1 Portuguese Exploration and Spanish Conquest
Although Portugal opened the door to exploration of the Atlantic World, Spanish explorers quickly
made inroads into the Americas. Spurred by Christopher Columbus’s glowing reports of the riches to be
found in the New World, throngs of Spanish conquistadors set off to find and conquer new lands. They
accomplished this through a combination of military strength and strategic alliances with native peoples.
Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella promoted the acquisition of these new lands in order to strengthen
and glorify their own empire. As Spain’s empire expanded and riches flowed in from the Americas, the
Spanish experienced a golden age of art and literature.

2.2 Religious Upheavals in the Developing Atlantic World
The sixteenth century witnessed a new challenge to the powerful Catholic Church. The reformist doctrines
of Martin Luther and John Calvin attracted many people dissatisfied with Catholicism, and Protestantism
spread across northern Europe, spawning many subgroups with conflicting beliefs. Spain led the charge
against Protestantism, leading to decades of undeclared religious wars between Spain and England, and
religious intolerance and violence characterized much of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite
the efforts of the Catholic Church and Catholic nations, however, Protestantism had taken hold by 1600.

2.3 Challenges to Spain’s Supremacy
By the beginning of the seventeenth century, Spain’s rivals—England, France, and the Dutch
Republic—had each established an Atlantic presence, with greater or lesser success, in the race for imperial
power. None of the new colonies, all in the eastern part of North America, could match the Spanish
possessions for gold and silver resources. Nonetheless, their presence in the New World helped these
nations establish claims that they hoped could halt the runaway growth of Spain’s Catholic empire.
English colonists in Virginia suffered greatly, expecting riches to fall into their hands and finding reality a
harsh blow. However, the colony at Jamestown survived, and the output of England’s islands in the West
Indies soon grew to be an important source of income for the country. New France and New Netherlands
were modest colonial holdings in the northeast of the continent, but these colonies’ thriving fur trade with
native peoples, and their alliances with those peoples, helped to create the foundation for later shifts in the
global balance of power.

2.4 New Worlds in the Americas: Labor, Commerce, and the Columbian Exchange
In the minds of European rulers, colonies existed to create wealth for imperial powers. Guided by
mercantilist ideas, European rulers and investors hoped to enrich their own nations and themselves, in
order to gain the greatest share of what was believed to be a limited amount of wealth. In their own
individual quest for riches and preeminence, European colonizers who traveled to the Americas blazed
new and disturbing paths, such as the encomienda system of forced labor and the use of tens of thousands
of Africans as slaves.

All native inhabitants of the Americas who came into contact with Europeans found their worlds turned
upside down as the new arrivals introduced their religions and ideas about property and goods.
Europeans gained new foods, plants, and animals in the Columbian Exchange, turning whatever they
could into a commodity to be bought and sold, and Indians were introduced to diseases that nearly
destroyed them. At every turn, however, Indians placed limits on European colonization and resisted the
newcomers’ ways.

Review Questions

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1. Which country initiated the era of Atlantic

A. France
B. Spain
C. England
D. Portugal

2. Which country established the first colonies in
the Americas?

A. England
B. Portugal
C. Spain
D. the Netherlands

3. Where did Christopher Columbus first land?
A. Hispaniola
B. the Bahamas
C. Jamestown
D. Mexico

4. Why did the authors of probanzas de méritos
choose to write in the way that they did? What
should we consider when we interpret these
documents today?

5. Where did the Protestant Reformation begin?
A. Northern Europe
B. Spain
C. England
D. the American colonies

6. What was the chief goal of the Puritans?
A. to achieve a lasting peace with the Catholic

nations of Spain and France
B. to eliminate any traces of Catholicism from

the Church of England
C. to assist Henry VIII in his quest for an

annulment to his marriage
D. to create a hierarchy within the Church of

England modeled on that of the Catholic

7. What reforms to the Catholic Church did
Martin Luther and John Calvin call for?

8. Why didn’t England make stronger attempts to
colonize the New World before the late sixteenth
to early seventeenth century?

A. English attention was turned to internal
struggles and the encroaching Catholic
menace to Scotland and Ireland.

B. The English monarchy did not want to
declare direct war on Spain by attempting
to colonize the Americas.

C. The English military was occupied in
battling for control of New Netherlands.

D. The English crown refused to fund colonial

9. What was the main goal of the French in
colonizing the Americas?

A. establishing a colony with French subjects
B. trading, especially for furs
C. gaining control of shipping lanes
D. spreading Catholicism among native


10. What were some of the main differences
among the non-Spanish colonies?

11. How could Spaniards obtain encomiendas?
A. by serving the Spanish crown
B. by buying them from other Spaniards
C. by buying them from native chiefs
D. by inheriting them

12. Which of the following best describes the
Columbian Exchange?

A. the letters Columbus and other
conquistadors exchanged with the Spanish

B. an exchange of plants, animals, and
diseases between Europe and the Americas

C. a form of trade between the Spanish and

D. the way in which explorers exchanged
information about new lands to conquer

13. Why did diseases like smallpox affect Indians
so badly?

A. Indians were less robust than Europeans.
B. Europeans deliberately infected Indians.
C. Indians had no immunity to European

D. Conditions in the Americas were so harsh

that Indians and Europeans alike were
devastated by disease.

Critical Thinking Questions

Chapter 2 Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650 61

14. What were the consequences of the religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

15. What types of labor systems were used in the Americas? Did systems of unfree labor serve more than
an economic function?

16. What is meant by the Columbian Exchange? Who was affected the most by the exchange?

17. What were the various goals of the colonial European powers in the expansion of their empires? To
what extent were they able to achieve these goals? Where did they fail?

18. On the whole, what was the impact of early European explorations on the New World? What was the
impact of the New World on Europeans?

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Creating New Social Orders:
Colonial Societies, 1500–1700

Figure 3.1 John Smith’s famous map of Virginia (1622) illustrates many geopolitical features of early colonization. In
the upper left, Powhatan, who governed a powerful local confederation of Algonquian communities, sits above other
local chiefs, denoting his authority. Another native figure, Susquehannock, who appears in the upper right, visually
reinforces the message that the English did not control the land beyond a few outposts along the Chesapeake.

Chapter Outline
3.1 Spanish Exploration and Colonial Society
3.2 Colonial Rivalries: Dutch and French Colonial Ambitions
3.3 English Settlements in America
3.4 The Impact of Colonization

By the mid-seventeenth century, the geopolitical map of North America had become a patchwork of
imperial designs and ambitions as the Spanish, Dutch, French, and English reinforced their claims to
parts of the land. Uneasiness, punctuated by violent clashes, prevailed in the border zones between the
Europeans’ territorial claims. Meanwhile, still-powerful native peoples waged war to drive the invaders
from the continent. In the Chesapeake Bay and New England colonies, conflicts erupted as the English
pushed against their native neighbors (Figure 3.1).

The rise of colonial societies in the Americas brought Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans together
for the first time, highlighting the radical social, cultural, and religious differences that hampered their
ability to understand each other. European settlement affected every aspect of the land and its people,
bringing goods, ideas, and diseases that transformed the Americas. Reciprocally, Native American
practices, such as the use of tobacco, profoundly altered European habits and tastes.

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 63

3.1 Spanish Exploration and Colonial Society

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the main Spanish American colonial settlements of the 1500s and 1600s
• Discuss economic, political, and demographic similarities and differences between the

Spanish colonies

During the 1500s, Spain expanded its colonial empire to the Philippines in the Far East and to areas in
the Americas that later became the United States. The Spanish dreamed of mountains of gold and silver
and imagined converting thousands of eager Indians to Catholicism. In their vision of colonial society,
everyone would know his or her place. Patriarchy (the rule of men over family, society, and government)
shaped the Spanish colonial world. Women occupied a lower status. In all matters, the Spanish held
themselves to be atop the social pyramid, with native peoples and Africans beneath them. Both Africans
and native peoples, however, contested Spanish claims to dominance. Everywhere the Spanish settled,
they brought devastating diseases, such as smallpox, that led to a horrific loss of life among native peoples.
European diseases killed far more native inhabitants than did Spanish swords.

The world native peoples had known before the coming of the Spanish was further upset by Spanish
colonial practices. The Spanish imposed the encomienda system in the areas they controlled. Under this
system, authorities assigned Indian workers to mine and plantation owners with the understanding that
the recipients would defend the colony and teach the workers the tenets of Christianity. In reality, the
encomienda system exploited native workers. It was eventually replaced by another colonial labor system,
the repartimiento, which required Indian towns to supply a pool of labor for Spanish overlords.

Spain gained a foothold in present-day Florida, viewing that area and the lands to the north as a logical
extension of their Caribbean empire. In 1513, Juan Ponce de León had claimed the area around today’s
St. Augustine for the Spanish crown, naming the land Pascua Florida (Feast of Flowers, or Easter) for the
nearest feast day. Ponce de León was unable to establish a permanent settlement there, but by 1565, Spain

Figure 3.2

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was in need of an outpost to confront the French and English privateers using Florida as a base from which
to attack treasure-laden Spanish ships heading from Cuba to Spain. The threat to Spanish interests took
a new turn in 1562 when a group of French Protestants (Huguenots) established a small settlement they
called Fort Caroline, north of St. Augustine. With the authorization of King Philip II, Spanish nobleman
Pedro Menéndez led an attack on Fort Caroline, killing most of the colonists and destroying the fort.
Eliminating Fort Caroline served dual purposes for the Spanish—it helped reduce the danger from French
privateers and eradicated the French threat to Spain’s claim to the area. The contest over Florida illustrates
how European rivalries spilled over into the Americas, especially religious conflict between Catholics and

In 1565, the victorious Menéndez founded St. Augustine, now the oldest European settlement in the
Americas. In the process, the Spanish displaced the local Timucua Indians from their ancient town of
Seloy, which had stood for thousands of years (Figure 3.3). The Timucua suffered greatly from diseases
introduced by the Spanish, shrinking from a population of around 200,000 pre-contact to fifty thousand
in 1590. By 1700, only one thousand Timucua remained. As in other areas of Spanish conquest, Catholic
priests worked to bring about a spiritual conquest by forcing the surviving Timucua, demoralized and
reeling from catastrophic losses of family and community, to convert to Catholicism.

Figure 3.3 In this drawing by French artist Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, Timucua flee the Spanish settlers, who
arrive by ship. Le Moyne lived at Fort Caroline, the French outpost, before the Spanish destroyed the colony in 1562.

Spanish Florida made an inviting target for Spain’s imperial rivals, especially the English, who wanted to
gain access to the Caribbean. In 1586, Spanish settlers in St. Augustine discovered their vulnerability to
attack when the English pirate Sir Francis Drake destroyed the town with a fleet of twenty ships and one
hundred men. Over the next several decades, the Spanish built more wooden forts, all of which were burnt
by raiding European rivals. Between 1672 and 1695, the Spanish constructed a stone fort, Castillo de San
Marcos (Figure 3.4), to better defend St. Augustine against challengers.

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 65

Figure 3.4 The Spanish fort of Castillo de San Marcos helped Spanish colonists in St. Augustine fend off marauding
privateers from rival European countries.

Browse the National Park Service’s multimedia resources on Castillo de San
Marcos (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/castillo) to see how the fort and gates have
looked throughout history.

Further west, the Spanish in Mexico, intent on expanding their empire, looked north to the land of the
Pueblo Indians. Under orders from King Philip II, Juan de Oñate explored the American southwest for
Spain in the late 1590s. The Spanish hoped that what we know as New Mexico would yield gold and silver,
but the land produced little of value to them. In 1610, Spanish settlers established themselves at Santa
Fe—originally named La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís, or “Royal City of the Holy
Faith of St. Francis of Assisi”—where many Pueblo villages were located. Santa Fe became the capital of
the Kingdom of New Mexico, an outpost of the larger Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain, which had its
headquarters in Mexico City.

As they had in other Spanish colonies, Franciscan missionaries labored to bring about a spiritual conquest
by converting the Pueblo to Catholicism. At first, the Pueblo adopted the parts of Catholicism that
dovetailed with their own long-standing view of the world. However, Spanish priests insisted that natives
discard their old ways entirely and angered the Pueblo by focusing on the young, drawing them away
from their parents. This deep insult, combined with an extended period of drought and increased attacks
by local Apache and Navajo in the 1670s—troubles that the Pueblo came to believe were linked to the
Spanish presence—moved the Pueblo to push the Spanish and their religion from the area. Pueblo leader
Popé demanded a return to native ways so the hardships his people faced would end. To him and
to thousands of others, it seemed obvious that “when Jesus came, the Corn Mothers went away.” The
expulsion of the Spanish would bring a return to prosperity and a pure, native way of life.

In 1680, the Pueblo launched a coordinated rebellion against the Spanish. The Pueblo Revolt killed over
four hundred Spaniards and drove the rest of the settlers, perhaps as many as two thousand, south toward
Mexico. However, as droughts and attacks by rival tribes continued, the Spanish sensed an opportunity to
regain their foothold. In 1692, they returned and reasserted their control of the area. Some of the Spanish

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explained the Pueblo success in 1680 as the work of the Devil. Satan, they believed, had stirred up the
Pueblo to take arms against God’s chosen people—the Spanish—but the Spanish, and their God, had
prevailed in the end.

3.2 Colonial Rivalries: Dutch and French Colonial Ambitions

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Compare and contrast the development and character of the French and Dutch colonies

in North America
• Discuss the economies of the French and Dutch colonies in North America

Seventeenth-century French and Dutch colonies in North America were modest in comparison to Spain’s
colossal global empire. New France and New Netherland remained small commercial operations focused
on the fur trade and did not attract an influx of migrants. The Dutch in New Netherland confined their
operations to Manhattan Island, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, and what later became New Jersey.
Dutch trade goods circulated widely among the native peoples in these areas and also traveled well into
the interior of the continent along preexisting native trade routes. French habitants, or farmer-settlers, eked
out an existence along the St. Lawrence River. French fur traders and missionaries, however, ranged far
into the interior of North America, exploring the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi River. These
pioneers gave France somewhat inflated imperial claims to lands that nonetheless remained firmly under
the dominion of native peoples.

The Dutch Republic emerged as a major commercial center in the 1600s. Its fleets plied the waters of the
Atlantic, while other Dutch ships sailed to the Far East, returning with prized spices like pepper to be
sold in the bustling ports at home, especially Amsterdam. In North America, Dutch traders established
themselves first on Manhattan Island.

One of the Dutch directors-general of the North American settlement, Peter Stuyvesant, served from 1647
to 1664 and expanded the fledgling outpost of New Netherland east to present-day Long Island and for
many miles north along the Hudson River. The resulting elongated colony served primarily as a fur-
trading post, with the powerful Dutch West India Company controlling all commerce. Fort Amsterdam, on
the southern tip of Manhattan Island, defended the growing city of New Amsterdam. In 1655, Stuyvesant
took over the small outpost of New Sweden along the banks of the Delaware River in present-day New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. He also defended New Amsterdam from Indian attacks by ordering
African slaves to build a protective wall on the city’s northeastern border, giving present-day Wall Street
its name (Figure 3.5).

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 67

Figure 3.5 The Castello Plan is the only extant map of 1660 New Amsterdam (present-day New York City). The line
with spikes on the right side of the colony is the northeastern wall for which Wall Street was named.

New Netherland failed to attract many Dutch colonists; by 1664, only nine thousand people were living
there. Conflict with native peoples, as well as dissatisfaction with the Dutch West India Company’s
trading practices, made the Dutch outpost an undesirable place for many migrants. The small size of
the population meant a severe labor shortage, and to complete the arduous tasks of early settlement, the
Dutch West India Company imported some 450 African slaves between 1626 and 1664. (The company
had involved itself heavily in the slave trade and in 1637 captured Elmina, the slave-trading post on
the west coast of Africa, from the Portuguese.) The shortage of labor also meant that New Netherland
welcomed non-Dutch immigrants, including Protestants from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and England,
and embraced a degree of religious tolerance, allowing Jewish immigrants to become residents beginning
in the 1650s. Thus, a wide variety of people lived in New Netherland from the start. Indeed, one observer
claimed eighteen different languages could be heard on the streets of New Amsterdam. As new settlers
arrived, the colony of New Netherland stretched farther to the north and the west (Figure 3.6).

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Figure 3.6 This 1684 map of New Netherland shows the extent of Dutch settlement.

The Dutch West India Company found the business of colonization in New Netherland to be expensive. To
share some of the costs, it granted Dutch merchants who invested heavily in it patroonships, or large tracts
of land and the right to govern the tenants there. In return, the shareholder who gained the patroonship
promised to pay for the passage of at least thirty Dutch farmers to populate the colony. One of the
largest patroonships was granted to Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the directors of the Dutch West India
Company; it covered most of present-day Albany and Rensselaer Counties. This pattern of settlement
created a yawning gap in wealth and status between the tenants, who paid rent, and the wealthy patroons.

During the summer trading season, Indians gathered at trading posts such as the Dutch site at Beverwijck
(present-day Albany), where they exchanged furs for guns, blankets, and alcohol. The furs, especially
beaver pelts destined for the lucrative European millinery market, would be sent down the Hudson River
to New Amsterdam. There, slaves or workers would load them aboard ships bound for Amsterdam.

Explore an interactive map of New Amsterdam in 1660
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/WNET) that shows the city plan and the locations of
various structures, including houses, businesses, and public buildings. Rolling over the
map reveals relevant historical details, such as street names, the identities of certain
buildings and businesses, and the names of residents of the houses (when known).

Click and Explore

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 69



After Jacques Cartier’s voyages of discovery in the 1530s, France showed little interest in creating
permanent colonies in North America until the early 1600s, when Samuel de Champlain established
Quebec as a French fur-trading outpost. Although the fur trade was lucrative, the French saw Canada
as an inhospitable frozen wasteland, and by 1640, fewer than four hundred settlers had made their
home there. The sparse French presence meant that colonists depended on the local native Algonquian
people; without them, the French would have perished. French fishermen, explorers, and fur traders made
extensive contact with the Algonquian. The Algonquian, in turn, tolerated the French because the colonists
supplied them with firearms for their ongoing war with the Iroquois. Thus, the French found themselves
escalating native wars and supporting the Algonquian against the Iroquois, who received weapons from
their Dutch trading partners. These seventeenth-century conflicts centered on the lucrative trade in beaver
pelts, earning them the name of the Beaver Wars. In these wars, fighting between rival native peoples
spread throughout the Great Lakes region.

A handful of French Jesuit priests also made their way to Canada, intent on converting the native
inhabitants to Catholicism. The Jesuits were members of the Society of Jesus, an elite religious order
founded in the 1540s to spread Catholicism and combat the spread of Protestantism. The first Jesuits
arrived in Quebec in the 1620s, and for the next century, their numbers did not exceed forty priests. Like
the Spanish Franciscan missionaries, the Jesuits in the colony called New France labored to convert the
native peoples to Catholicism. They wrote detailed annual reports about their progress in bringing the
faith to the Algonquian and, beginning in the 1660s, to the Iroquois. These documents are known as the
Jesuit Relations (Figure 3.7), and they provide a rich source for understanding both the Jesuit view of the
Indians and the Indian response to the colonizers.

One native convert to Catholicism, a Mohawk woman named Katherine Tekakwitha, so impressed the
priests with her piety that a Jesuit named Claude Chauchetière attempted to make her a saint in the
Church. However, the effort to canonize Tekakwitha faltered when leaders of the Church balked at
elevating a “savage” to such a high status; she was eventually canonized in 2012. French colonizers
pressured the native inhabitants of New France to convert, but they virtually never saw native peoples as
their equals.

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A Jesuit Priest on Indian Healing Traditions
The Jesuit Relations (Figure 3.7) provide incredible detail about Indian life. For example, the 1636
edition, written by the Catholic priest Jean de Brébeuf, addresses the devastating effects of disease on
native peoples and the efforts made to combat it.

Figure 3.7 French Jesuit missionaries to New France kept detailed records of their interactions
with—and observations of—the Algonquian and Iroquois that they converted to Catholicism. (credit:
Project Gutenberg).

Let us return to the feasts. The Aoutaerohi is a remedy which is only for one particular kind
of disease, which they call also Aoutaerohi, from the name of a little Demon as large as the
fist, which they say is in the body of the sick man, especially in the part which pains him. They
find out that they are sick of this disease, by means of a dream, or by the intervention of some
Sorcerer. . . .
Of three kinds of games especially in use among these Peoples,—namely, the games of
crosse [lacrosse], dish, and straw,—the first two are, they say, most healing. Is not this worthy
of compassion? There is a poor sick man, fevered of body and almost dying, and a miserable
Sorcerer will order for him, as a cooling remedy, a game of crosse. Or the sick man himself,
sometimes, will have dreamed that he must die unless the whole country shall play crosse for
his health; and, no matter how little may be his credit, you will see then in a beautiful field,
Village contending against Village, as to who will play crosse the better, and betting against
one another Beaver robes and Porcelain collars, so as to excite greater interest.

According to this account, how did Indians attempt to cure disease? Why did they prescribe a game of
lacrosse? What benefits might these games have for the sick?

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 71

3.3 English Settlements in America

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the first English settlements in America
• Describe the differences between the Chesapeake Bay colonies and the New England

• Compare and contrast the wars between native inhabitants and English colonists in

both the Chesapeake Bay and New England colonies
• Explain the role of Bacon’s Rebellion in the rise of chattel slavery in Virginia

At the start of the seventeenth century, the English had not established a permanent settlement in the
Americas. Over the next century, however, they outpaced their rivals. The English encouraged emigration
far more than the Spanish, French, or Dutch. They established nearly a dozen colonies, sending swarms of
immigrants to populate the land. England had experienced a dramatic rise in population in the sixteenth
century, and the colonies appeared a welcoming place for those who faced overcrowding and grinding
poverty at home. Thousands of English migrants arrived in the Chesapeake Bay colonies of Virginia and
Maryland to work in the tobacco fields. Another stream, this one of pious Puritan families, sought to
live as they believed scripture demanded and established the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, New Haven,
Connecticut, and Rhode Island colonies of New England (Figure 3.8).

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Figure 3.8 In the early seventeenth century, thousands of English settlers came to what are now Virginia, Maryland,
and the New England states in search of opportunity and a better life.

Promoters of English colonization in North America, many of whom never ventured across the Atlantic,
wrote about the bounty the English would find there. These boosters of colonization hoped to turn a
profit—whether by importing raw resources or providing new markets for English goods—and spread
Protestantism. The English migrants who actually made the journey, however, had different goals. In
Chesapeake Bay, English migrants established Virginia and Maryland with a decidedly commercial
orientation. Though the early Virginians at Jamestown hoped to find gold, they and the settlers in
Maryland quickly discovered that growing tobacco was the only sure means of making money. Thousands
of unmarried, unemployed, and impatient young Englishmen, along with a few Englishwomen, pinned
their hopes for a better life on the tobacco fields of these two colonies.

A very different group of English men and women flocked to the cold climate and rocky soil of New
England, spurred by religious motives. Many of the Puritans crossing the Atlantic were people who
brought families and children. Often they were following their ministers in a migration “beyond the
seas,” envisioning a new English Israel where reformed Protestantism would grow and thrive, providing a
model for the rest of the Christian world and a counter to what they saw as the Catholic menace. While the
English in Virginia and Maryland worked on expanding their profitable tobacco fields, the English in New
England built towns focused on the church, where each congregation decided what was best for itself. The
Congregational Church is the result of the Puritan enterprise in America. Many historians believe the fault
lines separating what later became the North and South in the United States originated in the profound
differences between the Chesapeake and New England colonies.

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 73

The source of those differences lay in England’s domestic problems. Increasingly in the early 1600s,
the English state church—the Church of England, established in the 1530s—demanded conformity, or
compliance with its practices, but Puritans pushed for greater reforms. By the 1620s, the Church of England
began to see leading Puritan ministers and their followers as outlaws, a national security threat because of
their opposition to its power. As the noose of conformity tightened around them, many Puritans decided
to remove to New England. By 1640, New England had a population of twenty-five thousand. Meanwhile,
many loyal members of the Church of England, who ridiculed and mocked Puritans both at home and in
New England, flocked to Virginia for economic opportunity.

The troubles in England escalated in the 1640s when civil war broke out, pitting Royalist supporters
of King Charles I and the Church of England against Parliamentarians, the Puritan reformers and their
supporters in Parliament. In 1649, the Parliamentarians gained the upper hand and, in an unprecedented
move, executed Charles I. In the 1650s, therefore, England became a republic, a state without a king.
English colonists in America closely followed these events. Indeed, many Puritans left New England and
returned home to take part in the struggle against the king and the national church. Other English men
and women in the Chesapeake colonies and elsewhere in the English Atlantic World looked on in horror
at the mayhem the Parliamentarians, led by the Puritan insurgents, appeared to unleash in England. The
turmoil in England made the administration and imperial oversight of the Chesapeake and New England
colonies difficult, and the two regions developed divergent cultures.

The Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland served a vital purpose in the developing seventeenth-
century English empire by providing tobacco, a cash crop. However, the early history of Jamestown did
not suggest the English outpost would survive. From the outset, its settlers struggled both with each
other and with the native inhabitants, the powerful Powhatan, who controlled the area. Jealousies and
infighting among the English destabilized the colony. One member, John Smith, whose famous map
begins this chapter, took control and exercised near-dictatorial powers, which furthered aggravated the
squabbling. The settlers’ inability to grow their own food compounded this unstable situation. They were
essentially employees of the Virginia Company of London, an English joint-stock company, in which
investors provided the capital and assumed the risk in order to reap the profit, and they had to make a
profit for their shareholders as well as for themselves. Most initially devoted themselves to finding gold
and silver instead of finding ways to grow their own food.

Early Struggles and the Development of the Tobacco Economy
Poor health, lack of food, and fighting with native peoples took the lives of many of the original Jamestown
settlers. The winter of 1609–1610, which became known as “the starving time,” came close to annihilating
the colony. By June 1610, the few remaining settlers had decided to abandon the area; only the last-
minute arrival of a supply ship from England prevented another failed colonization effort. The supply ship
brought new settlers, but only twelve hundred of the seventy-five hundred who came to Virginia between
1607 and 1624 survived.

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George Percy on “The Starving Time”
George Percy, the youngest son of an English nobleman, was in the first group of settlers at the
Jamestown Colony. He kept a journal describing their experiences; in the excerpt below, he reports on
the privations of the colonists’ third winter.

Now all of us at James Town, beginning to feel that sharp prick of hunger which no man truly
describe but he which has tasted the bitterness thereof, a world of miseries ensued as the
sequel will express unto you, in so much that some to satisfy their hunger have robbed the
store for the which I caused them to be executed. Then having fed upon horses and other
beasts as long as they lasted, we were glad to make shift with vermin as dogs, cats, rats, and
mice. All was fish that came to net to satisfy cruel hunger as to eat boots, shoes, or any other
leather some could come by, and, those being spent and devoured, some were enforced to
search the woods and to feed upon serpents and snakes and to dig the earth for wild and
unknown roots, where many of our men were cut off of and slain by the savages. And now
famine beginning to look ghastly and pale in every face that nothing was spared to maintain
life and to do those things which seem incredible as to dig up dead corpses out of graves and
to eat them, and some have licked up the blood which has fallen from their weak fellows.
—George Percy, “A True Relation of the Proceedings and Occurances of Moment which have
happened in Virginia from the Time Sir Thomas Gates shipwrecked upon the Bermudes anno
1609 until my departure out of the Country which was in anno Domini 1612,” London 1624

What is your reaction to George Percy’s story? How do you think Jamestown managed to survive after
such an experience? What do you think the Jamestown colonists learned?

By the 1620s, Virginia had weathered the worst and gained a degree of permanence. Political stability came
slowly, but by 1619, the fledgling colony was operating under the leadership of a governor, a council,
and a House of Burgesses. Economic stability came from the lucrative cultivation of tobacco. Smoking
tobacco was a long-standing practice among native peoples, and English and other European consumers
soon adopted it. In 1614, the Virginia colony began exporting tobacco back to England, which earned it a
sizable profit and saved the colony from ruin. A second tobacco colony, Maryland, was formed in 1634,
when King Charles I granted its charter to the Calvert family for their loyal service to England. Cecilius
Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, conceived of Maryland as a refuge for English Catholics.

Growing tobacco proved very labor-intensive (Figure 3.9), and the Chesapeake colonists needed a steady
workforce to do the hard work of clearing the land and caring for the tender young plants. The mature leaf
of the plant then had to be cured (dried), which necessitated the construction of drying barns. Once cured,
the tobacco had to be packaged in hogsheads (large wooden barrels) and loaded aboard ship, which also
required considerable labor.

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 75

Figure 3.9 In this 1670 painting by an unknown artist, slaves work in tobacco-drying sheds.

To meet these labor demands, early Virginians relied on indentured servants. An indenture is a labor
contract that young, impoverished, and often illiterate Englishmen and occasionally Englishwomen signed
in England, pledging to work for a number of years (usually between five and seven) growing tobacco
in the Chesapeake colonies. In return, indentured servants received paid passage to America and food,
clothing, and lodging. At the end of their indenture servants received “freedom dues,” usually food and
other provisions, including, in some cases, land provided by the colony. The promise of a new life in
America was a strong attraction for members of England’s underclass, who had few if any options at home.
In the 1600s, some 100,000 indentured servants traveled to the Chesapeake Bay. Most were poor young
men in their early twenties.

Life in the colonies proved harsh, however. Indentured servants could not marry, and they were subject to
the will of the tobacco planters who bought their labor contracts. If they committed a crime or disobeyed
their masters, they found their terms of service lengthened, often by several years. Female indentured
servants faced special dangers in what was essentially a bachelor colony. Many were exploited by
unscrupulous tobacco planters who seduced them with promises of marriage. These planters would then
sell their pregnant servants to other tobacco planters to avoid the costs of raising a child.

Nonetheless, those indentured servants who completed their term of service often began new lives
as tobacco planters. To entice even more migrants to the New World, the Virginia Company also
implemented the headright system, in which those who paid their own passage to Virginia received fifty
acres plus an additional fifty for each servant or family member they brought with them. The headright
system and the promise of a new life for servants acted as powerful incentives for English migrants to
hazard the journey to the New World.

Visit Virtual Jamestown (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/jamestown1) to access a
database of contracts of indentured servants. Search it by name to find an ancestor or
browse by occupation, destination, or county of origin.

Click and Explore

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The Anglo-Powhatan Wars
By choosing to settle along the rivers on the banks of the Chesapeake, the English unknowingly placed
themselves at the center of the Powhatan Empire, a powerful Algonquian confederacy of thirty native
groups with perhaps as many as twenty-two thousand people. The territory of the equally impressive
Susquehannock people also bordered English settlements at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay.

Tensions ran high between the English and the Powhatan, and near-constant war prevailed. The First
Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614) resulted not only from the English colonists’ intrusion onto Powhatan
land, but also from their refusal to follow native protocol by giving gifts. English actions infuriated and
insulted the Powhatan. In 1613, the settlers captured Pocahontas (also called Matoaka), the daughter of a
Powhatan headman named Wahunsonacook, and gave her in marriage to Englishman John Rolfe. Their
union, and her choice to remain with the English, helped quell the war in 1614. Pocahontas converted to
Christianity, changing her name to Rebecca, and sailed with her husband and several other Powhatan to
England where she was introduced to King James I (Figure 3.10). Promoters of colonization publicized
Pocahontas as an example of the good work of converting the Powhatan to Christianity.

Figure 3.10 This 1616 engraving by Simon van de Passe, completed when Pocahontas and John Rolfe were
presented at court in England, is the only known contemporary image of Pocahontas. Note her European garb and
pose. What message did the painter likely intend to convey with this portrait of Pocahontas, the daughter of a
powerful Indian chief?

Explore the interactive exhibit Changing Images of Pocahontas
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/pocahontas) on PBS’s website to see the many ways
artists have portrayed Pocahontas over the centuries.

Click and Explore

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 77



Peace in Virginia did not last long. The Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1620s) broke out because of
the expansion of the English settlement nearly one hundred miles into the interior, and because of the
continued insults and friction caused by English activities. The Powhatan attacked in 1622 and succeeded
in killing almost 350 English, about a third of the settlers. The English responded by annihilating every
Powhatan village around Jamestown and from then on became even more intolerant. The Third Anglo-
Powhatan War (1644–1646) began with a surprise attack in which the Powhatan killed around five
hundred English colonists. However, their ultimate defeat in this conflict forced the Powhatan to
acknowledge King Charles I as their sovereign. The Anglo-Powhatan Wars, spanning nearly forty years,
illustrate the degree of native resistance that resulted from English intrusion into the Powhatan

The Rise of Slavery in the Chesapeake Bay Colonies
The transition from indentured servitude to slavery as the main labor source for some English colonies
happened first in the West Indies. On the small island of Barbados, colonized in the 1620s, English planters
first grew tobacco as their main export crop, but in the 1640s, they converted to sugarcane and began
increasingly to rely on African slaves. In 1655, England wrestled control of Jamaica from the Spanish
and quickly turned it into a lucrative sugar island, run on slave labor, for its expanding empire. While
slavery was slower to take hold in the Chesapeake colonies, by the end of the seventeenth century, both
Virginia and Maryland had also adopted chattel slavery—which legally defined Africans as property and
not people—as the dominant form of labor to grow tobacco. Chesapeake colonists also enslaved native

When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, slavery—which did not exist in England—had not
yet become an institution in colonial America. Many Africans worked as servants and, like their white
counterparts, could acquire land of their own. Some Africans who converted to Christianity became free
landowners with white servants. The change in the status of Africans in the Chesapeake to that of slaves
occurred in the last decades of the seventeenth century.

Bacon’s Rebellion, an uprising of both whites and blacks who believed that the Virginia government was
impeding their access to land and wealth and seemed to do little to clear the land of Indians, hastened
the transition to African slavery in the Chesapeake colonies. The rebellion takes its name from Nathaniel
Bacon, a wealthy young Englishman who arrived in Virginia in 1674. Despite an early friendship with
Virginia’s royal governor, William Berkeley, Bacon found himself excluded from the governor’s circle
of influential friends and councilors. He wanted land on the Virginia frontier, but the governor, fearing
war with neighboring Indian tribes, forbade further expansion. Bacon marshaled others, especially former
indentured servants who believed the governor was limiting their economic opportunities and denying
them the right to own tobacco farms. Bacon’s followers believed Berkeley’s frontier policy didn’t protect
English settlers enough. Worse still in their eyes, Governor Berkeley tried to keep peace in Virginia by
signing treaties with various local native peoples. Bacon and his followers, who saw all Indians as an
obstacle to their access to land, pursued a policy of extermination.

Tensions between the English and the native peoples in the Chesapeake colonies led to open conflict.
In 1675, war broke out when Susquehannock warriors attacked settlements on Virginia’s frontier, killing
English planters and destroying English plantations, including one owned by Bacon. In 1676, Bacon and
other Virginians attacked the Susquehannock without the governor’s approval. When Berkeley ordered
Bacon’s arrest, Bacon led his followers to Jamestown, forced the governor to flee to the safety of Virginia’s
eastern shore, and then burned the city. The civil war known as Bacon’s Rebellion, a vicious struggle
between supporters of the governor and those who supported Bacon, ensued. Reports of the rebellion
traveled back to England, leading Charles II to dispatch both royal troops and English commissioners
to restore order in the tobacco colonies. By the end of 1676, Virginians loyal to the governor gained
the upper hand, executing several leaders of the rebellion. Bacon escaped the hangman’s noose, instead
dying of dysentery. The rebellion fizzled in 1676, but Virginians remained divided as supporters of Bacon
continued to harbor grievances over access to Indian land.

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Bacon’s Rebellion helped to catalyze the creation of a system of racial slavery in the Chesapeake colonies.
At the time of the rebellion, indentured servants made up the majority of laborers in the region. Wealthy
whites worried over the presence of this large class of laborers and the relative freedom they enjoyed,
as well as the alliance that black and white servants had forged in the course of the rebellion. Replacing
indentured servitude with black slavery diminished these risks, alleviating the reliance on white
indentured servants, who were often dissatisfied and troublesome, and creating a caste of racially defined
laborers whose movements were strictly controlled. It also lessened the possibility of further alliances
between black and white workers. Racial slavery even served to heal some of the divisions between
wealthy and poor whites, who could now unite as members of a “superior” racial group.

While colonial laws in the tobacco colonies had made slavery a legal institution before Bacon’s Rebellion,
new laws passed in the wake of the rebellion severely curtailed black freedom and laid the foundation for
racial slavery. Virginia passed a law in 1680 prohibiting free blacks and slaves from bearing arms, banning
blacks from congregating in large numbers, and establishing harsh punishments for slaves who assaulted
Christians or attempted escape. Two years later, another Virginia law stipulated that all Africans brought
to the colony would be slaves for life. Thus, the increasing reliance on slaves in the tobacco colonies—and
the draconian laws instituted to control them—not only helped planters meet labor demands, but also
served to assuage English fears of further uprisings and alleviate class tensions between rich and poor


Robert Beverley on Servants and Slaves
Robert Beverley was a wealthy Jamestown planter and slaveholder. This excerpt from his History and
Present State of Virginia, published in 1705, clearly illustrates the contrast between white servants and
black slaves.

Their Servants, they distinguish by the Names of Slaves for Life, and Servants for a time.
Slaves are the Negroes, and their Posterity, following the condition of the Mother, according
to the Maxim, partus sequitur ventrem [status follows the womb]. They are call’d Slaves, in
respect of the time of their Servitude, because it is for Life.
Servants, are those which serve only for a few years, according to the time of their Indenture,
or the Custom of the Country. The Custom of the Country takes place upon such as have no
Indentures. The Law in this case is, that if such Servants be under Nineteen years of Age,
they must be brought into Court, to have their Age adjudged; and from the Age they are judg’d
to be of, they must serve until they reach four and twenty: But if they be adjudged upwards of
Nineteen, they are then only to be Servants for the term of five Years.
The Male-Servants, and Slaves of both Sexes, are employed together in Tilling and Manuring
the Ground, in Sowing and Planting Tobacco, Corn, &c. Some Distinction indeed is made
between them in their Cloaths, and Food; but the Work of both, is no other than what the
Overseers, the Freemen, and the Planters themselves do.
Sufficient Distinction is also made between the Female-Servants, and Slaves; for a White
Woman is rarely or never put to work in the Ground, if she be good for any thing else: And
to Discourage all Planters from using any Women so, their Law imposes the heaviest Taxes
upon Female Servants working in the Ground, while it suffers all other white Women to be
absolutely exempted: Whereas on the other hand, it is a common thing to work a Woman
Slave out of Doors; nor does the Law make any Distinction in her Taxes, whether her Work
be Abroad, or at Home.

According to Robert Beverley, what are the differences between servants and slaves? What protections
did servants have that slaves did not?

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 79

The second major area to be colonized by the English in the first half of the seventeenth century, New
England, differed markedly in its founding principles from the commercially oriented Chesapeake tobacco
colonies. Settled largely by waves of Puritan families in the 1630s, New England had a religious orientation
from the start. In England, reform-minded men and women had been calling for greater changes to the
English national church since the 1580s. These reformers, who followed the teachings of John Calvin and
other Protestant reformers, were called Puritans because of their insistence on “purifying” the Church
of England of what they believed to be un-scriptural, especially Catholic elements that lingered in its
institutions and practices.

Many who provided leadership in early New England were learned ministers who had studied at
Cambridge or Oxford but who, because they had questioned the practices of the Church of England, had
been deprived of careers by the king and his officials in an effort to silence all dissenting voices. Other
Puritan leaders, such as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, came from the
privileged class of English gentry. These well-to-do Puritans and many thousands more left their English
homes not to establish a land of religious freedom, but to practice their own religion without persecution.
Puritan New England offered them the opportunity to live as they believed the Bible demanded. In their
“New” England, they set out to create a model of reformed Protestantism, a new English Israel.

The conflict generated by Puritanism had divided English society, because the Puritans demanded reforms
that undermined the traditional festive culture. For example, they denounced popular pastimes like bear-
baiting—letting dogs attack a chained bear—which were often conducted on Sundays when people had
a few leisure hours. In the culture where William Shakespeare had produced his masterpieces, Puritans
called for an end to the theater, censuring playhouses as places of decadence. Indeed, the Bible itself
became part of the struggle between Puritans and James I, who headed the Church of England. Soon after
ascending the throne, James commissioned a new version of the Bible in an effort to stifle Puritan reliance
on the Geneva Bible, which followed the teachings of John Calvin and placed God’s authority above the
monarch’s. The King James Version, published in 1611, instead emphasized the majesty of kings.

During the 1620s and 1630s, the conflict escalated to the point where the state church prohibited Puritan
ministers from preaching. In the Church’s view, Puritans represented a national security threat, because
their demands for cultural, social, and religious reforms undermined the king’s authority. Unwilling
to conform to the Church of England, many Puritans found refuge in the New World. Yet those who
emigrated to the Americas were not united. Some called for a complete break with the Church of England,
while others remained committed to reforming the national church.

Plymouth: The First Puritan Colony
The first group of Puritans to make their way across the Atlantic was a small contingent known as the
Pilgrims. Unlike other Puritans, they insisted on a complete separation from the Church of England and
had first migrated to the Dutch Republic seeking religious freedom. Although they found they could
worship without hindrance there, they grew concerned that they were losing their Englishness as they saw
their children begin to learn the Dutch language and adopt Dutch ways. In addition, the English Pilgrims
(and others in Europe) feared another attack on the Dutch Republic by Catholic Spain. Therefore, in 1620,
they moved on to found the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. The governor of Plymouth,
William Bradford, was a Separatist, a proponent of complete separation from the English state church.
Bradford and the other Pilgrim Separatists represented a major challenge to the prevailing vision of a
unified English national church and empire. On board the Mayflower, which was bound for Virginia but
landed on the tip of Cape Cod, Bradford and forty other adult men signed the Mayflower Compact (Figure
3.11), which presented a religious (rather than an economic) rationale for colonization. The compact
expressed a community ideal of working together. When a larger exodus of Puritans established the
Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s, the Pilgrims at Plymouth welcomed them and the two colonies
cooperated with each other.

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The Mayflower Compact and Its Religious Rationale
The Mayflower Compact, which forty-one Pilgrim men signed on board the Mayflower in Plymouth
Harbor, has been called the first American governing document, predating the U.S. Constitution by over
150 years. But was the Mayflower Compact a constitution? How much authority did it convey, and to

Figure 3.11 The original Mayflower Compact is no longer extant; only copies, such as this ca.1645
transcription by William Bradford, remain.

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our
dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland,
King, defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor
of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia,
do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another,
covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and
preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute,
and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to
time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto
which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of
November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France,
and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620

Different labor systems also distinguished early Puritan New England from the Chesapeake colonies.
Puritans expected young people to work diligently at their calling, and all members of their large families,
including children, did the bulk of the work necessary to run homes, farms, and businesses. Very few

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 81

migrants came to New England as laborers; in fact, New England towns protected their disciplined
homegrown workforce by refusing to allow outsiders in, assuring their sons and daughters of steady
employment. New England’s labor system produced remarkable results, notably a powerful maritime-
based economy with scores of oceangoing ships and the crews necessary to sail them. New England
mariners sailing New England–made ships transported Virginian tobacco and West Indian sugar
throughout the Atlantic World.

“A City upon a Hill”
A much larger group of English Puritans left England in the 1630s, establishing the Massachusetts Bay
Colony, the New Haven Colony, the Connecticut Colony, and Rhode Island. Unlike the exodus of young
males to the Chesapeake colonies, these migrants were families with young children and their university-
trained ministers. Their aim, according to John Winthrop (Figure 3.12), the first governor of Massachusetts
Bay, was to create a model of reformed Protestantism—a “city upon a hill,” a new English Israel. The
idea of a “city upon a hill” made clear the religious orientation of the New England settlement, and the
charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony stated as a goal that the colony’s people “may be soe religiously,
peaceablie, and civilly governed, as their good Life and orderlie Conversacon, maie wynn and incite the
Natives of Country, to the Knowledg and Obedience of the onlie true God and Saulor of Mankinde, and
the Christian Fayth.” To illustrate this, the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company (Figure 3.12) shows a
half-naked Indian who entreats more of the English to “come over and help us.”

Figure 3.12 In the 1629 seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (a), an Indian is shown asking colonists to “Come
over and help us.” This seal indicates the religious ambitions of John Winthrop (b), the colony’s first governor, for his
“city upon a hill.”

Puritan New England differed in many ways from both England and the rest of Europe. Protestants
emphasized literacy so that everyone could read the Bible. This attitude was in stark contrast to that
of Catholics, who refused to tolerate private ownership of Bibles in the vernacular. The Puritans, for
their part, placed a special emphasis on reading scripture, and their commitment to literacy led to the
establishment of the first printing press in English America in 1636. Four years later, in 1640, they
published the first book in North America, the Bay Psalm Book. As Calvinists, Puritans adhered to the
doctrine of predestination, whereby a few “elect” would be saved and all others damned. No one could be
sure whether they were predestined for salvation, but through introspection, guided by scripture, Puritans
hoped to find a glimmer of redemptive grace. Church membership was restricted to those Puritans who

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were willing to provide a conversion narrative telling how they came to understand their spiritual estate
by hearing sermons and studying the Bible.

Although many people assume Puritans escaped England to establish religious freedom, they proved
to be just as intolerant as the English state church. When dissenters, including Puritan minister Roger
Williams and Anne Hutchinson, challenged Governor Winthrop in Massachusetts Bay in the 1630s, they
were banished. Roger Williams questioned the Puritans’ taking of Indian land. Williams also argued for
a complete separation from the Church of England, a position other Puritans in Massachusetts rejected,
as well as the idea that the state could not punish individuals for their beliefs. Although he did accept
that nonbelievers were destined for eternal damnation, Williams did not think the state could compel
true orthodoxy. Puritan authorities found him guilty of spreading dangerous ideas, but he went on to
found Rhode Island as a colony that sheltered dissenting Puritans from their brethren in Massachusetts. In
Rhode Island, Williams wrote favorably about native peoples, contrasting their virtues with Puritan New
England’s intolerance.

Anne Hutchinson also ran afoul of Puritan authorities for her criticism of the evolving religious practices
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In particular, she held that Puritan ministers in New England taught
a shallow version of Protestantism emphasizing hierarchy and actions—a “covenant of works” rather
than a “covenant of grace.” Literate Puritan women like Hutchinson presented a challenge to the male
ministers’ authority. Indeed, her major offense was her claim of direct religious revelation, a type of
spiritual experience that negated the role of ministers. Because of Hutchinson’s beliefs and her defiance
of authority in the colony, especially that of Governor Winthrop, Puritan authorities tried and convicted
her of holding false beliefs. In 1638, she was excommunicated and banished from the colony. She went to
Rhode Island and later, in 1642, sought safety among the Dutch in New Netherland. The following year,
Algonquian warriors killed Hutchinson and her family. In Massachusetts, Governor Winthrop noted her
death as the righteous judgment of God against a heretic.

Like many other Europeans, the Puritans believed in the supernatural. Every event appeared to be a
sign of God’s mercy or judgment, and people believed that witches allied themselves with the Devil to
carry out evil deeds and deliberate harm such as the sickness or death of children, the loss of cattle, and
other catastrophes. Hundreds were accused of witchcraft in Puritan New England, including townspeople
whose habits or appearance bothered their neighbors or who appeared threatening for any reason.
Women, seen as more susceptible to the Devil because of their supposedly weaker constitutions, made up
the vast majority of suspects and those who were executed. The most notorious cases occurred in Salem
Village in 1692. Many of the accusers who prosecuted the suspected witches had been traumatized by the
Indian wars on the frontier and by unprecedented political and cultural changes in New England. Relying
on their belief in witchcraft to help make sense of their changing world, Puritan authorities executed
nineteen people and caused the deaths of several others.

Explore the Salem Witchcraft Trials (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/salemwitch) to
learn more about the prosecution of witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England.

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Puritan Relationships with Native Peoples
Like their Spanish and French Catholic rivals, English Puritans in America took steps to convert native
peoples to their version of Christianity. John Eliot, the leading Puritan missionary in New England, urged
natives in Massachusetts to live in “praying towns” established by English authorities for converted
Indians, and to adopt the Puritan emphasis on the centrality of the Bible. In keeping with the Protestant
emphasis on reading scripture, he translated the Bible into the local Algonquian language and published
his work in 1663. Eliot hoped that as a result of his efforts, some of New England’s native inhabitants
would become preachers.

Tensions had existed from the beginning between the Puritans and the native people who controlled
southern New England (Figure 3.13). Relationships deteriorated as the Puritans continued to expand their
settlements aggressively and as European ways increasingly disrupted native life. These strains led to King
Philip’s War (1675–1676), a massive regional conflict that was nearly successful in pushing the English out
of New England.

Figure 3.13 This map indicates the domains of New England’s native inhabitants in 1670, a few years before King
Philip’s War.

When the Puritans began to arrive in the 1620s and 1630s, local Algonquian peoples had viewed them as
potential allies in the conflicts already simmering between rival native groups. In 1621, the Wampanoag,
led by Massasoit, concluded a peace treaty with the Pilgrims at Plymouth. In the 1630s, the Puritans in
Massachusetts and Plymouth allied themselves with the Narragansett and Mohegan people against the
Pequot, who had recently expanded their claims into southern New England. In May 1637, the Puritans
attacked a large group of several hundred Pequot along the Mystic River in Connecticut. To the horror of
their native allies, the Puritans massacred all but a handful of the men, women, and children they found.

By the mid-seventeenth century, the Puritans had pushed their way further into the interior of New
England, establishing outposts along the Connecticut River Valley. There seemed no end to their
expansion. Wampanoag leader Metacom or Metacomet, also known as King Philip among the English,
was determined to stop the encroachment. The Wampanoag, along with the Nipmuck, Pocumtuck, and
Narragansett, took up the hatchet to drive the English from the land. In the ensuing conflict, called King
Philip’s War, native forces succeeded in destroying half of the frontier Puritan towns; however, in the end,
the English (aided by Mohegans and Christian Indians) prevailed and sold many captives into slavery

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in the West Indies. (The severed head of King Philip was publicly displayed in Plymouth.) The war also
forever changed the English perception of native peoples; from then on, Puritan writers took great pains to
vilify the natives as bloodthirsty savages. A new type of racial hatred became a defining feature of Indian-
English relationships in the Northeast.


Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative
Mary Rowlandson was a Puritan woman whom Indian tribes captured and imprisoned for several weeks
during King Philip’s War. After her release, she wrote The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration
of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, which was published in 1682 (Figure 3.14). The book was an immediate
sensation that was reissued in multiple editions for over a century.

Figure 3.14 Puritan woman Mary Rowlandson wrote her captivity narrative, the front cover of which is
shown here (a), after her imprisonment during King Philip’s War. In her narrative, she tells of her
treatment by the Indians holding her as well as of her meetings with the Wampanoag leader Metacom
(b), shown in a contemporary portrait.

But now, the next morning, I must turn my back upon the town, and travel with them into the
vast and desolate wilderness, I knew not whither. It is not my tongue, or pen, can express
the sorrows of my heart, and bitterness of my spirit that I had at this departure: but God was
with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not
quite fail. One of the Indians carried my poor wounded babe upon a horse; it went moaning
all along, “I shall die, I shall die.” I went on foot after it, with sorrow that cannot be expressed.
At length I took it off the horse, and carried it in my arms till my strength failed, and I fell down
with it. Then they set me upon a horse with my wounded child in my lap, and there being
no furniture upon the horse’s back, as we were going down a steep hill we both fell over the
horse’s head, at which they, like inhumane creatures, laughed, and rejoiced to see it, though
I thought we should there have ended our days, as overcome with so many difficulties. But
the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along, that I might see more of His power;
yea, so much that I could never have thought of, had I not experienced it.

What sustains Rowlandson her during her ordeal? How does she characterize her captors? What do you
think made her narrative so compelling to readers?

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 85

Access the entire text of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/captivenarr) at the Gutenberg Project.

3.4 The Impact of Colonization

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the reasons for the rise of slavery in the American colonies
• Describe changes to Indian life, including warfare and hunting
• Contrast European and Indian views on property
• Assess the impact of European settlement on the environment

As Europeans moved beyond exploration and into colonization of the Americas, they brought changes to
virtually every aspect of the land and its people, from trade and hunting to warfare and personal property.
European goods, ideas, and diseases shaped the changing continent.

As Europeans established their colonies, their societies also became segmented and divided along religious
and racial lines. Most people in these societies were not free; they labored as servants or slaves, doing the
work required to produce wealth for others. By 1700, the American continent had become a place of stark
contrasts between slavery and freedom, between the haves and the have-nots.

Everywhere in the American colonies, a crushing demand for labor existed to grow New World cash
crops, especially sugar and tobacco. This need led Europeans to rely increasingly on Africans, and after
1600, the movement of Africans across the Atlantic accelerated. The English crown chartered the Royal
African Company in 1672, giving the company a monopoly over the transport of African slaves to the
English colonies. Over the next four decades, the company transported around 350,000 Africans from their
homelands. By 1700, the tiny English sugar island of Barbados had a population of fifty thousand slaves,
and the English had encoded the institution of chattel slavery into colonial law.

This new system of African slavery came slowly to the English colonists, who did not have slavery at
home and preferred to use servant labor. Nevertheless, by the end of the seventeenth century, the English
everywhere in America—and particularly in the Chesapeake Bay colonies—had come to rely on African
slaves. While Africans had long practiced slavery among their own people, it had not been based on race.
Africans enslaved other Africans as war captives, for crimes, and to settle debts; they generally used their
slaves for domestic and small-scale agricultural work, not for growing cash crops on large plantations.
Additionally, African slavery was often a temporary condition rather than a lifelong sentence, and, unlike
New World slavery, it was typically not heritable (passed from a slave mother to her children).

The growing slave trade with Europeans had a profound impact on the people of West Africa, giving
prominence to local chieftains and merchants who traded slaves for European textiles, alcohol, guns,
tobacco, and food. Africans also charged Europeans for the right to trade in slaves and imposed taxes on

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slave purchases. Different African groups and kingdoms even staged large-scale raids on each other to
meet the demand for slaves.

Once sold to traders, all slaves sent to America endured the hellish Middle Passage, the transatlantic
crossing, which took one to two months. By 1625, more than 325,800 Africans had been shipped to the
New World, though many thousands perished during the voyage. An astonishing number, some four
million, were transported to the Caribbean between 1501 and 1830. When they reached their destination
in America, Africans found themselves trapped in shockingly brutal slave societies. In the Chesapeake
colonies, they faced a lifetime of harvesting and processing tobacco.

Everywhere, Africans resisted slavery, and running away was common. In Jamaica and elsewhere,
runaway slaves created maroon communities, groups that resisted recapture and eked a living from the
land, rebuilding their communities as best they could. When possible, they adhered to traditional ways,
following spiritual leaders such as Vodun priests.

While the Americas remained firmly under the control of native peoples in the first decades of European
settlement, conflict increased as colonization spread and Europeans placed greater demands upon the
native populations, including expecting them to convert to Christianity (either Catholicism or
Protestantism). Throughout the seventeenth century, the still-powerful native peoples and confederacies
that retained control of the land waged war against the invading Europeans, achieving a degree of success
in their effort to drive the newcomers from the continent.

At the same time, European goods had begun to change Indian life radically. In the 1500s, some of the
earliest objects Europeans introduced to Indians were glass beads, copper kettles, and metal utensils.
Native people often adapted these items for their own use. For example, some cut up copper kettles and
refashioned the metal for other uses, including jewelry that conferred status on the wearer, who was seen
as connected to the new European source of raw materials.

As European settlements grew throughout the 1600s, European goods flooded native communities. Soon
native people were using these items for the same purposes as the Europeans. For example, many native
inhabitants abandoned their animal-skin clothing in favor of European textiles. Similarly, clay cookware
gave way to metal cooking implements, and Indians found that European flint and steel made starting
fires much easier (Figure 3.15).

Figure 3.15 In this 1681 portrait, the Niantic-Narragansett chief Ninigret wears a combination of European and
Indian goods. Which elements of each culture are evident in this portrait?

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 87

The abundance of European goods gave rise to new artistic objects. For example, iron awls made the
creation of shell beads among the native people of the Eastern Woodlands much easier, and the result
was an astonishing increase in the production of wampum, shell beads used in ceremonies and as jewelry
and currency. Native peoples had always placed goods in the graves of their departed, and this practice
escalated with the arrival of European goods. Archaeologists have found enormous caches of European
trade goods in the graves of Indians on the East Coast.

Native weapons changed dramatically as well, creating an arms race among the peoples living in
European colonization zones. Indians refashioned European brassware into arrow points and turned axes
used for chopping wood into weapons. The most prized piece of European weaponry to obtain was a
musket, or light, long-barreled European gun. In order to trade with Europeans for these, native peoples
intensified their harvesting of beaver, commercializing their traditional practice.

The influx of European materials made warfare more lethal and changed traditional patterns of authority
among tribes. Formerly weaker groups, if they had access to European metal and weapons, suddenly
gained the upper hand against once-dominant groups. The Algonquian, for instance, traded with the
French for muskets and gained power against their enemies, the Iroquois. Eventually, native peoples also
used their new weapons against the European colonizers who had provided them.

Explore the complexity of Indian-European relationships
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/NHC) in the series of primary source documents on the
National Humanities Center site.

The European presence in America spurred countless changes in the environment, setting into motion
chains of events that affected native animals as well as people. The popularity of beaver-trimmed hats
in Europe, coupled with Indians’ desire for European weapons, led to the overhunting of beaver in the
Northeast. Soon, beavers were extinct in New England, New York, and other areas. With their loss came
the loss of beaver ponds, which had served as habitats for fish as well as water sources for deer, moose, and
other animals. Furthermore, Europeans introduced pigs, which they allowed to forage in forests and other
wildlands. Pigs consumed the foods on which deer and other indigenous species depended, resulting in
scarcity of the game native peoples had traditionally hunted.

European ideas about owning land as private property clashed with natives’ understanding of land use.
Native peoples did not believe in private ownership of land; instead, they viewed land as a resource to be
held in common for the benefit of the group. The European idea of usufruct—the right to common land use
and enjoyment—comes close to the native understanding, but colonists did not practice usufruct widely in
America. Colonizers established fields, fences, and other means of demarcating private property. Native
peoples who moved seasonally to take advantage of natural resources now found areas off limits, claimed
by colonizers because of their insistence on private-property rights.

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The Introduction of Disease
Perhaps European colonization’s single greatest impact on the North American environment was the
introduction of disease. Microbes to which native inhabitants had no immunity led to death everywhere
Europeans settled. Along the New England coast between 1616 and 1618, epidemics claimed the lives of
75 percent of the native people. In the 1630s, half the Huron and Iroquois around the Great Lakes died
of smallpox. As is often the case with disease, the very young and the very old were the most vulnerable
and had the highest mortality rates. The loss of the older generation meant the loss of knowledge and
tradition, while the death of children only compounded the trauma, creating devastating implications for
future generations.

Some native peoples perceived disease as a weapon used by hostile spiritual forces, and they went to war
to exorcise the disease from their midst. These “mourning wars” in eastern North America were designed
to gain captives who would either be adopted (“requickened” as a replacement for a deceased loved one)
or ritually tortured and executed to assuage the anger and grief caused by loss.

The Cultivation of Plants
European expansion in the Americas led to an unprecedented movement of plants across the Atlantic. A
prime example is tobacco, which became a valuable export as the habit of smoking, previously unknown in
Europe, took hold (Figure 3.16). Another example is sugar. Columbus brought sugarcane to the Caribbean
on his second voyage in 1494, and thereafter a wide variety of other herbs, flowers, seeds, and roots made
the transatlantic voyage.

Figure 3.16 Adriaen van Ostade, a Dutch artist, painted An Apothecary Smoking in an Interior in 1646. The large
European market for American tobacco strongly influenced the development of some of the American colonies.

Just as pharmaceutical companies today scour the natural world for new drugs, Europeans traveled to
America to discover new medicines. The task of cataloging the new plants found there helped give birth
to the science of botany. Early botanists included the English naturalist Sir Hans Sloane, who traveled to
Jamaica in 1687 and there recorded hundreds of new plants (Figure 3.17). Sloane also helped popularize
the drinking of chocolate, made from the cacao bean, in England.

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 89

Figure 3.17 English naturalist Sir Hans Sloane traveled to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands to catalog the flora
of the new world.

Indians, who possessed a vast understanding of local New World plants and their properties, would have
been a rich source of information for those European botanists seeking to find and catalog potentially
useful plants. Enslaved Africans, who had a tradition of the use of medicinal plants in their native land,
adapted to their new surroundings by learning the use of New World plants through experimentation
or from the native inhabitants. Native peoples and Africans employed their knowledge effectively within
their own communities. One notable example was the use of the peacock flower to induce abortions:
Indian and enslaved African women living in oppressive colonial regimes are said to have used this herb
to prevent the birth of children into slavery. Europeans distrusted medical knowledge that came from
African or native sources, however, and thus lost the benefit of this source of information.

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headright system



maroon communities

Middle Passage






Key Terms

a system in which parcels of land were granted to settlers who could pay their own
way to Virginia

a labor contract that promised young men, and sometimes women, money and land after they
worked for a set period of years

members of the Society of Jesus, an elite Catholic religious order founded in the 1540s to spread
Catholicism and to combat the spread of Protestantism

groups of runaway slaves who resisted recapture and eked a living from the land

the perilous, often deadly transatlantic crossing of slave ships from the African coast to
the New World

a light, long-barreled European gun

large tracts of land and governing rights granted to merchants by the Dutch West India
Company in order to encourage colonization

a Spanish colonial system requiring Indian towns to supply workers for the colonizers

the native people of Florida, whom the Spanish displaced with the founding of St. Augustine,
the first Spanish settlement in North America

shell beads used in ceremonies and as jewelry and currency

3.1 Spanish Exploration and Colonial Society
In their outposts at St. Augustine and Santa Fe, the Spanish never found the fabled mountains of gold they
sought. They did find many native people to convert to Catholicism, but their zeal nearly cost them the
colony of Santa Fe, which they lost for twelve years after the Pueblo Revolt. In truth, the grand dreams of
wealth, conversion, and a social order based on Spanish control never came to pass as Spain envisioned

3.2 Colonial Rivalries: Dutch and French Colonial Ambitions
The French and Dutch established colonies in the northeastern part of North America: the Dutch in
present-day New York, and the French in present-day Canada. Both colonies were primarily trading posts
for furs. While they failed to attract many colonists from their respective home countries, these outposts
nonetheless intensified imperial rivalries in North America. Both the Dutch and the French relied on native
peoples to harvest the pelts that proved profitable in Europe.

3.3 English Settlements in America
The English came late to colonization of the Americas, establishing stable settlements in the 1600s after
several unsuccessful attempts in the 1500s. After Roanoke Colony failed in 1587, the English found more
success with the founding of Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620. The two colonies were very
different in origin. The Virginia Company of London founded Jamestown with the express purpose
of making money for its investors, while Puritans founded Plymouth to practice their own brand of
Protestantism without interference.

Chapter 3 Creating New Social Orders: Colonial Societies, 1500–1700 91

Both colonies battled difficult circumstances, including poor relationships with neighboring Indian tribes.
Conflicts flared repeatedly in the Chesapeake Bay tobacco colonies and in New England, where a massive
uprising against the English in 1675 to 1676—King Philip’s War—nearly succeeded in driving the intruders
back to the sea.

3.4 The Impact of Colonization
The development of the Atlantic slave trade forever changed the course of European settlement in the
Americas. Other transatlantic travelers, including diseases, goods, plants, animals, and even ideas like the
concept of private land ownership, further influenced life in America during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. The exchange of pelts for European goods including copper kettles, knives, and guns played a
significant role in changing the material cultures of native peoples. During the seventeenth century, native
peoples grew increasingly dependent on European trade items. At the same time, many native inhabitants
died of European diseases, while survivors adopted new ways of living with their new neighbors.

Review Questions
1. Which of the following was a goal of the
Spanish in their destruction of Fort Caroline?

A. establishing a foothold from which to battle
the Timucua

B. claiming a safe place to house the New
World treasures that would be shipped
back to Spain

C. reducing the threat of French privateers
D. locating a site for the establishment of Santa


2. Why did the Spanish build Castillo de San

A. to protect the local Timucua
B. to defend against imperial challengers
C. as a seat for visiting Spanish royalty
D. to house visiting delegates from rival

imperial powers

3. How did the Pueblo attempt to maintain their
autonomy in the face of Spanish settlement?

4. What was patroonship?
A. a Dutch ship used for transporting beaver

B. a Dutch system of patronage that

encouraged the arts
C. a Dutch system of granting tracts of land in

New Netherland to encourage colonization
D. a Dutch style of hat trimmed with beaver

fur from New Netherland

5. Which religious order joined the French
settlement in Canada and tried to convert the
natives to Christianity?

A. Franciscans
B. Calvinists
C. Anglicans
D. Jesuits

6. How did the French and Dutch colonists differ
in their religious expectations? How did both
compare to Spanish colonists?

7. What was the most lucrative product of the
Chesapeake colonies?

A. corn
B. tobacco
C. gold and silver
D. slaves

8. What was the primary cause of Bacon’s

A. former indentured servants wanted more
opportunities to expand their territory

B. African slaves wanted better treatment
C. Susquahannock Indians wanted the

Jamestown settlers to pay a fair price for
their land

D. Jamestown politicians were jockeying for

9. The founders of the Plymouth colony were:
A. Puritans
B. Catholics

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C. Anglicans
D. Jesuits

10. Which of the following is not true of the
Puritan religion?

A. It required close reading of scripture.
B. Church membership required a conversion

C. Literacy was crucial.
D. Only men could participate.

11. How did the Chesapeake colonists solve their
labor problems?

12. What was the Middle Passage?
A. the fabled sea route from Europe to the Far

B. the land route from Europe to Africa

C. the transatlantic journey that African slaves
made to America

D. the line between the northern and southern

13. Which of the following is not an item
Europeans introduced to Indians?

A. wampum
B. glass beads
C. copper kettles
D. metal tools

14. How did European muskets change life for
native peoples in the Americas?

15. Compare and contrast European and Indian
views on property.

Critical Thinking Questions
16. Compare and contrast life in the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English colonies, differentiating between
the Chesapeake Bay and New England colonies. Who were the colonizers? What were their purposes in
being there? How did they interact with their environments and the native inhabitants of the lands on
which they settled?

17. Describe the attempts of the various European colonists to convert native peoples to their belief
systems. How did these attempts compare to one another? What were the results of each effort?

18. How did chattel slavery differ from indentured servitude? How did the former system come to replace
the latter? What were the results of this shift?

19. What impact did Europeans have on their New World environments—native peoples and their
communities as well as land, plants, and animals? Conversely, what impact did the New World’s native
inhabitants, land, plants, and animals have on Europeans? How did the interaction of European and
Indian societies, together, shape a world that was truly “new”?

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Rule Britannia! The English Empire,

Figure 4.1 Isaac Royall and his family, seen here in a 1741 portrait by Robert Feke, moved to Medford,
Massachusetts, from the West Indian island of Antigua, bringing their slaves with them. They were an affluent British
colonial family, proud of their success and the success of the British Empire.

Chapter Outline
4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies
4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire
4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution
4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment
4.5 Wars for Empire

The eighteenth century witnessed the birth of Great Britain (after the union of England and Scotland
in 1707) and the expansion of the British Empire. By the mid-1700s, Great Britain had developed into
a commercial and military powerhouse; its economic sway ranged from India, where the British East
India Company had gained control over both trade and territory, to the West African coast, where British
slave traders predominated, and to the British West Indies, whose lucrative sugar plantations, especially
in Barbados and Jamaica, provided windfall profits for British planters. Meanwhile, the population rose
dramatically in Britain’s North American colonies. In the early 1700s the population in the colonies had
reached 250,000. By 1750, however, over a million British migrants and African slaves had established a
near-continuous zone of settlement on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia.

During this period, the ties between Great Britain and the American colonies only grew stronger. Anglo-
American colonists considered themselves part of the British Empire in all ways: politically, militarily,
religiously (as Protestants), intellectually, and racially. The portrait of the Royall family (Figure 4.1)
exemplifies the colonial American gentry of the eighteenth century. Successful and well-to-do, they
display fashions, hairstyles, and furnishings that all speak to their identity as proud and loyal British

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 95

4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Analyze the causes and consequences of the Restoration
• Identify the Restoration colonies and their role in the expansion of the Empire

When Charles II ascended the throne in 1660, English subjects on both sides of the Atlantic celebrated
the restoration of the English monarchy after a decade of living without a king as a result of the English
Civil Wars. Charles II lost little time in strengthening England’s global power. From the 1660s to the 1680s,
Charles II added more possessions to England’s North American holdings by establishing the Restoration
colonies of New York and New Jersey (taking these areas from the Dutch) as well as Pennsylvania and
the Carolinas. In order to reap the greatest economic benefit from England’s overseas possessions, Charles
II enacted the mercantilist Navigation Acts, although many colonial merchants ignored them because
enforcement remained lax.

The chronicle of Charles II begins with his father, Charles I. Charles I ascended the English throne in
1625 and soon married a French Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, who was not well liked by English
Protestants because she openly practiced Catholicism during her husband’s reign. The most outspoken
Protestants, the Puritans, had a strong voice in Parliament in the 1620s, and they strongly opposed the
king’s marriage and his ties to Catholicism. When Parliament tried to contest his edicts, including the
king’s efforts to impose taxes without Parliament’s consent, Charles I suspended Parliament in 1629 and
ruled without one for the next eleven years.

The ensuing struggle between the king and Parliament led to the outbreak of war. The English Civil War
lasted from 1642 to 1649 and pitted the king and his Royalist supporters against Oliver Cromwell and
his Parliamentary forces. After years of fighting, the Parliamentary forces gained the upper hand, and in

Figure 4.2

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1649, they charged Charles I with treason and beheaded him. The monarchy was dissolved, and England
became a republic: a state without a king. Oliver Cromwell headed the new English Commonwealth, and
the period known as the English interregnum, or the time between kings, began.

Though Cromwell enjoyed widespread popularity at first, over time he appeared to many in England to
be taking on the powers of a military dictator. Dissatisfaction with Cromwell grew. When he died in 1658
and control passed to his son Richard, who lacked the political skills of his father, a majority of the English
people feared an alternate hereditary monarchy in the making. They had had enough and asked Charles II
to be king. In 1660, they welcomed the son of the executed king Charles I back to the throne to resume the
English monarchy and bring the interregnum to an end (Figure 4.3). The return of Charles II is known as
the Restoration.

Figure 4.3 The monarchy and Parliament fought for control of England during the seventeenth century. Though
Oliver Cromwell (a), shown here in a 1656 portrait by Samuel Cooper, appeared to offer England a better mode of
government, he assumed broad powers for himself and disregarded cherished English liberties established under
Magna Carta in 1215. As a result, the English people welcomed Charles II (b) back to the throne in 1660. This portrait
by John Michael Wright was painted ca. 1660–1665, soon after the new king gained the throne.

Charles II was committed to expanding England’s overseas possessions. His policies in the 1660s through
the 1680s established and supported the Restoration colonies: the Carolinas, New Jersey, New York, and
Pennsylvania. All the Restoration colonies started as proprietary colonies, that is, the king gave each
colony to a trusted individual, family, or group.

Charles II hoped to establish English control of the area between Virginia and Spanish Florida. To that end,
he issued a royal charter in 1663 to eight trusted and loyal supporters, each of whom was to be a feudal-
style proprietor of a region of the province of Carolina.

These proprietors did not relocate to the colonies, however. Instead, English plantation owners from the
tiny Caribbean island of Barbados, already a well-established English sugar colony fueled by slave labor,
migrated to the southern part of Carolina to settle there. In 1670, they established Charles Town (later
Charleston), named in honor of Charles II, at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers (Figure 4.4).
As the settlement around Charles Town grew, it began to produce livestock for export to the West Indies.
In the northern part of Carolina, settlers turned sap from pine trees into turpentine used to waterproof
wooden ships. Political disagreements between settlers in the northern and southern parts of Carolina
escalated in the 1710s through the 1720s and led to the creation, in 1729, of two colonies, North and South

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 97

Carolina. The southern part of Carolina had been producing rice and indigo (a plant that yields a dark blue
dye used by English royalty) since the 1700s, and South Carolina continued to depend on these main crops.
North Carolina continued to produce items for ships, especially turpentine and tar, and its population
increased as Virginians moved there to expand their tobacco holdings. Tobacco was the primary export of
both Virginia and North Carolina, which also traded in deerskins and slaves from Africa.

Figure 4.4 The port of colonial Charles Towne, depicted here on a 1733 map of North America, was the largest in
the South and played a significant role in the Atlantic slave trade.

Slavery developed quickly in the Carolinas, largely because so many of the early migrants came from
Barbados, where slavery was well established. By the end of the 1600s, a very wealthy class of rice planters
who relied on slaves had attained dominance in the southern part of the Carolinas, especially around
Charles Town. By 1715, South Carolina had a black majority because of the number of slaves in the colony.
The legal basis for slavery was established in the early 1700s as the Carolinas began to pass slave laws
based on the Barbados slave codes of the late 1600s. These laws reduced Africans to the status of property
to be bought and sold as other commodities.

Visit the Charleston Museum’s interactive exhibit The Walled City
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/charleston) to learn more about the history of

As in other areas of English settlement, native peoples in the Carolinas suffered tremendously from
the introduction of European diseases. Despite the effects of disease, Indians in the area endured and,
following the pattern elsewhere in the colonies, grew dependent on European goods. Local Yamasee and
Creek tribes built up a trade deficit with the English, trading deerskins and captive slaves for European
guns. English settlers exacerbated tensions with local Indian tribes, especially the Yamasee, by expanding
their rice and tobacco fields into Indian lands. Worse still, English traders took native women captive as
payment for debts.

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The outrages committed by traders, combined with the seemingly unstoppable expansion of English
settlement onto native land, led to the outbreak of the Yamasee War (1715–1718), an effort by a coalition of
local tribes to drive away the European invaders. This native effort to force the newcomers back across the
Atlantic nearly succeeded in annihilating the Carolina colonies. Only when the Cherokee allied themselves
with the English did the coalition’s goal of eliminating the English from the region falter. The Yamasee
War demonstrates the key role native peoples played in shaping the outcome of colonial struggles and,
perhaps most important, the disunity that existed between different native groups.

Charles II also set his sights on the Dutch colony of New Netherland. The English takeover of New
Netherland originated in the imperial rivalry between the Dutch and the English. During the Anglo-Dutch
wars of the 1650s and 1660s, the two powers attempted to gain commercial advantages in the Atlantic
World. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1664–1667), English forces gained control of the Dutch fur
trading colony of New Netherland, and in 1664, Charles II gave this colony (including present-day New
Jersey) to his brother James, Duke of York (later James II). The colony and city were renamed New York
in his honor. The Dutch in New York chafed under English rule. In 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch
War (1672–1674), the Dutch recaptured the colony. However, at the end of the conflict, the English had
regained control (Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.5 “View of New Amsterdam” (ca. 1665), a watercolor by Johannes Vingboons, was painted during the
Anglo-Dutch wars of the 1660s and 1670s. New Amsterdam was officially reincorporated as New York City in 1664,
but alternated under Dutch and English rule until 1674.

The Duke of York had no desire to govern locally or listen to the wishes of local colonists. It wasn’t
until 1683, therefore, almost 20 years after the English took control of the colony, that colonists were able
to convene a local representative legislature. The assembly’s 1683 Charter of Liberties and Privileges set
out the traditional rights of Englishmen, like the right to trial by jury and the right to representative

The English continued the Dutch patroonship system, granting large estates to a favored few families.
The largest of these estates, at 160,000 acres, was given to Robert Livingston in 1686. The Livingstons
and the other manorial families who controlled the Hudson River Valley formed a formidable political
and economic force. Eighteenth-century New York City, meanwhile, contained a variety of people and
religions—as well as Dutch and English people, it held French Protestants (Huguenots), Jews, Puritans,
Quakers, Anglicans, and a large population of slaves. As they did in other zones of colonization, native
peoples played a key role in shaping the history of colonial New York. After decades of war in the 1600s,
the powerful Five Nations of the Iroquois, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and
Seneca, successfully pursued a policy of neutrality with both the English and, to the north, the French in
Canada during the first half of the 1700s. This native policy meant that the Iroquois continued to live in

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 99

their own villages under their own government while enjoying the benefits of trade with both the French
and the English.

The Restoration colonies also included Pennsylvania, which became the geographic center of British
colonial America. Pennsylvania (which means “Penn’s Woods” in Latin) was created in 1681, when
Charles II bestowed the largest proprietary colony in the Americas on William Penn (Figure 4.6) to settle
the large debt he owed the Penn family. William Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn, had served the
English crown by helping take Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. The king personally owed the Admiral
money as well.

Figure 4.6 Charles II granted William Penn the land that eventually became the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in
order to settle a debt the English crown owed to Penn’s father.

Like early settlers of the New England colonies, Pennsylvania’s first colonists migrated mostly for religious
reasons. William Penn himself was a Quaker, a member of a new Protestant denomination called the
Society of Friends. George Fox had founded the Society of Friends in England in the late 1640s, having
grown dissatisfied with Puritanism and the idea of predestination. Rather, Fox and his followers stressed
that everyone had an “inner light” inside him or her, a spark of divinity. They gained the name Quakers
because they were said to quake when the inner light moved them. Quakers rejected the idea of worldly
rank, believing instead in a new and radical form of social equality. Their speech reflected this belief in
that they addressed all others as equals, using “thee” and “thou” rather than terms like “your lordship” or
“my lady” that were customary for privileged individuals of the hereditary elite.

The English crown persecuted Quakers in England, and colonial governments were equally harsh;
Massachusetts even executed several early Quakers who had gone to proselytize there. To avoid such
persecution, Quakers and their families at first created a community on the sugar island of Barbados.
Soon after its founding, however, Pennsylvania became the destination of choice. Quakers flocked to
Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey, where they could preach and practice their religion in peace. Unlike
New England, whose official religion was Puritanism, Pennsylvania did not establish an official church.
Indeed, the colony allowed a degree of religious tolerance found nowhere else in English America. To help
encourage immigration to his colony, Penn promised fifty acres of land to people who agreed to come to
Pennsylvania and completed their term of service. Not surprisingly, those seeking a better life came in
large numbers, so much so that Pennsylvania relied on indentured servants more than any other colony.

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One of the primary tenets of Quakerism is pacifism, leading William Penn to establish friendly
relationships with local native peoples. He formed a covenant of friendship with the Lenni Lenape
(Delaware) tribe, buying their land for a fair price instead of taking it by force. In 1701, he also signed a
treaty with the Susquehannocks to avoid war. Unlike other colonies, Pennsylvania did not experience war
on the frontier with native peoples during its early history.

As an important port city, Philadelphia grew rapidly. Quaker merchants there established contacts
throughout the Atlantic world and participated in the thriving African slave trade. Some Quakers, who
were deeply troubled by the contradiction between their belief in the “inner light” and the practice of
slavery, rejected the practice and engaged in efforts to abolish it altogether. Philadelphia also acted as a
magnet for immigrants, who came not only from England, but from all over Europe by the hundreds of
thousands. The city, and indeed all of Pennsylvania, appeared to be the best country for poor men and
women, many of whom arrived as servants and dreamed of owning land. A very few, like the fortunate
Benjamin Franklin, a runaway from Puritan Boston, did extraordinarily well. Other immigrant groups in
the colony, most notably Germans and Scotch-Irish (families from Scotland and England who had first
lived in Ireland before moving to British America), greatly improved their lot in Pennsylvania. Of course,
Africans imported into the colony to labor for white masters fared far worse.


John Wilson Offers Reward for Escaped Prisoners
The American Weekly Mercury, published by William Bradford, was Philadelphia’s first newspaper. This
advertisement from “John Wilson, Goaler” (jailer) offers a reward for anyone capturing several men who
escaped from the jail.

BROKE out of the Common Goal of Philadelphia, the 15th of this Instant February, 1721, the
following Persons:
John Palmer, also Plumly, alias Paine, Servant to Joseph Jones, run away and was lately
taken up at New-York. He is fully described in the American Mercury, Novem. 23, 1721. He
has a Cinnamon coloured Coat on, a middle sized fresh coloured Man. His Master will give a
Pistole Reward to any who Shall Secure him, besides what is here offered.
Daniel Oughtopay, A Dutchman, aged about 24 Years, Servant to Dr. Johnston in Amboy. He
is a thin Spare man, grey Drugget Waistcoat and Breeches and a light-coloured Coat on.
Ebenezor Mallary, a New-England, aged about 24 Years, is a middle-sized thin Man, having
on a Snuff colour’d Coat, and ordinary Ticking Waistcoat and Breeches. He has dark brown
strait Hair.
Matthew Dulany, an Irish Man, down-look’d Swarthy Complexion, and has on an Olive-
coloured Cloth Coat and Waistcoat with Cloth Buttons.
John Flemming, an Irish Lad, aged about 18, belonging to Mr. Miranda, Merchant in this City.
He has no Coat, a grey Drugget Waistcoat, and a narrow brim’d Hat on.
John Corbet, a Shropshire Man, a Runaway Servant from Alexander Faulkner of Maryland,
broke out on the 12th Instant. He has got a double-breasted Sailor’s Jacket on lined with red
Bays, pretends to be a Sailor, and once taught School at Josephs Collings’s in the Jerseys.
Whoever takes up and secures all, or any One of these Felons, shall have a Pistole Reward
for each of them and reasonable Charges, paid them by John Wilson, Goaler
—Advertisement from the American Weekly Mercury, 1722

What do the descriptions of the men tell you about life in colonial Philadelphia?

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 101

Browse a number of issues of the American Weekly Mercury
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/philly1) that were digitized by New Jersey’s Stockton
University. Read through several to get a remarkable flavor of life in early eighteenth-
century Philadelphia.

Creating wealth for the Empire remained a primary goal, and in the second half of the seventeenth century,
especially during the Restoration, England attempted to gain better control of trade with the American
colonies. The mercantilist policies by which it tried to achieve this control are known as the Navigation

The 1651 Navigation Ordnance, a product of Cromwell’s England, required that only English ships carry
goods between England and the colonies, and that the captain and three-fourths of the crew had to be
English. The ordnance further listed “enumerated articles” that could be transported only to England or
to English colonies, including the most lucrative commodities like sugar and tobacco as well as indigo,
rice, molasses, and naval stores such as turpentine. All were valuable goods not produced in England or
in demand by the British navy. After ascending the throne, Charles II approved the 1660 Navigation Act,
which restated the 1651 act to ensure a monopoly on imports from the colonies.

Other Navigation Acts included the 1663 Staple Act and the 1673 Plantation Duties Act. The Staple Act
barred colonists from importing goods that had not been made in England, creating a profitable monopoly
for English exporters and manufacturers. The Plantation Duties Act taxed enumerated articles exported
from one colony to another, a measure aimed principally at New Englanders, who transported great
quantities of molasses from the West Indies, including smuggled molasses from French-held islands, to
make into rum.

In 1675, Charles II organized the Lords of Trade and Plantation, commonly known as the Lords of Trade,
an administrative body intended to create stronger ties between the colonial governments and the crown.
However, the 1696 Navigation Act created the Board of Trade, replacing the Lords of Trade. This act,
meant to strengthen enforcement of customs laws, also established vice-admiralty courts where the crown
could prosecute customs violators without a jury. Under this act, customs officials were empowered with
warrants known as “writs of assistance” to board and search vessels suspected of containing smuggled

Despite the Navigation Acts, however, Great Britain exercised lax control over the English colonies during
most of the eighteenth century because of the policies of Prime Minister Robert Walpole. During his long
term (1721–1742), Walpole governed according to his belief that commerce flourished best when it was not
encumbered with restrictions. Historians have described this lack of strict enforcement of the Navigation
Acts as salutary neglect. In addition, nothing prevented colonists from building their own fleet of ships
to engage in trade. New England especially benefited from both salutary neglect and a vibrant maritime
culture made possible by the scores of trading vessels built in the northern colonies. The case of the 1733
Molasses Act illustrates the weaknesses of British mercantilist policy. The 1733 act placed a sixpence-per-
gallon duty on raw sugar, rum, and molasses from Britain’s competitors, the French and the Dutch, in
order to give an advantage to British West Indian producers. Because the British did not enforce the 1733
law, however, New England mariners routinely smuggled these items from the French and Dutch West
Indies more cheaply than they could buy them on English islands.

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4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the causes of the Glorious Revolution
• Explain the outcomes of the Glorious Revolution

During the brief rule of King James II, many in England feared the imposition of a Catholic absolute
monarchy by the man who modeled his rule on that of his French Catholic cousin, Louis XIV. Opposition
to James II, spearheaded by the English Whig party, overthrew the king in the Glorious Revolution of
1688–1689. This paved the way for the Protestant reign of William of Orange and his wife Mary (James’s
Protestant daughter).

King James II (Figure 4.7), the second son of Charles I, ascended the English throne in 1685 on the death of
his brother, Charles II. James then worked to model his rule on the reign of the French Catholic King Louis
XIV, his cousin. This meant centralizing English political strength around the throne, giving the monarchy
absolute power. Also like Louis XIV, James II practiced a strict and intolerant form of Roman Catholicism
after he converted from Protestantism in the late 1660s. He had a Catholic wife, and when they had a son,
the potential for a Catholic heir to the English throne became a threat to English Protestants. James also
worked to modernize the English army and navy. The fact that the king kept a standing army in times of
peace greatly alarmed the English, who believed that such a force would be used to crush their liberty. As
James’s strength grew, his opponents feared their king would turn England into a Catholic monarchy with
absolute power over her people.

Figure 4.7 James II (shown here in a painting ca. 1690) worked to centralize the English government. The Catholic
king of France, Louis XIV, provided a template for James’s policies.

In 1686, James II applied his concept of a centralized state to the colonies by creating an enormous
colony called the Dominion of New England. The Dominion included all the New England colonies
(Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Plymouth, Connecticut, New Haven, and Rhode Island) and in 1688 was
enlarged by the addition of New York and New Jersey. James placed in charge Sir Edmund Andros, a
former colonial governor of New York. Loyal to James II and his family, Andros had little sympathy for
New Englanders. His regime caused great uneasiness among New England Puritans when it called into

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 103

question the many land titles that did not acknowledge the king and imposed fees for their reconfirmation.
Andros also committed himself to enforcing the Navigation Acts, a move that threatened to disrupt the
region’s trade, which was based largely on smuggling.

In England, opponents of James II’s efforts to create a centralized Catholic state were known as Whigs. The
Whigs worked to depose James, and in late 1688 they succeeded, an event they celebrated as the Glorious
Revolution while James fled to the court of Louis XIV in France. William III (William of Orange) and his
wife Mary II ascended the throne in 1689.

The Glorious Revolution spilled over into the colonies. In 1689, Bostonians overthrew the government
of the Dominion of New England and jailed Sir Edmund Andros as well as other leaders of the regime
(Figure 4.8). The removal of Andros from power illustrates New England’s animosity toward the English
overlord who had, during his tenure, established Church of England worship in Puritan Boston and
vigorously enforced the Navigation Acts, to the chagrin of those in port towns. In New York, the same year
that Andros fell from power, Jacob Leisler led a group of Protestant New Yorkers against the dominion
government. Acting on his own authority, Leisler assumed the role of King William’s governor and
organized intercolonial military action independent of British authority. Leisler’s actions usurped the
crown’s prerogative and, as a result, he was tried for treason and executed. In 1691, England restored
control over the Province of New York.

Figure 4.8 This broadside, signed by several citizens, demands the surrender of Sir Edmund (spelled here
“Edmond”) Andros, James II’s hand-picked leader of the Dominion of New England.

The Glorious Revolution provided a shared experience for those who lived through the tumult of 1688
and 1689. Subsequent generations kept the memory of the Glorious Revolution alive as a heroic defense of
English liberty against a would-be tyrant.

The Glorious Revolution led to the establishment of an English nation that limited the power of the king
and provided protections for English subjects. In October 1689, the same year that William and Mary
took the throne, the 1689 Bill of Rights established a constitutional monarchy. It stipulated Parliament’s
independence from the monarchy and protected certain of Parliament’s rights, such as the right to freedom

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of speech, the right to regular elections, and the right to petition the king. The 1689 Bill of Rights also
guaranteed certain rights to all English subjects, including trial by jury and habeas corpus (the requirement
that authorities bring an imprisoned person before a court to demonstrate the cause of the imprisonment).

John Locke (1632–1704), a doctor and educator who had lived in exile in Holland during the reign of James
II and returned to England after the Glorious Revolution, published his Two Treatises of Government in 1690.
In it, he argued that government was a form of contract between the leaders and the people, and that
representative government existed to protect “life, liberty and property.” Locke rejected the divine right of
kings and instead advocated for the central role of Parliament with a limited monarchy. Locke’s political
philosophy had an enormous impact on future generations of colonists and established the paramount
importance of representation in government.

Visit the Digital Locke Project (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/jlocke) to
John Locke’s writings. This digital collection contains over thirty of his philosophical

The Glorious Revolution also led to the English Toleration Act of 1689, a law passed by Parliament that
allowed for greater religious diversity in the Empire. This act granted religious tolerance to nonconformist
Trinitarian Protestants (those who believed in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost),
such as Baptists (those who advocated adult baptism) and Congregationalists (those who followed the
Puritans’ lead in creating independent churches). While the Church of England remained the official
state religious establishment, the Toleration Act gave much greater religious freedom to nonconformists.
However, this tolerance did not extend to Catholics, who were routinely excluded from political power.
The 1689 Toleration Act extended to the British colonies, where several colonies—Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, Delaware, and New Jersey—refused to allow the creation of an established colonial church, a major
step toward greater religious diversity.

4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Analyze the role slavery played in the history and economy of the British Empire
• Explain the effects of the 1739 Stono Rebellion and the 1741 New York Conspiracy

• Describe the consumer revolution and its effect on the life of the colonial gentry and

other settlers

Slavery formed a cornerstone of the British Empire in the eighteenth century. Every colony had slaves,
from the southern rice plantations in Charles Town, South Carolina, to the northern wharves of Boston.
Slavery was more than a labor system; it also influenced every aspect of colonial thought and culture. The
uneven relationship it engendered gave white colonists an exaggerated sense of their own status. English
liberty gained greater meaning and coherence for whites when they contrasted their status to that of the

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unfree class of black slaves in British America. African slavery provided whites in the colonies with a
shared racial bond and identity.

The transport of slaves to the American colonies accelerated in the second half of the seventeenth century.
In 1660, Charles II created the Royal African Company (Figure 4.9) to trade in slaves and African goods.
His brother, James II, led the company before ascending the throne. Under both these kings, the Royal
African Company enjoyed a monopoly to transport slaves to the English colonies. Between 1672 and 1713,
the company bought 125,000 captives on the African coast, losing 20 percent of them to death on the
Middle Passage, the journey from the African coast to the Americas.

Figure 4.9 The 1686 English guinea shows the logo of the Royal African Company, an elephant and castle, beneath
a bust of King James II. The coins were commonly called guineas because most British gold came from Guinea in
West Africa.

The Royal African Company’s monopoly ended in 1689 as a result of the Glorious Revolution. After that
date, many more English merchants engaged in the slave trade, greatly increasing the number of slaves
being transported. Africans who survived the brutal Middle Passage usually arrived in the West Indies,
often in Barbados. From there, they were transported to the mainland English colonies on company ships.
While merchants in London, Bristol, and Liverpool lined their pockets, Africans trafficked by the company
endured a nightmare of misery, privation, and dislocation.

Slaves strove to adapt to their new lives by forming new communities among themselves, often adhering
to traditional African customs and healing techniques. Indeed, the development of families and
communities formed the most important response to the trauma of being enslaved. Other slaves dealt
with the trauma of their situation by actively resisting their condition, whether by defying their masters or
running away. Runaway slaves formed what were called “maroon” communities, groups that successfully
resisted recapture and formed their own autonomous groups. The most prominent of these communities
lived in the interior of Jamaica, controlling the area and keeping the British away.

Slaves everywhere resisted their exploitation and attempted to gain freedom. They fully understood that
rebellions would bring about massive retaliation from whites and therefore had little chance of success.
Even so, rebellions occurred frequently. One notable uprising that became known as the Stono Rebellion
took place in South Carolina in September 1739. A literate slave named Jemmy led a large group of slaves
in an armed insurrection against white colonists, killing several before militia stopped them. The militia
suppressed the rebellion after a battle in which both slaves and militiamen were killed, and the remaining
slaves were executed or sold to the West Indies.

Jemmy is believed to have been taken from the Kingdom of Kongo, an area where the Portuguese had
introduced Catholicism. Other slaves in South Carolina may have had a similar background: Africa-
born and familiar with whites. If so, this common background may have made it easier for Jemmy to
communicate with the other slaves, enabling them to work together to resist their enslavement even
though slaveholders labored to keep slaves from forging such communities.

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In the wake of the Stono Rebellion, South Carolina passed a new slave code in 1740 called An Act for the
Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and Other Slaves in the Province, also known as the Negro Act
of 1740. This law imposed new limits on slaves’ behavior, prohibiting slaves from assembling, growing
their own food, learning to write, and traveling freely.

Eighteenth-century New York City contained many different ethnic groups, and conflicts among them
created strain. In addition, one in five New Yorkers was a slave, and tensions ran high between slaves and
the free population, especially in the aftermath of the Stono Rebellion. These tensions burst forth in 1741.

That year, thirteen fires broke out in the city, one of which reduced the colony’s Fort George to ashes.
Ever fearful of an uprising among enslaved New Yorkers, the city’s whites spread rumors that the fires
were part of a massive slave revolt in which slaves would murder whites, burn the city, and take over the
colony. The Stono Rebellion was only a few years in the past, and throughout British America, fears of
similar incidents were still fresh. Searching for solutions, and convinced slaves were the principal danger,
nervous British authorities interrogated almost two hundred slaves and accused them of conspiracy.
Rumors that Roman Catholics had joined the suspected conspiracy and planned to murder Protestant
inhabitants of the city only added to the general hysteria. Very quickly, two hundred people were arrested,
including a large number of the city’s slave population.

After a quick series of trials at City Hall, known as the New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741, the
government executed seventeen New Yorkers. Thirteen black men were publicly burned at the stake, while
the others (including four whites) were hanged (Figure 4.10). Seventy slaves were sold to the West Indies.
Little evidence exists to prove that an elaborate conspiracy, like the one white New Yorkers imagined,
actually existed.

Figure 4.10 In the wake of a series of fires throughout New York City, rumors of a slave revolt led authorities to
convict and execute thirty people, including thirteen black men who were publicly burned at the stake.

The events of 1741 in New York City illustrate the racial divide in British America, where panic among
whites spurred great violence against and repression of the feared slave population. In the end, the
Conspiracy Trials furthered white dominance and power over enslaved New Yorkers.

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View the map of New York in the 1740s (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/NY1700s) at
the New York Public Library’s digital gallery, which allows you to zoom in and see
specific events. Look closely at numbers 55 and 56 just north of the city limits to see
illustrations depicting the executions.

British Americans’ reliance on indentured servitude and slavery to meet the demand for colonial labor
helped give rise to a wealthy colonial class—the gentry—in the Chesapeake tobacco colonies and
elsewhere. To be “genteel,” that is, a member of the gentry, meant to be refined, free of all rudeness.
The British American gentry modeled themselves on the English aristocracy, who embodied the ideal of
refinement and gentility. They built elaborate mansions to advertise their status and power. William Byrd
II of Westover, Virginia, exemplifies the colonial gentry; a wealthy planter and slaveholder, he is known
for founding Richmond and for his diaries documenting the life of a gentleman planter (Figure 4.11).

Figure 4.11 This painting by Hans Hysing, ca. 1724, depicts William Byrd II. Byrd was a wealthy gentleman planter
in Virginia and a member of the colonial gentry.

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William Byrd’s Secret Diary
The diary of William Byrd, a Virginia planter, provides a unique way to better understand colonial life on a
plantation (Figure 4.12). What does it show about daily life for a gentleman planter? What does it show
about slavery?

August 27, 1709
I rose at 5 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Josephus. I said my
prayers and ate milk for breakfast. I danced my dance. I had like to have whipped my maid
Anaka for her laziness but I forgave her. I read a little geometry. I denied my man G-r-l to
go to a horse race because there was nothing but swearing and drinking there. I ate roast
mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I played at piquet with my own wife and made her out of
humor by cheating her. I read some Greek in Homer. Then I walked about the plantation. I
lent John H-ch £7 [7 English pounds] in his distress. I said my prayers and had good health,
good thoughts, and good humor, thanks be to God Almighty.
September 6, 1709
About one o’clock this morning my wife was happily delivered of a son, thanks be to God
Almighty. I was awake in a blink and rose and my cousin Harrison met me on the stairs and
told me it was a boy. We drank some French wine and went to bed again and rose at 7 o’clock.
I read a chapter in Hebrew and then drank chocolate with the women for breakfast. I returned
God humble thanks for so great a blessing and recommended my young son to His divine
protection. . . .
September 15, 1710
I rose at 5 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Thucydides. I said my
prayers and ate milk and pears for breakfast. About 7 o’clock the negro boy [or Betty] that ran
away was brought home. My wife against my will caused little Jenny to be burned with a hot
iron, for which I quarreled with her. . . .

Figure 4.12 This photograph shows the view down the stairway from the third floor of Westover
Plantation, home of William Byrd II. What does this image suggest about the lifestyle of the
inhabitants—masters and servants—of this house?

One of the ways in which the gentry set themselves apart from others was through their purchase,
consumption, and display of goods. An increased supply of consumer goods from England that became
available in the eighteenth century led to a phenomenon called the consumer revolution. These products
linked the colonies to Great Britain in real and tangible ways. Indeed, along with the colonial gentry,
ordinary settlers in the colonies also participated in the frenzy of consumer spending on goods from Great
Britain. Tea, for example, came to be regarded as the drink of the Empire, with or without fashionable tea

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 109

The consumer revolution also made printed materials more widely available. Before 1680, for instance, no
newspapers had been printed in colonial America. In the eighteenth century, however, a flood of journals,
books, pamphlets, and other publications became available to readers on both sides of the Atlantic. This
shared trove of printed matter linked members of the Empire by creating a community of shared tastes
and ideas.

Cato’s Letters, by Englishmen John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, was one popular series of 144
pamphlets. These Whig circulars were published between 1720 and 1723 and emphasized the glory of
England, especially its commitment to liberty. However, the pamphlets cautioned readers to be ever
vigilant and on the lookout for attacks upon that liberty. Indeed, Cato’s Letters suggested that there were
constant efforts to undermine and destroy it.

Another very popular publication was the English gentlemen’s magazine the Spectator, published between
1711 and 1714. In each issue, “Mr. Spectator” observed and commented on the world around him. What
made the Spectator so wildly popular was its style; the essays were meant to persuade, and to cultivate
among readers a refined set of behaviors, rejecting deceit and intolerance and focusing instead on the
polishing of genteel taste and manners.

Novels, a new type of literature, made their first appearance in the eighteenth century and proved very
popular in the British Atlantic. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Or, Virtue
Rewarded found large and receptive audiences. Reading also allowed female readers the opportunity to
interpret what they read without depending on a male authority to tell them what to think. Few women
beyond the colonial gentry, however, had access to novels.

4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the significance of the Great Awakening
• Describe the genesis, central ideas, and effects of the Enlightenment in British North


Two major cultural movements further strengthened Anglo-American colonists’ connection to Great
Britain: the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment. Both movements began in Europe, but they
advocated very different ideas: the Great Awakening promoted a fervent, emotional religiosity, while the
Enlightenment encouraged the pursuit of reason in all things. On both sides of the Atlantic, British subjects
grappled with these new ideas.

During the eighteenth century, the British Atlantic experienced an outburst of Protestant revivalism
known as the First Great Awakening. (A Second Great Awakening would take place in the 1800s.)
During the First Great Awakening, evangelists came from the ranks of several Protestant denominations:
Congregationalists, Anglicans (members of the Church of England), and Presbyterians. They rejected what
appeared to be sterile, formal modes of worship in favor of a vigorous emotional religiosity. Whereas
Martin Luther and John Calvin had preached a doctrine of predestination and close reading of scripture,
new evangelical ministers spread a message of personal and experiential faith that rose above mere book
learning. Individuals could bring about their own salvation by accepting Christ, an especially welcome
message for those who had felt excluded by traditional Protestantism: women, the young, and people at
the lower end of the social spectrum.

The Great Awakening caused a split between those who followed the evangelical message (the “New
Lights”) and those who rejected it (the “Old Lights”). The elite ministers in British America were firmly

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Old Lights, and they censured the new revivalism as chaos. Indeed, the revivals did sometimes lead to
excess. In one notorious incident in 1743, an influential New Light minister named James Davenport urged
his listeners to burn books. The next day, he told them to burn their clothes as a sign of their casting off the
sinful trappings of the world. He then took off his own pants and threw them into the fire, but a woman
saved them and tossed them back to Davenport, telling him he had gone too far.

Another outburst of Protestant revivalism began in New Jersey, led by a minister of the Dutch Reformed
Church named Theodorus Frelinghuysen. Frelinghuysen’s example inspired other ministers, including
Gilbert Tennent, a Presbyterian. Tennant helped to spark a Presbyterian revival in the Middle Colonies
(Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey), in part by founding a seminary to train other evangelical
clergyman. New Lights also founded colleges in Rhode Island and New Hampshire that would later
become Brown University and Dartmouth College.

In Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards led still another explosion of evangelical fervor.
Edwards’s best-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” used powerful word imagery
to describe the terrors of hell and the possibilities of avoiding damnation by personal conversion (Figure
4.13). One passage reads: “The wrath of God burns against them [sinners], their damnation don’t slumber,
the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the flames do
now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth
under them.” Edwards’s revival spread along the Connecticut River Valley, and news of the event spread
rapidly through the frequent reprinting of his famous sermon.

Figure 4.13 This image shows the frontispiece of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, A Sermon Preached at
Enfield, July 8, 1741 by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was an evangelical preacher who led a Protestant revival in
New England. This was his most famous sermon, the text of which was reprinted often and distributed widely.

The foremost evangelical of the Great Awakening was an Anglican minister named George Whitefield.
Like many evangelical ministers, Whitefield was itinerant, traveling the countryside instead of having his
own church and congregation. Between 1739 and 1740, he electrified colonial listeners with his brilliant

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Two Opposing Views of George Whitefield
Not everyone embraced George Whitefield and other New Lights. Many established Old Lights decried
the way the new evangelical religions appealed to people’s passions, rather than to traditional religious
values. The two illustrations below present two very different visions of George Whitefield (Figure 4.14).

Figure 4.14 In the 1774 portrait of George Whitefield by engraver Elisha Gallaudet (a), Whitefield
appears with a gentle expression on his face. Although his hands are raised in exultation or entreaty, he
does not look particularly roused or rousing. In the 1763 British political cartoon to the right, “Dr.
Squintum’s Exaltation or the Reformation” (b), Whitefield’s hands are raised in a similar position, but
there the similarities end.

Compare the two images above. On the left is an illustration for Whitefield’s memoirs, while on the right
is a cartoon satirizing the circus-like atmosphere that his preaching seemed to attract (Dr. Squintum was
a nickname for Whitefield, who was cross-eyed). How do these two artists portray the same man? What
emotions are the illustration for his memoirs intended to evoke? What details can you find in the cartoon
that indicate the artist’s distaste for the preacher?

The Great Awakening saw the rise of several Protestant denominations, including Methodists,
Presbyterians, and Baptists (who emphasized adult baptism of converted Christians rather than infant
baptism). These new churches gained converts and competed with older Protestant groups like Anglicans
(members of the Church of England), Congregationalists (the heirs of Puritanism in America), and
Quakers. The influence of these older Protestant groups, such as the New England Congregationalists,
declined because of the Great Awakening. Nonetheless, the Great Awakening touched the lives of
thousands on both sides of the Atlantic and provided a shared experience in the eighteenth-century British

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, was an intellectual and cultural movement in the eighteenth
century that emphasized reason over superstition and science over blind faith. Using the power of
the press, Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Voltaire questioned accepted
knowledge and spread new ideas about openness, investigation, and religious tolerance throughout

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Europe and the Americas. Many consider the Enlightenment a major turning point in Western civilization,
an age of light replacing an age of darkness.

Several ideas dominated Enlightenment thought, including rationalism, empiricism, progressivism, and
cosmopolitanism. Rationalism is the idea that humans are capable of using their faculty of reason to
gain knowledge. This was a sharp turn away from the prevailing idea that people needed to rely on
scripture or church authorities for knowledge. Empiricism promotes the idea that knowledge comes from
experience and observation of the world. Progressivism is the belief that through their powers of reason
and observation, humans could make unlimited, linear progress over time; this belief was especially
important as a response to the carnage and upheaval of the English Civil Wars in the seventeenth century.
Finally, cosmopolitanism reflected Enlightenment thinkers’ view of themselves as citizens of the world
and actively engaged in it, as opposed to being provincial and close-minded. In all, Enlightenment thinkers
endeavored to be ruled by reason, not prejudice.

The Freemasons were a fraternal society that advocated Enlightenment principles of inquiry and tolerance.
Freemasonry originated in London coffeehouses in the early eighteenth century, and Masonic lodges (local
units) soon spread throughout Europe and the British colonies. One prominent Freemason, Benjamin
Franklin, stands as the embodiment of the Enlightenment in British America (Figure 4.15). Born in
Boston in 1706 to a large Puritan family, Franklin loved to read, although he found little beyond religious
publications in his father’s house. In 1718 he was apprenticed to his brother to work in a print shop, where
he learned how to be a good writer by copying the style he found in the Spectator, which his brother
printed. At the age of seventeen, the independent-minded Franklin ran away, eventually ending up in
Quaker Philadelphia. There he began publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette in the late 1720s, and in 1732 he
started his annual publication Poor Richard: An Almanack, in which he gave readers much practical advice,
such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Figure 4.15 In this 1748 portrait by Robert Feke, a forty-year-old Franklin wears a stylish British wig, as befitted a
proud and loyal member of the British Empire.

Franklin subscribed to deism, an Enlightenment-era belief in a God who created, but has no continuing
involvement in, the world and the events within it. Deists also advanced the belief that personal
morality—an individual’s moral compass, leading to good works and actions—is more important than
strict church doctrines. Franklin’s deism guided his many philanthropic projects. In 1731, he established
a reading library that became the Library Company of Philadelphia. In 1743, he founded the American
Philosophical Society to encourage the spirit of inquiry. In 1749, he provided the foundation for the
University of Pennsylvania, and in 1751, he helped found Pennsylvania Hospital.

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His career as a printer made Franklin wealthy and well-respected. When he retired in 1748, he devoted
himself to politics and scientific experiments. His most famous work, on electricity, exemplified
Enlightenment principles. Franklin observed that lightning strikes tended to hit metal objects and reasoned
that he could therefore direct lightning through the placement of metal objects during an electrical storm.
He used this knowledge to advocate the use of lightning rods: metal poles connected to wires directing
lightning’s electrical charge into the ground and saving wooden homes in cities like Philadelphia from
catastrophic fires. He published his findings in 1751, in Experiments and Observations on Electricity.

Franklin also wrote of his “rags to riches” tale, his Memoir, in the 1770s and 1780s. This story laid the
foundation for the American Dream of upward social mobility.

Visit the Worldly Ways section (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/bfranklin1) of PBS’s
Benjamin Franklin site to see an interactive map showing Franklin’s overseas travels
and his influence around the world. His diplomatic, political, scientific, and business
achievements had great effects in many countries.

The reach of Enlightenment thought was both broad and deep. In the 1730s, it even prompted the founding
of a new colony. Having witnessed the terrible conditions of debtors’ prison, as well as the results of
releasing penniless debtors onto the streets of London, James Oglethorpe, a member of Parliament and
advocate of social reform, petitioned King George II for a charter to start a new colony. George II,
understanding the strategic advantage of a British colony standing as a buffer between South Carolina
and Spanish Florida, granted the charter to Oglethorpe and twenty like-minded proprietors in 1732.
Oglethorpe led the settlement of the colony, which was called Georgia in honor of the king. In 1733, he
and 113 immigrants arrived on the ship Anne. Over the next decade, Parliament funded the migration of
twenty-five hundred settlers, making Georgia the only government-funded colonial project.

Oglethorpe’s vision for Georgia followed the ideals of the Age of Reason, seeing it as a place for England’s
“worthy poor” to start anew. To encourage industry, he gave each male immigrant fifty acres of land,
tools, and a year’s worth of supplies. In Savannah, the Oglethorpe Plan provided for a utopia: “an agrarian
model of sustenance while sustaining egalitarian values holding all men as equal.”

Oglethorpe’s vision called for alcohol and slavery to be banned. However, colonists who relocated from
other colonies, especially South Carolina, disregarded these prohibitions. Despite its proprietors’ early
vision of a colony guided by Enlightenment ideals and free of slavery, by the 1750s, Georgia was
producing quantities of rice grown and harvested by slaves.

4.5 Wars for Empire

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the wars for empire
• Analyze the significance of these conflicts

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Wars for empire composed a final link connecting the Atlantic sides of the British Empire. Great Britain
fought four separate wars against Catholic France from the late 1600s to the mid-1700s. Another war,
the War of Jenkins’ Ear, pitted Britain against Spain. These conflicts for control of North America also
helped colonists forge important alliances with native peoples, as different tribes aligned themselves with
different European powers.

Generations of British colonists grew up during a time when much of North America, especially the
Northeast, engaged in war. Colonists knew war firsthand. In the eighteenth century, fighting was seasonal.
Armies mobilized in the spring, fought in the summer, and retired to winter quarters in the fall. The British
army imposed harsh discipline on its soldiers, who were drawn from the poorer classes, to ensure they
did not step out of line during engagements. If they did, their officers would kill them. On the battlefield,
armies dressed in bright uniforms to advertise their bravery and lack of fear. They stood in tight formation
and exchanged volleys with the enemy. They often feared their officers more than the enemy.

Read the diary of a provincial soldier who fought in the French and Indian War on the
Captain David Perry Web Site (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/DPerry) hosted by
Rootsweb. David Perry’s journal, which includes a description of the 1758 campaign,
provides a glimpse of warfare in the eighteenth century.

Most imperial conflicts had both American and European fronts, leaving us with two names for each war.
For instance, King William’s War (1688–1697) is also known as the War of the League of Augsburg. In
America, the bulk of the fighting in this conflict took place between New England and New France. The
war proved inconclusive, with no clear victor (Figure 4.16).

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Figure 4.16 This map shows the French and British armies’ movements during King William’s War, in which there
was no clear victor.

Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713) is also known as the War of Spanish Succession. England fought against
both Spain and France over who would ascend the Spanish throne after the last of the Hapsburg rulers
died. In North America, fighting took place in Florida, New England, and New France. In Canada, the
French prevailed but lost Acadia and Newfoundland; however, the victory was again not decisive because
the English failed to take Quebec, which would have given them control of Canada.

This conflict is best remembered in the United States for the French and Indian raid against Deerfield,
Massachusetts, in 1704. A small French force, combined with a native group made up of Catholic Mohawks
and Abenaki (Pocumtucs), attacked the frontier outpost of Deerfield, killing scores and taking 112
prisoners. Among the captives was the seven-year-old daughter of Deerfield’s minister John Williams,
named Eunice. She was held by the Mohawks for years as her family tried to get her back, and became
assimilated into the tribe. To the horror of the Puritan leaders, when she grew up Eunice married a
Mohawk and refused to return to New England.

In North America, possession of Georgia and trade with the interior was the focus of the War of Jenkins’
Ear (1739–1742), a conflict between Britain and Spain over contested claims to the land occupied by the
fledgling colony between South Carolina and Florida. The war got its name from an incident in 1731 in
which a Spanish Coast Guard captain severed the ear of British captain Robert Jenkins as punishment for
raiding Spanish ships in Panama. Jenkins fueled the growing animosity between England and Spain by
presenting his ear to Parliament and stirring up British public outrage. More than anything else, the War
of Jenkins’ Ear disrupted the Atlantic trade, a situation that hurt both Spain and Britain and was a major
reason the war came to a close in 1742. Georgia, founded six years earlier, remained British and a buffer
against Spanish Florida.

King George’s War (1744–1748), known in Europe as the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748), was
fought in the northern colonies and New France. In 1745, the British took the massive French fortress at
Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (Figure 4.17). However, three years later, under the terms
of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Britain relinquished control of the fortress to the French. Once again, war
resulted in an incomplete victory for both Britain and France.

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Figure 4.17 In this 1747 painting by J. Stevens, View of the landing of the New England forces in ye expedition
against Cape Breton, British forces land on the island of Cape Breton to capture Fort Louisbourg.

The final imperial war, the French and Indian War (1754–1763), known as the Seven Years’ War in Europe,
proved to be the decisive contest between Britain and France in America. It began over rival claims along
the frontier in present-day western Pennsylvania. Well-connected planters from Virginia faced stagnant
tobacco prices and hoped expanding into these western lands would stabilize their wealth and status.
Some of them established the Ohio Company of Virginia in 1748, and the British crown granted the
company half a million acres in 1749. However, the French also claimed the lands of the Ohio Company,
and to protect the region they established Fort Duquesne in 1754, where the Ohio, Monongahela, and
Allegheny Rivers met.

The war began in May 1754 because of these competing claims between Britain and France. Twenty-two-
year-old Virginian George Washington, a surveyor whose family helped to found the Ohio Company, gave
the command to fire on French soldiers near present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. This incident on the
Pennsylvania frontier proved to be a decisive event that led to imperial war. For the next decade, fighting
took place along the frontier of New France and British America from Virginia to Maine. The war also
spread to Europe as France and Britain looked to gain supremacy in the Atlantic World.

The British fared poorly in the first years of the war. In 1754, the French and their native allies forced
Washington to surrender at Fort Necessity, a hastily built fort constructed after his attack on the French.
In 1755, Britain dispatched General Edward Braddock to the colonies to take Fort Duquesne. The French,
aided by the Potawotomis, Ottawas, Shawnees, and Delawares, ambushed the fifteen hundred British
soldiers and Virginia militia who marched to the fort. The attack sent panic through the British force,
and hundreds of British soldiers and militiamen died, including General Braddock. The campaign of 1755
proved to be a disaster for the British. In fact, the only British victory that year was the capture of Nova
Scotia. In 1756 and 1757, Britain suffered further defeats with the fall of Fort Oswego and Fort William
Henry (Figure 4.18).

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Figure 4.18 This schematic map depicts the events of the French and Indian War. Note the scarcity of British

The war began to turn in favor of the British in 1758, due in large part to the efforts of William Pitt,
a very popular member of Parliament. Pitt pledged huge sums of money and resources to defeating
the hated Catholic French, and Great Britain spent part of the money on bounties paid to new young
recruits in the colonies, helping invigorate the British forces. In 1758, the Iroquois, Delaware, and Shawnee
signed the Treaty of Easton, aligning themselves with the British in return for some contested land around
Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 1759, the British took Quebec, and in 1760, Montreal. The French empire in
North America had crumbled.

The war continued until 1763, when the French signed the Treaty of Paris. This treaty signaled a dramatic
reversal of fortune for France. Indeed, New France, which had been founded in the early 1600s, ceased
to exist. The British Empire had now gained mastery over North America. The Empire not only gained
New France under the treaty; it also acquired French sugar islands in the West Indies, French trading
posts in India, and French-held posts on the west coast of Africa. Great Britain’s victory in the French and
Indian War meant that it had become a truly global empire. British colonists joyously celebrated, singing
the refrain of “Rule, Britannia! / Britannia, rule the waves! / Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!”

In the American colonies, ties with Great Britain were closer than ever. Professional British soldiers had
fought alongside Anglo-American militiamen, forging a greater sense of shared identity. With Great
Britain’s victory, colonial pride ran high as colonists celebrated their identity as British subjects.

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This last of the wars for empire, however, also sowed the seeds of trouble. The war led Great Britain deeply
into debt, and in the 1760s and 1770s, efforts to deal with the debt through imperial reforms would have
the unintended consequence of causing stress and strain that threatened to tear the Empire apart.

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 119


Dominion of New England

English interregnum


First Great Awakening


French and Indian War

Glorious Revolution

Navigation Acts


proprietary colonies

Restoration colonies

salutary neglect

Key Terms

an Enlightenment-era belief in the existence of a supreme being—specifically, a creator who does
not intervene in the universe—representing a rejection of the belief in a supernatural deity who interacts
with humankind

James II’s consolidated New England colony, made up of all the colonies
from New Haven to Massachusetts and later New York and New Jersey

the period from 1649 to 1660 when England had no king

an eighteenth-century intellectual and cultural movement that emphasized reason and
science over superstition, religion, and tradition

an eighteenth-century Protestant revival that emphasized individual,
experiential faith over church doctrine and the close study of scripture

a fraternal society founded in the early eighteenth century that advocated Enlightenment
principles of inquiry and tolerance

the last eighteenth-century imperial struggle between Great Britain and France,
leading to a decisive British victory; this war lasted from 1754 to 1763 and was also called the Seven
Years’ War

the overthrow of James II in 1688

a series of English mercantilist laws enacted between 1651 and 1696 in order to control
trade with the colonies

Protestants who did not conform to the doctrines or practices of the Church of England

colonies granted by the king to a trusted individual, family, or group

the colonies King Charles II established or supported during the Restoration (the
Carolinas, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)

the laxness with which the English crown enforced the Navigation Acts in the
eighteenth century

4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies
After the English Civil War and interregnum, England began to fashion a stronger and larger empire in
North America. In addition to wresting control of New York and New Jersey from the Dutch, Charles
II established the Carolinas and Pennsylvania as proprietary colonies. Each of these colonies added
immensely to the Empire, supplying goods not produced in England, such as rice and indigo. The
Restoration colonies also contributed to the rise in population in English America as many thousands
of Europeans made their way to the colonies. Their numbers were further augmented by the forced
migration of African slaves. Starting in 1651, England pursued mercantilist policies through a series of
Navigation Acts designed to make the most of England’s overseas possessions. Nonetheless, without
proper enforcement of Parliament’s acts and with nothing to prevent colonial traders from commanding
their own fleets of ships, the Navigation Acts did not control trade as intended.

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4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire
The threat of a Catholic absolute monarchy prompted not only the overthrow of James II but also the
adoption of laws and policies that changed English government. The Glorious Revolution restored a
Protestant monarchy and at the same time limited its power by means of the 1689 Bill of Rights. Those
who lived through the events preserved the memory of the Glorious Revolution and the defense of liberty
that it represented. Meanwhile, thinkers such as John Locke provided new models and inspirations for the
evolving concept of government.

4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the expansion of slavery in the American colonies from
South Carolina to Boston. The institution of slavery created a false sense of superiority in whites, while
simultaneously fueling fears of slave revolt. White response to such revolts, or even the threat of them,
led to gross overreactions and further constraints on slaves’ activities. The development of the Atlantic
economy also allowed colonists access to more British goods than ever before. The buying habits of both
commoners and the rising colonial gentry fueled the consumer revolution, creating even stronger ties with
Great Britain by means of a shared community of taste and ideas.

4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment
The eighteenth century saw a host of social, religious, and intellectual changes across the British Empire.
While the Great Awakening emphasized vigorously emotional religiosity, the Enlightenment promoted
the power of reason and scientific observation. Both movements had lasting impacts on the colonies. The
beliefs of the New Lights of the First Great Awakening competed with the religions of the first colonists,
and the religious fervor in Great Britain and her North American colonies bound the eighteenth-century
British Atlantic together in a shared, common experience. The British colonist Benjamin Franklin gained
fame on both sides of the Atlantic as a printer, publisher, and scientist. He embodied Enlightenment
ideals in the British Atlantic with his scientific experiments and philanthropic endeavors. Enlightenment
principles even guided the founding of the colony of Georgia, although those principles could not stand
up to the realities of colonial life, and slavery soon took hold in the colony.

4.5 Wars for Empire
From 1688 to 1763, Great Britain engaged in almost continuous power struggles with France and Spain.
Most of these conflicts originated in Europe, but their engagements spilled over into the colonies. For
almost eighty years, Great Britain and France fought for control of eastern North America. During most of
that time, neither force was able to win a decisive victory, though each side saw occasional successes with
the crucial help of native peoples. It was not until halfway through the French and Indian War (1754–1763),
when Great Britain swelled its troops with more volunteers and native allies, that the balance of power
shifted toward the British. With the 1763 Treaty of Paris, New France was eliminated, and Great Britain
gained control of all the lands north of Florida and east of the Mississippi. British subjects on both sides of
the Atlantic rejoiced.

Review Questions
1. To what does the term “Restoration” refer?

A. the restoration of New York to English

B. the restoration of Catholicism as the official
religion of England

C. the restoration of Charles II to the English

D. the restoration of Parliamentary power in

Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 121

2. What was the predominant religion in

A. Quakerism
B. Puritanism
C. Catholicism
D. Protestantism

3. What sorts of labor systems were used in the
Restoration colonies?

4. Which of the following represents a concern
that those in England and her colonies maintained
about James II?

A. that he would promote the spread of

B. that he would reduce the size of the British
army and navy, leaving England and her
colonies vulnerable to attack

C. that he would advocate for Parliament’s
independence from the monarchy

D. that he would institute a Catholic absolute

5. What was the Dominion of New England?
A. James II’s overthrow of the New England

colonial governments
B. the consolidated New England colony

James II created
C. Governor Edmund Andros’s colonial

government in New York
D. the excise taxes New England colonists had

to pay to James II

6. What was the outcome of the Glorious

7. The Negro Act of 1740 was a reaction to

A. fears of a slave conspiracy in the setting of
thirteen fires in New York City

B. the Stono Rebellion
C. the Royal African Company’s monopoly
D. the growing power of maroon communities

8. What was the “conspiracy” of the New York
Conspiracy Trials of 1741?

A. American patriots conspiring to overthrow
the royal government

B. indentured servants conspiring to
overthrow their masters

C. slaves conspiring to burn down the city and
take control

D. Protestants conspiring to murder Catholics

9. What was the First Great Awakening?
A. a cultural and intellectual movement that

emphasized reason and science over
superstition and religion

B. a Protestant revival that emphasized
emotional, experiential faith over book

C. a cultural shift that promoted Christianity
among slave communities

D. the birth of an American identity, promoted
by Benjamin Franklin

10. Which of the following is not a tenet of the

A. atheism
B. empiricism
C. progressivism
D. rationalism

11. Who were the Freemasons, and why were
they significant?

12. What was the primary goal of Britain’s wars
for empire from 1688 to 1763?

A. control of North America
B. control of American Indians
C. greater power in Europe and the world
D. defeat of Catholicism

13. Who were the main combatants in the French
and Indian War?

A. France against Indians
B. Great Britain against Indians
C. Great Britain against France
D. Great Britain against the French and their

Indian allies

14. What prompted the French and Indian War?

Critical Thinking Questions
15. How did Pennsylvania’s Quaker beginnings distinguish it from other colonies in British America?

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16. What were the effects of the consumer revolution on the colonies?

17. How did the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening offer opposing outlooks to British
Americans? What similarities were there between the two schools of thought?

18. What was the impact of the wars for empire in North America, Europe, and the world?

19. What role did Indians play in the wars for empire?

20. What shared experiences, intellectual currents, and cultural elements drew together British subjects
on both sides of the Atlantic during this period? How did these experiences, ideas, and goods serve to
strengthen those bonds?

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Imperial Reforms and Colonial
Protests, 1763-1774

Figure 5.1 The Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring and Feathering (1774), attributed to Philip Dawe,
depicts the most publicized tarring and feathering incident of the American Revolution. The victim is John Malcolm, a
customs official loyal to the British crown.

Chapter Outline
5.1 Confronting the National Debt: The Aftermath of the French and Indian War
5.2 The Stamp Act and the Sons and Daughters of Liberty
5.3 The Townshend Acts and Colonial Protest
5.4 The Destruction of the Tea and the Coercive Acts
5.5 Disaffection: The First Continental Congress and American Identity

The Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring and Feathering (Figure 5.1), shows five Patriots tarring and
feathering the Commissioner of Customs, John Malcolm, a sea captain, army officer, and staunch Loyalist.
The print shows the Boston Tea Party, a protest against the Tea Act of 1773, and the Liberty Tree, an elm
tree near Boston Common that became a rallying point against the Stamp Act of 1765. When the crowd
threatened to hang Malcolm if he did not renounce his position as a royal customs officer, he reluctantly
agreed and the protestors allowed him to go home. The scene represents the animosity toward those who
supported royal authority and illustrates the high tide of unrest in the colonies after the British government
imposed a series of imperial reform measures during the years 1763–1774.

The government’s formerly lax oversight of the colonies ended as the architects of the British Empire put
these new reforms in place. The British hoped to gain greater control over colonial trade and frontier
settlement as well as to reduce the administrative cost of the colonies and the enormous debt left by the
French and Indian War. Each step the British took, however, generated a backlash. Over time, imperial
reforms pushed many colonists toward separation from the British Empire.

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 125

5.1 Confronting the National Debt: The Aftermath of the French and
Indian War

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Discuss the status of Great Britain’s North American colonies in the years directly

following the French and Indian War
• Describe the size and scope of the British debt at the end of the French and Indian War
• Explain how the British Parliament responded to the debt crisis
• Outline the purpose of the Proclamation Line, the Sugar Act, and the Currency Act

Great Britain had much to celebrate in 1763. The long and costly war with France had finally ended, and
Great Britain had emerged victorious. British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic celebrated the strength
of the British Empire. Colonial pride ran high; to live under the British Constitution and to have defeated
the hated French Catholic menace brought great joy to British Protestants everywhere in the Empire. From
Maine to Georgia, British colonists joyously celebrated the victory and sang the refrain of “Rule, Britannia!
Britannia, rule the waves! Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!”

Despite the celebratory mood, the victory over France also produced major problems within the British
Empire, problems that would have serious consequences for British colonists in the Americas. During the
war, many Indian tribes had sided with the French, who supplied them with guns. After the 1763 Treaty
of Paris that ended the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years’ War), British colonists had to defend
the frontier, where French colonists and their tribal allies remained a powerful force. The most organized
resistance, Pontiac’s Rebellion, highlighted tensions the settlers increasingly interpreted in racial terms.

The massive debt the war generated at home, however, proved to be the most serious issue facing Great
Britain. The frontier had to be secure in order to prevent another costly war. Greater enforcement of
imperial trade laws had to be put into place. Parliament had to find ways to raise revenue to pay off the
crippling debt from the war. Everyone would have to contribute their expected share, including the British
subjects across the Atlantic.

Figure 5.2 (credit “1765”: modification of work by the United Kingdom Government)

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With the end of the French and Indian War, Great Britain claimed a vast new expanse of territory, at least
on paper. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the French territory known as New France had ceased to
exist. British territorial holdings now extended from Canada to Florida, and British military focus shifted to
maintaining peace in the king’s newly enlarged lands. However, much of the land in the American British
Empire remained under the control of powerful native confederacies, which made any claims of British
mastery beyond the Atlantic coastal settlements hollow. Great Britain maintained ten thousand troops in
North America after the war ended in 1763 to defend the borders and repel any attack by their imperial

British colonists, eager for fresh land, poured over the Appalachian Mountains to stake claims. The
western frontier had long been a “middle ground” where different imperial powers (British, French,
Spanish) had interacted and compromised with native peoples. That era of accommodation in the “middle
ground” came to an end after the French and Indian War. Virginians (including George Washington) and
other land-hungry colonists had already raised tensions in the 1740s with their quest for land. Virginia
landowners in particular eagerly looked to diversify their holdings beyond tobacco, which had stagnated
in price and exhausted the fertility of the lands along the Chesapeake Bay. They invested heavily in the
newly available land. This westward movement brought the settlers into conflict as never before with
Indian tribes, such as the Shawnee, Seneca-Cayuga, Wyandot, and Delaware, who increasingly held their
ground against any further intrusion by white settlers.

The treaty that ended the war between France and Great Britain proved to be a significant blow to native
peoples, who had viewed the conflict as an opportunity to gain additional trade goods from both sides.
With the French defeat, many Indians who had sided with France lost a valued trading partner as well
as bargaining power over the British. Settlers’ encroachment on their land, as well as the increased British
military presence, changed the situation on the frontier dramatically. After the war, British troops took
over the former French forts but failed to court favor with the local tribes by distributing ample gifts, as the
French had done. They also significantly reduced the amount of gunpowder and ammunition they sold to
the Indians, worsening relationships further.

Indians’ resistance to colonists drew upon the teachings of Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet Neolin and
the leadership of Ottawa war chief Pontiac. Neolin was a spiritual leader who preached a doctrine of
shunning European culture and expelling Europeans from native lands. Neolin’s beliefs united Indians
from many villages. In a broad-based alliance that came to be known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, Pontiac led a
loose coalition of these native tribes against the colonists and the British army.

Pontiac started bringing his coalition together as early as 1761, urging Indians to “drive [the Europeans]
out and make war upon them.” The conflict began in earnest in 1763, when Pontiac and several hundred
Ojibwas, Potawatomis, and Hurons laid siege to Fort Detroit. At the same time, Senecas, Shawnees, and
Delawares laid siege to Fort Pitt. Over the next year, the war spread along the backcountry from Virginia to
Pennsylvania. Pontiac’s Rebellion (also known as Pontiac’s War) triggered horrific violence on both sides.
Firsthand reports of Indian attacks tell of murder, scalping, dismemberment, and burning at the stake.
These stories incited a deep racial hatred among colonists against all Indians.

The actions of a group of Scots-Irish settlers from Paxton (or Paxtang), Pennsylvania, in December 1763,
illustrates the deadly situation on the frontier. Forming a mob known as the Paxton Boys, these
frontiersmen attacked a nearby group of Conestoga of the Susquehannock tribe. The Conestoga had
lived peacefully with local settlers, but the Paxton Boys viewed all Indians as savages and they brutally
murdered the six Conestoga they found at home and burned their houses. When Governor John Penn put
the remaining fourteen Conestoga in protective custody in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Paxton Boys broke
into the building and killed and scalped the Conestoga they found there (Figure 5.3). Although Governor
Penn offered a reward for the capture of any Paxton Boys involved in the murders, no one ever identified
the attackers. Some colonists reacted to the incident with outrage. Benjamin Franklin described the Paxton
Boys as “the barbarous Men who committed the atrocious act, in Defiance of Government, of all Laws

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 127

human and divine, and to the eternal Disgrace of their Country and Colour,” stating that “the Wickedness
cannot be covered, the Guilt will lie on the whole Land, till Justice is done on the Murderers. The blood
of the innocent will cry to heaven for vengeance.” Yet, as the inability to bring the perpetrators to justice
clearly indicates, the Paxton Boys had many more supporters than critics.

Figure 5.3 This nineteenth-century lithograph depicts the massacre of Conestoga in 1763 at Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, where they had been placed in protective custody. None of the attackers, members of the Paxton
Boys, were ever identified.

Visit Explore PAhistory.com (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/paxton) to read the full
text of Benjamin Franklin’s “Benjamin Franklin, An Account of the Paxton Boys’ Murder
of the Conestoga Indians, 1764.”

Pontiac’s Rebellion and the Paxton Boys’ actions were examples of early American race wars, in which
both sides saw themselves as inherently different from the other and believed the other needed to be
eradicated. The prophet Neolin’s message, which he said he received in a vision from the Master of Life,
was: “Wherefore do you suffer the whites to dwell upon your lands? Drive them away; wage war against
them.” Pontiac echoed this idea in a meeting, exhorting tribes to join together against the British: “It is
important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our lands this nation which seeks only to destroy
us.” In his letter suggesting “gifts” to the natives of smallpox-infected blankets, Field Marshal Jeffrey
Amherst said, “You will do well to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as every other
method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.” Pontiac’s Rebellion came to an end in 1766, when it
became clear that the French, whom Pontiac had hoped would side with his forces, would not be returning.
The repercussions, however, would last much longer. Race relations between Indians and whites remained
poisoned on the frontier.

Well aware of the problems on the frontier, the British government took steps to try to prevent bloodshed
and another costly war. At the beginning of Pontiac’s uprising, the British issued the Proclamation of 1763,
which forbade white settlement west of the Proclamation Line, a borderline running along the spine of
the Appalachian Mountains (Figure 5.4). The Proclamation Line aimed to forestall further conflict on the
frontier, the clear flashpoint of tension in British North America. British colonists who had hoped to move

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west after the war chafed at this restriction, believing the war had been fought and won to ensure the right
to settle west. The Proclamation Line therefore came as a setback to their vision of westward expansion.

Figure 5.4 This map shows the status of the American colonies in 1763, after the end of the French and Indian War.
Although Great Britain won control of the territory east of the Mississippi, the Proclamation Line of 1763 prohibited
British colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. (credit: modification of work by the National Atlas of
the United States)

Great Britain’s newly enlarged empire meant a greater financial burden, and the mushrooming debt from
the war was a major cause of concern. The war nearly doubled the British national debt, from £75 million
in 1756 to £133 million in 1763. Interest payments alone consumed over half the national budget, and the
continuing military presence in North America was a constant drain. The Empire needed more revenue to
replenish its dwindling coffers. Those in Great Britain believed that British subjects in North America, as
the major beneficiaries of Great Britain’s war for global supremacy, should certainly shoulder their share
of the financial burden.

The British government began increasing revenues by raising taxes at home, even as various interest
groups lobbied to keep their taxes low. Powerful members of the aristocracy, well represented in
Parliament, successfully convinced Prime Minister John Stuart, third earl of Bute, to refrain from raising
taxes on land. The greater tax burden, therefore, fell on the lower classes in the form of increased import
duties, which raised the prices of imported goods such as sugar and tobacco. George Grenville succeeded
Bute as prime minister in 1763. Grenville determined to curtail government spending and make sure that,
as subjects of the British Empire, the American colonists did their part to pay down the massive debt.

The new era of greater British interest in the American colonies through imperial reforms picked up in
pace in the mid-1760s. In 1764, Prime Minister Grenville introduced the Currency Act of 1764, prohibiting

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 129

the colonies from printing additional paper money and requiring colonists to pay British merchants in
gold and silver instead of the colonial paper money already in circulation. The Currency Act aimed to
standardize the currency used in Atlantic trade, a logical reform designed to help stabilize the Empire’s
economy. This rule brought American economic activity under greater British control. Colonists relied on
their own paper currency to conduct trade and, with gold and silver in short supply, they found their
finances tight. Not surprisingly, they grumbled about the new imperial currency regulations.

Grenville also pushed Parliament to pass the Sugar Act of 1764, which actually lowered duties on British
molasses by half, from six pence per gallon to three. Grenville designed this measure to address the
problem of rampant colonial smuggling with the French sugar islands in the West Indies. The act
attempted to make it easier for colonial traders, especially New England mariners who routinely engaged
in illegal trade, to comply with the imperial law.

To give teeth to the 1764 Sugar Act, the law intensified enforcement provisions. Prior to the 1764 act,
colonial violations of the Navigation Acts had been tried in local courts, where sympathetic colonial juries
refused to convict merchants on trial. However, the Sugar Act required violators to be tried in vice-
admiralty courts. These crown-sanctioned tribunals, which settled disputes that occurred at sea, operated
without juries. Some colonists saw this feature of the 1764 act as dangerous. They argued that trial by
jury had long been honored as a basic right of Englishmen under the British Constitution. To deprive
defendants of a jury, they contended, meant reducing liberty-loving British subjects to political slavery. In
the British Atlantic world, some colonists perceived this loss of liberty as parallel to the enslavement of

As loyal British subjects, colonists in America cherished their Constitution, an unwritten system of
government that they celebrated as the best political system in the world. The British Constitution
prescribed the roles of the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. Each entity provided a
check and balance against the worst tendencies of the others. If the King had too much power, the result
would be tyranny. If the Lords had too much power, the result would be oligarchy. If the Commons
had the balance of power, democracy or mob rule would prevail. The British Constitution promised
representation of the will of British subjects, and without such representation, even the indirect tax of the
Sugar Act was considered a threat to the settlers’ rights as British subjects. Furthermore, some American
colonists felt the colonies were on equal political footing with Great Britain. The Sugar Act meant they
were secondary, mere adjuncts to the Empire. All subjects of the British crown knew they had liberties
under the constitution. The Sugar Act suggested that some in Parliament labored to deprive them of what
made them uniquely British.

5.2 The Stamp Act and the Sons and Daughters of Liberty

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the purpose of the 1765 Stamp Act
• Describe the colonial responses to the Stamp Act

In 1765, the British Parliament moved beyond the efforts during the previous two years to better regulate
westward expansion and trade by putting in place the Stamp Act. As a direct tax on the colonists, the
Stamp Act imposed an internal tax on almost every type of printed paper colonists used, including
newspapers, legal documents, and playing cards. While the architects of the Stamp Act saw the measure
as a way to defray the costs of the British Empire, it nonetheless gave rise to the first major colonial protest
against British imperial control as expressed in the famous slogan “no taxation without representation.”
The Stamp Act reinforced the sense among some colonists that Parliament was not treating them as equals
of their peers across the Atlantic.

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Prime Minister Grenville, author of the Sugar Act of 1764, introduced the Stamp Act in the early spring
of 1765. Under this act, anyone who used or purchased anything printed on paper had to buy a revenue
stamp (Figure 5.5) for it. In the same year, 1765, Parliament also passed the Quartering Act, a law that
attempted to solve the problems of stationing troops in North America. The Parliament understood the
Stamp Act and the Quartering Act as an assertion of their power to control colonial policy.

Figure 5.5 Under the Stamp Act, anyone who used or purchased anything printed on paper had to buy a revenue
stamp for it. Image (a) shows a partial proof sheet of one-penny stamps. Image (b) provides a close-up of a one-
penny stamp. (credit a: modification of work by the United Kingdom Government; credit b: modification of work by the
United Kingdom Government)

The Stamp Act signaled a shift in British policy after the French and Indian War. Before the Stamp Act,
the colonists had paid taxes to their colonial governments or indirectly through higher prices, not directly
to the Crown’s appointed governors. This was a time-honored liberty of representative legislatures of the
colonial governments. The passage of the Stamp Act meant that starting on November 1, 1765, the colonists
would contribute £60,000 per year—17 percent of the total cost—to the upkeep of the ten thousand British
soldiers in North America (Figure 5.6). Because the Stamp Act raised constitutional issues, it triggered the
first serious protest against British imperial policy.

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 131

Figure 5.6 The announcement of the Stamp Act, seen in this newspaper publication (a), raised numerous concerns
among colonists in America. Protests against British imperial policy took many forms, such as this mock stamp (b)
whose text reads “An Emblem of the Effects of the STAMP. O! the Fatal STAMP.”

Parliament also asserted its prerogative in 1765 with the Quartering Act. The Quartering Act of 1765
addressed the problem of housing British soldiers stationed in the American colonies. It required that they
be provided with barracks or places to stay in public houses, and that if extra housing were necessary,
then troops could be stationed in barns and other uninhabited private buildings. In addition, the costs
of the troops’ food and lodging fell to the colonists. Since the time of James II, who ruled from 1685 to
1688, many British subjects had mistrusted the presence of a standing army during peacetime, and having
to pay for the soldiers’ lodging and food was especially burdensome. Widespread evasion and disregard
for the law occurred in almost all the colonies, but the issue was especially contentious in New York, the
headquarters of British forces. When fifteen hundred troops arrived in New York in 1766, the New York
Assembly refused to follow the Quartering Act.

For many British colonists living in America, the Stamp Act raised many concerns. As a direct tax, it
appeared to be an unconstitutional measure, one that deprived freeborn British subjects of their liberty,
a concept they defined broadly to include various rights and privileges they enjoyed as British subjects,
including the right to representation. According to the unwritten British Constitution, only representatives
for whom British subjects voted could tax them. Parliament was in charge of taxation, and although it was
a representative body, the colonies did not have “actual” (or direct) representation in it. Parliamentary
members who supported the Stamp Act argued that the colonists had virtual representation, because
the architects of the British Empire knew best how to maximize returns from its possessions overseas.
However, this argument did not satisfy the protesters, who viewed themselves as having the same right
as all British subjects to avoid taxation without their consent. With no representation in the House of
Commons, where bills of taxation originated, they felt themselves deprived of this inherent right.

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The British government knew the colonists might object to the Stamp Act’s expansion of parliamentary
power, but Parliament believed the relationship of the colonies to the Empire was one of dependence,
not equality. However, the Stamp Act had the unintended and ironic consequence of drawing colonists
from very different areas and viewpoints together in protest. In Massachusetts, for instance, James Otis,
a lawyer and defender of British liberty, became the leading voice for the idea that “Taxation without
representation is tyranny.” In the Virginia House of Burgesses, firebrand and slaveholder Patrick Henry
introduced the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions, which denounced the Stamp Act and the British crown in
language so strong that some conservative Virginians accused him of treason (Figure 5.7). Henry replied
that Virginians were subject only to taxes that they themselves—or their representatives—imposed. In
short, there could be no taxation without representation.

Figure 5.7 Patrick Henry Before the Virginia House of Burgesses (1851), painted by Peter F. Rothermel, offers a
romanticized depiction of Henry’s speech denouncing the Stamp Act of 1765. Supporters and opponents alike
debated the stark language of the speech, which quickly became legendary.

The colonists had never before formed a unified political front, so Grenville and Parliament did not
fear true revolt. However, this was to change in 1765. In response to the Stamp Act, the Massachusetts
Assembly sent letters to the other colonies, asking them to attend a meeting, or congress, to discuss how
to respond to the act. Many American colonists from very different colonies found common cause in their
opposition to the Stamp Act. Representatives from nine colonial legislatures met in New York in the fall
of 1765 to reach a consensus. Could Parliament impose taxation without representation? The members of
this first congress, known as the Stamp Act Congress, said no. These nine representatives had a vested
interest in repealing the tax. Not only did it weaken their businesses and the colonial economy, but it also
threatened their liberty under the British Constitution. They drafted a rebuttal to the Stamp Act, making
clear that they desired only to protect their liberty as loyal subjects of the Crown. The document, called the
Declaration of Rights and Grievances, outlined the unconstitutionality of taxation without representation
and trials without juries. Meanwhile, popular protest was also gaining force.

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 133

Browse the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/masshist1) to examine digitized primary sources of the
documents that paved the way to the fight for liberty.

The Stamp Act Congress was a gathering of landowning, educated white men who represented the
political elite of the colonies and was the colonial equivalent of the British landed aristocracy. While
these gentry were drafting their grievances during the Stamp Act Congress, other colonists showed their
distaste for the new act by boycotting British goods and protesting in the streets. Two groups, the Sons of
Liberty and the Daughters of Liberty, led the popular resistance to the Stamp Act. Both groups considered
themselves British patriots defending their liberty, just as their forebears had done in the time of James II.

Forming in Boston in the summer of 1765, the Sons of Liberty were artisans, shopkeepers, and small-
time merchants willing to adopt extralegal means of protest. Before the act had even gone into effect, the
Sons of Liberty began protesting. On August 14, they took aim at Andrew Oliver, who had been named
the Massachusetts Distributor of Stamps. After hanging Oliver in effigy—that is, using a crudely made
figure as a representation of Oliver—the unruly crowd stoned and ransacked his house, finally beheading
the effigy and burning the remains. Such a brutal response shocked the royal governmental officials,
who hid until the violence had spent itself. Andrew Oliver resigned the next day. By that time, the mob
had moved on to the home of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson who, because of his support
of Parliament’s actions, was considered an enemy of English liberty. The Sons of Liberty barricaded
Hutchinson in his home and demanded that he renounce the Stamp Act; he refused, and the protesters
looted and burned his house. Furthermore, the Sons (also called “True Sons” or “True-born Sons” to make
clear their commitment to liberty and distinguish them from the likes of Hutchinson) continued to lead
violent protests with the goal of securing the resignation of all appointed stamp collectors (Figure 5.8).

Figure 5.8 With this broadside of December 17, 1765, the Sons of Liberty call for the resignation of Andrew Oliver,
the Massachusetts Distributor of Stamps.

Starting in early 1766, the Daughters of Liberty protested the Stamp Act by refusing to buy British goods
and encouraging others to do the same. They avoided British tea, opting to make their own teas with local

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herbs and berries. They built a community—and a movement—around creating homespun cloth instead
of buying British linen. Well-born women held “spinning bees,” at which they competed to see who could
spin the most and the finest linen. An entry in The Boston Chronicle of April 7, 1766, states that on March
12, in Providence, Rhode Island, “18 Daughters of Liberty, young ladies of good reputation, assembled at
the house of Doctor Ephraim Bowen, in this town. . . . There they exhibited a fine example of industry, by
spinning from sunrise until dark, and displayed a spirit for saving their sinking country rarely to be found
among persons of more age and experience.” At dinner, they “cheerfully agreed to omit tea, to render
their conduct consistent. Besides this instance of their patriotism, before they separated, they unanimously
resolved that the Stamp Act was unconstitutional, that they would purchase no more British manufactures
unless it be repealed, and that they would not even admit the addresses of any gentlemen should they
have the opportunity, without they determined to oppose its execution to the last extremity, if the occasion

The Daughters’ non-importation movement broadened the protest against the Stamp Act, giving women
a new and active role in the political dissent of the time. Women were responsible for purchasing goods for
the home, so by exercising the power of the purse, they could wield more power than they had in the past.
Although they could not vote, they could mobilize others and make a difference in the political landscape.

From a local movement, the protests of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty soon spread until there was a
chapter in every colony. The Daughters of Liberty promoted the boycott on British goods while the Sons
enforced it, threatening retaliation against anyone who bought imported goods or used stamped paper. In
the protest against the Stamp Act, wealthy, lettered political figures like John Adams supported the goals
of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, even if they did not engage in the Sons’ violent actions. These men,
who were lawyers, printers, and merchants, ran a propaganda campaign parallel to the Sons’ campaign
of violence. In newspapers and pamphlets throughout the colonies, they published article after article
outlining the reasons the Stamp Act was unconstitutional and urging peaceful protest. They officially
condemned violent actions but did not have the protesters arrested; a degree of cooperation prevailed,
despite the groups’ different economic backgrounds. Certainly, all the protesters saw themselves as acting
in the best British tradition, standing up against the corruption (especially the extinguishing of their right
to representation) that threatened their liberty (Figure 5.9).

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 135

Figure 5.9 This 1766 illustration shows a funeral procession for the Stamp Act. Reverend William Scott leads the
procession of politicians who had supported the act, while a dog urinates on his leg. George Grenville, pictured fourth
in line, carries a small coffin. What point do you think this cartoon is trying to make?

Back in Great Britain, news of the colonists’ reactions worsened an already volatile political situation.
Grenville’s imperial reforms had brought about increased domestic taxes and his unpopularity led to his
dismissal by King George III. While many in Parliament still wanted such reforms, British merchants
argued strongly for their repeal. These merchants had no interest in the philosophy behind the colonists’
desire for liberty; rather, their motive was that the non-importation of British goods by North American
colonists was hurting their business. Many of the British at home were also appalled by the colonists’
violent reaction to the Stamp Act. Other Britons cheered what they saw as the manly defense of liberty by
their counterparts in the colonies.

In March 1766, the new prime minister, Lord Rockingham, compelled Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act.
Colonists celebrated what they saw as a victory for their British liberty; in Boston, merchant John Hancock
treated the entire town to drinks. However, to appease opponents of the repeal, who feared that it would
weaken parliamentary power over the American colonists, Rockingham also proposed the Declaratory
Act. This stated in no uncertain terms that Parliament’s power was supreme and that any laws the colonies
may have passed to govern and tax themselves were null and void if they ran counter to parliamentary

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Visit USHistory.org (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/decact) to read the full text of the
Declaratory Act, in which Parliament asserted the supremacy of parliamentary power.

5.3 The Townshend Acts and Colonial Protest

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the purpose of the 1767 Townshend Acts
• Explain why many colonists protested the 1767 Townshend Acts and the consequences

of their actions

Colonists’ joy over the repeal of the Stamp Act and what they saw as their defense of liberty did not last
long. The Declaratory Act of 1766 had articulated Great Britain’s supreme authority over the colonies, and
Parliament soon began exercising that authority. In 1767, with the passage of the Townshend Acts, a tax
on consumer goods in British North America, colonists believed their liberty as loyal British subjects had
come under assault for a second time.

Lord Rockingham’s tenure as prime minister was not long (1765–1766). Rich landowners feared that if he
were not taxing the colonies, Parliament would raise their taxes instead, sacrificing them to the interests
of merchants and colonists. George III duly dismissed Rockingham. William Pitt, also sympathetic to the
colonists, succeeded him. However, Pitt was old and ill with gout. His chancellor of the exchequer, Charles
Townshend (Figure 5.10), whose job was to manage the Empire’s finances, took on many of his duties.
Primary among these was raising the needed revenue from the colonies.

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Figure 5.10 Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer, shown here in a 1765 painting by Joshua Reynolds,
instituted the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 in order to raise money to support the British military presence in the

Townshend’s first act was to deal with the unruly New York Assembly, which had voted not to pay for
supplies for the garrison of British soldiers that the Quartering Act required. In response, Townshend
proposed the Restraining Act of 1767, which disbanded the New York Assembly until it agreed to pay for
the garrison’s supplies, which it eventually agreed to do.

The Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 placed duties on various consumer items like paper, paint, lead,
tea, and glass. These British goods had to be imported, since the colonies did not have the manufacturing
base to produce them. Townshend hoped the new duties would not anger the colonists because they were
external taxes, not internal ones like the Stamp Act. In 1766, in arguing before Parliament for the repeal of
the Stamp Act, Benjamin Franklin had stated, “I never heard any objection to the right of laying duties to
regulate commerce; but a right to lay internal taxes was never supposed to be in parliament, as we are not
represented there.”

The Indemnity Act of 1767 exempted tea produced by the British East India Company from taxation
when it was imported into Great Britain. When the tea was re-exported to the colonies, however, the
colonists had to pay taxes on it because of the Revenue Act. Some critics of Parliament on both sides of
the Atlantic saw this tax policy as an example of corrupt politicians giving preferable treatment to specific
corporate interests, creating a monopoly. The sense that corruption had become entrenched in Parliament
only increased colonists’ alarm.

In fact, the revenue collected from these duties was only nominally intended to support the British army
in America. It actually paid the salaries of some royally appointed judges, governors, and other officials
whom the colonial assemblies had traditionally paid. Thanks to the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767,
however, these officials no longer relied on colonial leadership for payment. This change gave them a
measure of independence from the assemblies, so they could implement parliamentary acts without fear
that their pay would be withheld in retaliation. The Revenue Act thus appeared to sever the relationship

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between governors and assemblies, drawing royal officials closer to the British government and further
away from the colonial legislatures.

The Revenue Act also gave the customs board greater powers to counteract smuggling. It granted “writs
of assistance”—basically, search warrants—to customs commissioners who suspected the presence of
contraband goods, which also opened the door to a new level of bribery and trickery on the waterfronts
of colonial America. Furthermore, to ensure compliance, Townshend introduced the Commissioners of
Customs Act of 1767, which created an American Board of Customs to enforce trade laws. Customs
enforcement had been based in Great Britain, but rules were difficult to implement at such a distance,
and smuggling was rampant. The new customs board was based in Boston and would severely curtail
smuggling in this large colonial seaport.

Townshend also orchestrated the Vice-Admiralty Court Act, which established three more vice-admiralty
courts, in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston, to try violators of customs regulations without a jury.
Before this, the only colonial vice-admiralty court had been in far-off Halifax, Nova Scotia, but with
three local courts, smugglers could be tried more efficiently. Since the judges of these courts were paid
a percentage of the worth of the goods they recovered, leniency was rare. All told, the Townshend Acts
resulted in higher taxes and stronger British power to enforce them. Four years after the end of the French
and Indian War, the Empire continued to search for solutions to its debt problem and the growing sense
that the colonies needed to be brought under control.

Like the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts produced controversy and protest in the American colonies. For
a second time, many colonists resented what they perceived as an effort to tax them without representation
and thus to deprive them of their liberty. The fact that the revenue the Townshend Acts raised would pay
royal governors only made the situation worse, because it took control away from colonial legislatures that
otherwise had the power to set and withhold a royal governor’s salary. The Restraining Act, which had
been intended to isolate New York without angering the other colonies, had the opposite effect, showing
the rest of the colonies how far beyond the British Constitution some members of Parliament were willing
to go.

The Townshend Acts generated a number of protest writings, including “Letters from a Pennsylvania
Farmer” by John Dickinson. In this influential pamphlet, which circulated widely in the colonies,
Dickinson conceded that the Empire could regulate trade but argued that Parliament could not impose
either internal taxes, like stamps, on goods or external taxes, like customs duties, on imports.

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“Address to the Ladies” Verse from The Boston Post-Boy and
This verse, which ran in a Boston newspaper in November 1767, highlights how women were
encouraged to take political action by boycotting British goods. Notice that the writer especially
encourages women to avoid British tea (Bohea and Green Hyson) and linen, and to manufacture their
own homespun cloth. Building on the protest of the 1765 Stamp Act by the Daughters of Liberty, the non-
importation movement of 1767–1768 mobilized women as political actors.

Young ladies in town, and those that live round,
Let a friend at this season advise you:
Since money’s so scarce, and times growing worse
Strange things may soon hap and surprize you:
First then, throw aside your high top knots of pride
Wear none but your own country linnen;
of economy boast, let your pride be the most
What, if homespun they say is not quite so gay
As brocades, yet be not in a passion,
For when once it is known this is much wore in town,
One and all will cry out, ’tis the fashion!
And as one, all agree that you’ll not married be
To such as will wear London Fact’ry:
But at first sight refuse, tell’em such you do chuse
As encourage our own Manufact’ry.
No more Ribbons wear, nor in rich dress appear,
Love your country much better than fine things,
Begin without passion, ’twill soon be the fashion
To grace your smooth locks with a twine string.
Throw aside your Bohea, and your Green Hyson Tea,
And all things with a new fashion duty;
Procure a good store of the choice Labradore,
For there’ll soon be enough here to suit ye;
These do without fear and to all you’ll appear
Fair, charming, true, lovely, and cleaver;
Tho’ the times remain darkish, young men may be sparkish.
And love you much stronger than ever. !O!

In Massachusetts in 1768, Samuel Adams wrote a letter that became known as the Massachusetts Circular.
Sent by the Massachusetts House of Representatives to the other colonial legislatures, the letter laid out
the unconstitutionality of taxation without representation and encouraged the other colonies to again
protest the taxes by boycotting British goods. Adams wrote, “It is, moreover, [the Massachusetts House
of Representatives] humble opinion, which they express with the greatest deference to the wisdom of the
Parliament, that the acts made there, imposing duties on the people of this province, with the sole and
express purpose of raising a revenue, are infringements of their natural and constitutional rights; because,
as they are not represented in the Parliament, his Majesty’s Commons in Britain, by those acts, grant their
property without their consent.” Note that even in this letter of protest, the humble and submissive tone
shows the Massachusetts Assembly’s continued deference to parliamentary authority. Even in that hotbed
of political protest, it is a clear expression of allegiance and the hope for a restoration of “natural and
constitutional rights.”

Great Britain’s response to this threat of disobedience served only to unite the colonies further. The
colonies’ initial response to the Massachusetts Circular was lukewarm at best. However, back in Great

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Britain, the secretary of state for the colonies—Lord Hillsborough—demanded that Massachusetts retract
the letter, promising that any colonial assemblies that endorsed it would be dissolved. This threat had
the effect of pushing the other colonies to Massachusetts’s side. Even the city of Philadelphia, which had
originally opposed the Circular, came around.

The Daughters of Liberty once again supported and promoted the boycott of British goods. Women
resumed spinning bees and again found substitutes for British tea and other goods. Many colonial
merchants signed non-importation agreements, and the Daughters of Liberty urged colonial women to
shop only with those merchants. The Sons of Liberty used newspapers and circulars to call out by name
those merchants who refused to sign such agreements; sometimes they were threatened by violence. For
instance, a broadside from 1769–1770 reads:

North Side of the TOWN-HOUSE,
and Opposite the Town-Pump, [in]
Corn-hill, BOSTON
It is desired that the SONS
would not buy any one thing of
him, for in so doing they will bring
disgrace upon themselves, and their
Posterity, for ever and ever, AMEN.

The boycott in 1768–1769 turned the purchase of consumer goods into a political gesture. It mattered what
you consumed. Indeed, the very clothes you wore indicated whether you were a defender of liberty in
homespun or a protector of parliamentary rights in superfine British attire.

For examples of the types of luxury items that many American colonists favored, visit
the National Humanities Center (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/britlux) to see
pictures and documents relating to home interiors of the wealthy.

The Massachusetts Circular got Parliament’s attention, and in 1768, Lord Hillsborough sent four thousand
British troops to Boston to deal with the unrest and put down any potential rebellion there. The troops
were a constant reminder of the assertion of British power over the colonies, an illustration of an unequal
relationship between members of the same empire. As an added aggravation, British soldiers moonlighted
as dockworkers, creating competition for employment. Boston’s labor system had traditionally been
closed, privileging native-born laborers over outsiders, and jobs were scarce. Many Bostonians, led by the
Sons of Liberty, mounted a campaign of harassment against British troops. The Sons of Liberty also helped
protect the smuggling actions of the merchants; smuggling was crucial for the colonists’ ability to maintain
their boycott of British goods.

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John Hancock was one of Boston’s most successful merchants and prominent citizens. While he
maintained too high a profile to work actively with the Sons of Liberty, he was known to support their
aims, if not their means of achieving them. He was also one of the many prominent merchants who had
made their fortunes by smuggling, which was rampant in the colonial seaports. In 1768, customs officials
seized the Liberty, one of his ships, and violence erupted. Led by the Sons of Liberty, Bostonians rioted
against customs officials, attacking the customs house and chasing out the officers, who ran to safety at
Castle William, a British fort on a Boston harbor island. British soldiers crushed the riots, but over the next
few years, clashes between British officials and Bostonians became common.

Conflict turned deadly on March 5, 1770, in a confrontation that came to be known as the Boston Massacre.
On that night, a crowd of Bostonians from many walks of life started throwing snowballs, rocks, and
sticks at the British soldiers guarding the customs house. In the resulting scuffle, some soldiers, goaded by
the mob who hectored the soldiers as “lobster backs” (the reference to lobster equated the soldiers with
bottom feeders, i.e., aquatic animals that feed on the lowest organisms in the food chain), fired into the
crowd, killing five people. Crispus Attucks, the first man killed—and, though no one could have known it
then, the first official casualty in the war for independence—was of Wampanoag and African descent. The
bloodshed illustrated the level of hostility that had developed as a result of Boston’s occupation by British
troops, the competition for scarce jobs between Bostonians and the British soldiers stationed in the city,
and the larger question of Parliament’s efforts to tax the colonies.

The Sons of Liberty immediately seized on the event, characterizing the British soldiers as murderers
and their victims as martyrs. Paul Revere, a silversmith and member of the Sons of Liberty, circulated
an engraving that showed a line of grim redcoats firing ruthlessly into a crowd of unarmed, fleeing
civilians. Among colonists who resisted British power, this view of the “massacre” confirmed their fears
of a tyrannous government using its armies to curb the freedom of British subjects. But to others, the
attacking mob was equally to blame for pelting the British with rocks and insulting them.

It was not only British Loyalists who condemned the unruly mob. John Adams, one of the city’s strongest
supporters of peaceful protest against Parliament, represented the British soldiers at their murder trial.
Adams argued that the mob’s lawlessness required the soldiers’ response, and that without law and order,
a society was nothing. He argued further that the soldiers were the tools of a much broader program,
which transformed a street brawl into the injustice of imperial policy. Of the eight soldiers on trial, the jury
acquitted six, convicting the other two of the reduced charge of manslaughter.

Adams argued: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the
dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than
the fact; if an assault was made to endanger their lives, the law is clear, they had a right to kill in their
own defense; if it was not so severe as to endanger their lives, yet if they were assaulted at all, struck and
abused by blows of any sort, by snow-balls, oyster-shells, cinders, clubs, or sticks of any kind; this was
a provocation, for which the law reduces the offence of killing, down to manslaughter, in consideration
of those passions in our nature, which cannot be eradicated. To your candour and justice I submit the
prisoners and their cause.”

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Propaganda and the Sons of Liberty
Long after the British soldiers had been tried and punished, the Sons of Liberty maintained a relentless
propaganda campaign against British oppression. Many of them were printers or engravers, and they
were able to use public media to sway others to their cause. Shortly after the incident outside the
customs house, Paul Revere created “The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March
5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt.” (Figure 5.11), based on an image by engraver Henry Pelham.
The picture—which represents only the protesters’ point of view—shows the ruthlessness of the British
soldiers and the helplessness of the crowd of civilians. Notice the subtle details Revere uses to help
convince the viewer of the civilians’ innocence and the soldiers’ cruelty. Although eyewitnesses said the
crowd started the fight by throwing snowballs and rocks, in the engraving they are innocently standing
by. Revere also depicts the crowd as well dressed and well-to-do, when in fact they were laborers and
probably looked quite a bit rougher.

Figure 5.11 The Sons of Liberty circulated this sensationalized version of the events of March 5, 1770,
in order to promote the rightness of their cause. The verses below the image begin as follows:
“Unhappy Boston! see thy Sons deplore, Thy hallowed Walks besmeared with guiltless Gore.”

Newspaper articles and pamphlets that the Sons of Liberty circulated implied that the “massacre” was a
planned murder. In the Boston Gazette on March 12, 1770, an article describes the soldiers as striking
first. It goes on to discuss this version of the events: “On hearing the noise, one Samuel Atwood came up
to see what was the matter; and entering the alley from dock square, heard the latter part of the combat;
and when the boys had dispersed he met the ten or twelve soldiers aforesaid rushing down the alley
towards the square and asked them if they intended to murder people? They answered Yes, by God, root
and branch! With that one of them struck Mr. Atwood with a club which was repeated by another; and
being unarmed, he turned to go off and received a wound on the left shoulder which reached the bone
and gave him much pain.”

What do you think most people in the United States think of when they consider the Boston Massacre?
How does the propaganda of the Sons of Liberty still affect the way we think of this event?

As it turned out, the Boston Massacre occurred after Parliament had partially repealed the Townshend
Acts. By the late 1760s, the American boycott of British goods had drastically reduced British trade. Once
again, merchants who lost money because of the boycott strongly pressured Parliament to loosen its
restrictions on the colonies and break the non-importation movement. Charles Townshend died suddenly

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in 1767 and was replaced by Lord North, who was inclined to look for a more workable solution with
the colonists. North convinced Parliament to drop all the Townshend duties except the tax on tea. The
administrative and enforcement provisions under the Townshend Acts—the American Board of Customs
Commissioners and the vice-admiralty courts—remained in place.

To those who had protested the Townshend Acts for several years, the partial repeal appeared to be a
major victory. For a second time, colonists had rescued liberty from an unconstitutional parliamentary
measure. The hated British troops in Boston departed. The consumption of British goods skyrocketed after
the partial repeal, an indication of the American colonists’ desire for the items linking them to the Empire.

5.4 The Destruction of the Tea and the Coercive Acts

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the socio-political environment in the colonies in the early 1770s
• Explain the purpose of the Tea Act of 1773 and discuss colonial reactions to it
• Identify and describe the Coercive Acts

The Tea Act of 1773 triggered a reaction with far more significant consequences than either the 1765 Stamp
Act or the 1767 Townshend Acts. Colonists who had joined in protest against those earlier acts renewed
their efforts in 1773. They understood that Parliament had again asserted its right to impose taxes without
representation, and they feared the Tea Act was designed to seduce them into conceding this important
principle by lowering the price of tea to the point that colonists might abandon their scruples. They also
deeply resented the East India Company’s monopoly on the sale of tea in the American colonies; this
resentment sprang from the knowledge that some members of Parliament had invested heavily in the

Even after the partial repeal of the Townshend duties, however, suspicion of Parliament’s intentions
remained high. This was especially true in port cities like Boston and New York, where British customs
agents were a daily irritant and reminder of British power. In public houses and squares, people met
and discussed politics. Philosopher John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, published almost a century
earlier, influenced political thought about the role of government to protect life, liberty, and property. The
Sons of Liberty issued propaganda ensuring that colonists remained aware when Parliament overreached

Violence continued to break out on occasion, as in 1772, when Rhode Island colonists boarded and burned
the British revenue ship Gaspée in Narragansett Bay (Figure 5.12). Colonists had attacked or burned
British customs ships in the past, but after the Gaspée Affair, the British government convened a Royal
Commission of Inquiry. This Commission had the authority to remove the colonists, who were charged
with treason, to Great Britain for trial. Some colonial protestors saw this new ability as another example of
the overreach of British power.

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Figure 5.12 This 1883 engraving, which appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, depicts the burning of the
Gaspée. This attack provoked the British government to convene a Royal Commission of Inquiry; some regarded the
Commission as an example of excessive British power and control over the colonies.

Samuel Adams, along with Joseph Warren and James Otis, re-formed the Boston Committee of
Correspondence, which functioned as a form of shadow government, to address the fear of British
overreach. Soon towns all over Massachusetts had formed their own committees, and many other colonies
followed suit. These committees, which had between seven and eight thousand members in all, identified
enemies of the movement and communicated the news of the day. Sometimes they provided a version
of events that differed from royal interpretations, and slowly, the committees began to supplant royal
governments as sources of information. They later formed the backbone of communication among the
colonies in the rebellion against the Tea Act, and eventually in the revolt against the British crown.

Parliament did not enact the Tea Act of 1773 in order to punish the colonists, assert parliamentary power,
or even raise revenues. Rather, the act was a straightforward order of economic protectionism for a British
tea firm, the East India Company, that was on the verge of bankruptcy. In the colonies, tea was the one
remaining consumer good subject to the hated Townshend duties. Protest leaders and their followers still
avoided British tea, drinking smuggled Dutch tea as a sign of patriotism.

The Tea Act of 1773 gave the British East India Company the ability to export its tea directly to the
colonies without paying import or export duties and without using middlemen in either Great Britain or
the colonies. Even with the Townshend tax, the act would allow the East India Company to sell its tea at
lower prices than the smuggled Dutch tea, thus undercutting the smuggling trade.

This act was unwelcome to those in British North America who had grown displeased with the pattern of
imperial measures. By granting a monopoly to the East India Company, the act not only cut out colonial
merchants who would otherwise sell the tea themselves; it also reduced their profits from smuggled
foreign tea. These merchants were among the most powerful and influential people in the colonies, so
their dissatisfaction carried some weight. Moreover, because the tea tax that the Townshend Acts imposed
remained in place, tea had intense power to symbolize the idea of “no taxation without representation.”

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The 1773 act reignited the worst fears among the colonists. To the Sons and Daughters of Liberty and those
who followed them, the act appeared to be proof positive that a handful of corrupt members of Parliament
were violating the British Constitution. Veterans of the protest movement had grown accustomed to
interpreting British actions in the worst possible light, so the 1773 act appeared to be part of a large
conspiracy against liberty.

As they had done to protest earlier acts and taxes, colonists responded to the Tea Act with a boycott. The
Committees of Correspondence helped to coordinate resistance in all of the colonial port cities, so up and
down the East Coast, British tea-carrying ships were unable to come to shore and unload their wares. In
Charlestown, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, the equivalent of millions of dollars’ worth of tea was
held hostage, either locked in storage warehouses or rotting in the holds of ships as they were forced to
sail back to Great Britain.

In Boston, Thomas Hutchinson, now the royal governor of Massachusetts, vowed that radicals like Samuel
Adams would not keep the ships from unloading their cargo. He urged the merchants who would have
accepted the tea from the ships to stand their ground and receive the tea once it had been unloaded. When
the Dartmouth sailed into Boston Harbor in November 1773, it had twenty days to unload its cargo of tea
and pay the duty before it had to return to Great Britain. Two more ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver,
followed soon after. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty tried to keep the captains of the ships from
paying the duties and posted groups around the ships to make sure the tea would not be unloaded.

On December 16, just as the Dartmouth’s deadline approached, townspeople gathered at the Old South
Meeting House determined to take action. From this gathering, a group of Sons of Liberty and their
followers approached the three ships. Some were disguised as Mohawks. Protected by a crowd of
spectators, they systematically dumped all the tea into the harbor, destroying goods worth almost $1
million in today’s dollars, a very significant loss. This act soon inspired further acts of resistance up and
down the East Coast. However, not all colonists, and not even all Patriots, supported the dumping of the
tea. The wholesale destruction of property shocked people on both sides of the Atlantic.

To learn more about the Boston Tea Party, explore the extensive resources in the
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum collection (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
teapartyship) of articles, photos, and video. At the museum itself, you can board
replicas of the Eleanor and the Beaver and experience a recreation of the dumping of
the tea.

In London, response to the destruction of the tea was swift and strong. The violent destruction of property
infuriated King George III and the prime minister, Lord North (Figure 5.13), who insisted the loss be
repaid. Though some American merchants put forward a proposal for restitution, the Massachusetts
Assembly refused to make payments. Massachusetts’s resistance to British authority united different
factions in Great Britain against the colonies. North had lost patience with the unruly British subjects in
Boston. He declared: “The Americans have tarred and feathered your subjects, plundered your merchants,
burnt your ships, denied all obedience to your laws and authority; yet so clement and so long forbearing
has our conduct been that it is incumbent on us now to take a different course. Whatever may be the

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consequences, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over.” Both Parliament and the king agreed that
Massachusetts should be forced to both pay for the tea and yield to British authority.

Figure 5.13 Lord North, seen here in Portrait of Frederick North, Lord North (1773–1774), painted by Nathaniel
Dance, was prime minister at the time of the destruction of the tea and insisted that Massachusetts make good on the

In early 1774, leaders in Parliament responded with a set of four measures designed to punish
Massachusetts, commonly known at the Coercive Acts. The Boston Port Bill shut down Boston Harbor
until the East India Company was repaid. The Massachusetts Government Act placed the colonial
government under the direct control of crown officials and made traditional town meetings subject to the
governor’s approval. The Administration of Justice Act allowed the royal governor to unilaterally move
any trial of a crown officer out of Massachusetts, a change designed to prevent hostile Massachusetts juries
from deciding these cases. This act was especially infuriating to John Adams and others who emphasized
the time-honored rule of law. They saw this part of the Coercive Acts as striking at the heart of fair and
equitable justice. Finally, the Quartering Act encompassed all the colonies and allowed British troops to be
housed in occupied buildings.

At the same time, Parliament also passed the Quebec Act, which expanded the boundaries of Quebec
westward and extended religious tolerance to Roman Catholics in the province. For many Protestant
colonists, especially Congregationalists in New England, this forced tolerance of Catholicism was the most
objectionable provision of the act. Additionally, expanding the boundaries of Quebec raised troubling
questions for many colonists who eyed the West, hoping to expand the boundaries of their provinces. The
Quebec Act appeared gratuitous, a slap in the face to colonists already angered by the Coercive Acts.

American Patriots renamed the Coercive and Quebec measures the Intolerable Acts. Some in London
also thought the acts went too far; see the cartoon “The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter
Draught” (Figure 5.14) for one British view of what Parliament was doing to the colonies. Meanwhile,
punishments designed to hurt only one colony (Massachusetts, in this case) had the effect of mobilizing
all the colonies to its side. The Committees of Correspondence had already been active in coordinating an
approach to the Tea Act. Now the talk would turn to these new, intolerable assaults on the colonists’ rights
as British subjects.

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 147

Figure 5.14 The artist of “The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught” (London Magazine, May 1,
1774) targets select members of Parliament as the perpetrators of a devilish scheme to overturn the constitution; this
is why Mother Britannia weeps. Note that this cartoon came from a British publication; Great Britain was not united in
support of Parliament’s policies toward the American colonies.

5.5 Disaffection: The First Continental Congress and American

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the state of affairs between the colonies and the home government in 1774
• Explain the purpose and results of the First Continental Congress

Disaffection—the loss of affection toward the home government—had reached new levels by 1774. Many
colonists viewed the Intolerable Acts as a turning point; they now felt they had to take action. The result
was the First Continental Congress, a direct challenge to Lord North and British authority in the colonies.
Still, it would be a mistake to assume there was a groundswell of support for separating from the British
Empire and creating a new, independent nation. Strong ties still bound the Empire together, and colonists
did not agree about the proper response. Loyalists tended to be property holders, established residents
who feared the loss of their property. To them the protests seemed to promise nothing but mob rule, and
the violence and disorder they provoked were shocking. On both sides of the Atlantic, opinions varied.

After the passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774, the Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of
Liberty went straight to work, spreading warnings about how the acts would affect the liberty of all
colonists, not just urban merchants and laborers. The Massachusetts Government Act had shut down the
colonial government there, but resistance-minded colonists began meeting in extralegal assemblies. One of
these assemblies, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, passed the Suffolk Resolves in September 1774,
which laid out a plan of resistance to the Intolerable Acts. Meanwhile, the First Continental Congress was
convening to discuss how to respond to the acts themselves.

The First Continental Congress was made up of elected representatives of twelve of the thirteen American
colonies. (Georgia’s royal governor blocked the move to send representatives from that colony, an
indication of the continued strength of the royal government despite the crisis.) The representatives met
in Philadelphia from September 5 through October 26, 1774, and at first they did not agree at all about the
appropriate response to the Intolerable Acts. Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania argued for a conciliatory
approach; he proposed that an elected Grand Council in America, like the Parliament in Great Britain,

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should be paired with a royally appointed President General, who would represent the authority of the
Crown. More radical factions argued for a move toward separation from the Crown.

In the end, Paul Revere rode from Massachusetts to Philadelphia with the Suffolk Resolves, which became
the basis of the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. In the Declaration and
Resolves, adopted on October 14, the colonists demanded the repeal of all repressive acts passed since 1773
and agreed to a non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption pact against all British goods
until the acts were repealed. In the “Petition of Congress to the King” on October 24, the delegates adopted
a further recommendation of the Suffolk Resolves and proposed that the colonies raise and regulate their
own militias.

The representatives at the First Continental Congress created a Continental Association to ensure that the
full boycott was enforced across all the colonies. The Continental Association served as an umbrella group
for colonial and local committees of observation and inspection. By taking these steps, the First Continental
Congress established a governing network in opposition to royal authority.

Visit the Massachusetts Historical Society (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
firstcongress) to see a digitized copy and read the transcript of the First Continental
Congress’s petition to King George.

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The First List of Un-American Activities
In her book Toward A More Perfect Union: Virtue and the Formation of American Republics, historian
Ann Fairfax Withington explores actions the delegates to the First Continental Congress took during the
weeks they were together. Along with their efforts to bring about the repeal of the Intolerable Acts, the
delegates also banned certain activities they believed would undermine their fight against what they saw
as British corruption.

In particular, the delegates prohibited horse races, cockfights, the theater, and elaborate funerals. The
reasons for these prohibitions provide insight into the state of affairs in 1774. Both horse races and
cockfights encouraged gambling and, for the delegates, gambling threatened to prevent the unity of
action and purpose they desired. In addition, cockfighting appeared immoral and corrupt because the
roosters were fitted with razors and fought to the death (Figure 5.15).

Figure 5.15 Cockfights, as depicted in The Cockpit (1759) by British artist and engraver William
Hogarth, were among the entertainments the First Continental Congress sought to outlaw, considering
them un-American.

The ban on the theater aimed to do away with another corrupt British practice. Critics had long believed
that theatrical performances drained money from working people. Moreover, they argued, theatergoers
learned to lie and deceive from what they saw on stage. The delegates felt banning the theater would
demonstrate their resolve to act honestly and without pretence in their fight against corruption.

Finally, eighteenth-century mourning practices often required lavish spending on luxury items and even
the employment of professional mourners who, for a price, would shed tears at the grave. Prohibiting
these practices reflected the idea that luxury bred corruption, and the First Continental Congress wanted
to demonstrate that the colonists would do without British vices. Congress emphasized the need to be
frugal and self-sufficient when confronted with corruption.

The First Continental Congress banned all four activities—horse races, cockfights, the theater, and
elaborate funerals—and entrusted the Continental Association with enforcement. Rejecting what they
saw as corruption coming from Great Britain, the delegates were also identifying themselves as standing
apart from their British relatives. They cast themselves as virtuous defenders of liberty against a corrupt

In the Declaration and Resolves and the Petition of Congress to the King, the delegates to the First
Continental Congress refer to George III as “Most Gracious Sovereign” and to themselves as “inhabitants

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of the English colonies in North America” or “inhabitants of British America,” indicating that they still
considered themselves British subjects of the king, not American citizens. At the same time, however, they
were slowly moving away from British authority, creating their own de facto government in the First
Continental Congress. One of the provisions of the Congress was that it meet again in one year to mark its
progress; the Congress was becoming an elected government.

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 151

Boston Massacre

Coercive Acts

Committees of Correspondence

Daughters of Liberty

direct tax

indirect tax

Intolerable Acts


Massachusetts Circular

no taxation without representation

non-importation movement

Proclamation Line

Sons of Liberty

Suffolk Resolves

vice-admiralty courts

Key Terms

a confrontation between a crowd of Bostonians and British soldiers on March 5, 1770,
which resulted in the deaths of five people, including Crispus Attucks, the first official casualty in the war
for independence

four acts (Administration of Justice Act, Massachusetts Government Act, Port Bill,
Quartering Act) that Lord North passed to punish Massachusetts for destroying the tea and refusing to
pay for the damage

colonial extralegal shadow governments that convened to coordinate
plans of resistance against the British

well-born British colonial women who led a non-importation movement against
British goods

a tax that consumers pay directly, rather than through merchants’ higher prices

a tax imposed on businesses, rather than directly on consumers

the name American Patriots gave to the Coercive Acts and the Quebec Act

colonists in America who were loyal to Great Britain

a letter penned by Son of Liberty Samuel Adams that laid out the
unconstitutionality of taxation without representation and encouraged the other colonies to boycott
British goods

the principle, first articulated in the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions,
that the colonists needed to be represented in Parliament if they were to be taxed

a widespread colonial boycott of British goods

a line along the Appalachian Mountains, imposed by the Proclamation of 1763, west
of which British colonists could not settle

artisans, shopkeepers, and small-time merchants who opposed the Stamp Act and
considered themselves British patriots

a Massachusetts plan of resistance to the Intolerable Acts that formed the basis of the
eventual plan adopted by the First Continental Congress for resisting the British, including the arming of
militias and the adoption of a widespread non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption

British royal courts without juries that settled disputes occurring at sea

5.1 Confronting the National Debt: The Aftermath of the French and Indian War
The British Empire had gained supremacy in North America with its victory over the French in 1763.
Almost all of the North American territory east of the Mississippi fell under Great Britain’s control, and
British leaders took this opportunity to try to create a more coherent and unified empire after decades of
lax oversight. Victory over the French had proved very costly, and the British government attempted to
better regulate their expanded empire in North America. The initial steps the British took in 1763 and 1764

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raised suspicions among some colonists about the intent of the home government. These suspicions would
grow and swell over the coming years.

5.2 The Stamp Act and the Sons and Daughters of Liberty
Though Parliament designed the 1765 Stamp Act to deal with the financial crisis in the Empire, it had
unintended consequences. Outrage over the act created a degree of unity among otherwise unconnected
American colonists, giving them a chance to act together both politically and socially. The crisis of the
Stamp Act allowed colonists to loudly proclaim their identity as defenders of British liberty. With the
repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, liberty-loving subjects of the king celebrated what they viewed as a

5.3 The Townshend Acts and Colonial Protest
Like the Stamp Act in 1765, the Townshend Acts led many colonists to work together against what
they perceived to be an unconstitutional measure, generating the second major crisis in British Colonial
America. The experience of resisting the Townshend Acts provided another shared experience among
colonists from diverse regions and backgrounds, while the partial repeal convinced many that liberty had
once again been defended. Nonetheless, Great Britain’s debt crisis still had not been solved.

5.4 The Destruction of the Tea and the Coercive Acts
The colonial rejection of the Tea Act, especially the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor, recast the
decade-long argument between British colonists and the home government as an intolerable conspiracy
against liberty and an excessive overreach of parliamentary power. The Coercive Acts were punitive in
nature, awakening the worst fears of otherwise loyal members of the British Empire in America.

5.5 Disaffection: The First Continental Congress and American Identity
The First Continental Congress, which comprised elected representatives from twelve of the thirteen
American colonies, represented a direct challenge to British authority. In its Declaration and Resolves,
colonists demanded the repeal of all repressive acts passed since 1773. The delegates also recommended
that the colonies raise militias, lest the British respond to the Congress’s proposed boycott of British goods
with force. While the colonists still considered themselves British subjects, they were slowly retreating
from British authority, creating their own de facto government via the First Continental Congress.

Review Questions
1. Which of the following was a cause of the
British National Debt in 1763?

A. drought in Great Britain
B. the French and Indian War
C. the continued British military presence in

the American colonies
D. both B and C

2. What was the main purpose of the Sugar Act of

A. It raised taxes on sugar.
B. It raised taxes on molasses.

C. It strengthened enforcement of molasses
smuggling laws.

D. It required colonists to purchase only sugar
distilled in Great Britain.

3. What did British colonists find so onerous
about the acts that Prime Minister Grenville

4. Which of the following was not a goal of the
Stamp Act?

A. to gain control over the colonists

Chapter 5 Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests, 1763-1774 153

B. to raise revenue for British troops stationed
in the colonies

C. to raise revenue to pay off British debt from
the French and Indian War

D. to declare null and void any laws the
colonies had passed to govern and tax

5. For which of the following activities were the
Sons of Liberty responsible?

A. the Stamp Act Congress
B. the hanging and beheading of a stamp

commissioner in effigy
C. the massacre of Conestoga in Pennsylvania
D. the introduction of the Virginia Stamp Act


6. Which of the following was not one of the goals
of the Townshend Acts?

A. higher taxes
B. greater colonial unity
C. greater British control over the colonies
D. reduced power of the colonial governments

7. Which event was most responsible for the
colonies’ endorsement of Samuel Adams’s
Massachusetts Circular?

A. the Townshend Duties
B. the Indemnity Act
C. the Boston Massacre
D. Lord Hillsborough’s threat to dissolve the

colonial assemblies that endorsed the letter

8. What factors contributed to the Boston

9. Which of the following is true of the Gaspée

A. Colonists believed that the British response
represented an overreach of power.

B. It was the first time colonists attacked a
revenue ship.

C. It was the occasion of the first official death
in the war for independence.

D. The ship’s owner, John Hancock, was a
respectable Boston merchant.

10. What was the purpose of the Tea Act of 1773?
A. to punish the colonists for their boycotting

of British tea
B. to raise revenue to offset the British

national debt
C. to help revive the struggling East India

D. to pay the salaries of royal appointees

11. What was the significance of the Committees
of Correspondence?

12. Which of the following was decided at the
First Continental Congress?

A. to declare war on Great Britain
B. to boycott all British goods and prepare for

possible military action
C. to offer a conciliatory treaty to Great Britain
D. to pay for the tea that was dumped in

Boston Harbor

13. Which colony provided the basis for the
Declarations and Resolves?

A. Massachusetts
B. Philadelphia
C. Rhode Island
D. New York

Critical Thinking Questions
14. Was reconciliation between the American colonies and Great Britain possible in 1774? Why or why

15. Look again at the painting that opened this chapter: The Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring
and Feathering (Figure 5.1). How does this painting represent the relationship between Great Britain and
the American colonies in the years from 1763 to 1774?

16. Why did the colonists react so much more strongly to the Stamp Act than to the Sugar Act? How did
the principles that the Stamp Act raised continue to provide points of contention between colonists and
the British government?

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17. History is filled with unintended consequences. How do the British government’s attempts to control
and regulate the colonies during this tumultuous era provide a case in point? How did the aims of the
British measure up against the results of their actions?

18. What evidence indicates that colonists continued to think of themselves as British subjects throughout
this era? What evidence suggests that colonists were beginning to forge a separate, collective “American”
identity? How would you explain this shift?

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America’s War for Independence,

Figure 6.1 This famous 1819 painting by John Trumbull shows members of the committee entrusted with drafting
the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Continental Congress in 1776. Note the British flags on
the wall. Separating from the British Empire proved to be very difficult as the colonies and the Empire were linked
with strong cultural, historical, and economic bonds forged over several generations.

Chapter Outline
6.1 Britain’s Law-and-Order Strategy and Its Consequences
6.2 The Early Years of the Revolution
6.3 War in the South
6.4 Identity during the American Revolution

By the 1770s, Great Britain ruled a vast empire, with its American colonies producing useful raw materials
and profitably consuming British goods. From Britain’s perspective, it was inconceivable that the colonies
would wage a successful war for independence; in 1776, they appeared weak and disorganized, no match
for the Empire. Yet, although the Revolutionary War did indeed drag on for eight years, in 1783, the
thirteen colonies, now the United States, ultimately prevailed against the British.

The Revolution succeeded because colonists from diverse economic and social backgrounds united in their
opposition to Great Britain. Although thousands of colonists remained loyal to the crown and many others
preferred to remain neutral, a sense of community against a common enemy prevailed among Patriots.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence (Figure 6.1) exemplifies the spirit of that common cause.
Representatives asserted: “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent
States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, . . . And for the support of this
Declaration, . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 157

6.1 Britain’s Law-and-Order Strategy and Its Consequences

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain how Great Britain’s response to the destruction of a British shipment of tea in

Boston Harbor in 1773 set the stage for the Revolution
• Describe the beginnings of the American Revolution

Great Britain pursued a policy of law and order when dealing with the crises in the colonies in the late
1760s and 1770s. Relations between the British and many American Patriots worsened over the decade,
culminating in an unruly mob destroying a fortune in tea by dumping it into Boston Harbor in December
1773 as a protest against British tax laws. The harsh British response to this act in 1774, which included
sending British troops to Boston and closing Boston Harbor, caused tensions and resentments to escalate
further. The British tried to disarm the insurgents in Massachusetts by confiscating their weapons and
ammunition and arresting the leaders of the patriotic movement. However, this effort faltered on April 19,
when Massachusetts militias and British troops fired on each other as British troops marched to Lexington
and Concord, an event immortalized by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson as the “shot heard round the world.”
The American Revolution had begun.

The decade from 1763 to 1774 was a difficult one for the British Empire. Although Great Britain had
defeated the French in the French and Indian War, the debt from that conflict remained a stubborn and
seemingly unsolvable problem for both Great Britain and the colonies. Great Britain tried various methods
of raising revenue on both sides of the Atlantic to manage the enormous debt, including instituting a tax
on tea and other goods sold to the colonies by British companies, but many subjects resisted these taxes. In
the colonies, Patriot groups like the Sons of Liberty led boycotts of British goods and took violent measures
that stymied British officials.

Boston proved to be the epicenter of protest. In December 1773, a group of Patriots protested the Tea Act
passed that year—which, among other provisions, gave the East India Company a monopoly on tea—by

Figure 6.2

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boarding British tea ships docked in Boston Harbor and dumping tea worth over $1 million (in current
prices) into the water. The destruction of the tea radically escalated the crisis between Great Britain and
the American colonies. When the Massachusetts Assembly refused to pay for the tea, Parliament enacted
a series of laws called the Coercive Acts, which some colonists called the Intolerable Acts. Parliament
designed these laws, which closed the port of Boston, limited the meetings of the colonial assembly, and
disbanded all town meetings, to punish Massachusetts and bring the colony into line. However, many
British Americans in other colonies were troubled and angered by Parliament’s response to Massachusetts.
In September and October 1774, all the colonies except Georgia participated in the First Continental
Congress in Philadelphia. The Congress advocated a boycott of all British goods and established the
Continental Association to enforce local adherence to the boycott. The Association supplanted royal
control and shaped resistance to Great Britain.


Joining the Boycott
Many British colonists in Virginia, as in the other colonies, disapproved of the destruction of the tea
in Boston Harbor. However, after the passage of the Coercive Acts, the Virginia House of Burgesses
declared its solidarity with Massachusetts by encouraging Virginians to observe a day of fasting and
prayer on May 24 in sympathy with the people of Boston. Almost immediately thereafter, Virginia’s
colonial governor dissolved the House of Burgesses, but many of its members met again in secret on
May 30 and adopted a resolution stating that “the Colony of Virginia will concur with the other Colonies in
such Measures as shall be judged most effectual for the preservation of the Common Rights and Liberty
of British America.”

After the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Virginia’s Committee of Safety ensured that all
merchants signed the non-importation agreements that the Congress had proposed. This British cartoon
(Figure 6.3) shows a Virginian signing the Continental Association boycott agreement.

Figure 6.3 In “The Alternative of Williams-Burg” (1775), a merchant has to sign a non-importation
agreement or risk being covered with the tar and feathers suspended behind him.

Note the tar and feathers hanging from the gallows in the background of this image and the demeanor of
the people surrounding the signer. What is the message of this engraving? Where are the sympathies of
the artist? What is the meaning of the title “The Alternative of Williams-Burg?”

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 159

In an effort to restore law and order in Boston, the British dispatched General Thomas Gage to the
New England seaport. He arrived in Boston in May 1774 as the new royal governor of the Province of
Massachusetts, accompanied by several regiments of British troops. As in 1768, the British again occupied
the town. Massachusetts delegates met in a Provincial Congress and published the Suffolk Resolves, which
officially rejected the Coercive Acts and called for the raising of colonial militias to take military action if
needed. The Suffolk Resolves signaled the overthrow of the royal government in Massachusetts.

Both the British and the rebels in New England began to prepare for conflict by turning their attention to
supplies of weapons and gunpowder. General Gage stationed thirty-five hundred troops in Boston, and
from there he ordered periodic raids on towns where guns and gunpowder were stockpiled, hoping to
impose law and order by seizing them. As Boston became the headquarters of British military operations,
many residents fled the city.

Gage’s actions led to the formation of local rebel militias that were able to mobilize in a minute’s time.
These minutemen, many of whom were veterans of the French and Indian War, played an important
role in the war for independence. In one instance, General Gage seized munitions in Cambridge and
Charlestown, but when he arrived to do the same in Salem, his troops were met by a large crowd of
minutemen and had to leave empty-handed. In New Hampshire, minutemen took over Fort William and
Mary and confiscated weapons and cannons there. New England readied for war.

Throughout late 1774 and into 1775, tensions in New England continued to mount. General Gage knew
that a powder magazine was stored in Concord, Massachusetts, and on April 19, 1775, he ordered troops
to seize these munitions. Instructions from London called for the arrest of rebel leaders Samuel Adams and
John Hancock. Hoping for secrecy, his troops left Boston under cover of darkness, but riders from Boston
let the militias know of the British plans. (Paul Revere was one of these riders, but the British captured
him and he never finished his ride. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized Revere in his 1860 poem,
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” incorrectly implying that he made it all the way to Concord.) Minutemen met the
British troops and skirmished with them, first at Lexington and then at Concord (Figure 6.4). The British
retreated to Boston, enduring ambushes from several other militias along the way. Over four thousand
militiamen took part in these skirmishes with British soldiers. Seventy-three British soldiers and forty-
nine Patriots died during the British retreat to Boston. The famous confrontation is the basis for Emerson’s
“Concord Hymn” (1836), which begins with the description of the “shot heard round the world.” Although
propagandists on both sides pointed fingers, it remains unclear who fired that shot.

Figure 6.4 Amos Doolittle was an American printmaker who volunteered to fight against the British. His engravings
of the battles of Lexington and Concord—such as this detail from The Battle of Lexington, April 19th 1775—are the
only contemporary American visual records of the events there.

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After the battles of Lexington and Concord, New England fully mobilized for war. Thousands of militias
from towns throughout New England marched to Boston, and soon the city was besieged by a sea of rebel
forces (Figure 6.5). In May 1775, Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold led a group of rebels against
Fort Ticonderoga in New York. They succeeded in capturing the fort, and cannons from Ticonderoga were
brought to Massachusetts and used to bolster the Siege of Boston.

Figure 6.5 This 1779 map shows details of the British and Patriot troops in and around Boston, Massachusetts, at
the beginning of the war.

In June, General Gage resolved to take Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill, the high ground across the Charles
River from Boston, a strategic site that gave the rebel militias an advantage since they could train their
cannons on the British. In the Battle of Bunker Hill (Figure 6.6), on June 17, the British launched three
assaults on the hills, gaining control only after the rebels ran out of ammunition. British losses were very
high—over two hundred were killed and eight hundred wounded—and, despite his victory, General Gage
was unable to break the colonial forces’ siege of the city. In August, King George III declared the colonies
to be in a state of rebellion. Parliament and many in Great Britain agreed with their king. Meanwhile, the
British forces in Boston found themselves in a terrible predicament, isolated in the city and with no control
over the countryside.

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 161

Figure 6.6 The British cartoon “Bunkers Hill or America’s Head Dress” (a) depicts the initial rebellion as an elaborate
colonial coiffure. The illustration pokes fun at both the colonial rebellion and the overdone hairstyles for women that
had made their way from France and Britain to the American colonies. Despite gaining control of the high ground
after the colonial militias ran out of ammunition, General Thomas Gage (b), shown here in a painting made in
1768–1769 by John Singleton Copley, was unable to break the siege of the city.

In the end, General George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army since June 15, 1775,
used the Fort Ticonderoga cannons to force the evacuation of the British from Boston. Washington had
positioned these cannons on the hills overlooking both the fortified positions of the British and Boston
Harbor, where the British supply ships were anchored. The British could not return fire on the colonial
positions because they could not elevate their cannons. They soon realized that they were in an untenable
position and had to withdraw from Boston. On March 17, 1776, the British evacuated their troops to
Halifax, Nova Scotia, ending the nearly year-long siege.

By the time the British withdrew from Boston, fighting had broken out in other colonies as well. In May
1775, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina issued the Mecklenburg Resolves, stating that a rebellion
against Great Britain had begun, that colonists did not owe any further allegiance to Great Britain, and
that governing authority had now passed to the Continental Congress. The resolves also called upon the
formation of militias to be under the control of the Continental Congress. Loyalists and Patriots clashed in
North Carolina in February 1776 at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.

In Virginia, the royal governor, Lord Dunmore, raised Loyalist forces to combat the rebel colonists and also
tried to use the large slave population to put down the rebellion. In November 1775, he issued a decree,
known as Dunmore’s Proclamation, promising freedom to slaves and indentured servants of rebels who
remained loyal to the king and who pledged to fight with the Loyalists against the insurgents. Dunmore’s
Proclamation exposed serious problems for both the Patriot cause and for the British. In order for the
British to put down the rebellion, they needed the support of Virginia’s landowners, many of whom
owned slaves. (While Patriot slaveholders in Virginia and elsewhere proclaimed they acted in defense of
liberty, they kept thousands in bondage, a fact the British decided to exploit.) Although a number of slaves
did join Dunmore’s side, the proclamation had the unintended effect of galvanizing Patriot resistance to
Britain. From the rebels’ point of view, the British looked to deprive them of their slave property and incite
a race war. Slaveholders feared a slave uprising and increased their commitment to the cause against Great
Britain, calling for independence. Dunmore fled Virginia in 1776.

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With the events of 1775 fresh in their minds, many colonists reached the conclusion in 1776 that the
time had come to secede from the Empire and declare independence. Over the past ten years, these
colonists had argued that they deserved the same rights as Englishmen enjoyed in Great Britain, only to
find themselves relegated to an intolerable subservient status in the Empire. The groundswell of support
for their cause of independence in 1776 also owed much to the appearance of an anonymous pamphlet,
first published in January 1776, entitled Common Sense. Thomas Paine, who had emigrated from England
to Philadelphia in 1774, was the author. Arguably the most radical pamphlet of the revolutionary era,
Common Sense made a powerful argument for independence.

Paine’s pamphlet rejected the monarchy, calling King George III a “royal brute” and questioning the right
of an island (England) to rule over America. In this way, Paine helped to channel colonial discontent
toward the king himself and not, as had been the case, toward the British Parliament—a bold move
that signaled the desire to create a new political order disavowing monarchy entirely. He argued for the
creation of an American republic, a state without a king, and extolled the blessings of republicanism,
a political philosophy that held that elected representatives, not a hereditary monarch, should govern
states. The vision of an American republic put forward by Paine included the idea of popular sovereignty:
citizens in the republic would determine who would represent them, and decide other issues, on the basis
of majority rule. Republicanism also served as a social philosophy guiding the conduct of the Patriots in
their struggle against the British Empire. It demanded adherence to a code of virtue, placing the public
good and community above narrow self-interest.

Paine wrote Common Sense (Figure 6.7) in simple, direct language aimed at ordinary people, not just the
learned elite. The pamphlet proved immensely popular and was soon available in all thirteen colonies,
where it helped convince many to reject monarchy and the British Empire in favor of independence and a
republican form of government.

Figure 6.7 Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (a) helped convince many colonists of the need for independence from
Great Britain. Paine, shown here in a portrait by Laurent Dabos (b), was a political activist and revolutionary best
known for his writings on both the American and French Revolutions.

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 163

In the summer of 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and agreed to sever ties with Great
Britain. Virginian Thomas Jefferson and John Adams of Massachusetts, with the support of the Congress,
articulated the justification for liberty in the Declaration of Independence (Figure 6.8). The Declaration,
written primarily by Jefferson, included a long list of grievances against King George III and laid out
the foundation of American government as a republic in which the consent of the governed would be of
paramount importance.

Figure 6.8 The Dunlap Broadsides, one of which is shown here, are considered the first published copies of the
Declaration of Independence. This one was printed on July 4, 1776.

The preamble to the Declaration began with a statement of Enlightenment principles about universal
human rights and values: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and
the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.” In addition to this statement of
principles, the document served another purpose: Patriot leaders sent copies to France and Spain in hopes
of winning their support and aid in the contest against Great Britain. They understood how important
foreign recognition and aid would be to the creation of a new and independent nation.

The Declaration of Independence has since had a global impact, serving as the basis for many subsequent
movements to gain independence from other colonial powers. It is part of America’s civil religion, and
thousands of people each year make pilgrimages to see the original document in Washington, DC.

The Declaration also reveals a fundamental contradiction of the American Revolution: the conflict between
the existence of slavery and the idea that “all men are created equal.” One-fifth of the population in 1776
was enslaved, and at the time he drafted the Declaration, Jefferson himself owned more than one hundred
slaves. Further, the Declaration framed equality as existing only among white men; women and nonwhites
were entirely left out of a document that referred to native peoples as “merciless Indian savages” who
indiscriminately killed men, women, and children. Nonetheless, the promise of equality for all planted the
seeds for future struggles waged by slaves, women, and many others to bring about its full realization.
Much of American history is the story of the slow realization of the promise of equality expressed in the
Declaration of Independence.

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Visit Digital History (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/fcombatants) to view “The
Female Combatants.” In this 1776 engraving by an anonymous artist, Great Britain is
depicted on the left as a staid, stern matron, while America, on the right, is shown as a
half-dressed American Indian. Why do you think the artist depicted the two opposing
sides this way?

6.2 The Early Years of the Revolution

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the British and American strategies of 1776 through 1778
• Identify the key battles of the early years of the Revolution

After the British quit Boston, they slowly adopted a strategy to isolate New England from the rest of
the colonies and force the insurgents in that region into submission, believing that doing so would end
the conflict. At first, British forces focused on taking the principal colonial centers. They began by easily
capturing New York City in 1776. The following year, they took over the American capital of Philadelphia.
The larger British effort to isolate New England was implemented in 1777. That effort ultimately failed
when the British surrendered a force of over five thousand to the Americans in the fall of 1777 at the Battle
of Saratoga.

The major campaigns over the next several years took place in the middle colonies of New York, New
Jersey, and Pennsylvania, whose populations were sharply divided between Loyalists and Patriots.
Revolutionaries faced many hardships as British superiority on the battlefield became evident and the
difficulty of funding the war caused strains.

After evacuating Boston in March 1776, British forces sailed to Nova Scotia to regroup. They devised a
strategy, successfully implemented in 1776, to take New York City. The following year, they planned to
end the rebellion by cutting New England off from the rest of the colonies and starving it into submission.
Three British armies were to move simultaneously from New York City, Montreal, and Fort Oswego to
converge along the Hudson River; British control of that natural boundary would isolate New England.

General William Howe (Figure 6.9), commander in chief of the British forces in America, amassed
thirty-two thousand troops on Staten Island in June and July 1776. His brother, Admiral Richard Howe,
controlled New York Harbor. Command of New York City and the Hudson River was their goal. In
August 1776, General Howe landed his forces on Long Island and easily routed the American Continental
Army there in the Battle of Long Island (August 27). The Americans were outnumbered and lacked
both military experience and discipline. Sensing victory, General and Admiral Howe arranged a peace
conference in September 1776, where Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and South Carolinian John Rutledge
represented the Continental Congress. Despite the Howes’ hopes, however, the Americans demanded
recognition of their independence, which the Howes were not authorized to grant, and the conference

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Figure 6.9 General William Howe, shown here in a 1777 portrait by Richard Purcell, led British forces in America in
the first years of the war.

On September 16, 1776, George Washington’s forces held up against the British at the Battle of Harlem
Heights. This important American military achievement, a key reversal after the disaster on Long Island,
occurred as most of Washington’s forces retreated to New Jersey. A few weeks later, on October 28,
General Howe’s forces defeated Washington’s at the Battle of White Plains and New York City fell to
the British. For the next seven years, the British made the city the headquarters for their military efforts
to defeat the rebellion, which included raids on surrounding areas. In 1777, the British burned Danbury,
Connecticut, and in July 1779, they set fire to homes in Fairfield and Norwalk. They held American
prisoners aboard ships in the waters around New York City; the death toll was shocking, with thousands
perishing in the holds. Meanwhile, New York City served as a haven for Loyalists who disagreed with the
effort to break away from the Empire and establish an American republic.

When the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in May 1775, members approved the creation
of a professional Continental Army with Washington as commander in chief (Figure 6.10). Although
sixteen thousand volunteers enlisted, it took several years for the Continental Army to become a truly
professional force. In 1775 and 1776, militias still composed the bulk of the Patriots’ armed forces, and
these soldiers returned home after the summer fighting season, drastically reducing the army’s strength.

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Figure 6.10 This 1775 etching shows George Washington taking command of the Continental Army at Cambridge,
Massachusetts, just two weeks after his appointment by the Continental Congress.

That changed in late 1776 and early 1777, when Washington broke with conventional eighteenth-century
military tactics that called for fighting in the summer months only. Intent on raising revolutionary morale
after the British captured New York City, he launched surprise strikes against British forces in their
winter quarters. In Trenton, New Jersey, he led his soldiers across the Delaware River and surprised
an encampment of Hessians, German mercenaries hired by Great Britain to put down the American
rebellion. Beginning the night of December 25, 1776, and continuing into the early hours of December
26, Washington moved on Trenton where the Hessians were encamped. Maintaining the element of
surprise by attacking at Christmastime, he defeated them, taking over nine hundred captive. On January
3, 1777, Washington achieved another much-needed victory at the Battle of Princeton. He again broke with
eighteenth-century military protocol by attacking unexpectedly after the fighting season had ended.

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Thomas Paine on “The American Crisis”
During the American Revolution, following the publication of Common Sense in January 1776, Thomas
Paine began a series of sixteen pamphlets known collectively as The American Crisis (Figure 6.11). He
wrote the first volume in 1776, describing the dire situation facing the revolutionaries at the end of that
hard year.

Figure 6.11 Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlet The American Crisis, the first page of which is shown
here, in 1776.

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will,
in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the
love and thanks of man and woman. . . . Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has
declared that she has a right (not only to tax) but “to bind us in all cases whatsoever,” and
if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon
earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God. . . .
I shall conclude this paper with some miscellaneous remarks on the state of our affairs; and
shall begin with asking the following question, Why is it that the enemy have left the New
England provinces, and made these middle ones the seat of war? The answer is easy: New
England is not infested with Tories, and we are. I have been tender in raising the cry against
these men, and used numberless arguments to show them their danger, but it will not do to
sacrifice a world either to their folly or their baseness. The period is now arrived, in which
either they or we must change our sentiments, or one or both must fall. . . .
By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice
and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils—a ravaged country—a depopulated
city—habitations without safety, and slavery without hope—our homes turned into barracks
and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall
doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it! and if there yet remains one thoughtless
wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.
—Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis,” December 23, 1776

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What topics does Paine address in this pamphlet? What was his purpose in writing? What does he write
about Tories (Loyalists), and why does he consider them a problem?

Visit Wikisource (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/amcrisis) to read the rest of Thomas
Paine’s first American Crisis pamphlet, as well as the other fifteen in the series.

In August 1777, General Howe brought fifteen thousand British troops to Chesapeake Bay as part of
his plan to take Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress met. That fall, the British defeated
Washington’s soldiers in the Battle of Brandywine Creek and took control of Philadelphia, forcing the
Continental Congress to flee. During the winter of 1777–1778, the British occupied the city, and
Washington’s army camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Washington’s winter at Valley Forge was a low point for the American forces. A lack of supplies weakened
the men, and disease took a heavy toll. Amid the cold, hunger, and sickness, soldiers deserted in droves.
On February 16, Washington wrote to George Clinton, governor of New York: “For some days past, there
has been little less than a famine in camp. A part of the army has been a week without any kind of flesh
& the rest three or four days. Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable
patience and fidelity of the soldiery, that they have not been ere [before] this excited by their sufferings
to a general mutiny and dispersion.” Of eleven thousand soldiers encamped at Valley Forge, twenty-
five hundred died of starvation, malnutrition, and disease. As Washington feared, nearly one hundred
soldiers deserted every week. (Desertions continued, and by 1780, Washington was executing recaptured
deserters every Saturday.) The low morale extended all the way to Congress, where some wanted to
replace Washington with a more seasoned leader.

Assistance came to Washington and his soldiers in February 1778 in the form of the Prussian soldier
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (Figure 6.12). Baron von Steuben was an experienced military man, and
he implemented a thorough training course for Washington’s ragtag troops. By drilling a small corps
of soldiers and then having them train others, he finally transformed the Continental Army into a force
capable of standing up to the professional British and Hessian soldiers. His drill manual—Regulations for
the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States—informed military practices in the United States
for the next several decades.

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Figure 6.12 Prussian soldier Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, shown here in a 1786 portrait by Ralph Earl, was
instrumental in transforming Washington’s Continental Army into a professional armed force.

Explore Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s Revolutionary War Drill Manual
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/steuben) to understand how von Steuben was able to
transform the Continental Army into a professional fighting force. Note the tremendous
amount of precision and detail in von Steuben’s descriptions.

Meanwhile, the campaign to sever New England from the rest of the colonies had taken an unexpected
turn during the fall of 1777. The British had attempted to implement the plan, drawn up by Lord George
Germain and Prime Minister Lord North, to isolate New England with the combined forces of three armies.
One army, led by General John Burgoyne, would march south from Montreal. A second force, led by
Colonel Barry St. Leger and made up of British troops and Iroquois, would march east from Fort Oswego
on the banks of Lake Ontario. A third force, led by General Sir Henry Clinton, would march north from
New York City. The armies would converge at Albany and effectively cut the rebellion in two by isolating
New England. This northern campaign fell victim to competing strategies, however, as General Howe had
meanwhile decided to take Philadelphia. His decision to capture that city siphoned off troops that would
have been vital to the overall success of the campaign in 1777.

The British plan to isolate New England ended in disaster. St. Leger’s efforts to bring his force of British
regulars, Loyalist fighters, and Iroquois allies east to link up with General Burgoyne failed, and he
retreated to Quebec. Burgoyne’s forces encountered ever-stiffer resistance as he made his way south from
Montreal, down Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson River corridor. Although they did capture Fort
Ticonderoga when American forces retreated, Burgoyne’s army found themselves surrounded by a sea
of colonial militias in Saratoga, New York. In the meantime, the small British force under Clinton that
left New York City to aid Burgoyne advanced slowly up the Hudson River, failing to provide the much-
needed support for the troops at Saratoga. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered his five thousand
soldiers to the Continental Army (Figure 6.13).

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Figure 6.13 This German engraving, created by Daniel Chodowiecki in 1784, shows British soldiers laying down
their arms before the American forces.

The American victory at the Battle of Saratoga was the major turning point in the war. This victory
convinced the French to recognize American independence and form a military alliance with the new
nation, which changed the course of the war by opening the door to badly needed military support from
France. Still smarting from their defeat by Britain in the Seven Years’ War, the French supplied the United
States with gunpowder and money, as well as soldiers and naval forces that proved decisive in the defeat
of Great Britain. The French also contributed military leaders, including the Marquis de Lafayette, who
arrived in America in 1777 as a volunteer and served as Washington’s aide-de-camp.

The war quickly became more difficult for the British, who had to fight the rebels in North America as well
as the French in the Caribbean. Following France’s lead, Spain joined the war against Great Britain in 1779,
though it did not recognize American independence until 1783. The Dutch Republic also began to support
the American revolutionaries and signed a treaty of commerce with the United States in 1782.

Great Britain’s effort to isolate New England in 1777 failed. In June 1778, the occupying British force in
Philadelphia evacuated and returned to New York City in order to better defend that city, and the British
then turned their attention to the southern colonies.

6.3 War in the South

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Outline the British southern strategy and its results
• Describe key American victories and the end of the war
• Identify the main terms of the Treaty of Paris (1783)

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 171

By 1778, the war had turned into a stalemate. Although some in Britain, including Prime Minister Lord
North, wanted peace, King George III demanded that the colonies be brought to obedience. To break
the deadlock, the British revised their strategy and turned their attention to the southern colonies, where
they could expect more support from Loyalists. The southern colonies soon became the center of the
fighting. The southern strategy brought the British success at first, but thanks to the leadership of George
Washington and General Nathanael Greene and the crucial assistance of French forces, the Continental
Army defeated the British at Yorktown, effectively ending further large-scale operations during the war.

The British architect of the war strategy, Lord George Germain, believed Britain would gain the upper
hand with the support of Loyalists, slaves, and Indian allies in the South, and indeed, this southern
strategy initially achieved great success. The British began their southern campaign by capturing
Savannah, the capital of Georgia, in December 1778. In Georgia, they found support from thousands of
slaves who ran to the British side to escape their bondage. As the British regained political control in
Georgia, they forced the inhabitants to swear allegiance to the king and formed twenty Loyalist regiments.
The Continental Congress had suggested that slaves be given freedom if they joined the Patriot army
against the British, but revolutionaries in Georgia and South Carolina refused to consider this proposal.
Once again, the Revolution served to further divisions over race and slavery.

After taking Georgia, the British turned their attention to South Carolina. Before the Revolution, South
Carolina had been starkly divided between the backcountry, which harbored revolutionary partisans, and
the coastal regions, where Loyalists remained a powerful force. Waves of violence rocked the backcountry
from the late 1770s into the early 1780s. The Revolution provided an opportunity for residents to fight
over their local resentments and antagonisms with murderous consequences. Revenge killings and the
destruction of property became mainstays in the savage civil war that gripped the South.

In April 1780, a British force of eight thousand soldiers besieged American forces in Charleston (Figure
6.14). After six weeks of the Siege of Charleston, the British triumphed. General Benjamin Lincoln, who
led the effort for the revolutionaries, had to surrender his entire force, the largest American loss during
the entire war. Many of the defeated Americans were placed in jails or in British prison ships anchored
in Charleston Harbor. The British established a military government in Charleston under the command of
General Sir Henry Clinton. From this base, Clinton ordered General Charles Cornwallis to subdue the rest
of South Carolina.

Figure 6.14 This 1780 map of Charleston (a), which shows details of the Continental defenses, was probably drawn
by British engineers in anticipation of the attack on the city. The Siege of Charleston was one of a series of defeats
for the Continental forces in the South, which led the Continental Congress to place General Nathanael Greene (b),
shown here in a 1783 portrait by Charles Wilson Peale, in command in late 1780. Greene led his troops to two crucial

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The disaster at Charleston led the Continental Congress to change leadership by placing General Horatio
Gates in charge of American forces in the South. However, General Gates fared no better than General
Lincoln; at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, in August 1780, Cornwallis forced General Gates to
retreat into North Carolina. Camden was one of the worst disasters suffered by American armies during
the entire Revolutionary War. Congress again changed military leadership, this time by placing General
Nathanael Greene (Figure 6.14) in command in December 1780.

As the British had hoped, large numbers of Loyalists helped ensure the success of the southern strategy,
and thousands of slaves seeking freedom arrived to aid Cornwallis’s army. However, the war turned in the
Americans’ favor in 1781. General Greene realized that to defeat Cornwallis, he did not have to win a single
battle. So long as he remained in the field, he could continue to destroy isolated British forces. Greene
therefore made a strategic decision to divide his own troops to wage war—and the strategy worked.
American forces under General Daniel Morgan decisively beat the British at the Battle of Cowpens in South
Carolina. General Cornwallis now abandoned his strategy of defeating the backcountry rebels in South
Carolina. Determined to destroy Greene’s army, he gave chase as Greene strategically retreated north into
North Carolina. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781, the British prevailed on the battlefield
but suffered extensive losses, an outcome that paralleled the Battle of Bunker Hill nearly six years earlier
in June 1775.

In the summer of 1781, Cornwallis moved his army to Yorktown, Virginia. He expected the Royal Navy
to transport his army to New York, where he thought he would join General Sir Henry Clinton. Yorktown
was a tobacco port on a peninsula, and Cornwallis believed the British navy would be able to keep the
coast clear of rebel ships. Sensing an opportunity, a combined French and American force of sixteen
thousand men swarmed the peninsula in September 1781. Washington raced south with his forces, now a
disciplined army, as did the Marquis de Lafayette and the Comte de Rochambeau with their French troops.
The French Admiral de Grasse sailed his naval force into Chesapeake Bay, preventing Lord Cornwallis
from taking a seaward escape route.

In October 1781, the American forces began the battle for Yorktown, and after a siege that lasted eight
days, Lord Cornwallis capitulated on October 19 (Figure 6.15). Tradition says that during the surrender
of his troops, the British band played “The World Turned Upside Down,” a song that befitted the Empire’s
unexpected reversal of fortune.

Figure 6.15 The 1820 painting above, by John Trumbull, is titled Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, but Cornwallis
actually sent his general, Charles O’Hara, to perform the ceremonial surrendering of the sword. The painting depicts
General Benjamin Lincoln holding out his hand to receive the sword. General George Washington is in the
background on the brown horse, since he refused to accept the sword from anyone but Cornwallis himself.

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 173


“The World Turned Upside Down”
“The World Turned Upside Down,” reputedly played during the surrender of the British at Yorktown, was
a traditional English ballad from the seventeenth century. It was also the theme of a popular British print
that circulated in the 1790s (Figure 6.16).

Figure 6.16 In many of the images in this popular print, entitled “The World Turned Upside Down or
the Folly of Man,” animals and humans have switched places. In one, children take care of their parents,
while in another, the sun, moon, and stars appear below the earth.

Why do you think these images were popular in Great Britain in the decade following the Revolutionary
War? What would these images imply to Americans?

Visit the Public Domain Review (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/worldupside) to
explore the images in an eighteenth-century British chapbook (a pamphlet for tracts or
ballads) titled “The World Turned Upside Down.” The chapbook is illustrated with
woodcuts similar to those in the popular print mentioned above.

The British defeat at Yorktown made the outcome of the war all but certain. In light of the American
victory, the Parliament of Great Britain voted to end further military operations against the rebels and to
begin peace negotiations. Support for the war effort had come to an end, and British military forces began
to evacuate the former American colonies in 1782. When hostilities had ended, Washington resigned as
commander in chief and returned to his Virginia home.

In April 1782, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay had begun informal peace negotiations in
Paris. Officials from Great Britain and the United States finalized the treaty in 1783, signing the Treaty

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of Paris (Figure 6.17) in September of that year. The treaty recognized the independence of the United
States; placed the western, eastern, northern, and southern boundaries of the nation at the Mississippi
River, the Atlantic Ocean, Canada, and Florida, respectively; and gave New Englanders fishing rights in
the waters off Newfoundland. Under the terms of the treaty, individual states were encouraged to refrain
from persecuting Loyalists and to return their confiscated property.

Figure 6.17 The last page of the Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, contained the signatures and seals
of representatives for both the British and the Americans. From right to left, the seals pictured belong to David
Hartley, who represented Great Britain, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay for the Americans.

6.4 Identity during the American Revolution

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain Loyalist and Patriot sentiments
• Identify different groups that participated in the Revolutionary War

The American Revolution in effect created multiple civil wars. Many of the resentments and antagonisms
that fed these conflicts predated the Revolution, and the outbreak of war acted as the catalyst they needed
to burst forth. In particular, the middle colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had deeply
divided populations. Loyalty to Great Britain came in many forms, from wealthy elites who enjoyed the
prewar status quo to runaway slaves who desired the freedom that the British offered.

Historians disagree on what percentage of colonists were Loyalists; estimates range from 20 percent to
over 30 percent. In general, however, of British America’s population of 2.5 million, roughly one-third
remained loyal to Great Britain, while another third committed themselves to the cause of independence.
The remaining third remained apathetic, content to continue with their daily lives as best they could and
preferring not to engage in the struggle.

Many Loyalists were royal officials and merchants with extensive business ties to Great Britain, who
viewed themselves as the rightful and just defenders of the British constitution. Others simply resented

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 175

local business and political rivals who supported the Revolution, viewing the rebels as hypocrites and
schemers who selfishly used the break with the Empire to increase their fortunes. In New York’s Hudson
Valley, animosity among the tenants of estates owned by Revolutionary leaders turned them to the cause
of King and Empire.

During the war, all the states passed confiscation acts, which gave the new revolutionary governments
in the former colonies the right to seize Loyalist land and property. To ferret out Loyalists, revolutionary
governments also passed laws requiring the male population to take oaths of allegiance to the new states.
Those who refused lost their property and were often imprisoned or made to work for the new local
revolutionary order.

William Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s only surviving son, remained loyal to Crown and Empire and
served as royal governor of New Jersey, a post he secured with his father’s help. During the war,
revolutionaries imprisoned William in Connecticut; however, he remained steadfast in his allegiance to
Great Britain and moved to England after the Revolution. He and his father never reconciled.

As many as nineteen thousand colonists served the British in the effort to put down the rebellion, and
after the Revolution, as many as 100,000 colonists left, moving to England or north to Canada rather than
staying in the new United States (Figure 6.18). Eight thousand whites and five thousand free blacks went
to Britain. Over thirty thousand went to Canada, transforming that nation from predominately French to
predominantly British. Another sizable group of Loyalists went to the British West Indies, taking their
slaves with them.

Figure 6.18 The Coming of the Loyalists, a ca. 1880 work that artist Henry Sandham created at least a century after
the Revolution, shows Anglo-American colonists arriving by ship in New Brunswick, Canada.

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Hannah Ingraham on Removing to Nova Scotia
Hannah Ingraham was eleven years old in 1783, when her Loyalist family removed from New York to Ste.
Anne’s Point in the colony of Nova Scotia. Later in life, she compiled her memories of that time.

[Father] said we were to go to Nova Scotia, that a ship was ready to take us there, so we
made all haste to get ready. . . . Then on Tuesday, suddenly the house was surrounded by
rebels and father was taken prisoner and carried away. . . . When morning came, they said
he was free to go.
We had five wagon loads carried down the Hudson in a sloop and then we went on board the
transport that was to bring us to Saint John. I was just eleven years old when we left our farm
to come here. It was the last transport of the season and had on board all those who could not
come sooner. The first transports had come in May so the people had all the summer before
them to get settled. . . .
We lived in a tent at St. Anne’s until father got a house ready. . . . There was no floor laid,
no windows, no chimney, no door, but we had a roof at least. A good fire was blazing and
mother had a big loaf of bread and she boiled a kettle of water and put a good piece of butter
in a pewter bowl. We toasted the bread and all sat around the bowl and ate our breakfast that
morning and mother said: “Thank God we are no longer in dread of having shots fired through
our house. This is the sweetest meal I ever tasted for many a day.”

What do these excerpts tell you about life as a Loyalist in New York or as a transplant to Canada?

While some slaves who fought for the Patriot cause received their freedom, revolutionary leaders—unlike
the British—did not grant such slaves their freedom as a matter of course. Washington, the owner of more
than two hundred slaves during the Revolution, refused to let slaves serve in the army, although he did
allow free blacks. (In his will, Washington did free his slaves.) In the new United States, the Revolution
largely reinforced a racial identity based on skin color. Whiteness, now a national identity, denoted
freedom and stood as the key to power. Blackness, more than ever before, denoted servile status. Indeed,
despite their class and ethnic differences, white revolutionaries stood mostly united in their hostility to
both blacks and Indians.

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 177


Boyrereau Brinch and Boston King on the Revolutionary War
In the Revolutionary War, some blacks, both free and enslaved, chose to fight for the Americans (Figure
6.19). Others chose to fight for the British, who offered them freedom for joining their cause. Read the
excerpts below for the perspective of a black veteran from each side of the conflict.

Figure 6.19 Jean-Baptiste-Antoine de Verger created this 1781 watercolor, which depicts American
soldiers at the Siege of Yorktown. Verger was an officer in Rochambeau’s army, and his diary holds
firsthand accounts of his experiences in the campaigns of 1780 and 1781. This image contains one of
the earliest known representations of a black Continental soldier.

Boyrereau Brinch was captured in Africa at age sixteen and brought to America as a slave. He joined
the Patriot forces and was honorably discharged and emancipated after the war. He told his story to
Benjamin Prentiss, who published it as The Blind African Slave in 1810.

Finally, I was in the battles at Cambridge, White Plains, Monmouth, Princeton, Newark,
Frog’s Point, Horseneck where I had a ball pass through my knapsack. All which battels
[sic] the reader can obtain a more perfect account of in history, than I can give. At last we
returned to West Point and were discharged [1783], as the war was over. Thus was I, a slave
for five years fighting for liberty. After we were disbanded, I returned to my old master at
Woodbury [Connecticut], with whom I lived one year, my services in the American war, having
emancipated me from further slavery, and from being bartered or sold. . . . Here I enjoyed the
pleasures of a freeman; my food was sweet, my labor pleasure: and one bright gleam of life
seemed to shine upon me.

Boston King was a Charleston-born slave who escaped his master and joined the Loyalists. He made his
way to Nova Scotia and later Sierra Leone, where he published his memoirs in 1792. The excerpt below
describes his experience in New York after the war.

When I arrived at New-York, my friends rejoiced to see me once more restored to liberty,
and joined me in praising the Lord for his mercy and goodness. . . . [In 1783] the horrors
and devastation of war happily terminated, and peace was restored between America and
Great Britain, which diffused universal joy among all parties, except us, who had escaped
from slavery and taken refuge in the English army; for a report prevailed at New-York, that
all the slaves, in number 2000, were to be delivered up to their masters, altho’ some of
them had been three or four years among the English. This dreadful rumour filled us all
with inexpressible anguish and terror, especially when we saw our old masters coming from
Virginia, North-Carolina, and other parts, and seizing upon their slaves in the streets of New-
York, or even dragging them out of their beds. Many of the slaves had very cruel masters, so
that the thoughts of returning home with them embittered life to us. For some days we lost
our appetite for food, and sleep departed from our eyes. The English had compassion upon
us in the day of distress, and issued out a Proclamation, importing, That all slaves should

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be free, who had taken refuge in the British lines, and claimed the sanction and privileges of
the Proclamations respecting the security and protection of Negroes. In consequence of this,
each of us received a certificate from the commanding officer at New-York, which dispelled all
our fears, and filled us with joy and gratitude.

What do these two narratives have in common, and how are they different? How do the two men describe

For slaves willing to run away and join the British, the American Revolution offered a unique occasion
to escape bondage. Of the half a million slaves in the American colonies during the Revolution, twenty
thousand joined the British cause. At Yorktown, for instance, thousands of black troops fought with
Lord Cornwallis. Slaves belonging to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other
revolutionaries seized the opportunity for freedom and fled to the British side. Between ten and twenty
thousand slaves gained their freedom because of the Revolution; arguably, the Revolution created the
largest slave uprising and the greatest emancipation until the Civil War. After the Revolution, some of
these African Loyalists emigrated to Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa. Others removed to Canada
and England. It is also true that people of color made heroic contributions to the cause of American
independence. However, while the British offered slaves freedom, most American revolutionaries clung to
notions of black inferiority.

Powerful Indian peoples who had allied themselves with the British, including the Mohawk and the
Creek, also remained loyal to the Empire. A Mohawk named Joseph Brant, whose given name was
Thayendanegea (Figure 6.20), rose to prominence while fighting for the British during the Revolution. He
joined forces with Colonel Barry St. Leger during the 1777 campaign, which ended with the surrender of
General Burgoyne at Saratoga. After the war, Brant moved to the Six Nations reserve in Canada. From
his home on the shores of Lake Ontario, he remained active in efforts to restrict white encroachment onto
Indian lands. After their defeat, the British did not keep promises they’d made to help their Indian allies
keep their territory; in fact, the Treaty of Paris granted the United States huge amounts of supposedly
British-owned regions that were actually Indian lands.

Figure 6.20 What similarities can you see in these two portraits of Joseph Brant, one by Gilbert Stuart in 1786 (a)
and one by Charles Wilson Peale in 1797 (b)? What are the differences? Why do you think the artists made the
specific choices they did?

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 179

The American revolutionaries (also called Patriots or Whigs) came from many different backgrounds and
included merchants, shoemakers, farmers, and sailors. What is extraordinary is the way in which the
struggle for independence brought a vast cross-section of society together, animated by a common cause.

During the war, the revolutionaries faced great difficulties, including massive supply problems; clothing,
ammunition, tents, and equipment were all hard to come by. After an initial burst of enthusiasm in 1775
and 1776, the shortage of supplies became acute in 1777 through 1779, as Washington’s difficult winter at
Valley Forge demonstrates.

Funding the war effort also proved very difficult. Whereas the British could pay in gold and silver,
the American forces relied on paper money, backed by loans obtained in Europe. This first American
money was called Continental currency; unfortunately, it quickly fell in value. “Not worth a Continental”
soon became a shorthand term for something of no value. The new revolutionary government printed a
great amount of this paper money, resulting in runaway inflation. By 1781, inflation was such that 146
Continental dollars were worth only one dollar in gold. The problem grew worse as each former colony,
now a revolutionary state, printed its own currency.

In colonial America, women shouldered enormous domestic and child-rearing responsibilities. The war
for independence only increased their workload and, in some ways, solidified their roles. Rebel leaders
required women to produce articles for war—everything from clothing to foodstuffs—while also keeping
their homesteads going. This was not an easy task when their husbands and sons were away fighting.
Women were also expected to provide food and lodging for armies and to nurse wounded soldiers.

The Revolution opened some new doors for women, however, as they took on public roles usually
reserved for men. The Daughters of Liberty, an informal organization formed in the mid-1760s to oppose
British revenue-raising measures, worked tirelessly to support the war effort. Esther DeBerdt Reed of
Philadelphia, wife of Governor Joseph Reed, formed the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and led a
fundraising drive to provide sorely needed supplies to the Continental Army. In “The Sentiments of an
American Woman” (1780), she wrote to other women, “The time is arrived to display the same sentiments
which animated us at the beginning of the Revolution, when we renounced the use of teas, however
agreeable to our taste, rather than receive them from our persecutors; when we made it appear to them
that we placed former necessaries in the rank of superfluities, when our liberty was interested; when our
republican and laborious hands spun the flax, prepared the linen intended for the use of our soldiers; when
exiles and fugitives we supported with courage all the evils which are the concomitants of war.” Reed and
other elite women in Philadelphia raised almost $300,000 in Continental money for the war.

Read the entire text of Esther Reed’s “The Sentiments of an American Woman”
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/estherreed) on a page hosted by the University of

Women who did not share Reed’s elite status nevertheless played key economic roles by producing
homespun cloth and food. During shortages, some women formed mobs and wrested supplies from those

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who hoarded them. Crowds of women beset merchants and demanded fair prices for goods; if a merchant
refused, a riot would ensue. Still other women accompanied the army as “camp followers,” serving as
cooks, washerwomen, and nurses. A few also took part in combat and proved their equality with men
through violence against the hated British.

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 181

confiscation acts

Continental currency

Dunmore’s Proclamation


Mecklenburg Resolves


popular sovereignty


thirteen colonies


Key Terms

state-wide acts that made it legal for state governments to seize Loyalists’ property

the paper currency that the Continental government printed to fund the

the decree signed by Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, which
proclaimed that any slaves or indentured servants who fought on the side of the British would be
rewarded with their freedom

German mercenaries hired by Great Britain to put down the American rebellion

North Carolina’s declaration of rebellion against Great Britain

colonial militias prepared to mobilize and fight the British with a minute’s notice

the practice of allowing the citizens of a state or territory to decide issues based on
the principle of majority rule

a political philosophy that holds that states should be governed by representatives, not a
monarch; as a social philosophy, republicanism required civic virtue of its citizens

the British colonies in North America that declared independence from Great Britain in
1776, which included Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, the province of Massachusetts Bay,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Providence
Plantations, South Carolina, and Virginia

the Virginia port where British General Cornwallis surrendered to American forces

6.1 Britain’s Law-and-Order Strategy and Its Consequences
Until Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774, most colonists still thought of themselves as proud
subjects of the strong British Empire. However, the Coercive (or Intolerable) Acts, which Parliament
enacted to punish Massachusetts for failing to pay for the destruction of the tea, convinced many colonists
that Great Britain was indeed threatening to stifle their liberty. In Massachusetts and other New England
colonies, militias like the minutemen prepared for war by stockpiling weapons and ammunition. After the
first loss of life at the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, skirmishes continued throughout
the colonies. When Congress met in Philadelphia in July 1776, its members signed the Declaration of
Independence, officially breaking ties with Great Britain and declaring their intention to be self-governing.

6.2 The Early Years of the Revolution
The British successfully implemented the first part of their strategy to isolate New England when they
took New York City in the fall of 1776. For the next seven years, they used New York as a base of
operations, expanding their control to Philadelphia in the winter of 1777. After suffering through a terrible
winter in 1777–1778 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, American forces were revived with help from Baron
von Steuben, a Prussian military officer who helped transform the Continental Army into a professional
fighting force. The effort to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies failed with the General
Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga in October 1777. After Saratoga, the struggle for independence gained a
powerful ally when France agreed to recognize the United States as a new nation and began to send much-

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needed military support. The entrance of France—Britain’s archrival in the contest of global empire—into
the American fight helped to turn the tide of the war in favor of the revolutionaries.

6.3 War in the South
The British gained momentum in the war when they turned their military efforts against the southern
colonies. They scored repeated victories in the coastal towns, where they found legions of supporters,
including slaves escaping bondage. As in other colonies, however, control of major seaports did not mean
the British could control the interior. Fighting in the southern colonies devolved into a merciless civil war
as the Revolution opened the floodgates of pent-up anger and resentment between frontier residents and
those along the coastal regions. The southern campaign came to an end at Yorktown when Cornwallis
surrendered to American forces.

6.4 Identity during the American Revolution
The American Revolution divided the colonists as much as it united them, with Loyalists (or Tories)
joining the British forces against the Patriots (or revolutionaries). Both sides included a broad cross-section
of the population. However, Great Britain was able to convince many slaves to join its forces by promising
them freedom, something the southern revolutionaries would not agree to do. The war provided new
opportunities, as well as new challenges, for slaves, free blacks, women, and Indians. After the war, many
Loyalists fled the American colonies, heading across the Atlantic to England, north to Canada, or south to
the West Indies.

Review Questions
1. How did British General Thomas Gage attempt
to deal with the uprising in Massachusetts in

A. He offered the rebels land on the Maine
frontier in return for loyalty to England.

B. He allowed for town meetings in an
attempt to appease the rebels.

C. He attempted to seize arms and munitions
from the colonial insurgents.

D. He ordered his troops to burn Boston to the
ground to show the determination of

2. Which of the following was not a result of
Dunmore’s Proclamation?

A. Slaves joined Dunmore to fight for the

B. A majority of slaves in the colonies won
their freedom.

C. Patriot forces increased their commitment
to independence.

D. Both slaveholding and non-slaveholding
whites feared a slave rebellion.

3. Which of the following is not true of a

A. A republic has no hereditary ruling class.
B. A republic relies on the principle of popular

C. Representatives chosen by the people lead

the republic.
D. A republic is governed by a monarch and

the royal officials he or she appoints.

4. What are the main arguments that Thomas
Paine makes in his pamphlet Common Sense? Why
was this pamphlet so popular?

5. Which city served as the base for British
operations for most of the war?

A. Boston
B. New York
C. Philadelphia
D. Saratoga

6. What battle turned the tide of war in favor of
the Americans?

A. the Battle of Saratoga
B. the Battle of Brandywine Creek
C. the Battle of White Plains
D. the Battle of Valley Forge

Chapter 6 America’s War for Independence, 1775-1783 183

7. Which term describes German soldiers hired
by Great Britain to put down the American

A. Patriots
B. Royalists
C. Hessians
D. Loyalists

8. Describe the British strategy in the early years
of the war and explain whether or not it

9. How did George Washington’s military tactics
help him to achieve success?

10. Which American general is responsible for
improving the American military position in the

A. John Burgoyne
B. Nathanael Greene
C. Wilhelm Frederick von Steuben
D. Charles Cornwallis

11. Describe the British southern strategy and its

12. Which of the following statements best
represents the division between Patriots and

A. Most American colonists were Patriots,
with only a few traditionalists remaining
loyal to the King and Empire.

B. Most American colonists were Loyalists,
with only a few firebrand revolutionaries
leading the charge for independence.

C. American colonists were divided among
those who wanted independence, those
who wanted to remain part of the British
Empire, and those who were neutral.

D. The vast majority of American colonists
were neutral and didn’t take a side between
Loyalists and Patriots.

13. Which of the following is not one of the tasks
women performed during the Revolution?

A. holding government offices
B. maintaining their homesteads
C. feeding, quartering, and nursing soldiers
D. raising funds for the war effort

Critical Thinking Questions
14. How did the colonists manage to triumph in their battle for independence despite Great Britain’s
military might? If any of these factors had been different, how might it have affected the outcome of the

15. How did the condition of certain groups, such as women, blacks, and Indians, reveal a contradiction
in the Declaration of Independence?

16. What was the effect and importance of Great Britain’s promise of freedom to slaves who joined the
British side?

17. How did the Revolutionary War provide both new opportunities and new challenges for slaves and
free blacks in America?

18. Describe the ideology of republicanism. As a political philosophy, how did republicanism compare to
the system that prevailed in Great Britain?

19. Describe the backgrounds and philosophies of Patriots and Loyalists. Why did colonists with such
diverse individual interests unite in support of their respective causes? What might different groups of
Patriots and Loyalists, depending upon their circumstances, have hoped to achieve by winning the war?

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Creating Republican Governments,

Figure 7.1 John Trumbull, Washington’s aide-de-camp, painted this wartime image of Washington on a promontory
above the Hudson River. Just behind Washington, his slave William “Billy” Lee has his eyes firmly fixed on his master.
In the far background, British warships fire on an American fort.

Chapter Outline
7.1 Common Sense: From Monarchy to an American Republic
7.2 How Much Revolutionary Change?
7.3 Debating Democracy
7.4 The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution

After the Revolutionary War, the ideology that “all men are created equal” failed to match up with
reality, as the revolutionary generation could not solve the contradictions of freedom and slavery in the
new United States. Trumbull’s 1780 painting of George Washington (Figure 7.1) hints at some of these
contradictions. What attitude do you think Trumbull was trying to convey? Why did Trumbull include
Washington’s slave Billy Lee, and what does Lee represent in this painting?

During the 1770s and 1780s, Americans took bold steps to define American equality. Each state held
constitutional conventions and crafted state constitutions that defined how government would operate
and who could participate in political life. Many elite revolutionaries recoiled in horror from the idea of
majority rule—the basic principle of democracy—fearing that it would effectively create a “mob rule” that
would bring about the ruin of the hard-fought struggle for independence. Statesmen everywhere believed
that a republic should replace the British monarchy: a government where the important affairs would be
entrusted only to representative men of learning and refinement.

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 185

7.1 Common Sense: From Monarchy to an American Republic

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Compare and contrast monarchy and republican government
• Describe the tenets of republicanism

While monarchies dominated eighteenth-century Europe, American revolutionaries were determined to
find an alternative to this method of government. Radical pamphleteer Thomas Paine, whose enormously
popular essay Common Sense was first published in January 1776, advocated a republic: a state without a
king. Six months later, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence affirmed the break with England but did
not suggest what form of government should replace monarchy, the only system most English colonists
had ever known. In the late eighteenth century, republics were few and far between. Genoa, Venice, and
the Dutch Republic provided examples of states without monarchs, but many European Enlightenment
thinkers questioned the stability of a republic. Nonetheless, after their break from Great Britain, Americans
turned to republicanism for their new government.

Monarchy rests on the practice of dynastic succession, in which the monarch’s child or other relative
inherits the throne. Contested dynastic succession produced chronic conflict and warfare in Europe. In
the eighteenth century, well-established monarchs ruled most of Europe and, according to tradition,
were obligated to protect and guide their subjects. However, by the mid-1770s, many American colonists
believed that George III, the king of Great Britain, had failed to do so. Patriots believed the British
monarchy under George III had been corrupted and the king turned into a tyrant who cared nothing
for the traditional liberties afforded to members of the British Empire. The disaffection from monarchy
explains why a republic appeared a better alternative to the revolutionaries.

Figure 7.2

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American revolutionaries looked to the past for inspiration for their break with the British monarchy and
their adoption of a republican form of government. The Roman Republic provided guidance. Much like
the Americans in their struggle against Britain, Romans had thrown off monarchy and created a republic
in which Roman citizens would appoint or select the leaders who would represent them.

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/ceracchi) to see
a Roman-style bust of George Washington, complete with toga. In 1791, Italian
sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi visited Philadelphia, hoping the government might
commission a monument of his creation. He did not succeed, but the bust of
Washington, one of the ones he produced to demonstrate his skill, illustrates the

connection between the American and Roman republics that revolutionaries made.

While republicanism offered an alternative to monarchy, it was also an alternative to democracy, a system
of government characterized by majority rule, where the majority of citizens have the power to make
decisions binding upon the whole. To many revolutionaries, especially wealthy landowners, merchants,
and planters, democracy did not offer a good replacement for monarchy. Indeed, conservative Whigs
defined themselves in opposition to democracy, which they equated with anarchy. In the tenth in a series
of essays later known as The Federalist Papers, Virginian James Madison wrote: “Democracies have ever
been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security
or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their
deaths.” Many shared this perspective and worked hard to keep democratic tendencies in check. It is easy
to understand why democracy seemed threatening: majority rule can easily overpower minority rights,
and the wealthy few had reason to fear that a hostile and envious majority could seize and redistribute
their wealth.

While many now assume the United States was founded as a democracy, history, as always, is more
complicated. Conservative Whigs believed in government by a patrician class, a ruling group composed
of a small number of privileged families. Radical Whigs favored broadening the popular participation in
political life and pushed for democracy. The great debate after independence was secured centered on this
question: Who should rule in the new American republic?

According to political theory, a republic requires its citizens to cultivate virtuous behavior; if the people
are virtuous, the republic will survive. If the people become corrupt, the republic will fall. Whether
republicanism succeeded or failed in the United States would depend on civic virtue and an educated
citizenry. Revolutionary leaders agreed that the ownership of property provided one way to measure an
individual’s virtue, arguing that property holders had the greatest stake in society and therefore could
be trusted to make decisions for it. By the same token, non-property holders, they believed, should have
very little to do with government. In other words, unlike a democracy, in which the mass of non-property
holders could exercise the political right to vote, a republic would limit political rights to property holders.
In this way, republicanism exhibited a bias toward the elite, a preference that is understandable given
the colonial legacy. During colonial times, wealthy planters and merchants in the American colonies had
looked to the British ruling class, whose social order demanded deference from those of lower rank, as a
model of behavior. Old habits died hard.

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Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues for Character
In the 1780s, Benjamin Franklin carefully defined thirteen virtues to help guide his countrymen in
maintaining a virtuous republic. His choice of thirteen is telling since he wrote for the citizens of the
thirteen new American republics. These virtues were:

1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak
8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the
injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin’s thirteen virtues suggest that hard work and good behavior will bring success. What factors
does Franklin ignore? How would he likely address a situation in which children inherit great wealth rather
than working for it? How do Franklin’s values help to define the notion of republican virtue?

Check how well you are demonstrating all thirteen of Franklin’s virtues
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/13virtues) on thirteenvirtues.com, where you can
register to track your progress.

George Washington served as a role model par excellence for the new republic, embodying the exceptional
talent and public virtue prized under the political and social philosophy of republicanism. He did not seek
to become the new king of America; instead he retired as commander in chief of the Continental Army and
returned to his Virginia estate at Mount Vernon to resume his life among the planter elite. Washington
modeled his behavior on that of the Roman aristocrat Cincinnatus, a representative of the patrician or
ruling class, who had also retired from public service in the Roman Republic and returned to his estate to
pursue agricultural life.

The aristocratic side of republicanism—and the belief that the true custodians of public virtue were those
who had served in the military—found expression in the Society of the Cincinnati, of which Washington
was the first president general (Figure 7.3). Founded in 1783, the society admitted only officers of the
Continental Army and the French forces, not militia members or minutemen. Following the rule of

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primogeniture, the eldest sons of members inherited their fathers’ memberships. The society still exists
today and retains the motto Omnia relinquit servare rempublicam (“He relinquished everything to save the

Figure 7.3 This membership certificate for the Society of the Cincinnati commemorates “the great Event which gave
Independence to North America.”

7.2 How Much Revolutionary Change?

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the status of women in the new republic
• Describe the status of nonwhites in the new republic

Elite republican revolutionaries did not envision a completely new society; traditional ideas and categories
of race and gender, order and decorum remained firmly entrenched among members of their privileged
class. Many Americans rejected the elitist and aristocratic republican order, however, and advocated
radical changes. Their efforts represented a groundswell of sentiment for greater equality, a part of the
democratic impulse unleashed by the Revolution.

In eighteenth-century America, as in Great Britain, the legal status of married women was defined as
coverture, meaning a married woman (or feme covert) had no legal or economic status independent of her
husband. She could not conduct business or buy and sell property. Her husband controlled any property
she brought to the marriage, although he could not sell it without her agreement. Married women’s status
as femes covert did not change as a result of the Revolution, and wives remained economically dependent
on their husbands. The women of the newly independent nation did not call for the right to vote, but some,
especially the wives of elite republican statesmen, began to agitate for equality under the law between
husbands and wives, and for the same educational opportunities as men.

Some women hoped to overturn coverture. From her home in Braintree, Massachusetts, Abigail Adams
(Figure 7.4) wrote to her husband, Whig leader John Adams, in 1776, “In the new code of laws which
I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more
generous and favorable to them than your ancestor. Do not put such unlimited power in the husbands.
Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.” Abigail Adams ran the family homestead during the
Revolution, but she did not have the ability to conduct business without her husband’s consent. Elsewhere
in the famous 1776 letter quoted above, she speaks of the difficulties of running the homestead when her

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 189

husband is away. Her frustration grew when her husband responded in an April 1776 letter: “As to your
extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our Struggle has loosened the
bands of Government every where. That Children and Apprentices were disobedient—that schools and
Colledges were grown turbulent—that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to
their Masters. But your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerfull
than all the rest were grown discontented. . . . Depend on it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine

Figure 7.4 Abigail Adams (a), shown here in a 1766 portrait by Benjamin Blythe, is best remembered for her
eloquent letters to her husband, John Adams (b), who would later become the second president of the United States.

Another privileged member of the revolutionary generation, Mercy Otis Warren, also challenged gender
assumptions and traditions during the revolutionary era (Figure 7.5). Born in Massachusetts, Warren
actively opposed British reform measures before the outbreak of fighting in 1775 by publishing anti-British
works. In 1812, she published a three-volume history of the Revolution, a project she had started in the
late 1770s. By publishing her work, Warren stepped out of the female sphere and into the otherwise male-
dominated sphere of public life.

Inspired by the Revolution, Judith Sargent Murray of Massachusetts advocated women’s economic
independence and equal educational opportunities for men and women (Figure 7.5). Murray, who came
from a well-to-do family in Gloucester, questioned why boys were given access to education as a birthright
while girls had very limited educational opportunities. She began to publish her ideas about educational
equality beginning in the 1780s, arguing that God had made the minds of women and men equal.

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Figure 7.5 John Singleton Copley’s 1772 portrait of Judith Sargent Murray (a) and 1763 portrait of Mercy Otis
Warren (b) show two of America’s earliest advocates for women’s rights. Notice how their fine silk dresses telegraph
their privileged social status.

Murray’s more radical ideas championed woman’s economic independence. She argued that a woman’s
education should be extensive enough to allow her to maintain herself—and her family—if there was no
male breadwinner. Indeed, Murray was able to make money of her own from her publications. Her ideas
were both radical and traditional, however: Murray also believed that women were much better at raising
children and maintaining the morality and virtue of the family than men.

Adams, Murray, and Warren all came from privileged backgrounds. All three were fully literate, while
many women in the American republic were not. Their literacy and station allowed them to push for
new roles for women in the atmosphere of unique possibility created by the Revolution and its promise
of change. Female authors who published their work provide evidence of how women in the era of the
American Revolution challenged traditional gender roles.

Overall, the Revolution reconfigured women’s roles by undermining the traditional expectations of wives
and mothers, including subservience. In the home, the separate domestic sphere assigned to women,
women were expected to practice republican virtues, especially frugality and simplicity. Republican
motherhood meant that women, more than men, were responsible for raising good children, instilling
in them all the virtue necessary to ensure the survival of the republic. The Revolution also opened new
doors to educational opportunities for women. Men understood that the republic needed women to play a
substantial role in upholding republicanism and ensuring the survival of the new nation. Benjamin Rush, a
Whig educator and physician from Philadelphia, strongly advocated for the education of girls and young
women as part of the larger effort to ensure that republican virtue and republican motherhood would

By the time of the Revolution, slavery had been firmly in place in America for over one hundred years. In
many ways, the Revolution served to reinforce the assumptions about race among white Americans. They
viewed the new nation as a white republic; blacks were slaves, and Indians had no place. Racial hatred
of blacks increased during the Revolution because many slaves fled their white masters for the freedom
offered by the British. The same was true for Indians who allied themselves with the British; Jefferson

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wrote in the Declaration of Independence that separation from the Empire was necessary because George
III had incited “the merciless Indian savages” to destroy the white inhabitants on the frontier. Similarly,
Thomas Paine argued in Common Sense that Great Britain was guilty of inciting “the Indians and Negroes
to destroy us.” For his part, Benjamin Franklin wrote in the 1780s that, in time, alcoholism would wipe out
the Indians, leaving the land free for white settlers.


Phillis Wheatley: “On Being Brought from Africa to America”
Phillis Wheatley (Figure 7.6) was born in Africa in 1753 and sold as a slave to the Wheatley family of
Boston; her African name is lost to posterity. Although most slaves in the eighteenth century had no
opportunities to learn to read and write, Wheatley achieved full literacy and went on to become one of the
best-known poets of the time, although many doubted her authorship of her poems because of her race.

Figure 7.6 This portrait of Phillis Wheatley from the frontispiece of Poems on various subjects,
religious and moral shows the writer at work. Despite her status as a slave, her poems won great
renown in America and in Europe.

Wheatley’s poems reflected her deep Christian beliefs. In the poem below, how do her views on
Christianity affect her views on slavery?

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
—Phillis Wheatley, “On Being Brought from Africa to America”

Slavery offered the most glaring contradiction between the idea of equality stated in the Declaration of
Independence (“all men are created equal”) and the reality of race relations in the late eighteenth century.

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Racism shaped white views of blacks. Although he penned the Declaration of Independence, Thomas
Jefferson owned more than one hundred slaves, of whom he freed only a few either during his lifetime or
in his will (Figure 7.7). He thought blacks were inferior to whites, dismissing Phillis Wheatley by arguing,
“Religion indeed has produced a Phillis Wheatley; but it could not produce a poet.” White slaveholders
took their female slaves as mistresses, as most historians agree that Jefferson did with one of his slaves,
Sally Hemings. Together, they had several children.

Figure 7.7 This page, taken from one of Thomas Jefferson’s record books from 1795, lists his slaves.

Browse the Thomas Jefferson Papers (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/TJefferson) at
the Massachusetts Historical Society to examine Jefferson’s “farm books,” in which he
kept records of his land holdings, animal husbandry, and slaves, including specific
references to Sally Hemings.

Jefferson understood the contradiction fully, and his writings reveal hard-edged racist assumptions. In his
Notes on the State of Virginia in the 1780s, Jefferson urged the end of slavery in Virginia and the removal
of blacks from that state. He wrote: “It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks
into the state, and thus save the expense of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they
will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of
the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many
other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end
but in the extermination of the one or the other race. —To these objections, which are political, may be
added others, which are physical and moral.” Jefferson envisioned an “empire of liberty” for white farmers
and relied on the argument of sending blacks out of the United States, even if doing so would completely
destroy the slaveholders’ wealth in their human property.

Southern planters strongly objected to Jefferson’s views on abolishing slavery and removing blacks from
America. When Jefferson was a candidate for president in 1796, an anonymous “Southern Planter” wrote,
“If this wild project succeeds, under the auspices of Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, and

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three hundred thousand slaves are set free in Virginia, farewell to the safety, prosperity, the importance,
perhaps the very existence of the Southern States” (Figure 7.8). Slaveholders and many other Americans
protected and defended the institution.

Figure 7.8 This 1796 broadside to “the Citizens of the Southern States” by “a Southern Planter” argued that Thomas
Jefferson’s advocacy of the emancipation of slaves in his Notes on the State of Virginia posed a threat to the safety,
the prosperity, and even the existence of the southern states.

While racial thinking permeated the new country, and slavery existed in all the new states, the ideals of
the Revolution generated a movement toward the abolition of slavery. Private manumissions, by which
slaveholders freed their slaves, provided one pathway from bondage. Slaveholders in Virginia freed some
ten thousand slaves. In Massachusetts, the Wheatley family manumitted Phillis in 1773 when she was
twenty-one. Other revolutionaries formed societies dedicated to abolishing slavery. One of the earliest
efforts began in 1775 in Philadelphia, where Dr. Benjamin Rush and other Philadelphia Quakers formed
what became the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Similarly, wealthy New Yorkers formed the New York
Manumission Society in 1785. This society worked to educate black children and devoted funds to protect
free blacks from kidnapping.

Slavery persisted in the North, however, and the example of Massachusetts highlights the complexity
of the situation. The 1780 Massachusetts constitution technically freed all slaves. Nonetheless, several
hundred individuals remained enslaved in the state. In the 1780s, a series of court decisions undermined
slavery in Massachusetts when several slaves, citing assault by their masters, successfully sought their
freedom in court. These individuals refused to be treated as slaves in the wake of the American Revolution.
Despite these legal victories, about eleven hundred slaves continued to be held in the New England states
in 1800. The contradictions illustrate the difference between the letter and the spirit of the laws abolishing
slavery in Massachusetts. In all, over thirty-six thousand slaves remained in the North, with the highest
concentrations in New Jersey and New York. New York only gradually phased out slavery, with the last
slaves emancipated in the late 1820s.

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The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war for independence, did not address Indians at all. All lands
held by the British east of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes (except Spanish Florida) now
belonged to the new American republic (Figure 7.9). Though the treaty remained silent on the issue,
much of the territory now included in the boundaries of the United States remained under the control of
native peoples. Earlier in the eighteenth century, a “middle ground” had existed between powerful native
groups in the West and British and French imperial zones, a place where the various groups interacted and
accommodated each other. As had happened in the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion, the
Revolutionary War turned the middle ground into a battle zone that no one group controlled.

Figure 7.9 The 1783 Treaty of Paris divided North America into territories belonging to the United States and
several European countries, but it failed to address Indian lands at all.

During the Revolution, a complex situation existed among Indians. Many villages remained neutral.
Some native groups, such as the Delaware, split into factions, with some supporting the British while
other Delaware maintained their neutrality. The Iroquois Confederacy, a longstanding alliance of tribes,
also split up: the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca fought on the British side, while the Oneida
and Tuscarora supported the revolutionaries. Ohio River Valley tribes such as the Shawnee, Miami, and
Mungo had been fighting for years against colonial expansion west; these groups supported the British.
Some native peoples who had previously allied with the French hoped the conflict between the colonies

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and Great Britain might lead to French intervention and the return of French rule. Few Indians sided with
the American revolutionaries, because almost all revolutionaries in the middle ground viewed them as
an enemy to be destroyed. This racial hatred toward native peoples found expression in the American
massacre of ninety-six Christian Delawares in 1782. Most of the dead were women and children.

After the war, the victorious Americans turned a deaf ear to Indian claims to what the revolutionaries
saw as their hard-won land, and they moved aggressively to assert control over western New York
and Pennsylvania. In response, Mohawk leader Joseph Brant helped to form the Western Confederacy,
an alliance of native peoples who pledged to resist American intrusion into what was then called the
Northwest. The Northwest Indian War (1785–1795) ended with the defeat of the Indians and their claims.
Under the Treaty of Greenville (1795), the United States gained dominion over land in Ohio.

Prior to the Revolution, several colonies had official, tax-supported churches. After the Revolution, some
questioned the validity of state-authorized churches; the limitation of public office-holding to those of a
particular faith; and the payment of taxes to support churches. In other states, especially in New England
where the older Puritan heritage cast a long shadow, religion and state remained intertwined.

During the colonial era in Virginia, the established church had been the Church of England, which did
not tolerate Catholics, Baptists, or followers or other religions. In 1786, as a revolutionary response against
the privileged status of the Church of England, Virginia’s lawmakers approved the Virginia Statute for
Religious Freedom, which ended the Church of England’s hold and allowed religious liberty. Under the
statute, no one could be forced to attend or support a specific church or be prosecuted for his or her beliefs.

Pennsylvania’s original constitution limited officeholders in the state legislature to those who professed
a belief in both the Old and the New Testaments. This religious test prohibited Jews from holding that
office, as the New Testament is not part of Jewish belief. In 1790, however, Pennsylvania removed this
qualification from its constitution.

The New England states were slower to embrace freedom of religion. In the former Puritan colonies,
the Congregational Church (established by seventeenth-century Puritans) remained the church of most
inhabitants. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire all required the public support of Christian
churches. Article III of the Massachusetts constitution blended the goal of republicanism with the goal of
promoting Protestant Christianity. It reads:

As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government,
essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused
through a community, but by the institution of the public worship of GOD, and of public
instructions in piety, religion and morality: Therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure
the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this Commonwealth have
a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature
shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and
other bodies-politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for
the institution of the public worship of GOD, and for the support and maintenance of public
protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be
made voluntarily. . . .
And every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects
of the Commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: And no subordination
of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

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Read more about religion and state governments at the Religion and the Founding
of the American Republic (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/farmbook1) exhibition page
on the Library of Congress site. What was the meaning of the term “nursing fathers” of
the church?

7.3 Debating Democracy

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the development of state constitutions
• Describe the features of the Articles of Confederation
• Analyze the causes and consequences of Shays’ Rebellion

The task of creating republican governments in each of the former colonies, now independent states,
presented a new opportunity for American revolutionaries to define themselves anew after casting off
British control. On the state and national levels, citizens of the new United States debated who would hold
the keys to political power. The states proved to be a laboratory for how much democracy, or majority rule,
would be tolerated.

In 1776, John Adams urged the thirteen independent colonies—soon to be states—to write their own state
constitutions. Enlightenment political thought profoundly influenced Adams and other revolutionary
leaders seeking to create viable republican governments. The ideas of the French philosopher
Montesquieu, who had advocated the separation of powers in government, guided Adams’s thinking.
Responding to a request for advice on proper government from North Carolina, Adams wrote Thoughts
on Government, which influenced many state legislatures. Adams did not advocate democracy; rather, he
wrote, “there is no good government but what is republican.” Fearing the potential for tyranny with only
one group in power, he suggested a system of checks and balances in which three separate branches of
government—executive, legislative, and judicial—would maintain a balance of power. He also proposed
that each state remain sovereign, as its own republic. The state constitutions of the new United States
illustrate different approaches to addressing the question of how much democracy would prevail in the
thirteen republics. Some states embraced democratic practices, while others adopted far more aristocratic
and republican ones.

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Visit the Avalon Project (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/statecons) to read the
constitutions of the seven states (Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland,
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) that had written constitutions by the end of

The 1776 Pennsylvania constitution and the 1784 New Hampshire constitution both provide examples of
democratic tendencies. In Pennsylvania, the requirement to own property in order to vote was eliminated,
and if a man was twenty-one or older, had paid taxes, and had lived in the same location for one year, he
could vote (Figure 7.10). This opened voting to most free white male citizens of Pennsylvania. The 1784
New Hampshire constitution allowed every small town and village to send representatives to the state
government, making the lower house of the legislature a model of democratic government.

Figure 7.10 The 1776 Pennsylvania constitution, the first page of which is shown here, adhered to more democratic
principles than some other states’ constitutions did initially.

Conservative Whigs, who distrusted the idea of majority rule, recoiled from the abolition of property
qualifications for voting and office holding in Pennsylvania. Conservative Whig John Adams reacted with
horror to the 1776 Pennsylvania constitution, declaring that it was “so democratical that it must produce
confusion and every evil work.” In his mind and those of other conservative Whigs, this constitution
simply put too much power in the hands of men who had no business exercising the right to vote.
Pennsylvania’s constitution also eliminated the executive branch (there was no governor) and the upper
house. Instead, Pennsylvania had a one-house—a unicameral—legislature.

The Maryland and South Carolina constitutions provide examples of efforts to limit the power of a
democratic majority. Maryland’s, written in 1776, restricted office holding to the wealthy planter class. A
man had to own at least £5,000 worth of personal property to be the governor of Maryland, and possess
an estate worth £1,000 to be a state senator. This latter qualification excluded over 90 percent of the white
males in Maryland from political office. The 1778 South Carolina constitution also sought to protect the
interests of the wealthy. Governors and lieutenant governors of the state had to have “a settled plantation

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or freehold in their and each of their own right of the value of at least ten thousand pounds currency,
clear of debt.” This provision limited high office in the state to its wealthiest inhabitants. Similarly, South
Carolina state senators had to own estates valued at £2,000.

John Adams wrote much of the 1780 Massachusetts constitution, which reflected his fear of too much
democracy. It therefore created two legislative chambers, an upper and lower house, and a strong
governor with broad veto powers. Like South Carolina, Massachusetts put in place office-holding
requirements: To be governor under the new constitution, a candidate had to own an estate worth at least
£1,000. To serve in the state senate, a man had to own an estate worth at least £300 and have at least £600 in
total wealth. To vote, he had to be worth at least sixty pounds. To further keep democracy in check, judges
were appointed, not elected. One final limit was the establishment of the state capitol in the commercial
center of Boston, which made it difficult for farmers from the western part of the state to attend legislative

Most revolutionaries pledged their greatest loyalty to their individual states. Recalling the experience
of British reform efforts imposed in the 1760s and 1770s, they feared a strong national government
and took some time to adopt the Articles of Confederation, the first national constitution. In June 1776,
the Continental Congress prepared to announce independence and began to think about the creation
of a new government to replace royal authority. Reaching agreement on the Articles of Confederation
proved difficult as members of the Continental Congress argued over western land claims. Connecticut,
for example, used its colonial charter to assert its claim to western lands in Pennsylvania and the Ohio
Territory (Figure 7.11).

Figure 7.11 Connecticut, like many other states, used its state constitution to stake claims to uncharted western

Members of the Continental Congress also debated what type of representation would be best and tried to
figure out how to pay the expenses of the new government. In lieu of creating a new federal government,
the Articles of Confederation created a “league of friendship” between the states. Congress readied the
Articles in 1777 but did not officially approve them until 1781 (Figure 7.12). The delay of four years
illustrates the difficulty of getting the thirteen states to agree on a plan of national government. Citizens
viewed their respective states as sovereign republics and guarded their prerogatives against other states.

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 199

Figure 7.12 The first page of the 1777 Articles of Confederation, printed by Alexander Purdie, emphasized the
“perpetual union” between the states.

The Articles of Confederation authorized a unicameral legislature, a continuation of the earlier Continental
Congress. The people could not vote directly for members of the national Congress; rather, state
legislatures decided who would represent the state. In practice, the national Congress was composed
of state delegations. There was no president or executive office of any kind, and there was no national
judiciary (or Supreme Court) for the United States.

Passage of any law under the Articles of Confederation proved difficult. It took the consensus of nine states
for any measure to pass, and amending the Articles required the consent of all the states, also extremely
difficult to achieve. Further, any acts put forward by the Congress were non-binding; states had the option
to enforce them or not. This meant that while the Congress had power over Indian affairs and foreign
policy, individual states could choose whether or not to comply.

The Congress did not have the power to tax citizens of the United States, a fact that would soon have
serious consequences for the republic. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress had sent
requisitions for funds to the individual former colonies (now revolutionary states). These states already
had an enormous financial burden because they had to pay for militias as well as supply them. In the end,
the states failed to provide even half the funding requested by the Congress during the war, which led to
a national debt in the tens of millions by 1784.

By the 1780s, some members of the Congress were greatly concerned about the financial health of the
republic, and they argued that the national government needed greater power, especially the power to tax.
This required amending the Articles of Confederation with the consent of all the states. Those who called
for a stronger federal government were known as nationalists. The nationalist group that pushed for the
power to tax included Washington’s chief of staff, Alexander Hamilton; Virginia planter James Madison;
Pennsylvania’s wealthy merchant Robert Morris (who served under the Confederation government as
superintendent of finance in the early 1780s); and Pennsylvania lawyer James Wilson. Two New Yorkers,
Gouverneur Morris and James Duane, also joined the effort to address the debt and the weakness of the
Confederation government.

These men proposed a 5 percent tax on imports coming into the United States, a measure that would have
yielded enough revenue to clear the debt. However, their proposal failed to achieve unanimous support
from the states when Rhode Island rejected it. Plans for a national bank also failed to win unanimous
support. The lack of support illustrates the Americans’ deep suspicion of a powerful national government,

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a suspicion that originated from the unilateral and heavy-handed reform efforts that the British Parliament
imposed on the colonies in the 1760s and 1770s. Without revenue, the Congress could not pay back
American creditors who had lent it money. However, it did manage to make interest payments to foreign
creditors in France and the Dutch Republic, fearful that defaulting on those payments would destroy the
republic’s credit and leave it unable to secure loans.

One soldier in the Continental Army, Joseph Plumb Martin, recounted how he received no pay in paper
money after 1777 and only one month’s payment in specie, or hard currency, in 1781. Like thousands
of other soldiers, Martin had fought valiantly against the British and helped secure independence, but
had not been paid for his service. In the 1780s and beyond, men like Martin would soon express their
profound dissatisfaction with their treatment. Their anger found expression in armed uprisings and
political divisions.

Establishing workable foreign and commercial policies under the Articles of Confederation also proved
difficult. Each state could decide for itself whether to comply with treaties between the Congress and
foreign countries, and there were no means of enforcement. Both Great Britain and Spain understood
the weakness of the Confederation Congress, and they refused to make commercial agreements with
the United States because they doubted they would be enforced. Without stable commercial policies,
American exporters found it difficult to do business, and British goods flooded U.S. markets in the 1780s,
in a repetition of the economic imbalance that existed before the Revolutionary War.

The Confederation Congress under the Articles did achieve success through a series of directives called
land ordinances, which established rules for the settlement of western lands in the public domain and
the admission of new states to the republic. The ordinances were designed to prepare the land for sale
to citizens and raise revenue to boost the failing economy of the republic. In the land ordinances, the
Confederation Congress created the Mississippi and Southwest Territories and stipulated that slavery
would be permitted there. The system of dividing the vast domains of the United States stands as a
towering achievement of the era, a blueprint for American western expansion.

The Ordinance of 1784, written by Thomas Jefferson and the first of what were later called the Northwest
Ordinances, directed that new states would be formed from a huge area of land below the Great Lakes, and
these new states would have equal standing with the original states. The Ordinance of 1785 called for the
division of this land into rectangular plots in order to prepare for the government sale of land. Surveyors
would divide the land into townships of six square miles, and the townships would be subdivided into
thirty-six plots of 640 acres each, which could be further subdivided. The price of an acre of land was
set at a minimum of one dollar, and the land was to be sold at public auction under the direction of the

The Ordinance of 1787 officially turned the land into an incorporated territory called the Northwest
Territory and prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River (Figure 7.13). The map of the 1787 Northwest
Territory shows how the public domain was to be divided by the national government for sale. Townships
of thirty-six square miles were to be surveyed. Each had land set aside for schools and other civic purposes.
Smaller parcels could then be made: a 640-acre section could be divided into quarter-sections of 160 acres,
and then again into sixteen sections of 40 acres. The geometric grid pattern established by the ordinance is
still evident today on the American landscape. Indeed, much of the western United States, when viewed
from an airplane, is composed of an orderly grid system.

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Figure 7.13 The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created territories and an orderly method for the admission of new

Visit Window Seat (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/thescream) to explore aerial views
of the grid system established by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which is still
evident in much of the Midwest.

The land ordinances proved to be the great triumph of the Confederation Congress. The Congress would
appoint a governor for the territories, and when the population in the territory reached five thousand free
adult settlers, those citizens could create their own legislature and begin the process of moving toward
statehood. When the population reached sixty thousand, the territory could become a new state.

Despite Congress’s victory in creating an orderly process for organizing new states and territories, land
sales failed to produce the revenue necessary to deal with the dire economic problems facing the new
country in the 1780s. Each state had issued large amounts of paper money and, in the aftermath of the
Revolution, widespread internal devaluation of that currency occurred as many lost confidence in the
value of state paper money and the Continental dollar. A period of extreme inflation set in. Added to
this dilemma was American citizens’ lack of specie (gold and silver currency) to conduct routine business.
Meanwhile, demobilized soldiers, many of whom had spent their formative years fighting rather than
learning a peacetime trade, searched desperately for work.

The economic crisis came to a head in 1786 and 1787 in western Massachusetts, where farmers were in
a difficult position: they faced high taxes and debts, which they found nearly impossible to pay with the
worthless state and Continental paper money. For several years after the peace in 1783, these indebted
citizens had petitioned the state legislature for redress. Many were veterans of the Revolutionary War who
had returned to their farms and families after the fighting ended and now faced losing their homes.

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Their petitions to the state legislature raised economic and political issues for citizens of the new state.
How could people pay their debts and state taxes when paper money proved unstable? Why was the
state government located in Boston, the center of the merchant elite? Why did the 1780 Massachusetts
constitution cater to the interests of the wealthy? To the indebted farmers, the situation in the 1780s seemed
hauntingly familiar; the revolutionaries had routed the British, but a new form of seemingly corrupt and
self-serving government had replaced them.

In 1786, when the state legislature again refused to address the petitioners’ requests, Massachusetts citizens
took up arms and closed courthouses across the state to prevent foreclosure (seizure of land in lieu of
overdue loan payments) on farms in debt. The farmers wanted their debts forgiven, and they demanded
that the 1780 constitution be revised to address citizens beyond the wealthy elite who could serve in the

Many of the rebels were veterans of the war for independence, including Captain Daniel Shays from
Pelham (Figure 7.14). Although Shays was only one of many former officers in the Continental Army
who took part in the revolt, authorities in Boston singled him out as a ringleader, and the uprising became
known as Shays’ Rebellion. The Massachusetts legislature responded to the closing of the courthouses
with a flurry of legislation, much of it designed to punish the rebels. The government offered the rebels
clemency if they took an oath of allegiance. Otherwise, local officials were empowered to use deadly force
against them without fear of prosecution. Rebels would lose their property, and if any militiamen refused
to defend the state, they would be executed.

Figure 7.14 This woodcut, from Bickerstaff’s Boston Almanack of 1787, depicts Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck.
Shays and Shattuck were two of the leaders of the rebels who rose up against the Massachusetts government in
1786 to 1787. As Revolutionary War veterans, both men wear the uniform of officers of the Continental Army.

Despite these measures, the rebellion continued. To address the uprising, Governor James Bowdoin raised
a private army of forty-four hundred men, funded by wealthy Boston merchants, without the approval of
the legislature. The climax of Shays’ Rebellion came in January 1787, when the rebels attempted to seize
the federal armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. A force loyal to the state defeated them there, although
the rebellion continued into February.

Shays’ Rebellion resulted in eighteen deaths overall, but the uprising had lasting effects. To men of
property, mostly conservative Whigs, Shays’ Rebellion strongly suggested the republic was falling into
anarchy and chaos. The other twelve states had faced similar economic and political difficulties, and
continuing problems seemed to indicate that on a national level, a democratic impulse was driving
the population. Shays’ Rebellion convinced George Washington to come out of retirement and lead the
convention called for by Alexander Hamilton to amend the Articles of Confederation in order to deal with
insurgencies like the one in Massachusetts and provide greater stability in the United States.

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 203

7.4 The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the central issues of the 1787 Constitutional Convention and their solutions
• Describe the conflicts over the ratification of the federal constitution

The economic problems that plagued the thirteen states of the Confederation set the stage for the creation
of a strong central government under a federal constitution. Although the original purpose of the
convention was to amend the Articles of Confederation, some—though not all—delegates moved quickly
to create a new framework for a more powerful national government. This proved extremely controversial.
Those who attended the convention split over the issue of robust, centralized government and questions
of how Americans would be represented in the federal government. Those who opposed the proposal for
a stronger federal government argued that such a plan betrayed the Revolution by limiting the voice of the
American people.

There had been earlier efforts to address the Confederation’s perilous state. In early 1786, Virginia’s
James Madison advocated a meeting of states to address the widespread economic problems that plagued
the new nation. Heeding Madison’s call, the legislature in Virginia invited all thirteen states to meet in
Annapolis, Maryland, to work on solutions to the issue of commerce between the states. Eight states
responded to the invitation. But the resulting 1786 Annapolis Convention failed to provide any solutions
because only five states sent delegates. These delegates did, however, agree to a plan put forward by
Alexander Hamilton for a second convention to meet in May 1787 in Philadelphia. Shays’ Rebellion gave
greater urgency to the planned convention. In February 1787, in the wake of the uprising in western
Massachusetts, the Confederation Congress authorized the Philadelphia convention. This time, all the
states except Rhode Island sent delegates to Philadelphia to confront the problems of the day.

The stated purpose of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 was to amend the Articles of Confederation.
Very quickly, however, the attendees decided to create a new framework for a national government. That
framework became the United States Constitution, and the Philadelphia convention became known as
the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Fifty-five men met in Philadelphia in secret; historians know of
the proceedings only because James Madison kept careful notes of what transpired. The delegates knew
that what they were doing would be controversial; Rhode Island refused to send delegates, and New
Hampshire’s delegates arrived late. Two delegates from New York, Robert Yates and John Lansing, left
the convention when it became clear that the Articles were being put aside and a new plan of national
government was being drafted. They did not believe the delegates had the authority to create a strong
national government.

Read “Reasons for Dissent from the Proposed Constitution”
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/YatesLansing) in order to understand why Robert
Yates and John Lansing, New York’s delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention,
didn’t believe the convention should draft a new plan of national government.

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One issue that the delegates in Philadelphia addressed was the way in which representatives to the new
national government would be chosen. Would individual citizens be able to elect representatives? Would
representatives be chosen by state legislatures? How much representation was appropriate for each state?

James Madison put forward a proposition known as the Virginia Plan, which called for a strong national
government that could overturn state laws (Figure 7.15). The plan featured a bicameral or two-house
legislature, with an upper and a lower house. The people of the states would elect the members of the
lower house, whose numbers would be determined by the population of the state. State legislatures would
send delegates to the upper house. The number of representatives in the upper chamber would also be
based on the state’s population. This proportional representation gave the more populous states, like
Virginia, more political power. The Virginia Plan also called for an executive branch and a judicial branch,
both of which were absent under the Articles of Confederation. The lower and upper house together were
to appoint members to the executive and judicial branches. Under this plan, Virginia, the most populous
state, would dominate national political power and ensure its interests, including slavery, would be safe.

Figure 7.15 James Madison’s Virginia Plan, shown here, proposed a strong national government with proportional
state representation.

The Virginia Plan’s call for proportional representation alarmed the representatives of the smaller states.
William Paterson introduced a New Jersey Plan to counter Madison’s scheme, proposing that all states
have equal votes in a unicameral national legislature. He also addressed the economic problems of the
day by calling for the Congress to have the power to regulate commerce, to raise revenue though taxes on
imports and through postage, and to enforce Congressional requisitions from the states.

Roger Sherman from Connecticut offered a compromise to break the deadlock over the thorny question of
representation. His Connecticut Compromise, also known as the Great Compromise, outlined a different
bicameral legislature in which the upper house, the Senate, would have equal representation for all states;
each state would be represented by two senators chosen by the state legislatures. Only the lower house,
the House of Representatives, would have proportional representation.

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 205

The question of slavery stood as a major issue at the Constitutional Convention because slaveholders
wanted slaves to be counted along with whites, termed “free inhabitants,” when determining a state’s
total population. This, in turn, would augment the number of representatives accorded to those states
in the lower house. Some northerners, however, such as New York’s Gouverneur Morris, hated slavery
and did not even want the term included in the new national plan of government. Slaveholders argued
that slavery imposed great burdens upon them and that, because they carried this liability, they deserved
special consideration; slaves needed to be counted for purposes of representation.

The issue of counting or not counting slaves for purposes of representation connected directly to the
question of taxation. Beginning in 1775, the Second Continental Congress asked states to pay for war
by collecting taxes and sending the tax money to the Congress. The amount each state had to deliver in
tax revenue was determined by a state’s total population, including both free and enslaved individuals.
States routinely fell far short of delivering the money requested by Congress under the plan. In April 1783,
the Confederation Congress amended the earlier system of requisition by having slaves count as three-
fifths of the white population. In this way, slaveholders gained a significant tax break. The delegates in
Philadelphia adopted this same three-fifths formula in the summer of 1787.

Under the three-fifths compromise in the 1787 Constitution, each slave would be counted as three-fifths of
a white person. Article 1, Section 2 stipulated that “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned
among the several states . . . according to their respective Number, which shall be determined by adding to
the whole number of free Persons, including those bound for service for a Term of Years [white servants],
and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” Since representation in the House of
Representatives was based on the population of a state, the three-fifths compromise gave extra political
power to slave states, although not as much as if the total population, both free and slave, had been used.
Significantly, no direct federal income tax was immediately imposed. (The Sixteenth Amendment, ratified
in 1913, put in place a federal income tax.) Northerners agreed to the three-fifths compromise because the
Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed by the Confederation Congress, banned slavery in the future states
of the northwest. Northern delegates felt this ban balanced political power between states with slaves and
those without. The three-fifths compromise gave an advantage to slaveholders; they added three-fifths of
their human property to their state’s population, allowing them to send representatives based in part on
the number of slaves they held.

Many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had serious reservations about democracy, which
they believed promoted anarchy. To allay these fears, the Constitution blunted democratic tendencies
that appeared to undermine the republic. Thus, to avoid giving the people too much direct power, the
delegates made certain that senators were chosen by the state legislatures, not elected directly by the
people (direct elections of senators came with the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in
1913). As an additional safeguard, the delegates created the Electoral College, the mechanism for choosing
the president. Under this plan, each state has a certain number of electors, which is its number of senators
(two) plus its number of representatives in the House of Representatives. Critics, then as now, argue that
this process prevents the direct election of the president.

The draft constitution was finished in September 1787. The delegates decided that in order for the new
national government to be implemented, each state must first hold a special ratifying convention. When
nine of the thirteen had approved the plan, the constitution would go into effect.

When the American public learned of the new constitution, opinions were deeply divided, but most people
were opposed. To salvage their work in Philadelphia, the architects of the new national government began
a campaign to sway public opinion in favor of their blueprint for a strong central government. In the

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fierce debate that erupted, the two sides articulated contrasting visions of the American republic and of
democracy. Supporters of the 1787 Constitution, known as Federalists, made the case that a centralized
republic provided the best solution for the future. Those who opposed it, known as Anti-Federalists,
argued that the Constitution would consolidate all power in a national government, robbing the states
of the power to make their own decisions. To them, the Constitution appeared to mimic the old corrupt
and centralized British regime, under which a far-off government made the laws. Anti-Federalists argued
that wealthy aristocrats would run the new national government, and that the elite would not represent
ordinary citizens; the rich would monopolize power and use the new government to formulate policies
that benefited their class—a development that would also undermine local state elites. They also argued
that the Constitution did not contain a bill of rights.

New York’s ratifying convention illustrates the divide between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. When
one Anti-Federalist delegate named Melancton Smith took issue with the scheme of representation as
being too limited and not reflective of the people, Alexander Hamilton responded:

It has been observed by an honorable gentleman [Smith], that a pure democracy, if it were
practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proven, that no position
in politics is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves
deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny;
their figure deformity: When they assembled, the field of debate presented an ungovernable
mob, not only incapable of deliberation, but prepared for every enormity. In these assemblies,
the enemies of the people brought forward their plans of ambition systematically. They were
opposed by their enemies of another party; and it became a matter of contingency, whether the
people subjected themselves to be led blindly by one tyrant or by another.

The Federalists, particularly John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, put their case to the public
in a famous series of essays known as The Federalist Papers. These were first published in New York and
subsequently republished elsewhere in the United States.

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 207


James Madison on the Benefits of Republicanism
The tenth essay in The Federalist Papers, often called Federalist No. 10, is one of the most famous.
Written by James Madison (Figure 7.16), it addresses the problems of political parties (“factions”).
Madison argued that there were two approaches to solving the problem of political parties: a republican
government and a democracy. He argued that a large republic provided the best defense against what
he viewed as the tumult of direct democracy. Compromises would be reached in a large republic and
citizens would be represented by representatives of their own choosing.

Figure 7.16 John Vanderlyn’s 1816 portrait depicts James Madison, one of the leading Federalists
who supported the 1787 Constitution.

From this view of the subject, it may be concluded, that a pure Democracy, by which I
mean a Society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the
Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion
or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication
and concert result from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to check the
inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such
Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found
incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as
short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who
have patronized this species of Government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing
mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly
equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes
place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us
examine the points in which it varies from pure Democracy, and we shall comprehend both
the nature of the cure, and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
The two great points of difference, between a Democracy and a Republic, are, first, the
delegation of the Government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest:
Secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter
may be extended.

Does Madison recommend republicanism or democracy as the best form of government? What
arguments does he use to prove his point?

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Read the full text of Federalist No. 10 (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/federalist10) on
Wikisource. What do you think are Madison’s most and least compelling arguments?
How would different members of the new United States view his arguments?

Including all the state ratifying conventions around the country, a total of fewer than two thousand men
voted on whether to adopt the new plan of government. In the end, the Constitution only narrowly
won approval (Figure 7.17). In New York, the vote was thirty in favor to twenty-seven opposed. In
Massachusetts, the vote to approve was 187 to 168, and some claim supporters of the Constitution resorted
to bribes in order to ensure approval. Virginia ratified by a vote of eighty-nine to seventy-nine, and
Rhode Island by thirty-four to thirty-two. The opposition to the Constitution reflected the fears that a new
national government, much like the British monarchy, created too much centralized power and, as a result,
deprived citizens in the various states of the ability to make their own decisions.

Figure 7.17 The first page of the 1787 United States Constitution, shown here, begins: “We the People of the United
States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common
defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain
and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Click and Explore

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 209




checks and balances

Connecticut Compromise

conservative Whigs



Electoral College


majority rule



proportional representation

radical Whigs

three-fifths compromise


Key Terms

those who opposed the 1787 Constitution and favored stronger individual states

having two legislative houses, an upper and a lower house

the system that ensures a balance of power among the branches of government

also known as the Great Compromise, Roger Sherman’s proposal at the
Constitutional Convention for a bicameral legislature, with the upper house having equal representation
for all states and the lower house having proportional representation

the politically and economically elite revolutionary class that wanted to limit
political participation to a few powerful families

the legal status of married women in the United States, which included complete legal and
economic dependence on husbands

a system of government in which the majority rules

the mechanism by which electors, based on the number of representatives from each
state, choose the president

those who supported the 1787 Constitution and a strong central government; these advocates
of the new national government formed the ruling political party in the 1790s

a fundamental principle of democracy, providing that the majority should have the power
to make decisions binding upon the whole

the freeing of a slave by his or her owner

a form of government with a monarch at its head

representation that gives more populous states greater political power by
allowing them more representatives

revolutionaries who favored broadening participation in the political process

the agreement at the Constitutional Convention that each slave would count as
three-fifths of a white person for purposes of representation

having a single house (of legislative government)

7.1 Common Sense: From Monarchy to an American Republic
The guiding principle of republicanism was that the people themselves would appoint or select the
leaders who would represent them. The debate over how much democracy (majority rule) to incorporate
in the governing of the new United States raised questions about who was best qualified to participate
in government and have the right to vote. Revolutionary leaders argued that property holders had the
greatest stake in society and favored a republic that would limit political rights to property holders. In
this way, republicanism exhibited a bias toward the elite. George Washington served as a role model for
the new republic, embodying the exceptional talent and public virtue prized in its political and social

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7.2 How Much Revolutionary Change?
After the Revolution, the balance of power between women and men and between whites, blacks, and
Indians remained largely unchanged. Yet revolutionary principles, including the call for universal equality
in the Declaration of Independence, inspired and emboldened many. Abigail Adams and others pressed
for greater rights for women, while the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and New York Manumission
Society worked toward the abolition of slavery. Nonetheless, for blacks, women, and native peoples, the
revolutionary ideals of equality fell far short of reality. In the new republic, full citizenship—including the
right to vote—did not extend to nonwhites or to women.

7.3 Debating Democracy
The late 1770s and 1780s witnessed one of the most creative political eras as each state drafted its
own constitution. The Articles of Confederation, a weak national league among the states, reflected the
dominant view that power should be located in the states and not in a national government. However,
neither the state governments nor the Confederation government could solve the enormous economic
problems resulting from the long and costly Revolutionary War. The economic crisis led to Shays’
Rebellion by residents of western Massachusetts, and to the decision to revise the Confederation

7.4 The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution
The economic crisis of the 1780s, shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation, and outbreak of Shays’
Rebellion spurred delegates from twelve of the thirteen states to gather for the Constitutional Convention
of 1787. Although the stated purpose of the convention was to modify the Articles of Confederation, their
mission shifted to the building of a new, strong federal government. Federalists like James Madison and
Alexander Hamilton led the charge for a new United States Constitution, the document that endures as
the oldest written constitution in the world, a testament to the work done in 1787 by the delegates in

Review Questions
1. To what form of government did the American
revolutionaries turn after the war for

A. republicanism
B. monarchy
C. democracy
D. oligarchy

2. Which of the following was not one of
Franklin’s thirteen virtues?

A. sincerity
B. temperance
C. mercy
D. tranquility

3. What defined republicanism as a social

4. Which of the following figures did not actively
challenge the status of women in the early
American republic?

A. Abigail Adams
B. Phillis Wheatley
C. Mercy Otis Warren
D. Judith Sargent Murray

5. Which state had the clearest separation of
church and state?

A. New Hampshire
B. Pennsylvania
C. Virginia
D. New York

6. How would you characterize Thomas
Jefferson’s ideas on race and slavery?

Chapter 7 Creating Republican Governments, 1776–1790 211

7. Which of the following states had the most
democratic constitution in the 1780s?

A. Pennsylvania
B. Massachusetts
C. South Carolina
D. Maryland

8. Under the Articles of Confederation, what
power did the national Confederation Congress

A. the power to tax
B. the power to enforce foreign treaties
C. the power to enforce commercial trade

D. the power to create land ordinances

9. What were the primary causes of Shays’

10. Which plan resolved the issue of
representation for the U.S. Constitution?

A. the Rhode Island Agreement
B. the New Jersey Plan
C. the Connecticut Compromise
D. the Virginia Plan

11. How was the U.S. Constitution ratified?
A. by each state at special ratifying

B. at the Constitutional Convention of 1787
C. at the Confederation Convention
D. by popular referendum in each state

12. Explain the argument that led to the three-
fifths rule and the consequences of that rule.

Critical Thinking Questions
13. Describe the state constitutions that were more democratic and those that were less so. What effect
would these different constitutions have upon those states? Who could participate in government, whether
by voting or by holding public office? Whose interests were represented, and whose were compromised?

14. In what ways does the United States Constitution manifest the principles of both republican and
democratic forms of government? In what ways does it deviate from those principles?

15. In this chapter’s discussion of New York’s ratifying convention, Alexander Hamilton takes issue with
Anti-Federalist delegate Melancton Smith’s assertion that (as Hamilton says) “a pure democracy, if it were
practicable, would be the most perfect government.” What did Smith—and Hamilton—mean by “a pure
democracy”? How does this compare to the type of democracy that represents the modern United States?

16. Describe popular attitudes toward African Americans, women, and Indians in the wake of the
Revolution. In what ways did the established social and political order depend upon keeping members of
these groups in their circumscribed roles? If those roles were to change, how would American society and
politics have had to adjust?

17. How did the process of creating and ratifying the Constitution, and the language of the Constitution
itself, confirm the positions of African Americans, women, and Indians in the new republic? How did these
roles compare to the stated goals of the republic?

18. What were the circumstances that led to Shays’ Rebellion? What was the government’s response?
Would this response have confirmed or negated the grievances of the participants in the uprising? Why?

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Growing Pains: The New Republic,

Figure 8.1 “The happy Effects of the Grand Systom [sic] of shutting Ports against the English!!” appeared in 1808.
Less than a year earlier, Thomas Jefferson had recommended (and Congress had passed) the Embargo Act of 1807,
which barred American ships from leaving their ports.

Chapter Outline
8.1 Competing Visions: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans
8.2 The New American Republic
8.3 Partisan Politics
8.4 The United States Goes Back to War

The partisan political cartoon above (Figure 8.1) lampoons Thomas Jefferson’s 1807 Embargo Act, a
move that had a devastating effect on American commerce. American farmers and merchants complain to
President Jefferson, while the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte whispers to him, “You shall be King
hereafter.” This image illustrates one of many political struggles in the years after the fight for ratification
of the Constitution. In the nation’s first few years, no organized political parties existed. This began to
change as U.S. citizens argued bitterly about the proper size and scope of the new national government.
As a result, the 1790s witnessed the rise of opposing political parties: the Federalists and the Democratic-
Republicans. Federalists saw unchecked democracy as a dire threat to the republic, and they pointed to
the excesses of the French Revolution as proof of what awaited. Democratic-Republicans opposed the
Federalists’ notion that only the wellborn and well educated were able to oversee the republic; they saw it
as a pathway to oppression by an aristocracy.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 213

8.1 Competing Visions: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the competing visions of the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans
• Identify the protections granted to citizens under the Bill of Rights
• Explain Alexander Hamilton’s financial programs as secretary of the treasury

In June 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the federal Constitution, and the new plan
for a strong central government went into effect. Elections for the first U.S. Congress were held in 1788
and 1789, and members took their seats in March 1789. In a reflection of the trust placed in him as the
personification of republican virtue, George Washington became the first president in April 1789. John
Adams served as his vice president; the pairing of a representative from Virginia (Washington) with one
from Massachusetts (Adams) symbolized national unity. Nonetheless, political divisions quickly became
apparent. Washington and Adams represented the Federalist Party, which generated a backlash among
those who resisted the new government’s assertions of federal power.

Though the Revolution had overthrown British rule in the United States, supporters of the 1787 federal
constitution, known as Federalists, adhered to a decidedly British notion of social hierarchy. The
Federalists did not, at first, compose a political party. Instead, Federalists held certain shared assumptions.
For them, political participation continued to be linked to property rights, which barred many citizens
from voting or holding office. Federalists did not believe the Revolution had changed the traditional social
roles between women and men, or between whites and other races. They did believe in clear distinctions
in rank and intelligence. To these supporters of the Constitution, the idea that all were equal appeared
ludicrous. Women, blacks, and native peoples, they argued, had to know their place as secondary to white
male citizens. Attempts to impose equality, they feared, would destroy the republic. The United States was
not created to be a democracy.

Figure 8.2

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The architects of the Constitution committed themselves to leading the new republic, and they held a
majority among the members of the new national government. Indeed, as expected, many assumed the
new executive posts the first Congress created. Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton, a leading
Federalist, as secretary of the treasury. For secretary of state, he chose Thomas Jefferson. For secretary
of war, he appointed Henry Knox, who had served with him during the Revolutionary War. Edmond
Randolph, a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention, was named attorney general. In July 1789,
Congress also passed the Judiciary Act, creating a Supreme Court of six justices headed by those who were
committed to the new national government.

Congress passed its first major piece of legislation by placing a duty on imports under the 1789 Tariff
Act. Intended to raise revenue to address the country’s economic problems, the act was a victory for
nationalists, who favored a robust, powerful federal government and had worked unsuccessfully for
similar measures during the Confederation Congress in the 1780s. Congress also placed a fifty-cent-per-
ton duty (based on materials transported, not the weight of a ship) on foreign ships coming into American
ports, a move designed to give the commercial advantage to American ships and goods.

Many Americans opposed the 1787 Constitution because it seemed a dangerous concentration of
centralized power that threatened the rights and liberties of ordinary U.S. citizens. These opponents,
known collectively as Anti-Federalists, did not constitute a political party, but they united in demanding
protection for individual rights, and several states made the passing of a bill of rights a condition of their
acceptance of the Constitution. Rhode Island and North Carolina rejected the Constitution because it did
not already have this specific bill of rights.

Federalists followed through on their promise to add such a bill in 1789, when Virginia Representative
James Madison introduced and Congress approved the Bill of Rights (Table 8.1). Adopted in 1791, the bill
consisted of the first ten amendments to the Constitution and outlined many of the personal rights state
constitutions already guaranteed.

Table 8.1 Rights Protected by the First Ten Amendments

Amendment 1 Right to freedoms of religion and speech; right to assemble and to petition the
government for redress of grievances

Amendment 2 Right to keep and bear arms to maintain a well-regulated militia

Amendment 3 Right not to house soldiers during time of war

Amendment 4 Right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure

Amendment 5 Rights in criminal cases, including to due process and indictment by grand jury for
capital crimes, as well as the right not to testify against oneself

Amendment 6 Right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury

Amendment 7 Right to a jury trial in civil cases

Amendment 8 Right not to face excessive bail or fines, or cruel and unusual punishment

Amendment 9 Rights retained by the people, even if they are not specifically enumerated by the

Amendment 10 States’ rights to powers not specifically delegated to the federal government

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 215

The adoption of the Bill of Rights softened the Anti-Federalists’ opposition to the Constitution and gave
the new federal government greater legitimacy among those who otherwise distrusted the new centralized
power created by men of property during the secret 1787 Philadelphia Constitutional Convention.

Visit the National Archives (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/BillRights) to consider the
first ten amendments to the Constitution as an expression of the fears many citizens
harbored about the powers of the new federal government. What were these fears?
How did the Bill of Rights calm them?

Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s secretary of the treasury, was an ardent nationalist who believed a
strong federal government could solve many of the new country’s financial ills. Born in the West Indies,
Hamilton had worked on a St. Croix plantation as a teenager and was in charge of the accounts at a young
age. He knew the Atlantic trade very well and used that knowledge in setting policy for the United States.
In the early 1790s, he created the foundation for the U.S. financial system. He understood that a robust
federal government would provide a solid financial foundation for the country.

The United States began mired in debt. In 1789, when Hamilton took up his post, the federal debt was
over $53 million. The states had a combined debt of around $25 million, and the United States had been
unable to pay its debts in the 1780s and was therefore considered a credit risk by European countries.
Hamilton wrote three reports offering solutions to the economic crisis brought on by these problems. The
first addressed public credit, the second addressed banking, and the third addressed raising revenue.

The Report on Public Credit
For the national government to be effective, Hamilton deemed it essential to have the support of those to
whom it owed money: the wealthy, domestic creditor class as well as foreign creditors. In January 1790, he
delivered his “Report on Public Credit“ (Figure 8.3), addressing the pressing need of the new republic to
become creditworthy. He recommended that the new federal government honor all its debts, including all
paper money issued by the Confederation and the states during the war, at face value. Hamilton especially
wanted wealthy American creditors who held large amounts of paper money to be invested, literally, in
the future and welfare of the new national government. He also understood the importance of making the
new United States financially stable for creditors abroad. To pay these debts, Hamilton proposed that the
federal government sell bonds—federal interest-bearing notes—to the public. These bonds would have the
backing of the government and yield interest payments. Creditors could exchange their old notes for the
new government bonds. Hamilton wanted to give the paper money that states had issued during the war
the same status as government bonds; these federal notes would begin to yield interest payments in 1792.

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Figure 8.3 As the first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton (a), shown here in a 1792 portrait by John
Trumbull, released the “Report on Public Credit” (b) in January 1790.

Hamilton designed his “Report on Public Credit” (later called “First Report on Public Credit”) to ensure
the survival of the new and shaky American republic. He knew the importance of making the United States
financially reliable, secure, and strong, and his plan provided a blueprint to achieve that goal. He argued
that his plan would satisfy creditors, citing the goal of “doing justice to the creditors of the nation.” At
the same time, the plan would work “to promote the increasing respectability of the American name; to
answer the calls for justice; to restore landed property to its due value; to furnish new resources both to
agriculture and commerce; to cement more closely the union of the states; to add to their security against
foreign attack; to establish public order on the basis of upright and liberal policy.”

Hamilton’s program ignited a heated debate in Congress. A great many of both Confederation and state
notes had found their way into the hands of speculators, who had bought them from hard-pressed
veterans in the 1780s and paid a fraction of their face value in anticipation of redeeming them at full value
at a later date. Because these speculators held so many notes, many in Congress objected that Hamilton’s
plan would benefit them at the expense of the original note-holders. One of those who opposed Hamilton’s
1790 report was James Madison, who questioned the fairness of a plan that seemed to cheat poor soldiers.

Not surprisingly, states with a large debt, like South Carolina, supported Hamilton’s plan, while states
with less debt, like North Carolina, did not. To gain acceptance of his plan, Hamilton worked out a
compromise with Virginians Madison and Jefferson, whereby in return for their support he would give up
New York City as the nation’s capital and agree on a more southern location, which they preferred. In July
1790, a site along the Potomac River was selected as the new “federal city,” which became the District of

Hamilton’s plan to convert notes to bonds worked extremely well to restore European confidence in the
U.S. economy. It also proved a windfall for creditors, especially those who had bought up state and
Confederation notes at far less than face value. But it immediately generated controversy about the size
and scope of the government. Some saw the plan as an unjust use of federal power, while Hamilton argued
that Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution granted the government “implied powers” that gave the green
light to his program.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 217

The Report on a National Bank
As secretary of the treasury, Hamilton hoped to stabilize the American economy further by establishing a
national bank. The United States operated with a flurry of different notes from multiple state banks and
no coherent regulation. By proposing that the new national bank buy up large volumes of state bank notes
and demanding their conversion into gold, Hamilton especially wanted to discipline those state banks that
issued paper money irresponsibly. To that end, he delivered his “Report on a National Bank” in December
1790, proposing a Bank of the United States, an institution modeled on the Bank of England. The bank
would issue loans to American merchants and bills of credit (federal bank notes that would circulate as
money) while serving as a repository of government revenue from the sale of land. Stockholders would
own the bank, along with the federal government.

Like the recommendations in his “Report on Public Credit,” Hamilton’s bank proposal generated
opposition. Jefferson, in particular, argued that the Constitution did not permit the creation of a national
bank. In response, Hamilton again invoked the Constitution’s implied powers. President Washington
backed Hamilton’s position and signed legislation creating the bank in 1791.

The Report on Manufactures
The third report Hamilton delivered to Congress, known as the “Report on Manufactures,” addressed
the need to raise revenue to pay the interest on the national debt. Using the power to tax as provided
under the Constitution, Hamilton put forth a proposal to tax American-made whiskey. He also knew the
importance of promoting domestic manufacturing so the new United States would no longer have to rely
on imported manufactured goods. To break from the old colonial system, Hamilton therefore advocated
tariffs on all foreign imports to stimulate the production of American-made goods. To promote domestic
industry further, he proposed federal subsidies to American industries. Like all of Hamilton’s programs,
the idea of government involvement in the development of American industries was new.

With the support of Washington, the entire Hamiltonian economic program received the necessary
support in Congress to be implemented. In the long run, Hamilton’s financial program helped to rescue the
United States from its state of near-bankruptcy in the late 1780s. His initiatives marked the beginning of an
American capitalism, making the republic creditworthy, promoting commerce, and setting for the nation
a solid financial foundation. His policies also facilitated the growth of the stock market, as U.S. citizens
bought and sold the federal government’s interest-bearing certificates.

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson felt the federal government had overstepped its authority by
adopting the treasury secretary’s plan. Madison found Hamilton’s scheme immoral and offensive. He
argued that it turned the reins of government over to the class of speculators who profited at the expense
of hardworking citizens.

Jefferson, who had returned to the United States in 1790 after serving as a diplomat in France, tried
unsuccessfully to convince Washington to block the creation of a national bank. He also took issue with
what he perceived as favoritism given to commercial classes in the principal American cities. He thought
urban life widened the gap between the wealthy few and an underclass of landless poor workers who,
because of their oppressed condition, could never be good republican property owners. Rural areas, in
contrast, offered far more opportunities for property ownership and virtue. In 1783 Jefferson wrote, “Those
who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people.” Jefferson believed
that self-sufficient, property-owning republican citizens or yeoman farmers held the key to the success and
longevity of the American republic. (As a creature of his times, he did not envision a similar role for either
women or nonwhite men.) To him, Hamilton’s program seemed to encourage economic inequalities and
work against the ordinary American yeoman.

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Opposition to Hamilton, who had significant power in the new federal government, including the ear of
President Washington, began in earnest in the early 1790s. Jefferson turned to his friend Philip Freneau to
help organize the effort through the publication of the National Gazette as a counter to the Federalist press,
especially the Gazette of the United States (Figure 8.4). From 1791 until 1793, when it ceased publication,
Freneau’s partisan paper attacked Hamilton’s program and Washington’s administration. “Rules for
Changing a Republic into a Monarchy,” written by Freneau, is an example of the type of attack aimed at the
national government, and especially at the elitism of the Federalist Party. Newspapers in the 1790s became
enormously important in American culture as partisans like Freneau attempted to sway public opinion.
These newspapers did not aim to be objective; instead, they served to broadcast the views of a particular

Figure 8.4 Here, the front page of the Federalist Gazette of the United States from September 9, 1789 (a), is shown
beside that of the oppositional National Gazette from November 14, 1791 (b). The Gazette of the United States
featured articles, sometimes written pseudonymously or anonymously, from leading Federalists like Alexander
Hamilton and John Adams. The National Gazette was founded two years later to counter their political influence.

Visit Lexrex.com (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/NatGazette) to read Philip Freneau’s
essay and others from the National Gazette. Can you identify three instances of
persuasive writing against the Federalist Party or the government?

Opposition to the Federalists led to the formation of Democratic-Republican societies, composed of men
who felt the domestic policies of the Washington administration were designed to enrich the few while
ignoring everyone else. Democratic-Republicans championed limited government. Their fear of

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centralized power originated in the experience of the 1760s and 1770s when the distant, overbearing,
and seemingly corrupt British Parliament attempted to impose its will on the colonies. The 1787 federal
constitution, written in secret by fifty-five wealthy men of property and standing, ignited fears of a similar
menacing plot. To opponents, the Federalists promoted aristocracy and a monarchical government—a
betrayal of what many believed to be the goal of the American Revolution.

While wealthy merchants and planters formed the core of the Federalist leadership, members of the
Democratic-Republican societies in cities like Philadelphia and New York came from the ranks of artisans.
These citizens saw themselves as acting in the spirit of 1776, this time not against the haughty British but
by what they believed to have replaced them—a commercial class with no interest in the public good.
Their political efforts against the Federalists were a battle to preserve republicanism, to promote the public
good against private self-interest. They published their views, held meetings to voice their opposition,
and sponsored festivals and parades. In their strident newspapers attacks, they also worked to undermine
the traditional forms of deference and subordination to aristocrats, in this case the Federalist elites. Some
members of northern Democratic-Republican clubs denounced slavery as well.

While questions regarding the proper size and scope of the new national government created a divide
among Americans and gave rise to political parties, a consensus existed among men on the issue of who
qualified and who did not qualify as a citizen. The 1790 Naturalization Act defined citizenship in stark
racial terms. To be a citizen of the American republic, an immigrant had to be a “free white person” of
“good character.” By excluding slaves, free blacks, Indians, and Asians from citizenship, the act laid the
foundation for the United States as a republic of white men.

Full citizenship that included the right to vote was restricted as well. Many state constitutions directed
that only male property owners or taxpayers could vote. For women, the right to vote remained out of
reach except in the state of New Jersey. In 1776, the fervor of the Revolution led New Jersey revolutionaries
to write a constitution extending the right to vote to unmarried women who owned property worth
£50. Federalists and Democratic-Republicans competed for the votes of New Jersey women who met the
requirements to cast ballots. This radical innovation continued until 1807, when New Jersey restricted
voting to free white males.

8.2 The New American Republic

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the major foreign and domestic uprisings of the early 1790s
• Explain the effect of these uprisings on the political system of the United States

The colonies’ alliance with France, secured after the victory at Saratoga in 1777, proved crucial in their
victory against the British, and during the 1780s France and the new United States enjoyed a special
relationship. Together they had defeated their common enemy, Great Britain. But despite this shared
experience, American opinions regarding France diverged sharply in the 1790s when France underwent its
own revolution. Democratic-Republicans seized on the French revolutionaries’ struggle against monarchy
as the welcome harbinger of a larger republican movement around the world. To the Federalists, however,
the French Revolution represented pure anarchy, especially after the execution of the French king in 1793.
Along with other foreign and domestic uprisings, the French Revolution helped harden the political divide
in the United States in the early 1790s.

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The French Revolution, which began in 1789, further split American thinkers into different ideological
camps, deepening the political divide between Federalists and their Democratic-Republican foes. At first,
in 1789 and 1790, the revolution in France appeared to most in the United States as part of a new chapter
in the rejection of corrupt monarchy, a trend inspired by the American Revolution. A constitutional
monarchy replaced the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI in 1791, and in 1792, France was declared a
republic. Republican liberty, the creed of the United States, seemed to be ushering in a new era in France.
Indeed, the American Revolution served as an inspiration for French revolutionaries.

The events of 1793 and 1794 challenged the simple interpretation of the French Revolution as a happy
chapter in the unfolding triumph of republican government over monarchy. The French king was executed
in January 1793 (Figure 8.5), and the next two years became known as the Terror, a period of extreme
violence against perceived enemies of the revolutionary government. Revolutionaries advocated direct
representative democracy, dismantled Catholicism, replaced that religion with a new philosophy known
as the Cult of the Supreme Being, renamed the months of the year, and relentlessly employed the guillotine
against their enemies. Federalists viewed these excesses with growing alarm, fearing that the radicalism
of the French Revolution might infect the minds of citizens at home. Democratic-Republicans interpreted
the same events with greater optimism, seeing them as a necessary evil of eliminating the monarchy and
aristocratic culture that supported the privileges of a hereditary class of rulers.

Figure 8.5 An image from a 1791 Hungarian journal depicts the beheading of Louis XVI during the French
Revolution. The violence of the revolutionary French horrified many in the United States—especially Federalists, who
saw it as an example of what could happen when the mob gained political control and instituted direct democracy.

The controversy in the United States intensified when France declared war on Great Britain and Holland
in February 1793. France requested that the United States make a large repayment of the money it had
borrowed from France to fund the Revolutionary War. However, Great Britain would judge any aid
given to France as a hostile act. Washington declared the United States neutral in 1793, but Democratic-
Republican groups denounced neutrality and declared their support of the French republicans. The
Federalists used the violence of the French revolutionaries as a reason to attack Democratic-Republicanism
in the United States, arguing that Jefferson and Madison would lead the country down a similarly
disastrous path.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 221

Visit Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/revolution) for
images, texts, and songs relating to the French Revolution. This momentous event’s
impact extended far beyond Europe, influencing politics in the United States and
elsewhere in the Atlantic World.

In 1793, the revolutionary French government sent Edmond-Charles Genêt to the United States to
negotiate an alliance with the U.S. government. France empowered Genêt to issue letters of
marque—documents authorizing ships and their crews to engage in piracy—to allow him to arm captured
British ships in American ports with U.S. soldiers. Genêt arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, amid
great Democratic-Republican fanfare. He immediately began commissioning American privateer ships
and organizing volunteer American militias to attack Spanish holdings in the Americas, then traveled to
Philadelphia, gathering support for the French cause along the way. President Washington and Hamilton
denounced Genêt, knowing his actions threatened to pull the United States into a war with Great Britain.
The Citizen Genêt affair, as it became known, spurred Great Britain to instruct its naval commanders in
the West Indies to seize all ships trading with the French. The British captured hundreds of American ships
and their cargoes, increasing the possibility of war between the two countries.

In this tense situation, Great Britain worked to prevent a wider conflict by ending its seizure of American
ships and offered to pay for captured cargoes. Hamilton saw an opportunity and recommended to
Washington that the United States negotiate. Supreme Court Justice John Jay was sent to Britain, instructed
by Hamilton to secure compensation for captured American ships; ensure the British leave the Northwest
outposts they still occupied despite the 1783 Treaty of Paris; and gain an agreement for American trade
in the West Indies. Even though Jay personally disliked slavery, his mission also required him to seek
compensation from the British for slaves who left with the British at the end of the Revolutionary War.

The resulting 1794 agreement, known as Jay’s Treaty, fulfilled most of his original goals. The British would
turn over the frontier posts in the Northwest, American ships would be allowed to trade freely in the
West Indies, and the United States agreed to assemble a commission charged with settling colonial debts
U.S. citizens owed British merchants. The treaty did not address the important issue of impressment,
however—the British navy’s practice of forcing or “impressing” American sailors to work and fight on
British warships. Jay’s Treaty led the Spanish, who worried that it signaled an alliance between the United
States and Great Britain, to negotiate a treaty of their own—Pinckney’s Treaty—that allowed American
commerce to flow through the Spanish port of New Orleans. Pinckney’s Treaty allowed American farmers,
who were moving in greater numbers to the Ohio River Valley, to ship their products down the Ohio and
Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, where they could be transported to East Coast markets.

Jay’s Treaty confirmed the fears of Democratic-Republicans, who saw it as a betrayal of republican France,
cementing the idea that the Federalists favored aristocracy and monarchy. Partisan American newspapers
tried to sway public opinion, while the skillful writing of Hamilton, who published a number of essays on
the subject, explained the benefits of commerce with Great Britain.

Unlike the American Revolution, which ultimately strengthened the institution of slavery and the powers
of American slaveholders, the French Revolution inspired slave rebellions in the Caribbean, including

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a 1791 slave uprising in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Thousands of slaves
joined together to overthrow the brutal system of slavery. They took control of a large section of the island,
burning sugar plantations and killing the white planters who had forced them to labor under the lash.

In 1794, French revolutionaries abolished slavery in the French empire, and both Spain and England
attacked Saint-Domingue, hoping to add the colony to their own empires. Toussaint L’Ouverture, a former
domestic slave, emerged as the leader in the fight against Spain and England to secure a Haiti free of
slavery and further European colonialism. Because revolutionary France had abolished slavery, Toussaint
aligned himself with France, hoping to keep Spain and England at bay (Figure 8.6).

Figure 8.6 An 1802 portrait shows Toussaint L’Ouverture, “Chef des Noirs Insurgés de Saint Domingue” (“Leader of
the Black Insurgents of Saint Domingue”), mounted and armed in an elaborate uniform.

Events in Haiti further complicated the partisan wrangling in the United States. White refugee planters
from Haiti and other French West Indian islands, along with slaves and free people of color, left the
Caribbean for the United States and for Louisiana, which at the time was held by Spain. The presence
of these French migrants raised fears, especially among Federalists, that they would bring the contagion
of French radicalism to the United States. In addition, the idea that the French Revolution could inspire
a successful slave uprising just off the American coastline filled southern whites and slaveholders with

While the wars in France and the Caribbean divided American citizens, a major domestic test of the new
national government came in 1794 over the issue of a tax on whiskey, an important part of Hamilton’s
financial program. In 1791, Congress had authorized a tax of 7.5 cents per gallon of whiskey and rum.
Although most citizens paid without incident, trouble erupted in four western Pennsylvania counties in
an uprising known as the Whiskey Rebellion.

Farmers in the western counties of Pennsylvania produced whiskey from their grain for economic reasons.
Without adequate roads or other means to transport a bulky grain harvest, these farmers distilled their
grains into gin and whiskey, which were more cost-effective to transport. Since these farmers depended on
the sale of whiskey, some citizens in western Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) viewed the new tax as further
proof that the new national government favored the commercial classes on the eastern seaboard at the
expense of farmers in the West. On the other hand, supporters of the tax argued that it helped stabilize

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 223

the economy and its cost could easily be passed on to the consumer, not the farmer-distiller. However,
in the spring and summer months of 1794, angry citizens rebelled against the federal officials in charge
of enforcing the federal excise law. Like the Sons of Liberty before the American Revolution, the whiskey
rebels used violence and intimidation to protest policies they saw as unfair. They tarred and feathered
federal officials, intercepted the federal mail, and intimidated wealthy citizens (Figure 8.7). The extent
of their discontent found expression in their plan to form an independent western commonwealth, and
they even began negotiations with British and Spanish representatives, hoping to secure their support for
independence from the United States. The rebels also contacted their backcountry neighbors in Kentucky
and South Carolina, circulating the idea of secession.

Figure 8.7 This painting, attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer ca. 1795, depicts the massive force George
Washington led to put down the Whiskey Rebellion of the previous year. Federalists made clear they would not
tolerate mob action.

With their emphasis on personal freedoms, the whiskey rebels aligned themselves with the Democratic-
Republican Party. They saw the tax as part of a larger Federalist plot to destroy their republican liberty
and, in its most extreme interpretation, turn the United States into a monarchy. The federal government
lowered the tax, but when federal officials tried to subpoena those distillers who remained intractable,
trouble escalated. Washington responded by creating a thirteen-thousand-man militia, drawn from several
states, to put down the rebellion. This force made it known, both domestically and to the European powers
that looked on in anticipation of the new republic’s collapse, that the national government would do
everything in its power to ensure the survival of the United States.

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Alexander Hamilton: “Shall the majority govern or be
Alexander Hamilton frequently wrote persuasive essays under pseudonyms, like “Tully,” as he does here.
In this 1794 essay, Hamilton denounces the whiskey rebels and majority rule.

It has been observed that the means most likely to be employed to turn the insurrection in the
western country to the detriment of the government, would be artfully calculated among other
things ‘to divert your attention from the true question to be decided.’
Let us see then what is this question. It is plainly this—shall the majority govern or be
governed? shall the nation rule, or be ruled? shall the general will prevail, or the will of a
faction? shall there be government, or no government? . . .
The Constitution you have ordained for yourselves and your posterity contains this express
clause, ‘The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and Excises,
to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United
States.’ You have then, by a solemn and deliberate act, the most important and sacred that
a nation can perform, pronounced and decreed, that your Representatives in Congress shall
have power to lay Excises. You have done nothing since to reverse or impair that decree. . . .
But the four western counties of Pennsylvania, undertake to rejudge and reverse your
decrees, you have said, ‘The Congress shall have power to lay Excises.’ They say, ‘The
Congress shall not have this power.’ . . .
There is no road to despotism more sure or more to be dreaded than that which begins at
—Alexander Hamilton’s “Tully No. II” for the American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, August
26, 1794

What are the major arguments put forward by Hamilton in this document? Who do you think his audience

Relationships with Indians were a significant problem for Washington’s administration, but one on which
white citizens agreed: Indians stood in the way of white settlement and, as the 1790 Naturalization Act
made clear, were not citizens. After the War of Independence, white settlers poured into lands west of the
Appalachian Mountains. As a result, from 1785 to 1795, a state of war existed on the frontier between these
settlers and the Indians who lived in the Ohio territory. In both 1790 and 1791, the Shawnee and Miami
had defended their lands against the whites who arrived in greater and greater numbers from the East.
In response, Washington appointed General Anthony Wayne to bring the Western Confederacy—a loose
alliance of tribes—to heel. In 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne was victorious. With the 1795
Treaty of Greenville (Figure 8.8), the Western Confederacy gave up their claims to Ohio.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 225

Figure 8.8 Notice the contrasts between the depictions of federal and native representatives in this painting of the
signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. What message or messages did the artist intend to convey?

8.3 Partisan Politics

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify key examples of partisan wrangling between the Federalists and Democratic-

• Describe how foreign relations affected American politics
• Assess the importance of the Louisiana Purchase

George Washington, who had been reelected in 1792 by an overwhelming majority, refused to run for
a third term, thus setting a precedent for future presidents. In the presidential election of 1796, the
two parties—Federalist and Democratic-Republican—competed for the first time. Partisan rancor over
the French Revolution and the Whiskey Rebellion fueled the divide between them, and Federalist John
Adams defeated his Democratic-Republican rival Thomas Jefferson by a narrow margin of only three
electoral votes. In 1800, another close election swung the other way, and Jefferson began a long period of
Democratic-Republican government.

The war between Great Britain and France in the 1790s shaped U.S. foreign policy. As a new and, in
comparison to the European powers, extremely weak nation, the American republic had no control over
European events, and no real leverage to obtain its goals of trading freely in the Atlantic. To Federalist
president John Adams, relations with France posed the biggest problem. After the Terror, the French
Directory ruled France from 1795 to 1799. During this time, Napoleon rose to power.

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The Art of Ralph Earl
Ralph Earl was an eighteenth-century American artist, born in Massachusetts, who remained loyal to the
British during the Revolutionary War. He fled to England in 1778, but he returned to New England in the
mid-1780s and began painting portraits of leading Federalists.

His portrait of Connecticut Federalist Oliver Ellsworth and his wife Abigail conveys the world as
Federalists liked to view it: an orderly landscape administered by men of property and learning. His
portrait of dry goods merchant Elijah Boardman shows Boardman as well-to-do and highly cultivated; his
books include the works of Shakespeare and Milton (Figure 8.9).

Figure 8.9 Ralph Earl’s portraits are known for placing their subjects in an orderly world, as seen here
in the 1801 portrait of Oliver and Abigail Wolcott Ellsworth (a) and the 1789 portrait of Elijah Boardman

What similarities do you see in the two portraits by Ralph Earl? What do the details of each portrait reveal
about the sitters? About the artist and the 1790s?

Because France and Great Britain were at war, the French Directory issued decrees stating that any ship
carrying British goods could be seized on the high seas. In practice, this meant the French would target
American ships, especially those in the West Indies, where the United States conducted a brisk trade with
the British. France declared its 1778 treaty with the United States null and void, and as a result, France and
the United States waged an undeclared war—or what historians refer to as the Quasi-War—from 1796 to
1800. Between 1797 and 1799, the French seized 834 American ships, and Adams urged the buildup of the
U.S. Navy, which consisted of only a single vessel at the time of his election in 1796 (Figure 8.10).

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 227

Figure 8.10 This 1799 print, entitled “Preparation for WAR to defend Commerce,” shows the construction of a naval
ship, part of the effort to ensure the United States had access to free trade in the Atlantic world.

In 1797, Adams sought a diplomatic solution to the conflict with France and dispatched envoys to
negotiate terms. The French foreign minister, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, sent emissaries who told the
American envoys that the United States must repay all outstanding debts owed to France, lend France 32
million guilders (Dutch currency), and pay a £50,000 bribe before any negotiations could take place. News
of the attempt to extract a bribe, known as the XYZ affair because the French emissaries were referred to as
X, Y, and Z in letters that President Adams released to Congress, outraged the American public and turned
public opinion decidedly against France (Figure 8.11). In the court of public opinion, Federalists appeared
to have been correct in their interpretation of France, while the pro-French Democratic-Republicans had
been misled.

Figure 8.11 This anonymous 1798 cartoon, Property Protected à la Françoise, satirizes the XYZ affair. Five
Frenchmen are shown plundering the treasures of a woman representing the United States. One man holds a sword
labeled “French Argument” and a sack of gold and riches labeled “National Sack and Diplomatic Perquisites,” while
the others collect her valuables. A group of other Europeans look on and commiserate that France treated them the
same way.

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Read the “transcript” of the above cartoon in the America in Caricature, 1765–1865
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/cartoon) collection at Indiana University’s Lilly Library.

The complicated situation in Haiti, which remained a French colony in the late 1790s, also came to the
attention of President Adams. The president, with the support of Congress, had created a U.S. Navy that
now included scores of vessels. Most of the American ships cruised the Caribbean, giving the United States
the edge over France in the region. In Haiti, the rebellion leader Toussaint, who had to contend with
various domestic rivals seeking to displace him, looked to end an U.S. embargo on France and its colonies,
put in place in 1798, so that his forces would receive help to deal with the civil unrest. In early 1799, in
order to capitalize upon trade in the lucrative West Indies and undermine France’s hold on the island,
Congress ended the ban on trade with Haiti—a move that acknowledged Toussaint’s leadership, to the
horror of American slaveholders. Toussaint was able to secure an independent black republic in Haiti by

The surge of animosity against France during the Quasi-War led Congress to pass several measures that
in time undermined Federalist power. These 1798 war measures, known as the Alien and Sedition Acts,
aimed to increase national security against what most had come to regard as the French menace. The Alien
Act and the Alien Enemies Act took particular aim at French immigrants fleeing the West Indies by giving
the president the power to deport new arrivals who appeared to be a threat to national security. The act
expired in 1800 with no immigrants having been deported. The Sedition Act imposed harsh penalties—up
to five years’ imprisonment and a massive fine of $5,000 in 1790 dollars—on those convicted of speaking
or writing “in a scandalous or malicious” manner against the government of the United States. Twenty-
five men, all Democratic-Republicans, were indicted under the act, and ten were convicted. One of these
was Congressman Matthew Lyon (Figure 8.12), representative from Vermont, who had launched his own
newspaper, The Scourge Of Aristocracy and Repository of Important Political Truth.

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Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 229



Figure 8.12 This 1798 cartoon, “Congressional Pugilists,” shows partisan chaos in the U.S. House of
Representatives as Matthew Lyon, a Democratic-Republican from Vermont, holds forth against his opponent,
Federalist Roger Griswold.

The Alien and Sedition Acts raised constitutional questions about the freedom of the press provided under
the First Amendment. Democratic-Republicans argued that the acts were evidence of the Federalists’ intent
to squash individual liberties and, by enlarging the powers of the national government, crush states’
rights. Jefferson and Madison mobilized the response to the acts in the form of statements known as the
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which argued that the acts were illegal and unconstitutional. The
resolutions introduced the idea of nullification, the right of states to nullify acts of Congress, and advanced
the argument of states’ rights. The resolutions failed to rally support in other states, however. Indeed, most
other states rejected them, citing the necessity of a strong national government.

The Quasi-War with France came to an end in 1800, when President Adams was able to secure the Treaty
of Mortefontaine. His willingness to open talks with France divided the Federalist Party, but the treaty
reopened trade between the two countries and ended the French practice of taking American ships on the
high seas.

The Revolution of 1800 refers to the first transfer of power from one party to another in American
history, when the presidency passed to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson (Figure 8.13) in the
1800 election. The peaceful transition calmed contemporary fears about possible violent reactions to a new
party’s taking the reins of government. The passing of political power from one political party to another
without bloodshed also set an important precedent.

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Figure 8.13 Thomas Jefferson’s victory in 1800 signaled the ascendency of the Democratic-Republicans and the
decline of Federalist power.

The election did prove even more divisive than the 1796 election, however, as both the Federalist and
Democratic-Republican Parties waged a mudslinging campaign unlike any seen before. Because the
Federalists were badly divided, the Democratic-Republicans gained political ground. Alexander Hamilton,
who disagreed with President Adams’s approach to France, wrote a lengthy letter, meant for people within
his party, attacking his fellow Federalist’s character and judgment and ridiculing his handling of foreign
affairs. Democratic-Republicans got hold of and happily reprinted the letter.

Jefferson viewed participatory democracy as a positive force for the republic, a direct departure from
Federalist views. His version of participatory democracy only extended, however, to the white yeoman
farmers in whom Jefferson placed great trust. While Federalist statesmen, like the architects of the 1787
federal constitution, feared a pure democracy, Jefferson was far more optimistic that the common
American farmer could be trusted to make good decisions. He believed in majority rule, that is, that
the majority of yeoman should have the power to make decisions binding upon the whole. Jefferson
had cheered the French Revolution, even when the French republic instituted the Terror to ensure the
monarchy would not return. By 1799, however, he had rejected the cause of France because of his
opposition to Napoleon’s seizure of power and creation of a dictatorship.

Over the course of his two terms as president—he was reelected in 1804—Jefferson reversed the policies
of the Federalist Party by turning away from urban commercial development. Instead, he promoted
agriculture through the sale of western public lands in small and affordable lots. Perhaps Jefferson’s most
lasting legacy is his vision of an “empire of liberty.” He distrusted cities and instead envisioned a rural
republic of land-owning white men, or yeoman republican farmers. He wanted the United States to be the
breadbasket of the world, exporting its agricultural commodities without suffering the ills of urbanization
and industrialization. Since American yeomen would own their own land, they could stand up against
those who might try to buy their votes with promises of property. Jefferson championed the rights of states
and insisted on limited federal government as well as limited taxes. This stood in stark contrast to the
Federalists’ insistence on a strong, active federal government. Jefferson also believed in fiscal austerity. He
pushed for—and Congress approved—the end of all internal taxes, such as those on whiskey and rum.
The most significant trimming of the federal budget came at the expense of the military; Jefferson did not
believe in maintaining a costly military, and he slashed the size of the navy Adams had worked to build
up. Nonetheless, Jefferson responded to the capture of American ships and sailors by pirates off the coast
of North Africa by leading the United States into war against the Muslim Barbary States in 1801, the first
conflict fought by Americans overseas.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 231

The slow decline of the Federalists, which began under Jefferson, led to a period of one-party rule in
national politics. Historians call the years between 1815 and 1828 the “Era of Good Feelings” and highlight
the “Virginia dynasty” of the time, since the two presidents who followed Jefferson—James Madison
and James Monroe—both hailed from his home state. Like him, they owned slaves and represented
the Democratic-Republican Party. Though Federalists continued to enjoy popularity, especially in the
Northeast, their days of prominence in setting foreign and domestic policy had ended.

The earliest years of the nineteenth century were hardly free of problems between the two political parties.
Early in Jefferson’s term, controversy swirled over President Adams’s judicial appointments of many
Federalists during his final days in office. When Jefferson took the oath of office, he refused to have the
commissions for these Federalist justices delivered to the appointed officials.

One of Adams’s appointees, William Marbury, had been selected to be a justice of the peace in the District
of Columbia, and when his commission did not arrive, he petitioned the Supreme Court for an explanation
from Jefferson’s secretary of state, James Madison. In deciding the case, Marbury v. Madison, in 1803, Chief
Justice John Marshall agreed that Marbury had the right to a legal remedy, establishing that individuals
had rights even the president of the United States could not abridge. However, Marshall also found that
Congress’s Judicial Act of 1789, which would have given the Supreme Court the power to grant Marbury
remedy, was unconstitutional because the Constitution did not allow for cases like Marbury’s to come
directly before the Supreme Court. Thus, Marshall established the principle of judicial review, which
strengthened the court by asserting its power to review (and possibly nullify) the actions of Congress and
the president. Jefferson was not pleased, but neither did Marbury get his commission.

The animosity between the political parties exploded into open violence in 1804, when Aaron Burr,
Jefferson’s first vice president, and Alexander Hamilton engaged in a duel. When Democratic-Republican
Burr lost his bid for the office of governor of New York, he was quick to blame Hamilton, who had long
hated him and had done everything in his power to discredit him. On July 11, the two antagonists met
in Weehawken, New Jersey, to exchange bullets in a duel in which Burr shot and mortally wounded

Jefferson, who wanted to expand the United States to bring about his “empire of liberty,” realized his
greatest triumph in 1803 when the United States bought the Louisiana territory from France. For $15
million—a bargain price, considering the amount of land involved—the United States doubled in size.
Perhaps the greatest real estate deal in American history, the Louisiana Purchase greatly enhanced the
Jeffersonian vision of the United States as an agrarian republic in which yeomen farmers worked the land.
Jefferson also wanted to bolster trade in the West, seeing the port of New Orleans and the Mississippi
River (then the western boundary of the United States) as crucial to American agricultural commerce. In
his mind, farmers would send their produce down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, where it would
be sold to European traders.

The purchase of Louisiana came about largely because of circumstances beyond Jefferson’s control, though
he certainly recognized the implications of the transaction. Until 1801, Spain had controlled New Orleans
and had given the United States the right to traffic goods in the port without paying customs duties. That
year, however, the Spanish had ceded Louisiana (and New Orleans) to France. In 1802, the United States
lost its right to deposit goods free in the port, causing outrage among many, some of whom called for war
with France.

Jefferson instructed Robert Livingston, the American envoy to France, to secure access to New Orleans,
sending James Monroe to France to add additional pressure. The timing proved advantageous. Because
black slaves in the French colony of Haiti had successfully overthrown the brutal plantation regime,
Napoleon could no longer hope to restore the empire lost with France’s defeat in the French and Indian

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War (1754–1763). His vision of Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley as the source for food for Haiti, the
most profitable sugar island in the world, had failed. The emperor therefore agreed to the sale in early

Explore the collected maps and documents relating to the Louisiana Purchase and its
history at the Library of Congress (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/LaPurchase) site.

The true extent of the United States’ new territory remained unknown (Figure 8.14). Would it provide the
long-sought quick access to Asian markets? Geographical knowledge was limited; indeed, no one knew
precisely what lay to the west or how long it took to travel from the Mississippi to the Pacific. Jefferson
selected two fellow Virginians, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to lead an expedition to the new
western lands. Their purpose was to discover the commercial possibilities of the new land and, most
importantly, potential trade routes. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis and Clark traversed the West.

Figure 8.14 This 1804 map (a) shows the territory added to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Compare this depiction to the contemporary map (b). How does the 1804 version differ from what you know of the
geography of the United States?

The Louisiana Purchase helped Jefferson win reelection in 1804 by a landslide. Of 176 electoral votes
cast, all but 14 were in his favor. The great expansion of the United States did have its critics, however,
especially northerners who feared the addition of more slave states and a corresponding lack of

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Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 233


representation of their interests in the North. And under a strict interpretation of the Constitution, it
remained unclear whether the president had the power to add territory in this fashion. But the vast
majority of citizens cheered the increase in the size of the republic. For slaveholders, new western lands
would be a boon; for slaves, the Louisiana Purchase threatened to entrench their suffering further.

8.4 The United States Goes Back to War

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the causes and consequences of the War of 1812
• Identify the important events of the War of 1812 and explain their significance

The origins of the War of 1812, often called the Second War of American Independence, are found in the
unresolved issues between the United States and Great Britain. One major cause was the British practice
of impressment, whereby American sailors were taken at sea and forced to fight on British warships; this
issue was left unresolved by Jay’s Treaty in 1794. In addition, the British in Canada supported Indians
in their fight against further U.S. expansion in the Great Lakes region. Though Jefferson wanted to avoid
what he called “entangling alliances,” staying neutral proved impossible.

France and England, engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, which raged between 1803 and 1815, both declared
open season on American ships, which they seized on the high seas. England was the major offender, since
the Royal Navy, following a time-honored practice, “impressed” American sailors by forcing them into its
service. The issue came to a head in 1807 when the HMS Leopard, a British warship, fired on a U.S. naval
ship, the Chesapeake, off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. The British then boarded the ship and took four
sailors. Jefferson chose what he thought was the best of his limited options and responded to the crisis
through the economic means of a sweeping ban on trade, the Embargo Act of 1807. This law prohibited
American ships from leaving their ports until Britain and France stopped seizing them on the high seas.
As a result of the embargo, American commerce came to a near-total halt.

The logic behind the embargo was that cutting off all trade would so severely hurt Britain and France that
the seizures at sea would end. However, while the embargo did have some effect on the British economy,
it was American commerce that actually felt the brunt of the impact (Figure 8.15). The embargo hurt
American farmers, who could no longer sell their goods overseas, and seaport cities experienced a huge
increase in unemployment and an uptick in bankruptcies. All told, American business activity declined by
75 percent from 1808 to 1809.

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Figure 8.15 In this political cartoon from 1807, a snapping turtle (holding a shipping license) grabs a smuggler in the
act of sneaking a barrel of sugar to a British ship. The smuggler cries, “Oh, this cursed Ograbme!” (“Ograbme” is
“embargo” spelled backwards.)

Enforcement of the embargo proved very difficult, especially in the states bordering British Canada.
Smuggling was widespread; Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont, for example, earned its name from illegal trade
with British Canada. Jefferson attributed the problems with the embargo to lax enforcement.

At the very end of his second term, Jefferson signed the Non-Intercourse Act of 1808, lifting the unpopular
embargoes on trade except with Britain and France. In the election of 1808, American voters elected
another Democratic-Republican, James Madison. Madison inherited Jefferson’s foreign policy issues
involving Britain and France. Most people in the United States, especially those in the West, saw Great
Britain as the major problem.

Another underlying cause of the War of 1812 was British support for native resistance to U.S. western
expansion. For many years, white settlers in the American western territories had besieged the Indians
living there. Under Jefferson, two Indian policies existed: forcing Indians to adopt American ways of
agricultural life, or aggressively driving Indians into debt in order to force them to sell their lands.

In 1809, Tecumseh, a Shawnee war chief, rejuvenated the Western Confederacy. His brother,
Tenskwatawa, was a prophet among the Shawnee who urged a revival of native ways and rejection of
Anglo-American culture, including alcohol. In 1811, William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana
Territory, attempted to eliminate the native presence by attacking Prophetstown, a Shawnee settlement
named in honor of Tenskwatawa. In the ensuing Battle of Tippecanoe, U.S. forces led by Harrison
destroyed the settlement (Figure 8.16). They also found ample evidence that the British had supplied the
Western Confederacy with weapons, despite the stipulations of earlier treaties.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 235

Figure 8.16 Portrait (a), painted by Charles Bird King in 1820, is a depiction of Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa.
Portrait (b) is Rembrandt Peele’s 1813 depiction of William Henry Harrison. What are the significant similarities and
differences between the portraits? What was each artist trying to convey?

The seizure of American ships and sailors, combined with the British support of Indian resistance, led
to strident calls for war against Great Britain. The loudest came from the “war hawks,” led by Henry
Clay from Kentucky and John C. Calhoun from South Carolina, who would not tolerate British insults
to American honor. Opposition to the war came from Federalists, especially those in the Northeast,
who knew war would disrupt the maritime trade on which they depended. In a narrow vote, Congress
authorized the president to declare war against Britain in June 1812.

The war went very badly for the United States at first. In August 1812, the United States lost Detroit to
the British and their Indian allies, including a force of one thousand men led by Tecumseh. By the end of
the year, the British controlled half the Northwest. The following year, however, U.S. forces scored several
victories. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry and his naval force defeated the British on Lake Erie. At the Battle
of the Thames in Ontario, the United States defeated the British and their native allies, and Tecumseh was
counted among the dead. Indian resistance began to ebb, opening the Indiana and Michigan territories for
white settlement.

These victories could not turn the tide of the war, however. With the British gaining the upper hand during
the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon’s French army on the run, Great Britain now could divert skilled
combat troops from Europe to fight in the United States. In July 1814, forty-five hundred hardened British
soldiers sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and burned Washington, DC, to the ground, forcing President
Madison and his wife to run for their lives (Figure 8.17). According to one report, they left behind a dinner
the British officers ate. That summer, the British shelled Baltimore, hoping for another victory. However,
they failed to dislodge the U.S. forces, whose survival of the bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key to
write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Figure 8.17 George Munger painted The President’s House shortly after the War of 1812, ca. 1814–1815. The
painting shows the result of the British burning of Washington, DC.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 237


Francis Scott Key’s “In Defense of Fort McHenry”
After the British bombed Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1814 but failed to overcome the U.S. forces there,
Francis Scott Key was inspired by the sight of the American flag, which remained hanging proudly in
the aftermath. He wrote the poem “In Defense of Fort McHenry,” which was later set to the tune of a
British song called “The Anacreontic Song” and eventually became the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-
Spangled Banner.”

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
—Francis Scott Key, “In Defense of Fort McHenry,” 1814

What images does Key use to describe the American spirit? Most people are familiar with only the first
verse of the song; what do you think the last three verses add?

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Visit the Smithsonian Institute (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/flag) to explore an
interactive feature on the flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner,” where
clickable “hot spots” on the flag reveal elements of its history.

With the end of the war in Europe, Britain was eager to end the conflict in the Americas as well. In 1814,
British and U.S. diplomats met in Flanders, in northern Belgium, to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, signed
in December. The boundaries between the United States and British Canada remained as they were before
the war, an outcome welcome to those in the United States who feared a rupture in the country’s otherwise
steady expansion into the West.

The War of 1812 was very unpopular in New England because it inflicted further economic harm on a
region dependent on maritime commerce. This unpopularity caused a resurgence of the Federalist Party
in New England. Many Federalists deeply resented the power of the slaveholding Virginians (Jefferson
and then Madison), who appeared indifferent to their region. The depth of the Federalists’ discontent
is illustrated by the proceedings of the December 1814 Hartford Convention, a meeting of twenty-six
Federalists in Connecticut, where some attendees issued calls for New England to secede from the United
States. These arguments for disunion during wartime, combined with the convention’s condemnation of
the government, made Federalists appear unpatriotic. The convention forever discredited the Federalist
Party and led to its downfall.

Due to slow communication, the last battle in the War of 1812 happened after the Treaty of Ghent had
been signed ending the war. Andrew Jackson had distinguished himself in the war by defeating the Creek
Indians in March 1814 before invading Florida in May of that year. After taking Pensacola, he moved his
force of Tennessee fighters to New Orleans to defend the strategic port against British attack.

On January 8, 1815 (despite the official end of the war), a force of battle-tested British veterans of the
Napoleonic Wars attempted to take the port. Jackson’s forces devastated the British, killing over two
thousand. New Orleans and the vast Mississippi River Valley had been successfully defended, ensuring
the future of American settlement and commerce. The Battle of New Orleans immediately catapulted
Jackson to national prominence as a war hero, and in the 1820s, he emerged as the head of the new
Democratic Party.

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Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 239


Bill of Rights

Citizen Genêt affair



letters of marque

Louisiana Purchase

Marbury v. Madison

Revolution of 1800

the Terror

XYZ affair

Key Terms

the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, which guarantee individual

the controversy over the French representative who tried to involve the United
States in France’s war against Great Britain

advocates of limited government who were troubled by the expansive
domestic policies of Washington’s administration and opposed the Federalists

the practice of capturing sailors and forcing them into military service

French warrants allowing ships and their crews to engage in piracy

the U.S. purchase of the large territory of Louisiana from France in 1803

the landmark 1803 case establishing the Supreme Court’s powers of judicial review,
specifically the power to review and possibly nullify actions of Congress and the president

the peaceful transfer of power from the Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans
with the election of 1800

a period during the French Revolution characterized by extreme violence and the execution of
numerous enemies of the revolutionary government, from 1793 through 1794

the French attempt to extract a bribe from the United States during the Quasi-War of

8.1 Competing Visions: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans
While they did not yet constitute distinct political parties, Federalists and Anti-Federalists, shortly after
the Revolution, found themselves at odds over the Constitution and the power that it concentrated in the
federal government. While many of the Anti-Federalists’ fears were assuaged by the adoption of the Bill of
Rights in 1791, the early 1790s nevertheless witnessed the rise of two political parties: the Federalists and
the Democratic-Republicans. These rival political factions began by defining themselves in relationship
to Hamilton’s financial program, a debate that exposed contrasting views of the proper role of the
federal government. By championing Hamilton’s bold financial program, Federalists, including President
Washington, made clear their intent to use the federal government to stabilize the national economy
and overcome the financial problems that had plagued it since the 1780s. Members of the Democratic-
Republican opposition, however, deplored the expanded role of the new national government. They
argued that the Constitution did not permit the treasury secretary’s expansive program and worried that
the new national government had assumed powers it did not rightfully possess. Only on the question of
citizenship was there broad agreement: only free, white males who met taxpayer or property qualifications
could cast ballots as full citizens of the republic.

8.2 The New American Republic
Federalists and Democratic-Republicans interpreted the execution of the French monarch and the violent
establishment of a French republic in very different ways. Revolutionaries’ excesses in France and the
slaves’ revolt in the French colony of Haiti raised fears among Federalists of similar radicalism and slave
uprisings on American shores. They looked to better relationships with Great Britain through Jay’s Treaty.

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Pinckney’s Treaty, which came about as a result of Jay’s Treaty, improved U.S. relations with the Spanish
and opened the Spanish port of New Orleans to American commerce. Democratic-Republicans took a
more positive view of the French Revolution and grew suspicious of the Federalists when they brokered
Jay’s Treaty. Domestically, the partisan divide came to a dramatic head in western Pennsylvania when
distillers of whiskey, many aligned with the Democratic-Republicans, took action against the federal tax
on their product. Washington led a massive force to put down the uprising, demonstrating Federalist
intolerance of mob action. Though divided on many issues, the majority of white citizens agreed on the
necessity of eradicating the Indian presence on the frontier.

8.3 Partisan Politics
Partisan politics dominated the American political scene at the close of the eighteenth century. The
Federalists’ and Democratic-Republicans’ views of the role of government were in direct opposition to
each other, and the close elections of 1796 and 1801 show how the nation grappled with these opposing
visions. The high tide of the Federalist Party came after the election of 1796, when the United States
engaged in the Quasi-War with France. The issues arising from the Quasi-War gave Adams and the
Federalists license to expand the powers of the federal government. However, the tide turned with the
close election of 1800, when Jefferson began an administration based on Democratic-Republican ideals. A
major success of Jefferson’s administration was the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which helped to fulfill his
vision of the United States as an agrarian republic.

8.4 The United States Goes Back to War
The United States was drawn into its “Second War of Independence” against Great Britain when the
British, engaged in the Napoleonic Wars against France, took liberties with the fledgling nation by
impressing (capturing) its sailors on the high seas and arming its Indian enemies. The War of 1812 ended
with the boundaries of the United Stated remaining as they were before the war. The Indians in the
Western Confederacy suffered a significant defeat, losing both their leader Tecumseh and their fight for
contested land in the Northwest. The War of 1812 proved to be of great importance because it generated a
surge of national pride, with expressions of American identity such as the poem by Francis Scott Key. The
United States was unequivocally separate from Britain and could now turn as never before to expansion
in the West.

Review Questions
1. Which of the following is not one of the rights
the Bill of Rights guarantees?

A. the right to freedom of speech
B. the right to an education
C. the right to bear arms
D. the right to a trial by jury

2. Which of Alexander Hamilton’s financial
policies and programs seemed to benefit
speculators at the expense of poor soldiers?

A. the creation of a national bank
B. the public credit plan
C. the tax on whiskey
D. the “Report on Manufactures”

3. What were the fundamental differences
between the Federalist and Democratic-
Republican visions?

4. Which of the following was not true of Jay’s
Treaty of 1794?

A. It gave the United States land rights in the
West Indies.

B. It gave American ships the right to trade in
the West Indies.

C. It hardened differences between the
political parties of the United States.

D. It stipulated that U.S. citizens would repay
their debts from the Revolutionary War.

Chapter 8 Growing Pains: The New Republic, 1790–1820 241

5. What was the primary complaint of the rebels
in the Whiskey Rebellion?

A. the ban on alcohol
B. the lack of political representation for

C. the need to fight Indians for more land
D. the tax on whiskey and rum

6. How did the French Revolution in the early
1790s influence the evolution of the American
political system?

7. What was the primary issue of Adams’s

A. war with Spain
B. relations with the native population
C. infighting within the Federalist Party
D. relations with France

8. Which of the following events is not an
example of partisan acrimony?

A. the jailing of Matthew Lyon
B. the XYZ affair
C. the Marbury v. Madison case
D. the Hamilton-Burr duel

9. What was the importance of the Louisiana

A. It gave the United States control of the port
of New Orleans for trade.

B. It opened up the possibility of quick trade
routes to Asia.

C. It gave the United States political leverage
against the Spanish.

D. It provided Napoleon with an impetus to
restore France’s empire.

10. How did U.S. relations with France influence
events at the end of the eighteenth century?

11. Why do historians refer to the election of
Thomas Jefferson as the Revolution of 1800?

12. What prompted the Embargo of 1807?
A. British soldiers burned the U.S. capitol.
B. The British supplied arms to Indian

C. The British navy captured American ships

on the high seas and impressed their sailors
into service for the British.

D. The British hadn’t abandoned their posts in
the Northwest Territory as required by
Jay’s Treaty.

13. What event inspired “The Star-Spangled

A. Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag
raised during a time of war

B. the British bombardment of Baltimore
C. the British burning of Washington, DC
D. the naval battle between the Leopard and the


Critical Thinking Questions
14. Describe Alexander Hamilton’s plans to address the nation’s financial woes. Which aspects proved
most controversial, and why? What elements of the foundation Hamilton laid can still be found in the
system today?

15. Describe the growth of the first party system in the United States. How did these parties come to
develop? How did they define themselves, both independently and in opposition to one another? Where
did they find themselves in agreement?

16. What led to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts? What made them so controversial?

17. What was the most significant impact of the War of 1812?

18. In what ways did the events of this era pose challenges to the U.S. Constitution? What constitutional
issues were raised, and how were they addressed?

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Industrial Transformation in the
North, 1800–1850

Figure 9.1 Five Points (1827), by George Catlin, depicts the infamous Five Points neighborhood of New York City,
so called because it was centered at the intersection of five streets. Five Points was home to a polyglot mix of recent
immigrants, freed slaves, and other members of the working class.

Chapter Outline
9.1 Early Industrialization in the Northeast
9.2 A Vibrant Capitalist Republic
9.3 On the Move: The Transportation Revolution
9.4 A New Social Order: Class Divisions

By the 1830s, the United States had developed a thriving industrial and commercial sector in the Northeast.
Farmers embraced regional and distant markets as the primary destination for their products. Artisans
witnessed the methodical division of the labor process in factories. Wage labor became an increasingly
common experience. These industrial and market revolutions, combined with advances in transportation,
transformed the economic and social landscape. Americans could now quickly produce larger amounts of
goods for a nationwide, and sometimes an international, market and rely less on foreign imports than in
colonial times.

As American economic life shifted rapidly and modes of production changed, new class divisions emerged
and solidified, resulting in previously unknown economic and social inequalities. This image of the Five
Points district in New York City captures the turbulence of the time (Figure 9.1). Five Points began as a
settlement for freed slaves, but it soon became a crowded urban world of American day laborers and low-
wage workers who lived a precarious existence that the economic benefits of the new economy largely
bypassed. An influx of immigrant workers swelled and diversified an already crowded urban population.
By the 1830s, the area had become a slum, home to widespread poverty, crime, and disease. Advances in
industrialization and the market revolution came at a human price.

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 243

9.1 Early Industrialization in the Northeast

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the role of the putting-out system in the rise of industrialization
• Understand industrialization’s impact on the nature of production and work
• Describe the effect of industrialization on consumption
• Identify the goals of workers’ organizations like the Working Men’s Party

Northern industrialization expanded rapidly following the War of 1812. Industrialized manufacturing
began in New England, where wealthy merchants built water-powered textile mills (and mill towns
to support them) along the rivers of the Northeast. These mills introduced new modes of production
centralized within the confines of the mill itself. As never before, production relied on mechanized sources
with water power, and later steam, to provide the force necessary to drive machines. In addition to
the mechanization and centralization of work in the mills, specialized, repetitive tasks assigned to wage
laborers replaced earlier modes of handicraft production done by artisans at home. The operations of
these mills irrevocably changed the nature of work by deskilling tasks, breaking down the process of
production to its most basic, elemental parts. In return for their labor, the workers, who at first were
young women from rural New England farming families, received wages. From its origin in New England,
manufacturing soon spread to other regions of the United States.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, artisans—skilled, experienced craft workers—produced
goods by hand. The production of shoes provides a good example. In colonial times, people bought their
shoes from master shoemakers, who achieved their status by living and working as apprentices under the
rule of an older master artisan. An apprenticeship would be followed by work as a journeyman (a skilled
worker without his own shop). After sufficient time as a journeyman, a shoemaker could at last set up his
own shop as a master artisan. People came to the shop, usually attached to the back of the master artisan’s
house, and there the shoemaker measured their feet in order to cut and stitch together an individualized
product for each customer.

Figure 9.2 (credit “1807 photo”: Project Gutenberg Archives)

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In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, merchants in the Northeast and elsewhere turned
their attention as never before to the benefits of using unskilled wage labor to make a greater profit by
reducing labor costs. They used the putting-out system, which the British had employed at the beginning
of their own Industrial Revolution, whereby they hired farming families to perform specific tasks in the
production process for a set wage. In the case of shoes, for instance, American merchants hired one group
of workers to cut soles into standardized sizes. A different group of families cut pieces of leather for the
uppers, while still another was employed to stitch the standardized parts together.

This process proved attractive because it whittled production costs. The families who participated in
the putting-out system were not skilled artisans. They had not spent years learning and perfecting their
craft and did not have ambitious journeymen to pay. Therefore, they could not demand—and did not
receive—high wages. Most of the year they tended fields and orchards, ate the food that they produced,
and sold the surplus. Putting-out work proved a welcome source of extra income for New England farm
families who saw their profits dwindle from new competition from midwestern farms with higher-yield

Much of this part-time production was done under contract to merchants. Some farming families engaged
in shoemaking (or shoe assemblage), as noted above. Many made brooms, plaited hats from straw or palm
leaves (which merchants imported from Cuba and the West Indies), crafted furniture, made pottery, or
wove baskets. Some, especially those who lived in Connecticut, made parts for clocks. The most common
part-time occupation, however, was the manufacture of textiles. Farm women spun woolen thread and
wove fabric. They also wove blankets, made rugs, and knit stockings. All this manufacturing took place
on the farm, giving farmers and their wives control over the timing and pace of their labor. Their domestic
productivity increased the quantity of goods available for sale in country towns and nearby cities.

In the late 1790s and early 1800s, Great Britain boasted the most advanced textile mills and machines in
the world, and the United States continued to rely on Great Britain for finished goods. Great Britain hoped
to maintain its economic advantage over its former colonies in North America. So, in an effort to prevent
the knowledge of advanced manufacturing from leaving the Empire, the British banned the emigration of
mechanics, skilled workers who knew how to build and repair the latest textile machines.

Some skilled British mechanics, including Samuel Slater, managed to travel to the United States in the
hopes of profiting from their knowledge and experience with advanced textile manufacturing. Slater
(Figure 9.3) understood the workings of the latest water-powered textile mills, which British industrialist
Richard Arkwright had pioneered. In the 1790s in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Slater convinced several
American merchants, including the wealthy Providence industrialist Moses Brown, to finance and build
a water-powered cotton mill based on the British models. Slater’s knowledge of both technology and mill
organization made him the founder of the first truly successful cotton mill in the United States.

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 245

Figure 9.3 Samuel Slater (a) was a British migrant who brought plans for English textile mills to the United States
and built the nation’s first successful water-powered mill in Pawtucket, Massachusetts (b).

The success of Slater and his partners Smith Brown and William Almy, relatives of Moses Brown, inspired
others to build additional mills in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. By 1807, thirteen more mills had been
established. President Jefferson’s embargo on British manufactured goods from late 1807 to early 1809
(discussed in a previous chapter) spurred more New England merchants to invest in industrial enterprises.
By 1812, seventy-eight new textile mills had been built in rural New England towns. More than half turned
out woolen goods, while the rest produced cotton cloth.

Slater’s mills and those built in imitation of his were fairly small, employing only seventy people on
average. Workers were organized the way that they had been in English factories, in family units. Under
the “Rhode Island system,” families were hired. The father was placed in charge of the family unit, and
he directed the labor of his wife and children. Instead of being paid in cash, the father was given “credit”
equal to the extent of his family’s labor that could be redeemed in the form of rent (of company-owned
housing) or goods from the company-owned store.

The Embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812 played a pivotal role in spurring industrial development in the
United States. Jefferson’s embargo prevented American merchants from engaging in the Atlantic trade,
severely cutting into their profits. The War of 1812 further compounded the financial woes of American
merchants. The acute economic problems led some New England merchants, including Francis Cabot
Lowell, to cast their gaze on manufacturing. Lowell had toured English mills during a stay in Great Britain.
He returned to Massachusetts having memorized the designs for the advanced textile machines he had
seen in his travels, especially the power loom, which replaced individual hand weavers. Lowell convinced
other wealthy merchant families to invest in the creation of new mill towns. In 1813, Lowell and these
wealthy investors, known as the Boston Associates, created the Boston Manufacturing Company. Together
they raised $400,000 and, in 1814, established a textile mill in Waltham and a second one in the same town
shortly thereafter (Figure 9.4).

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Figure 9.4 The Boston Manufacturing Company, shown in this engraving made in 1813–1816, was headquartered
in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company started the northeastern textile industry by building water-powered textile
mills along suitable rivers and developing mill towns around them.

At Waltham, cotton was carded and drawn into coarse strands of cotton fibers called rovings. The rovings
were then spun into yarn, and the yarn woven into cotton cloth. Yarn no longer had to be put out to farm
families for further processing. All the work was now performed at a central location—the factory.

The work in Lowell’s mills was both mechanized and specialized. Specialization meant the work was
broken down into specific tasks, and workers repeatedly did the one task assigned to them in the course
of a day. As machines took over labor from humans and people increasingly found themselves confined to
the same repetitive step, the process of deskilling began.

The Boston Associates’ mills, which each employed hundreds of workers, were located in company towns,
where the factories and worker housing were owned by a single company. This gave the owners and their
agents control over their workers. The most famous of these company towns was Lowell, Massachusetts.
The new town was built on land the Boston Associates purchased in 1821 from the village of East
Chelmsford at the falls of the Merrimack River, north of Boston. The mill buildings themselves were
constructed of red brick with large windows to let in light. Company-owned boarding houses to shelter
employees were constructed near the mills. The mill owners planted flowers and trees to maintain the
appearance of a rural New England town and to forestall arguments, made by many, that factory work
was unnatural and unwholesome.

In contrast to many smaller mills, the Boston Associates’ enterprises avoided the Rhode Island system,
preferring individual workers to families. These employees were not difficult to find. The competition
New England farmers faced from farmers now settling in the West, and the growing scarcity of land in
population-dense New England, had important implications for farmers’ children. Realizing their chances
of inheriting a large farm or receiving a substantial dowry were remote, these teenagers sought other
employment opportunities, often at the urging of their parents. While young men could work at a variety
of occupations, young women had more limited options. The textile mills provided suitable employment
for the daughters of Yankee farm families.

Needing to reassure anxious parents that their daughters’ virtue would be protected and hoping to avoid
what they viewed as the problems of industrialization—filth and vice—the Boston Associates established
strict rules governing the lives of these young workers. The women lived in company-owned boarding
houses to which they paid a portion of their wages. They woke early at the sound of a bell and worked
a twelve-hour day during which talking was forbidden. They could not swear or drink alcohol, and they
were required to attend church on Sunday. Overseers at the mills and boarding-house keepers kept a close

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 247

eye on the young women’s behavior; workers who associated with people of questionable reputation or
acted in ways that called their virtue into question lost their jobs and were evicted.


Michel Chevalier on Mill Worker Rules and Wages
In the 1830s, the French government sent engineer and economist Michel Chevalier to study industrial
and financial affairs in Mexico and the United States. In 1839, he published Society, Manners, and Politics
in the United States, in which he recorded his impressions of the Lowell textile mills. In the excerpt below,
Chevalier describes the rules and wages of the Lawrence Company in 1833.

All persons employed by the Company must devote themselves assiduously to their duty
during working-hours. They must be capable of doing the work which they undertake, or
use all their efforts to this effect. They must on all occasions, both in their words and in
their actions, show that they are penetrated by a laudable love of temperance and virtue,
and animated by a sense of their moral and social obligations. The Agent of the Company
shall endeavour to set to all a good example in this respect. Every individual who shall be
notoriously dissolute, idle, dishonest, or intemperate, who shall be in the practice of absenting
himself from divine service, or shall violate the Sabbath, or shall be addicted to gaming, shall
be dismissed from the service of the Company. . . . All ardent spirits are banished from the
Company’s grounds, except when prescribed by a physician. All games of hazard and cards
are prohibited within their limits and in the boarding-houses.
Weekly wages were as follows:
For picking and carding, $2.78 to $3.10
For spinning, $3.00
For weaving, $3.10 to $3.12
For warping and sizing, $3.45 to $4.00
For measuring and folding, $3.12

What kind of world were the factory owners trying to create with these rules? How do you think those
who believed all white people were born free and equal would react to them?

Visit the Textile Industry History (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15textHistory) site to
explore the mills of New England through its collection of history, images, and

The mechanization of formerly handcrafted goods, and the removal of production from the home to the
factory, dramatically increased output of goods. For example, in one nine-month period, the numerous
Rhode Island women who spun yarn into cloth on hand looms in their homes produced a total of thirty-
four thousand yards of fabrics of different types. In 1855, the women working in just one of Lowell’s
mechanized mills produced more than forty-three thousand yards.

The Boston Associates’ cotton mills quickly gained a competitive edge over the smaller mills established by
Samuel Slater and those who had imitated him. Their success prompted the Boston Associates to expand.
In Massachusetts, in addition to Lowell, they built new mill towns in Chicopee, Lawrence, and Holyoke.

Click and Explore

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In New Hampshire, they built them in Manchester, Dover, and Nashua. And in Maine, they built a large
mill in Saco on the Saco River. Other entrepreneurs copied them. By the time of the Civil War, 878 textile
factories had been built in New England. All together, these factories employed more than 100,000 people
and produced more than 940 million yards of cloth.

Success in New England was repeated elsewhere. Small mills, more like those in Rhode Island than
those in northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, were built in New York, Delaware, and
Pennsylvania. By midcentury, three hundred textile mills were located in and near Philadelphia. Many
produced specialty goods, such as silks and printed fabrics, and employed skilled workers, including
people working in their own homes. Even in the South, the region that otherwise relied on slave labor to
produce the very cotton that fed the northern factory movement, more than two hundred textile mills were
built. Most textiles, however, continued to be produced in New England before the Civil War.

Alongside the production of cotton and woolen cloth, which formed the backbone of the Industrial
Revolution in the United States as in Britain, other crafts increasingly became mechanized and centralized
in factories in the first half of the nineteenth century. Shoe making, leather tanning, papermaking, hat
making, clock making, and gun making had all become mechanized to one degree or another by the time
of the Civil War. Flour milling, because of the inventions of Oliver Evans (Figure 9.5), had become almost
completely automated and centralized by the early decades of the nineteenth century. So efficient were
Evans-style mills that two employees were able to do work that had originally required five, and mills
using Evans’s system spread throughout the mid-Atlantic states.

Figure 9.5 Oliver Evans was an American engineer and inventor, best known for developing ways to automate the
flour milling process, which is illustrated here in a drawing from a 1785 instructional book called The Young Mill-
Wright & Miller’s Guide.

At the end of the eighteenth century, most American families lived in candlelit homes with bare floors and
unadorned walls, cooked and warmed themselves over fireplaces, and owned few changes of clothing. All
manufactured goods were made by hand and, as a result, were usually scarce and fairly expensive.

The automation of the manufacturing process changed that, making consumer goods that had once been
thought of as luxury items widely available for the first time. Now all but the very poor could afford the
necessities and some of the small luxuries of life. Rooms were lit by oil lamps, which gave brighter light
than candles. Homes were heated by parlor stoves, which allowed for more privacy; people no longer
needed to huddle together around the hearth. Iron cookstoves with multiple burners made it possible for
housewives to prepare more elaborate meals. Many people could afford carpets and upholstered furniture,

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 249

and even farmers could decorate their homes with curtains and wallpaper. Clocks, which had once been
quite expensive, were now within the reach of most ordinary people.

As production became mechanized and relocated to factories, the experience of workers underwent
significant changes. Farmers and artisans had controlled the pace of their labor and the order in which
things were done. If an artisan wanted to take the afternoon off, he could. If a farmer wished to rebuild
his fence on Thursday instead of on Wednesday, he could. They conversed and often drank during the
workday. Indeed, journeymen were often promised alcohol as part of their wages. One member of the
group might be asked to read a book or a newspaper aloud to the others. In the warm weather, doors and
windows might be opened to the outside, and work stopped when it was too dark to see.

Work in factories proved to be quite different. Employees were expected to report at a certain time, usually
early in the morning, and to work all day. They could not leave when they were tired or take breaks other
than at designated times. Those who arrived late found their pay docked; five minutes’ tardiness could
result in several hours’ worth of lost pay, and repeated tardiness could result in dismissal. The monotony
of repetitive tasks made days particularly long. Hours varied according to the factory, but most factory
employees toiled ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week. In the winter, when the sun set early, oil lamps
were used to light the factory floor, and employees strained their eyes to see their work and coughed as
the rooms filled with smoke from the lamps. In the spring, as the days began to grow longer, factories held
“blowing-out” celebrations to mark the extinguishing of the oil lamps. These “blow-outs” often featured
processions and dancing.

Freedom within factories was limited. Drinking was prohibited. Some factories did not allow employees to
sit down. Doors and windows were kept closed, especially in textile factories where fibers could be easily
disturbed by incoming breezes, and mills were often unbearably hot and humid in the summer. In the
winter, workers often shivered in the cold. In such environments, workers’ health suffered.

The workplace posed other dangers as well. The presence of cotton bales alongside the oil used to lubricate
machines made fire a common problem in textile factories. Workplace injuries were also common.
Workers’ hands and fingers were maimed or severed when they were caught in machines; in some cases,
their limbs or entire bodies were crushed. Workers who didn’t die from such injuries almost certainly lost
their jobs, and with them, their income. Corporal punishment of both children and adults was common
in factories; where abuse was most extreme, children sometimes died as a result of injuries suffered at the
hands of an overseer.

As the decades passed, working conditions deteriorated in many mills. Workers were assigned more
machines to tend, and the owners increased the speed at which the machines operated. Wages were cut in
many factories, and employees who had once labored for an hourly wage now found themselves reduced
to piecework, paid for the amount they produced and not for the hours they toiled. Owners also reduced
compensation for piecework. Low wages combined with regular periods of unemployment to make the
lives of workers difficult, especially for those with families to support. In New York City in 1850, for
example, the average male worker earned $300 a year; it cost approximately $600 a year to support a family
of five.

Many workers undoubtedly enjoyed some of the new wage opportunities factory work presented. For
many of the young New England women who ran the machines in Waltham, Lowell, and elsewhere, the
experience of being away from the family was exhilarating and provided a sense of solidarity among them.
Though most sent a large portion of their wages home, having even a small amount of money of their
own was a liberating experience, and many used their earnings to purchase clothes, ribbons, and other
consumer goods for themselves.

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The long hours, strict discipline, and low wages, however, soon led workers to organize to protest their
working conditions and pay. In 1821, the young women employed by the Boston Manufacturing Company
in Waltham went on strike for two days when their wages were cut. In 1824, workers in Pawtucket struck
to protest reduced pay rates and longer hours, the latter of which had been achieved by cutting back the
amount of time allowed for meals. Similar strikes occurred at Lowell and in other mill towns like Dover,
New Hampshire, where the women employed by the Cocheco Manufacturing Company ceased working
in December 1828 after their wages were reduced. In the 1830s, female mill operatives in Lowell formed
the Lowell Factory Girls Association to organize strike activities in the face of wage cuts (Figure 9.6)
and, later, established the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association to protest the twelve-hour workday.
Even though strikes were rarely successful and workers usually were forced to accept reduced wages
and increased hours, work stoppages as a form of labor protest represented the beginnings of the labor
movement in the United States.

Figure 9.6 New England mill workers were often young women, as seen in this early tintype made ca. 1870 (a).
When management proposed rent increases for those living in company boarding houses, female textile workers in
Lowell responded by forming the Lowell Factory Girls Association—its constitution is shown in image (b)—in 1836
and organizing a “turn-out” or strike.

Critics of industrialization blamed it for the increased concentration of wealth in the hands of the few: the
factory owners made vast profits while the workers received only a small fraction of the revenue from
what they produced. Under the labor theory of value, said critics, the value of a product should accurately
reflect the labor needed to produce it. Profits from the sale of goods produced by workers should be
distributed so laborers recovered in the form of wages the value their effort had added to the finished
product. While factory owners, who contributed the workspace, the machinery, and the raw materials
needed to create a product, should receive a share of the profits, their share should not be greater than
the value of their contribution. Workers should thus receive a much larger portion of the profits than they
currently did, and factory owners should receive less.

In Philadelphia, New York, and Boston—all cities that experienced dizzying industrial growth during
the nineteenth century—workers united to form political parties. Thomas Skidmore, from Connecticut,
was the outspoken organizer of the Working Men’s Party, which lodged a radical protest against the

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 251

exploitation of workers that accompanied industrialization. Skidmore took his cue from Thomas Paine and
the American Revolution to challenge the growing inequity in the United States. He argued that inequality
originated in the unequal distribution of property through inheritance laws. In his 1829 treatise, The Rights
of Man to Property, Skidmore called for the abolition of inheritance and the redistribution of property. The
Working Men’s Party also advocated the end of imprisonment for debt, a common practice whereby the
debtor who could not pay was put in jail and his tools and property, if any, were confiscated. Skidmore’s
vision of radical equality extended to all; women and men, no matter their race, should be allowed to vote
and receive property, he believed. Skidmore died in 1832 when a cholera epidemic swept New York City,
but the state of New York did away with imprisonment for debt in the same year.

Worker activism became less common in the late 1840s and 1850s. As German and Irish immigrants
poured into the United States in the decades preceding the Civil War, native-born laborers found
themselves competing for jobs with new arrivals who were willing to work longer hours for less pay.
In Lowell, Massachusetts, for example, the daughters of New England farmers encountered competition
from the daughters of Irish farmers suffering the effects of the potato famine; these immigrant women
were willing to work for far less and endure worse conditions than native-born women. Many of these
native-born “daughters of freemen,” as they referred to themselves, left the factories and returned to their
families. Not all wage workers had this luxury, however. Widows with children to support and girls from
destitute families had no choice but to stay and accept the faster pace and lower pay. Male German and
Irish immigrants competed with native-born men. Germans, many of whom were skilled workers, took
jobs in furniture making. The Irish provided a ready source of unskilled labor needed to lay railroad track
and dig canals. American men with families to support grudgingly accepted low wages in order to keep
their jobs. As work became increasingly deskilled, no worker was irreplaceable, and no one’s job was safe.

9.2 A Vibrant Capitalist Republic

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the process of selling western land
• Discuss the causes of the Panic of 1819
• Identify key American innovators and inventors

By the 1840s, the United States economy bore little resemblance to the import-and-export economy of
colonial days. It was now a market economy, one in which the production of goods, and their prices, were
unregulated by the government. Commercial centers, to which job seekers flocked, mushroomed. New
York City’s population skyrocketed. In 1790, it was 33,000; by 1820, it had reached 200,000; and by 1825, it
had swelled to 270,000. New opportunities for wealth appeared to be available to anyone.

However, the expansion of the American economy made it prone to the boom-and-bust cycle. Market
economies involve fluctuating prices for labor, raw materials, and consumer goods and depend on credit
and financial instruments—any one of which can be the source of an imbalance and an economic
downturn in which businesses and farmers default, wage workers lose their employment, and investors
lose their assets. This happened for the first time in the United States in 1819, when waves of enthusiastic
speculation (expectations of rapidly rising prices) in land and commodities gave way to drops in prices.

In the early nineteenth century, people poured into the territories west of the long-settled eastern seaboard.
Among them were speculators seeking to buy cheap parcels from the federal government in anticipation
of a rise in prices. The Ohio Country in the Northwest Territory appeared to offer the best prospects for

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many in the East, especially New Englanders. The result was “Ohio fever,” as thousands traveled there to
reap the benefits of settling in this newly available territory (Figure 9.7).

Figure 9.7 Cartographer John Cary drew this map “exhibiting The Western Territory, Kentucky, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia &c” for his 1808 atlas; it depicted the huge western territory that fascinated settlers in the early
nineteenth century.

The federal government oversaw the orderly transfer of public land to citizens at public auctions. The
Land Law of 1796 applied to the territory of Ohio after it had been wrested from Indians. Under this
law, the United States would sell a minimum parcel of 640 acres for $2 an acre. The Land Law of
1800 further encouraged land sales in the Northwest Territory by reducing the minimum parcel size
by half and enabling sales on credit, with the goal of stimulating settlement by ordinary farmers. The
government created land offices to handle these sales and established them in the West within easy reach
of prospective landowners. They could thus purchase land directly from the government, at the price the
government had set. Buyers were given low interest rates, with payments that could be spread over four
years. Surveyors marked off the parcels in straight lines, creating a landscape of checkerboard squares.

The future looked bright for those who turned their gaze on the land in the West. Surveying, settling,
and farming, turning the wilderness into a profitable commodity, gave purchasers a sense of progress. A
uniquely American story of settling the land developed: hardy individuals wielding an axe cleared it, built
a log cabin, and turned the frontier into a farm that paved the way for mills and towns (Figure 9.8).

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 253

Figure 9.8 Thomas Cole, who painted Home in the Woods in 1847, was an American artist. Cole founded the
Hudson River School, a style renowned for portrayals of landscapes and wilderness influenced by the emotional
aesthetic known as romanticism. In what ways is this image realistic, and how is it idealized or romanticized?

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A New Englander Heads West
A native of Vermont, Gershom Flagg was one of thousands of New Englanders who caught “Ohio fever.”
In this letter to his brother, Azariah Flagg, dated August 3, 1817, he describes the hustle and bustle of
the emerging commercial town of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati is an incorporated City. It contained in 1815, 1,100 buildings of different
descriptions among which are above 20 of Stone 250 of brick & 800 of Wood. The population
in 1815 was 6,500. There are about 60 Mercantile stores several of which are wholesale.
Here are a great share of Mechanics of all kinds.
Here is one Woolen Factory four Cotton factories but not now in operation. A most
stupendously large building of Stone is likewise erected immediately on the bank of the River
for a steam Mill. It is nine stories high at the Waters edge & is 87 by 62 feet. It drives four pair
of Stones besides various other Machinery as Wool carding &c &c. There is also a valuable
Steam Saw Mill driving four saws also an inclined Wheel ox Saw Mill with two saws, one
Glass Factory. The town is Rapidly increasing in Wealth & population. Here is a Branch of the
United States Bank and three other banks & two Printing offices. The country around is rich. .
. .
That you may all be prospered in the world is the anxious wish of your affectionate Brother

What caught Flagg’s attention? From your reading of this letter and study of the engraving below (Figure
9.9), what impression can you take away of Cincinnati in 1817?

Figure 9.9 This engraving from A Topographical Description of the State of Ohio, Indiana Territory, and
Louisiana (1812), by Jervis Cutler, presents a view of Cincinnati as it may have looked to Gershom

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 255

Learn more about settlement of and immigration to the Northwest Territory by exploring
the National Park Service’s Historic Resource Study (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
15LincMemorial) related to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. According to the
guide’s maps, what lands were available for purchase?

The first major economic crisis in the United States after the War of 1812 was due, in large measure, to
factors in the larger Atlantic economy. It was made worse, however, by land speculation and poor banking
practices at home. British textile mills voraciously consumed American cotton, and the devastation of the
Napoleonic Wars made Europe reliant on other American agricultural commodities such as wheat. This
drove up both the price of American agricultural products and the value of the land on which staples such
as cotton, wheat, corn, and tobacco were grown.

Many Americans were struck with “land fever.” Farmers strove to expand their acreage, and those who
lived in areas where unoccupied land was scarce sought holdings in the West. They needed money to
purchase this land, however. Small merchants and factory owners, hoping to take advantage of this boom
time, also sought to borrow money to expand their businesses. When existing banks refused to lend money
to small farmers and others without a credit history, state legislatures chartered new banks to meet the
demand. In one legislative session, Kentucky chartered forty-six. As loans increased, paper money from
new state banks flooded the country, creating inflation that drove the price of land and goods still higher.
This, in turn, encouraged even more people to borrow money with which to purchase land or to expand
or start their own businesses. Speculators took advantage of this boom in the sale of land by purchasing
property not to live on, but to buy cheaply and resell at exorbitant prices.

During the War of 1812, the Bank of the United States had suspended payments in specie, “hard money”
usually in the form of gold and silver coins. When the war ended, the bank continued to issue only paper
banknotes and to redeem notes issued by state banks with paper only. The newly chartered banks also
adopted this practice, issuing banknotes in excess of the amount of specie in their vaults. This shaky
economic scheme worked only so long as people were content to conduct business with paper money
and refrain from demanding that banks instead give them the gold and silver that was supposed to back
it. If large numbers of people, or banks that had loaned money to other banks, began to demand specie
payments, the banking system would collapse, because there was no longer enough specie to support the
amount of paper money the banks had put into circulation. So terrified were bankers that customers would
demand gold and silver that an irate bank employee in Ohio stabbed a customer who had the audacity to
ask for specie in exchange for the banknotes he held.

In an effort to bring stability to the nation’s banking system, Congress chartered the Second Bank of the
United States (a revival of Alexander Hamilton’s national bank) in 1816. But this new institution only
compounded the problem by making risky loans, opening branches in the South and West where land
fever was highest, and issuing a steady stream of Bank of the United States notes, a move that increased
inflation and speculation.

The inflated economic bubble burst in 1819, resulting in a prolonged economic depression or severe
downturn in the economy called the Panic of 1819. It was the first economic depression experienced by
the American public, who panicked as they saw the prices of agricultural products fall and businesses
fail. Prices had already begun falling in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, when Britain began to

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“dump” its surplus manufactured goods, the result of wartime overproduction, in American ports, where
they were sold for low prices and competed with American-manufactured goods. In 1818, to make the
economic situation worse, prices for American agricultural products began to fall both in the United States
and in Europe; the overproduction of staples such as wheat and cotton coincided with the recovery of
European agriculture, which reduced demand for American crops. Crop prices tumbled by as much 75

This dramatic decrease in the value of agricultural goods left farmers unable to pay their debts. As they
defaulted on their loans, banks seized their property. However, because the drastic fall in agricultural
prices had greatly reduced the value of land, the banks were left with farms they were unable to sell. Land
speculators lost the value of their investments. As the countryside suffered, hard-hit farmers ceased to
purchase manufactured goods. Factories responded by cutting wages or firing employees.

In 1818, the Second Bank of the United States needed specie to pay foreign investors who had loaned
money to the United States to enable the country to purchase Louisiana. The bank began to call in the loans
it had made and required that state banks pay their debts in gold and silver. State banks that could not
collect loan payments from hard-pressed farmers could not, in turn, meet their obligations to the Second
Bank of the United States. Severe consequences followed as banks closed their doors and businesses
failed. Three-quarters of the work force in Philadelphia was unemployed, and charities were swamped by
thousands of newly destitute people needing assistance. In states with imprisonment for debt, the prison
population swelled. As a result, many states drafted laws to provide relief for debtors. Even those at the
top of the social ladder were affected by the Panic of 1819. Thomas Jefferson, who had cosigned a loan for a
friend, nearly lost Monticello when his acquaintance defaulted, leaving Jefferson responsible for the debt.

In an effort to stimulate the economy in the midst of the economic depression, Congress passed several acts
modifying land sales. The Land Law of 1820 lowered the price of land to $1.25 per acre and allowed small
parcels of eighty acres to be sold. The Relief Act of 1821 allowed Ohioans to return land to the government
if they could not afford to keep it. The money they received in return was credited toward their debt. The
act also extended the credit period to eight years. States, too, attempted to aid those faced with economic
hard times by passing laws to prevent mortgage foreclosures so buyers could keep their homes. Americans
made the best of the opportunities presented in business, in farming, or on the frontier, and by 1823 the
Panic of 1819 had ended. The recovery provided ample evidence of the vibrant and resilient nature of the
American people.

The volatility of the U.S. economy did nothing to dampen the creative energies of its citizens in the years
before the Civil War. In the 1800s, a frenzy of entrepreneurship and invention yielded many new products
and machines. The republic seemed to be a laboratory of innovation, and technological advances appeared

One of the most influential advancements of the early nineteenth century was the cotton engine or gin,
invented by Eli Whitney and patented in 1794. Whitney, who was born in Massachusetts, had spent time
in the South and knew that a device to speed up the production of cotton was desperately needed so cotton
farmers could meet the growing demand for their crop. He hoped the cotton gin would render slavery
obsolete. Whitney’s seemingly simple invention cleaned the seeds from the raw cotton far more quickly
and efficiently than could slaves working by hand (Figure 9.10). The raw cotton with seeds was placed in
the cotton gin, and with the use of a hand crank, the seeds were extracted through a carding device that
aligned the cotton fibers in strands for spinning.

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 257

Figure 9.10 The First Cotton-Gin, an 1869 drawing by William L. Sheppard, shows the first use of a cotton gin “at
the close of the last century.” African American slaves handle the gin while white men conduct business in the
background. What do you think the artist was trying to convey with this image? (credit: Library of Congress)

Whitney also worked on machine tools, devices that cut and shaped metal to make standardized,
interchangeable parts for other mechanical devices like clocks and guns. Whitney’s machine tools to
manufacture parts for muskets enabled guns to be manufactured and repaired by people other than skilled
gunsmiths. His creative genius served as a source of inspiration for many other American inventors.

Another influential new technology of the early 1800s was the steamship engine, invented by Robert
Fulton in 1807. Fulton’s first steamship, the Clermont, used paddle wheels to travel the 150 miles from New
York City to Albany in a record time of only thirty-two hours (Figure 9.11). Soon, a fleet of steamboats was
traversing the Hudson River and New York Harbor, later expanding to travel every major American river
including the mighty Mississippi. By the 1830s there were over one thousand of these vessels, radically
changing water transportation by ending its dependence on the wind. Steamboats could travel faster and
more cheaply than sailing vessels or keelboats, which floated downriver and had to be poled or towed
upriver on the return voyage. Steamboats also arrived with much greater dependability. The steamboat
facilitated the rapid economic development of the massive Mississippi River Valley and the settlement of
the West.

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Figure 9.11 Fulton’s steamboat the Clermont transformed the speed, cost, and dependability of water transportation
in the United States. (credit: Project Gutenberg Archives)

Virginia-born Cyrus McCormick wanted to replace the laborious process of using a scythe to cut and
gather wheat for harvest. In 1831, he and the slaves on his family’s plantation tested a horse-drawn
mechanical reaper, and over the next several decades, he made constant improvements to it (Figure 9.12).
More farmers began using it in the 1840s, and greater demand for the McCormick reaper led McCormick
and his brother to establish the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago, where labor was
more readily available. By the 1850s, McCormick’s mechanical reaper had enabled farmers to vastly
increase their output. McCormick—and also John Deere, who improved on the design of plows—opened
the prairies to agriculture. McCormick’s bigger machine could harvest grain faster, and Deere’s plow could
cut through the thick prairie sod. Agriculture north of the Ohio River became the pantry that would lower
food prices and feed the major cities in the East. In short order, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all become major
agricultural states.

Figure 9.12 This sketch is from the 1845 patent for an improved grain reaper invented by Cyrus Hall McCormick.
The reaper mechanized the labor-intensive use of scythes to harvest wheat.

Samuel Morse added the telegraph to the list of American innovations introduced in the years before
the Civil War. Born in Massachusetts in 1791, Morse first gained renown as a painter before turning his
attention to the development of a method of rapid communication in the 1830s. In 1838, he gave the first

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 259

public demonstration of his method of conveying electric pulses over a wire, using the basis of what
became known as Morse code. In 1843, Congress agreed to help fund the new technology by allocating
$30,000 for a telegraph line to connect Washington, DC, and Baltimore along the route of the Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad. In 1844, Morse sent the first telegraph message on the new link. Improved communication
systems fostered the development of business, economics, and politics by allowing for dissemination of
news at a speed previously unknown.

9.3 On the Move: The Transportation Revolution

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the development of improved methods of nineteenth-century domestic

• Identify the ways in which roads, canals, and railroads impacted Americans’ lives in

the nineteenth century

Americans in the early 1800s were a people on the move, as thousands left the eastern coastal states
for opportunities in the West. Unlike their predecessors, who traveled by foot or wagon train, these
settlers had new transport options. Their trek was made possible by the construction of roads, canals, and
railroads, projects that required the funding of the federal government and the states.

New technologies, like the steamship and railroad lines, had brought about what historians call the
transportation revolution. States competed for the honor of having the most advanced transport systems.
People celebrated the transformation of the wilderness into an orderly world of improvement
demonstrating the steady march of progress and the greatness of the republic. In 1817, John C. Calhoun of
South Carolina looked to a future of rapid internal improvements, declaring, “Let us . . . bind the Republic
together with a perfect system of roads and canals.” Americans agreed that internal transportation routes
would promote progress. By the eve of the Civil War, the United States had moved beyond roads and
canals to a well-established and extensive system of railroads.

One key part of the transportation revolution was the widespread building of roads and turnpikes. In
1811, construction began on the Cumberland Road, a national highway that provided thousands with
a route from Maryland to Illinois. The federal government funded this important artery to the West,
beginning the creation of a transportation infrastructure for the benefit of settlers and farmers. Other
entities built turnpikes, which (as today) charged fees for use. New York State, for instance, chartered
turnpike companies that dramatically increased the miles of state roads from one thousand in 1810 to four
thousand by 1820. New York led the way in building turnpikes.

Canal mania swept the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. Promoters knew these
artificial rivers could save travelers immense amounts of time and money. Even short waterways, such
as the two-and-a-half-mile canal going around the rapids of the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky,
proved a huge leap forward, in this case by opening a water route from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The
preeminent example was the Erie Canal (Figure 9.13), which linked the Hudson River, and thus New
York City and the Atlantic seaboard, to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Valley.

With its central location, large harbor, and access to the hinterland via the Hudson River, New York
City already commanded the lion’s share of commerce. Still, the city’s merchants worried about losing
ground to their competitors in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Their search for commercial advantage led to
the dream of creating a water highway connecting the city’s Hudson River to Lake Erie and markets in

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the West. The result was the Erie Canal. Chartered in 1817 by the state of New York, the canal took seven
years to complete. When it opened in 1825, it dramatically decreased the cost of shipping while reducing
the time to travel to the West. Soon $15 million worth of goods (more than $200 million in today’s money)
was being transported on the 363-mile waterway every year.

Figure 9.13 Although the Erie Canal was primarily used for commerce and trade, in Pittsford on the Erie Canal
(1837), George Harvey portrays it in a pastoral, natural setting. Why do you think the painter chose to portray the
canal this way?

Explore the Erie Canal on ErieCanal.org (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15ErieCanal)
via an interactive map. Click throughout the map for images of and artifacts from this
historic waterway.

The success of the Erie Canal led to other, similar projects. The Wabash and Erie Canal, which opened
in the early 1840s, stretched over 450 miles, making it the longest canal in North America (Figure 9.14).
Canals added immensely to the country’s sense of progress. Indeed, they appeared to be the logical next
step in the process of transforming wilderness into civilization.

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Figure 9.14 This map (a) shows the route taken by the Wabash and Erie Canal through the state of Indiana. The
canal began operation in 1843 and boats operated on it until the 1870s. Sections have since been restored, as shown
in this 2007 photo (b) from Delphi, Indiana.

Visit Southern Indiana Trails (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15WabashEire) to see
historic photographs of the Wabash and Erie Canal:

As with highway projects such as the Cumberland Road, many canals were federally sponsored, especially
during the presidency of John Quincy Adams in the late 1820s. Adams, along with Secretary of State
Henry Clay, championed what was known as the American System, part of which included plans for a
broad range of internal transportation improvements. Adams endorsed the creation of roads and canals to
facilitate commerce and develop markets for agriculture as well as to advance settlement in the West.

Starting in the late 1820s, steam locomotives began to compete with horse-drawn locomotives. The
railroads with steam locomotives offered a new mode of transportation that fascinated citizens, buoying
their optimistic view of the possibilities of technological progress. The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad
was the first to begin service with a steam locomotive. Its inaugural train ran in 1831 on a track outside
Albany and covered twelve miles in twenty-five minutes. Soon it was traveling regularly between Albany
and Schenectady.

Toward the middle of the century, railroad construction kicked into high gear, and eager investors
quickly formed a number of railroad companies. As a railroad grid began to take shape, it stimulated a
greater demand for coal, iron, and steel. Soon, both railroads and canals crisscrossed the states (Figure

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9.15), providing a transportation infrastructure that fueled the growth of American commerce. Indeed,
the transportation revolution led to development in the coal, iron, and steel industries, providing many
Americans with new job opportunities.

Figure 9.15 This 1853 map of the “Empire State” shows the extent of New York’s canal and railroad networks. The
entire country’s transportation infrastructure grew dramatically during the first half of the nineteenth century.

The expansion of roads, canals, and railroads changed people’s lives. In 1786, it had taken a minimum of
four days to travel from Boston, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island. By 1840, the trip took half
a day on a train. In the twenty-first century, this may seem intolerably slow, but people at the time were
amazed by the railroad’s speed. Its average of twenty miles per hour was twice as fast as other available
modes of transportation.

By 1840, more than three thousand miles of canals had been dug in the United States, and thirty thousand
miles of railroad track had been laid by the beginning of the Civil War. Together with the hundreds of
steamboats that plied American rivers, these advances in transportation made it easier and less expensive
to ship agricultural products from the West to feed people in eastern cities, and to send manufactured
goods from the East to people in the West. Without this ability to transport goods, the market revolution
would not have been possible. Rural families also became less isolated as a result of the transportation
revolution. Traveling circuses, menageries, peddlers, and itinerant painters could now more easily make
their way into rural districts, and people in search of work found cities and mill towns within their reach.

9.4 A New Social Order: Class Divisions

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the shared perceptions and ideals of each social class
• Assess different social classes’ views of slavery

The profound economic changes sweeping the United States led to equally important social and cultural
transformations. The formation of distinct classes, especially in the rapidly industrializing North, was
one of the most striking developments. The unequal distribution of newly created wealth spurred new
divisions along class lines. Each class had its own specific culture and views on the issue of slavery.

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 263

Economic elites gained further social and political ascendance in the United States due to a fast-growing
economy that enhanced their wealth and allowed distinctive social and cultural characteristics to develop
among different economic groups. In the major northern cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia,
leading merchants formed an industrial capitalist elite. Many came from families that had been deeply
engaged in colonial trade in tea, sugar, pepper, slaves, and other commodities and that were familiar with
trade networks connecting the United States with Europe, the West Indies, and the Far East. These colonial
merchants had passed their wealth to their children.

After the War of 1812, the new generation of merchants expanded their economic activities. They began
to specialize in specific types of industry, spearheading the development of industrial capitalism based on
factories they owned and on specific commercial services such as banking, insurance, and shipping. Junius
Spencer Morgan (Figure 9.16), for example, rose to prominence as a banker. His success began in Boston,
where he worked in the import business in the 1830s. He then formed a partnership with a London banker,
George Peabody, and created Peabody, Morgan & Co. In 1864, he renamed the enterprise J. S. Morgan &
Co. His son, J. P. Morgan, became a noted financier in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Figure 9.16 Junius Spencer Morgan of Boston was one of the fathers of the American private banking system.
(credit: Project Gutenberg Archives)

Visit the Internet Archive (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Hunts) to see scanned
pages from Hunt’s Merchant’s Magazine and Commercial Review. This monthly
business review provided the business elite with important information about issues
pertaining to trade and finance: commodity prices, new laws affecting business,
statistics regarding imports and exports, and similar content. Choose three articles and

decide how they might have been important to the northern business elite.

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Members of the northern business elite forged close ties with each other to protect and expand their
economic interests. Marriages between leading families formed a crucial strategy to advance economic
advantage, and the homes of the northern elite became important venues for solidifying social bonds.
Exclusive neighborhoods started to develop as the wealthy distanced themselves from the poorer urban
residents, and cities soon became segregated by class.

Industrial elites created chambers of commerce to advance their interests; by 1858 there were ten in the
United States. These networking organizations allowed top bankers and merchants to stay current on
the economic activities of their peers and further strengthen the bonds among themselves. The elite also
established social clubs to forge and maintain ties. The first of these, the Philadelphia Club, came into being
in 1834. Similar clubs soon formed in other cities and hosted a range of social activities designed to further
bind together the leading economic families. Many northern elites worked hard to ensure the transmission
of their inherited wealth from one generation to the next. Politically, they exercised considerable power in
local and state elections. Most also had ties to the cotton trade, so they were strong supporters of slavery.

The Industrial Revolution led some former artisans to reinvent themselves as manufacturers. These
enterprising leaders of manufacturing differed from the established commercial elite in the North and
South because they did not inherit wealth. Instead, many came from very humble working-class origins
and embodied the dream of achieving upward social mobility through hard work and discipline. As
the beneficiaries of the economic transformations sweeping the republic, these newly established
manufacturers formed a new economic elite that thrived in the cities and cultivated its own distinct
sensibilities. They created a culture that celebrated hard work, a position that put them at odds with
southern planter elites who prized leisure and with other elite northerners who had largely inherited their
wealth and status.

Peter Cooper provides one example of the new northern manufacturing class. Ever inventive, Cooper
dabbled in many different moneymaking enterprises before gaining success in the glue business. He
opened his Manhattan glue factory in the 1820s and was soon using his profits to expand into a host of
other activities, including iron production. One of his innovations was the steam locomotive, which he
invented in 1827 (Figure 9.17). Despite becoming one of the wealthiest men in New York City, Cooper
lived simply. Rather than buying an ornate bed, for example, he built his own. He believed respectability
came through hard work, not family pedigree.

Figure 9.17 Peter Cooper, who would go on to found the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in
New York City, designed and built the Tom Thumb, the first American-built steam locomotive, a replica of which is
shown here.

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 265

Those who had inherited their wealth derided self-made men like Cooper, and he and others like him
were excluded from the social clubs established by the merchant and financial elite of New York City. Self-
made northern manufacturers, however, created their own organizations that aimed to promote upward
mobility. The Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers was formed in 1789 and promoted
both industrial arts and education as a pathway to economic success. In 1859, Peter Cooper established the
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a school in New York City dedicated to providing
education in technology. Merit, not wealth, mattered most according to Cooper, and admission to the
school was based solely on ability; race, sex, and family connections had no place. The best and brightest
could attend Cooper Union tuition-free, a policy that remained in place until 2014.

Not all enterprising artisans were so successful that they could rise to the level of the elite. However,
many artisans and small merchants, who owned small factories and stores, did manage to achieve and
maintain respectability in an emerging middle class. Lacking the protection of great wealth, members of
the middle class agonized over the fear that they might slip into the ranks of wage laborers; thus they
strove to maintain or improve their middle-class status and that of their children.

To this end, the middle class valued cleanliness, discipline, morality, hard work, education, and good
manners. Hard work and education enabled them to rise in life. Middle-class children, therefore, did
not work in factories. Instead they attended school and in their free time engaged in “self-improving”
activities, such as reading or playing the piano, or they played with toys and games that would teach them
the skills and values they needed to succeed in life. In the early nineteenth century, members of the middle
class began to limit the number of children they had. Children no longer contributed economically to the
household, and raising them “correctly” required money and attention. It therefore made sense to have
fewer of them.

Middle-class women did not work for wages. Their job was to care for the children and to keep the house
in a state of order and cleanliness, often with the help of a servant. They also performed the important
tasks of cultivating good manners among their children and their husbands and of purchasing consumer
goods; both activities proclaimed to neighbors and prospective business partners that their families were
educated, cultured, and financially successful.

Northern business elites, many of whom owned or had invested in businesses like cotton mills that
profited from slave labor, often viewed the institution of slavery with ambivalence. Most members of the
middle class took a dim view of it, however, since it promoted a culture of leisure. Slavery stood as the
antithesis of the middle-class view that dignity and respectability were achieved through work, and many
members of this class became active in efforts to end it.

This class of upwardly mobile citizens promoted temperance, or abstinence from alcohol. They also
gave their support to Protestant ministers like George Grandison Finney, who preached that all people
possessed free moral agency, meaning they could change their lives and bring about their own salvation, a
message that resonated with members of the middle class, who already believed their worldly efforts had
led to their economic success.

The Industrial Revolution in the United States created a new class of wage workers, and this working class
also developed its own culture. They formed their own neighborhoods, living away from the oversight
of bosses and managers. While industrialization and the market revolution brought some improvements
to the lives of the working class, these sweeping changes did not benefit laborers as much as they did
the middle class and the elites. The working class continued to live an often precarious existence. They
suffered greatly during economic slumps, such as the Panic of 1819.

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Although most working-class men sought to emulate the middle class by keeping their wives and children
out of the work force, their economic situation often necessitated that others besides the male head of the
family contribute to its support. Thus, working-class children might attend school for a few years or learn
to read and write at Sunday school, but education was sacrificed when income was needed, and many
working-class children went to work in factories. While the wives of wage laborers usually did not work
for wages outside the home, many took in laundry or did piecework at home to supplement the family’s

Although the urban working class could not afford the consumer goods that the middle class could, its
members did exercise a great deal of influence over popular culture. Theirs was a festive public culture of
release and escape from the drudgery of factory work, catered to by the likes of Phineas Taylor Barnum,
the celebrated circus promoter and showman. Taverns also served an important function as places to
forget the long hours and uncertain wages of the factories. Alcohol consumption was high among the
working class, although many workers did take part in the temperance movement. It is little wonder that
middle-class manufacturers attempted to abolish alcohol.


P. T. Barnum and the Feejee Mermaid
The Connecticut native P. T. Barnum catered to the demand for escape and cheap amusements among
the working class. His American Museum in New York City opened in 1841 and achieved great success.
Millions flocked to see Barnum’s exhibits, which included a number of fantastic human and animal
oddities, almost all of which were hoaxes. One exhibit in the 1840s featured the “Feejee Mermaid,” which
Barnum presented as proof of the existence of the mythical mermaids of the deep (Figure 9.18). In truth,
the mermaid was a half-monkey, half-fish stitched together.

Figure 9.18 Spurious though they were, attractions such as the Feejee mermaid (a) from P. T.
Barnum’s American Museum in New York City (b) drew throngs of working-class wage earners in the
middle of the nineteenth century.

Chapter 9 Industrial Transformation in the North, 1800–1850 267

Visit The Lost Museum (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15LostMuseum) to take a
virtual tour of P. T. Barnum’s incredible museum.

Wage workers in the North were largely hostile to the abolition of slavery, fearing it would unleash more
competition for jobs from free blacks. Many were also hostile to immigration. The pace of immigration
to the United States accelerated in the 1840s and 1850s as Europeans were drawn to the promise of
employment and land in the United States. Many new members of the working class came from the ranks
of these immigrants, who brought new foods, customs, and religions. The Roman Catholic population
of the United States, fairly small before this period, began to swell with the arrival of the Irish and the

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Cumberland Road


Erie Canal

free moral agency

labor theory of value

land offices

machine tools

Mohawk and Hudson Railroad

putting-out system


Working Men’s Party

Key Terms

skilled, experienced worker who produces specialized goods by hand

a national highway that provided thousands with a route from Maryland to Illinois

breaking an artisanal production process into smaller steps that unskilled workers can

a canal that connected the Hudson River to Lake Erie and markets in the West

the freedom to change one’s own life and bring about one’s own salvation

an economic theory holding that profits from the sale of the goods produced by
workers should be equitably distributed to those workers

sites where prospective landowners could buy public land from the government

machines that cut and shape metal to produce standardized, interchangeable parts for
mechanical devices such as clocks or guns

the first steam-powered locomotive railroad in the United States

a labor system whereby a merchant hired different families to perform specific tasks
in a production process

“hard” money, usually in the form of gold and silver coins

a political group that radically opposed what they viewed as the exploitation of

9.1 Early Industrialization in the Northeast
Industrialization led to radical changes in American life. New industrial towns, like Waltham, Lowell,
and countless others, dotted the landscape of the Northeast. The mills provided many young women
an opportunity to experience a new and liberating life, and these workers relished their new freedom.
Workers also gained a greater appreciation of the value of their work and, in some instances, began
to question the basic fairness of the new industrial order. The world of work had been fundamentally

9.2 A Vibrant Capitalist Republic
The selling of the public domain was one of the key features of the early nineteenth century in the
United States. Thousands rushed west to take part in the bounty. In the wild frenzy of land purchases
and speculation in land, state banks advanced risky loans and created unstable paper money not backed
by gold or silver, ultimately leading to the Panic of 1819. The ensuing economic depression was the
first in U.S. history. Recovery came in the 1820s, followed by a period of robust growth. In this age
of entrepreneurship, in which those who invested their money wisely in land, business ventures, or
technological improvements reaped vast profits, inventors produced new wonders that transformed
American life.

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9.3 On the Move: The Transportation Revolution
A transportation infrastructure rapidly took shape in the 1800s as American investors and the government
began building roads, turnpikes, canals, and railroads. The time required to travel shrank vastly, and
people marveled at their ability to conquer great distances, enhancing their sense of the steady advance
of progress. The transportation revolution also made it possible to ship agricultural and manufactured
goods throughout the country and enabled rural people to travel to towns and cities for employment

9.4 A New Social Order: Class Divisions
The creation of distinctive classes in the North drove striking new cultural developments. Even among the
wealthy elites, northern business families, who had mainly inherited their money, distanced themselves
from the newly wealthy manufacturing leaders. Regardless of how they had earned their money, however,
the elite lived and socialized apart from members of the growing middle class. The middle class valued
work, consumption, and education and dedicated their energies to maintaining or advancing their social
status. Wage workers formed their own society in industrial cities and mill villages, though lack of money
and long working hours effectively prevented the working class from consuming the fruits of their labor,
educating their children, or advancing up the economic ladder.

Review Questions
1. How were the New England textile mills
planned and built?

A. Experienced British builders traveled to the
United States to advise American

B. New England merchants paid French and
German mechanics to design factories for

C. New England merchants and British
migrants memorized plans from British

D. Textile mills were a purely American
creation, invented by Francis Cabot Lowell
in 1813.

2. Which is the best characterization of textile mill
workers in the early nineteenth century?

A. male and female indentured servants from
Great Britain who worked hard to win their

B. young men who found freedom in the
rowdy lifestyle of mill work

C. experienced artisans who shared their
knowledge in exchange for part ownership
in the company

D. young farm women whose behavior was
closely monitored

3. What effect did industrialization have on

4. Most people who migrated within the United
States in the early nineteenth century went

A. north toward Canada
B. west toward Ohio
C. south toward Georgia
D. east across the Mississippi River

5. Which of the following was not a cause of the
Panic of 1819?

A. The Second Bank of the United States made
risky loans.

B. States chartered too many banks.
C. Prices for American commodities dropped.
D. Banks hoarded gold and silver.

6. Robert Fulton is known for inventing ________.

A. the cotton gin
B. the mechanical reaper
C. the steamship engine
D. machine tools

7. What did federal and state governments do to
help people who were hurt in the Panic of 1819?

8. Which of the following was not a factor in the
transportation revolution?

A. the steam-powered locomotive

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B. the canal system
C. the combustion engine
D. the government-funded road system

9. What was the significance of the Cumberland

A. It gave settlers a quicker way to move west.
B. It reduced the time it took to move goods

from New York Harbor to Lake Erie.
C. It improved trade from the Port of New

D. It was the first paved road.

10. What were the benefits of the transportation

11. Which of the following groups supported the
abolition of slavery?

A. northern business elites
B. southern planter elites
C. wage workers
D. middle-class northerners

12. Which social class was most drawn to
amusements like P. T. Barnum’s museum?

A. wage workers
B. middle-class northerners
C. southern planter elites
D. northern business elites

13. What did Peter Cooper envision for the
United States, and how did he work to bring his
vision to life?

Critical Thinking Questions
14. Industrialization in the Northeast produced great benefits and also major problems. What were they?
Who benefited and who suffered? Did the benefits outweigh the problems, or vice versa?

15. What factors led to the Panic of 1819? What government regulations might have prevented it?

16. Would the Industrial Revolution have been possible without the use of slave labor? Why or why not?

17. What might have been the advantages and disadvantages of railroads for the people who lived along
the routes or near the stations?

18. What were the values of the middle class? How did they differ from the values of those above and
below them on the socioeconomic ladder? In what ways are these values similar to or different from those
held by the middle class today?

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Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840

Figure 10.1 In President’s Levee, or all Creation going to the White House, Washington (1841), by Robert
Cruikshank, the artist depicts Andrew Jackson’s inauguration in 1829, with crowds surging into the White House to
join the celebrations. Rowdy revelers destroyed many White House furnishings in their merriment. A new political era
of democracy had begun, one characterized by the rule of the majority.

Chapter Outline
10.1 A New Political Style: From John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson
10.2 The Rise of American Democracy
10.3 The Nullification Crisis and the Bank War
10.4 Indian Removal
10.5 The Tyranny and Triumph of the Majority

The most extraordinary political development in the years before the Civil War was the rise of American
democracy. Whereas the founders envisioned the United States as a republic, not a democracy, and had
placed safeguards such as the Electoral College in the 1787 Constitution to prevent simple majority rule,
the early 1820s saw many Americans embracing majority rule and rejecting old forms of deference that
were based on elite ideas of virtue, learning, and family lineage.

A new breed of politicians learned to harness the magic of the many by appealing to the resentments, fears,
and passions of ordinary citizens to win elections. The charismatic Andrew Jackson gained a reputation
as a fighter and defender of American expansion, emerging as the quintessential figure leading the rise of
American democracy. In the image above (Figure 10.1), crowds flock to the White House to celebrate his
inauguration as president. While earlier inaugurations had been reserved for Washington’s political elite,
Jackson’s was an event for the people, so much so that the pushing throngs caused thousands of dollars of
damage to White House property. Characteristics of modern American democracy, including the turbulent
nature of majority rule, first appeared during the Age of Jackson.

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 273

10.1 A New Political Style: From John Quincy Adams to Andrew

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain and illustrate the new style of American politics in the 1820s
• Describe the policies of John Quincy Adams’s presidency and explain the political

divisions that resulted

In the 1820s, American political culture gave way to the democratic urges of the citizenry. Political leaders
and parties rose to popularity by championing the will of the people, pushing the country toward a future
in which a wider swath of citizens gained a political voice. However, this expansion of political power was
limited to white men; women, free blacks, and Indians remained—or grew increasingly—disenfranchised
by the American political system.

The first party system in the United States shaped the political contest between the Federalists and
the Democratic-Republicans. The Federalists, led by Washington, Hamilton, and Adams, dominated
American politics in the 1790s. After the election of Thomas Jefferson—the Revolution of 1800—the
Democratic-Republicans gained ascendance. The gradual decline of the Federalist Party is evident in its
losses in the presidential contests that occurred between 1800 and 1820. After 1816, in which Democratic-
Republican James Monroe defeated his Federalist rival Rufus King, the Federalists never ran another
presidential candidate.

Before the 1820s, a code of deference had underwritten the republic’s political order. Deference was
the practice of showing respect for individuals who had distinguished themselves through military

Figure 10.2

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accomplishments, educational attainment, business success, or family pedigree. Such individuals were
members of what many Americans in the early republic agreed was a natural aristocracy. Deference shown
to them dovetailed with republicanism and its emphasis on virtue, the ideal of placing the common good
above narrow self-interest. Republican statesmen in the 1780s and 1790s expected and routinely received
deferential treatment from others, and ordinary Americans deferred to their “social betters” as a matter of

For the generation who lived through the American Revolution, for instance, George Washington
epitomized republican virtue, entitling him to great deference from his countrymen. His judgment and
decisions were considered beyond reproach. An Anglican minister named Mason Locke Weems wrote the
classic tale of Washington’s unimpeachable virtue in his 1800 book, The Life of Washington. Generations of
nineteenth-century American children read its fictional story of a youthful Washington chopping down
one of his father’s cherry trees and, when confronted by his father, confessing: “I cannot tell a lie”
(Figure 10.3). The story spoke to Washington’s unflinching honesty and integrity, encouraging readers to
remember the deference owed to such towering national figures.

Figure 10.3 “Father, I Can Not Tell a Lie: I Cut the Tree” (1867) by John McRae, after a painting by George Gorgas
White, illustrates Mason Locke Weems’s tale of Washington’s honesty and integrity as revealed in the incident of the
cherry tree. Although it was fiction, this story about Washington taught generations of children about the importance
of virtue.

Washington and those who celebrated his role as president established a standard for elite, virtuous
leadership that cast a long shadow over subsequent presidential administrations. The presidents who
followed Washington shared the first president’s pedigree. With the exception of John Adams, who
was from Massachusetts, all the early presidents—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James
Monroe—were members of Virginia’s elite slaveholder aristocracy.

In the early 1820s, deference to pedigree began to wane in American society. A new type of deference—to
the will of the majority and not to a ruling class—took hold. The spirit of democratic reform became most
evident in the widespread belief that all white men, regardless of whether they owned property, had the
right to participate in elections.

Before the 1820s, many state constitutions had imposed property qualifications for voting as a means to
keep democratic tendencies in check. However, as Federalist ideals fell out of favor, ordinary men from
the middle and lower classes increasingly questioned the idea that property ownership was an indication
of virtue. They argued for universal manhood suffrage, or voting rights for all white male adults.

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 275

New states adopted constitutions that did not contain property qualifications for voting, a move designed
to stimulate migration across their borders. Vermont and Kentucky, admitted to the Union in 1791 and
1792 respectively, granted the right to vote to all white men regardless of whether they owned property
or paid taxes. Ohio’s state constitution placed a minor taxpaying requirement on voters but otherwise
allowed for expansive white male suffrage. Alabama, admitted to the Union in 1819, eliminated property
qualifications for voting in its state constitution. Two other new states, Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1818),
also extended the right to vote to white men regardless of property. Initially, the new state of Mississippi
(1817) restricted voting to white male property holders, but in 1832 it eliminated this provision.

In Connecticut, Federalist power largely collapsed in 1818 when the state held a constitutional convention.
The new constitution granted the right to vote to all white men who paid taxes or served in the militia.
Similarly, New York amended its state constitution in 1821–1822 and removed the property qualifications
for voting.

Expanded voting rights did not extend to women, Indians, or free blacks in the North. Indeed, race
replaced property qualifications as the criterion for voting rights. American democracy had a decidedly
racist orientation; a white majority limited the rights of black minorities. New Jersey explicitly restricted
the right to vote to white men only. Connecticut passed a law in 1814 taking the right to vote away from
free black men and restricting suffrage to white men only. By the 1820s, 80 percent of the white male
population could vote in New York State elections. No other state had expanded suffrage so dramatically.
At the same time, however, New York effectively disenfranchised free black men in 1822 (black men had
had the right to vote under the 1777 constitution) by requiring that “men of color” must possess property
over the value of $250.

In addition to expanding white men’s right to vote, democratic currents also led to a new style of political
party organization, most evident in New York State in the years after the War of 1812. Under the leadership
of Martin Van Buren, New York’s “Bucktail” Republican faction (so named because members wore a deer’s
tail on their hats, a symbol of membership in the Tammany Society) gained political power by cultivating
loyalty to the will of the majority, not to an elite family or renowned figure. The Bucktails emphasized a
pragmatic approach. For example, at first they opposed the Erie Canal project, but when the popularity of
the massive transportation venture became clear, they supported it.

One of the Bucktails’ greatest achievements in New York came in the form of revisions to the state
constitution in the 1820s. Under the original constitution, a Council of Appointments selected local officials
such as sheriffs and county clerks. The Bucktails replaced this process with a system of direct elections,
which meant thousands of jobs immediately became available to candidates who had the support of the
majority. In practice, Van Buren’s party could nominate and support their own candidates based on their
loyalty to the party. In this way, Van Buren helped create a political machine of disciplined party members
who prized loyalty above all else, a harbinger of future patronage politics in the United States. This system
of rewarding party loyalists is known as the spoils system (from the expression, “To the victor belong the
spoils”). Van Buren’s political machine helped radically transform New York politics.

Party politics also transformed the national political landscape, and the election of 1824 proved a turning
point in American politics. With tens of thousands of new voters, the older system of having members of
Congress form congressional caucuses to determine who would run no longer worked. The new voters
had regional interests and voted on them. For the first time, the popular vote mattered in a presidential
election. Electors were chosen by popular vote in eighteen states, while the six remaining states used the
older system in which state legislatures chose electors.

With the caucus system defunct, the presidential election of 1824 featured five candidates, all of whom ran
as Democratic-Republicans (the Federalists having ceased to be a national political force). The crowded
field included John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president, John Adams. Candidate Adams had
broken with the Federalists in the early 1800s and served on various diplomatic missions, including the

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mission to secure peace with Great Britain in 1814. He represented New England. A second candidate,
John C. Calhoun from South Carolina, had served as secretary of war and represented the slaveholding
South. He dropped out of the presidential race to run for vice president. A third candidate, Henry Clay,
the Speaker of the House of Representatives, hailed from Kentucky and represented the western states. He
favored an active federal government committed to internal improvements, such as roads and canals, to
bolster national economic development and settlement of the West. William H. Crawford, a slaveholder
from Georgia, suffered a stroke in 1823 that left him largely incapacitated, but he ran nonetheless and
had the backing of the New York machine headed by Van Buren. Andrew Jackson, the famed “hero of
New Orleans,” rounded out the field. Jackson had very little formal education, but he was popular for his
military victories in the War of 1812 and in wars against the Creek and the Seminole. He had been elected
to the Senate in 1823, and his popularity soared as pro-Jackson newspapers sang the praises of the courage
and daring of the Tennessee slaveholder (Figure 10.4).

Figure 10.4 The two most popular presidential candidates in the election of 1824 were Andrew Jackson (a), who
won the popular vote but failed to secure the requisite number of votes in the Electoral College, and John Quincy
Adams (b), who emerged victorious after a contentious vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Results from the eighteen states where the popular vote determined the electoral vote gave Jackson
the election, with 152,901 votes to Adams’s 114,023, Clay’s 47,217, and Crawford’s 46,979. The Electoral
College, however, was another matter. Of the 261 electoral votes, Jackson needed 131 or better to win but
secured only 99. Adams won 84, Crawford 41, and Clay 37. Because Jackson did not receive a majority
vote from the Electoral College, the election was decided following the terms of the Twelfth Amendment,
which stipulated that when a candidate did not receive a majority of electoral votes, the election went to
the House of Representatives, where each state would provide one vote. House Speaker Clay did not want
to see his rival, Jackson, become president and therefore worked within the House to secure the presidency
for Adams, convincing many to cast their vote for the New Englander. Clay’s efforts paid off; despite not
having won the popular vote, John Quincy Adams was certified by the House as the next president. Once
in office, he elevated Henry Clay to the post of secretary of state.

Jackson and his supporters cried foul. To them, the election of Adams reeked of anti-democratic
corruption. So too did the appointment of Clay as secretary of state. John C. Calhoun labeled the whole
affair a “corrupt bargain” (Figure 10.5). Everywhere, Jackson supporters vowed revenge against the anti-
majoritarian result of 1824.

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 277

Figure 10.5 John C. Calhoun (a) believed that the assistance Henry Clay (b) gave to John Quincy Adams in the
U.S. House of Representatives’ vote to decide the presidential election of 1824 indicated that a “corrupt bargain” had
been made.

Secretary of State Clay championed what was known as the American System of high tariffs, a national
bank, and federally sponsored internal improvements of canals and roads. Once in office, President Adams
embraced Clay’s American System and proposed a national university and naval academy to train future
leaders of the republic. The president’s opponents smelled elitism in these proposals and pounced on what
they viewed as the administration’s catering to a small privileged class at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Clay also envisioned a broad range of internal transportation improvements. Using the proceeds from
land sales in the West, Adams endorsed the creation of roads and canals to facilitate commerce and the
advance of settlement in the West. Many in Congress vigorously opposed federal funding of internal
improvements, citing among other reasons that the Constitution did not give the federal government the
power to fund these projects. However, in the end, Adams succeeded in extending the Cumberland Road
into Ohio (a federal highway project). He also broke ground for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on July 4,

Visit the Cumberland Road Project (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15cumberland)
and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15OandCcanal) to learn more about transportation
developments in the first half of the nineteenth century. How were these two projects
important for westward expansion?

Tariffs, which both Clay and Adams promoted, were not a novel idea; since the birth of the republic they
had been seen as a way to advance domestic manufacturing by making imports more expensive. Congress
had approved a tariff in 1789, for instance, and Alexander Hamilton had proposed a protective tariff in

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1790. Congress also passed tariffs in 1816 and 1824. Clay spearheaded the drive for the federal government
to impose high tariffs to help bolster domestic manufacturing. If imported goods were more expensive
than domestic goods, then people would buy American-made goods.

President Adams wished to promote manufacturing, especially in his home region of New England. To
that end, in 1828 he proposed a high tariff on imported goods, amounting to 50 percent of their value. The
tariff raised questions about how power should be distributed, causing a fiery debate between those who
supported states’ rights and those who supported the expanded power of the federal government (Figure
10.6). Those who championed states’ rights denounced the 1828 measure as the Tariff of Abominations,
clear evidence that the federal government favored one region, in this case the North, over another, the
South. They made their case by pointing out that the North had an expanding manufacturing base while
the South did not. Therefore, the South imported far more manufactured goods than the North, causing
the tariff to fall most heavily on the southern states.

Figure 10.6 The Monkey System or ‘Every one for himself at the expense of his neighbor!!!!!!!!’ (1831) critiqued
Henry Clay’s proposed tariff and system of internal improvements. In this political cartoon by Edward Williams Clay,
four caged monkeys labeled “Home,” “Consumption,” “Internal,” and “Improv” (improvements)—different parts of the
nation’s economy—steal each other’s food while Henry Clay, in the foreground, extols the virtues of his “grand
original American System.” (credit: Project Gutenberg Archives)

The 1828 tariff generated additional fears among southerners. In particular, it suggested to them that the
federal government would unilaterally take steps that hurt the South. This line of reasoning led some
southerners to fear that the very foundation of the South—slavery—could come under attack from a
hostile northern majority in Congress. The spokesman for this southern view was President Adams’s vice
president, John C. Calhoun.

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 279


John C. Calhoun on the Tariff of 1828
Vice President John C. Calhoun, angry about the passage of the Tariff of 1828, anonymously wrote a
report titled “South Carolina Exposition and Protest” (later known as “Calhoun’s Exposition”) for the South
Carolina legislature. As a native of South Carolina, Calhoun articulated the fear among many southerners
that the federal government could exercise undue power over the states.

If it be conceded, as it must be by every one who is the least conversant with our institutions,
that the sovereign powers delegated are divided between the General and State
Governments, and that the latter hold their portion by the same tenure as the former, it would
seem impossible to deny to the States the right of deciding on the infractions of their powers,
and the proper remedy to be applied for their correction. The right of judging, in such cases,
is an essential attribute of sovereignty, of which the States cannot be divested without losing
their sovereignty itself, and being reduced to a subordinate corporate condition. In fact, to
divide power, and to give to one of the parties the exclusive right of judging of the portion
allotted to each, is, in reality, not to divide it at all; and to reserve such exclusive right to the
General Government (it matters not by what department) to be exercised, is to convert it, in
fact, into a great consolidated government, with unlimited powers, and to divest the States, in
reality, of all their rights, It is impossible to understand the force of terms, and to deny so plain
a conclusion.
—John C. Calhoun, “South Carolina Exposition and Protest,” 1828

What is Calhoun’s main point of protest? What does he say about the sovereignty of the states?

10.2 The Rise of American Democracy

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the key points of the election of 1828
• Explain the scandals of Andrew Jackson’s first term in office

A turning point in American political history occurred in 1828, which witnessed the election of Andrew
Jackson over the incumbent John Quincy Adams. While democratic practices had been in ascendance since
1800, the year also saw the further unfolding of a democratic spirit in the United States. Supporters of
Jackson called themselves Democrats or the Democracy, giving birth to the Democratic Party. Political
authority appeared to rest with the majority as never before.

During the 1800s, democratic reforms made steady progress with the abolition of property qualifications
for voting and the birth of new forms of political party organization. The 1828 campaign pushed new
democratic practices even further and highlighted the difference between the Jacksonian expanded
electorate and the older, exclusive Adams style. A slogan of the day, “Adams who can write/Jackson who
can fight,” captured the contrast between Adams the aristocrat and Jackson the frontiersman.

The 1828 campaign differed significantly from earlier presidential contests because of the party
organization that promoted Andrew Jackson. Jackson and his supporters reminded voters of the “corrupt
bargain” of 1824. They framed it as the work of a small group of political elites deciding who would
lead the nation, acting in a self-serving manner and ignoring the will of the majority (Figure 10.7). From
Nashville, Tennessee, the Jackson campaign organized supporters around the nation through editorials in
partisan newspapers and other publications. Pro-Jackson newspapers heralded the “hero of New Orleans”

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while denouncing Adams. Though he did not wage an election campaign filled with public appearances,
Jackson did give one major campaign speech in New Orleans on January 8, the anniversary of the defeat
of the British in 1815. He also engaged in rounds of discussion with politicians who came to his home, the
Hermitage, in Nashville.

Figure 10.7 The bitter rivalry between Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay was exacerbated by the “corrupt bargain” of
1824, which Jackson made much of during his successful presidential campaign in 1828. This drawing, published in
the 1830s during the debates over the future of the Second Bank of the United States, shows Clay sewing up
Jackson’s mouth while the “cure for calumny [slander]” protrudes from his pocket.

At the local level, Jackson’s supporters worked to bring in as many new voters as possible. Rallies, parades,
and other rituals further broadcast the message that Jackson stood for the common man against the corrupt
elite backing Adams and Clay. Democratic organizations called Hickory Clubs, a tribute to Jackson’s
nickname, Old Hickory, also worked tirelessly to ensure his election.

In November 1828, Jackson won an overwhelming victory over Adams, capturing 56 percent of the
popular vote and 68 percent of the electoral vote. As in 1800, when Jefferson had won over the Federalist
incumbent John Adams, the presidency passed to a new political party, the Democrats. The election was
the climax of several decades of expanding democracy in the United States and the end of the older politics
of deference.

Visit The Hermitage (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Hermitage) to explore a
timeline of Andrew Jackson’s life and career. How do you think the events of his
younger life affected the trajectory of his political career?

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Amid revelations of widespread fraud, including the disclosure that some $300,000 was missing from the
Treasury Department, Jackson removed almost 50 percent of appointed civil officers, which allowed him
to handpick their replacements. This replacement of appointed federal officials is called rotation in office.
Lucrative posts, such as postmaster and deputy postmaster, went to party loyalists, especially in places
where Jackson’s support had been weakest, such as New England. Some Democratic newspaper editors
who had supported Jackson during the campaign also gained public jobs.

Jackson’s opponents were angered and took to calling the practice the spoils system, after the policies of
Van Buren’s Bucktail Republican Party. The rewarding of party loyalists with government jobs resulted
in spectacular instances of corruption. Perhaps the most notorious occurred in New York City, where a
Jackson appointee made off with over $1 million. Such examples seemed proof positive that the Democrats
were disregarding merit, education, and respectability in decisions about the governing of the nation.

In addition to dealing with rancor over rotation in office, the Jackson administration became embroiled
in a personal scandal known as the Petticoat affair. This incident exacerbated the division between the
president’s team and the insider class in the nation’s capital, who found the new arrivals from Tennessee
lacking in decorum and propriety. At the center of the storm was Margaret (“Peggy”) O’Neal, a well-
known socialite in Washington, DC (Figure 10.8). O’Neal cut a striking figure and had connections to the
republic’s most powerful men. She married John Timberlake, a naval officer, and they had three children.
Rumors abounded, however, about her involvement with John Eaton, a U.S. senator from Tennessee who
had come to Washington in 1818.

Figure 10.8 Peggy O’Neal was so well known that advertisers used her image to sell products to the public. In this
anonymous nineteenth-century cigar-box lid, her portrait is flanked by vignettes showing her scandalous past. On the
left, President Andrew Jackson presents her with flowers. On the right, two men fight a duel for her.

Timberlake committed suicide in 1828, setting off a flurry of rumors that he had been distraught over
his wife’s reputed infidelities. Eaton and Mrs. Timberlake married soon after, with the full approval of
President Jackson. The so-called Petticoat affair divided Washington society. Many Washington socialites
snubbed the new Mrs. Eaton as a woman of low moral character. Among those who would have nothing
to do with her was Vice President John C. Calhoun’s wife, Floride. Calhoun fell out of favor with President
Jackson, who defended Peggy Eaton and derided those who would not socialize with her, declaring she
was “as chaste as a virgin.” (Jackson had personal reasons for defending Eaton: he drew a parallel between
Eaton’s treatment and that of his late wife, Rachel, who had been subjected to attacks on her reputation
related to her first marriage, which had ended in divorce.) Martin Van Buren, who defended the Eatons
and organized social gatherings with them, became close to Jackson, who came to rely on a group of
informal advisers that included Van Buren and was dubbed the Kitchen Cabinet. This select group of
presidential supporters highlights the importance of party loyalty to Jackson and the Democratic Party.

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10.3 The Nullification Crisis and the Bank War

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the factors that contributed to the Nullification Crisis
• Discuss the origins and creation of the Whig Party

The crisis over the Tariff of 1828 continued into the 1830s and highlighted one of the currents of democracy
in the Age of Jackson: namely, that many southerners believed a democratic majority could be harmful
to their interests. These southerners saw themselves as an embattled minority and claimed the right of
states to nullify federal laws that appeared to threaten state sovereignty. Another undercurrent was the
resentment and anger of the majority against symbols of elite privilege, especially powerful financial
institutions like the Second Bank of the United States.

The Tariff of 1828 had driven Vice President Calhoun to pen his “South Carolina Exposition and Protest,”
in which he argued that if a national majority acted against the interest of a regional minority, then
individual states could void—or nullify—federal law. By the early 1830s, the battle over the tariff took on
new urgency as the price of cotton continued to fall. In 1818, cotton had been thirty-one cents per pound.
By 1831, it had sunk to eight cents per pound. While production of cotton had soared during this time
and this increase contributed to the decline in prices, many southerners blamed their economic problems
squarely on the tariff for raising the prices they had to pay for imported goods while their own income

Resentment of the tariff was linked directly to the issue of slavery, because the tariff demonstrated
the use of federal power. Some southerners feared the federal government would next take additional
action against the South, including the abolition of slavery. The theory of nullification, or the voiding
of unwelcome federal laws, provided wealthy slaveholders, who were a minority in the United States,
with an argument for resisting the national government if it acted contrary to their interests. James
Hamilton, who served as governor of South Carolina in the early 1830s, denounced the “despotic majority
that oppresses us.” Nullification also raised the specter of secession; aggrieved states at the mercy of an
aggressive majority would be forced to leave the Union.

On the issue of nullification, South Carolina stood alone. Other southern states backed away from what
they saw as the extremism behind the idea. President Jackson did not make the repeal of the 1828 tariff a
priority and denied the nullifiers’ arguments. He and others, including former President Madison, argued
that Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gave Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes, duties,
imposts, and excises.” Jackson pledged to protect the Union against those who would try to tear it apart
over the tariff issue. “The union shall be preserved,” he declared in 1830.

To deal with the crisis, Jackson advocated a reduction in tariff rates. The Tariff of 1832, passed in the
summer, lowered the rates on imported goods, a move designed to calm southerners. It did not have
the desired effect, however, and Calhoun’s nullifiers still claimed their right to override federal law. In
November, South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification, declaring the 1828 and 1832 tariffs
null and void in the Palmetto State. Jackson responded, however, by declaring in the December 1832
Nullification Proclamation that a state did not have the power to void a federal law.

With the states and the federal government at an impasse, civil war seemed a real possibility. The next
governor of South Carolina, Robert Hayne, called for a force of ten thousand volunteers (Figure 10.9) to
defend the state against any federal action. At the same time, South Carolinians who opposed the nullifiers
told Jackson that eight thousand men stood ready to defend the Union. Congress passed the Force Bill
of 1833, which gave the federal government the right to use federal troops to ensure compliance with

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federal law. The crisis—or at least the prospect of armed conflict in South Carolina—was defused by the
Compromise Tariff of 1833, which reduced tariff rates considerably. Nullifiers in South Carolina accepted
it, but in a move that demonstrated their inflexibility, they nullified the Force Bill.

Figure 10.9 The governor of South Carolina, Robert Hayne, elected in 1832, was a strong proponent of states’
rights and the theory of nullification.

The Nullification Crisis illustrated the growing tensions in American democracy: an aggrieved minority of
elite, wealthy slaveholders taking a stand against the will of a democratic majority; an emerging sectional
divide between South and North over slavery; and a clash between those who believed in free trade and
those who believed in protective tariffs to encourage the nation’s economic growth. These tensions would
color the next three decades of politics in the United States.

Congress established the Bank of the United States in 1791 as a key pillar of Alexander Hamilton’s financial
program, but its twenty-year charter expired in 1811. Congress, swayed by the majority’s hostility to the
bank as an institution catering to the wealthy elite, did not renew the charter at that time. In its place,
Congress approved a new national bank—the Second Bank of the United States—in 1816. It too had a
twenty-year charter, set to expire in 1836.

The Second Bank of the United States was created to stabilize the banking system. More than two hundred
banks existed in the United States in 1816, and almost all of them issued paper money. In other words,
citizens faced a bewildering welter of paper money with no standard value. In fact, the problem of paper
money had contributed significantly to the Panic of 1819.

In the 1820s, the national bank moved into a magnificent new building in Philadelphia. However, despite
Congress’s approval of the Second Bank of the United States, a great many people continued to view it as
tool of the wealthy, an anti-democratic force. President Jackson was among them; he had faced economic
crises of his own during his days speculating in land, an experience that had made him uneasy about paper
money. To Jackson, hard currency—that is, gold or silver—was the far better alternative. The president
also personally disliked the bank’s director, Nicholas Biddle.

A large part of the allure of mass democracy for politicians was the opportunity to capture the anger and
resentment of ordinary Americans against what they saw as the privileges of a few. One of the leading
opponents of the bank was Thomas Hart Benton, a senator from Missouri, who declared that the bank

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served “to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer.” The self-important statements of Biddle, who
claimed to have more power that President Jackson, helped fuel sentiments like Benton’s.

In the reelection campaign of 1832, Jackson’s opponents in Congress, including Henry Clay, hoped to use
their support of the bank to their advantage. In January 1832, they pushed for legislation that would re-
charter it, even though its charter was not scheduled to expire until 1836. When the bill for re-chartering
passed and came to President Jackson, he used his executive authority to veto the measure.

The defeat of the Second Bank of the United States demonstrates Jackson’s ability to focus on the specific
issues that aroused the democratic majority. Jackson understood people’s anger and distrust toward
the bank, which stood as an emblem of special privilege and big government. He skillfully used that
perception to his advantage, presenting the bank issue as a struggle of ordinary people against a rapacious
elite class who cared nothing for the public and pursued only their own selfish ends. As Jackson portrayed
it, his was a battle for small government and ordinary Americans. His stand against what bank opponents
called the “monster bank” proved very popular, and the Democratic press lionized him for it (Figure
10.10). In the election of 1832, Jackson received nearly 53 percent of the popular vote against his opponent
Henry Clay.

Figure 10.10 In General Jackson Slaying the Many Headed Monster (1836), the artist, Henry R. Robinson, depicts
President Jackson using a cane marked “Veto” to battle a many-headed snake representing state banks, which
supported the national bank. Battling alongside Martin Van Buren and Jack Downing, Jackson addresses the largest
head, that of Nicholas Biddle, the director of the national bank: “Biddle thou Monster Avaunt [go away]!! . . .”

Jackson’s veto was only one part of the war on the “monster bank.” In 1833, the president removed the
deposits from the national bank and placed them in state banks. Biddle, the bank’s director, retaliated by
restricting loans to the state banks, resulting in a reduction of the money supply. The financial turmoil
only increased when Jackson issued an executive order known as the Specie Circular, which required that
western land sales be conducted using gold or silver only. Unfortunately, this policy proved a disaster
when the Bank of England, the source of much of the hard currency borrowed by American businesses,
dramatically cut back on loans to the United States. Without the flow of hard currency from England,
American depositors drained the gold and silver from their own domestic banks, making hard currency
scarce. Adding to the economic distress of the late 1830s, cotton prices plummeted, contributing to a
financial crisis called the Panic of 1837. This economic panic would prove politically useful for Jackson’s
opponents in the coming years and Van Buren, elected president in 1836, would pay the price for Jackson’s
hard-currency preferences.

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 285

Jackson’s veto of the bank and his Specie Circular helped galvanize opposition forces into a new political
party, the Whigs, a faction that began to form in 1834. The name was significant; opponents of Jackson
saw him as exercising tyrannical power, so they chose the name Whig after the eighteenth-century political
party that resisted the monarchical power of King George III. One political cartoon dubbed the president
“King Andrew the First” and displayed Jackson standing on the Constitution, which has been ripped to
shreds (Figure 10.11).

Figure 10.11 This anonymous 1833 political caricature (a) represents President Andrew Jackson as a despotic ruler,
holding a scepter in one hand and a veto in the other. Contrast the image of “King Andrew” with a political cartoon
from 1831 (b) of Jackson overseeing a scene of uncontrollable chaos as he falls from a hickory chair “coming to
pieces at last.”

Whigs championed an active federal government committed to internal improvements, including a
national bank. They made their first national appearance in the presidential election of 1836, a contest
that pitted Jackson’s handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren, against a field of several Whig candidates.
Indeed, the large field of Whig candidates indicated the new party’s lack of organization compared to the
Democrats. This helped Van Buren, who carried the day in the Electoral College. As the effects of the Panic
of 1837 continued to be felt for years afterward, the Whig press pinned the blame for the economic crisis
on Van Buren and the Democrats.

Explore a Library of Congress (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15PolPrints) collection
of 1830s political cartoons from the pages of Harper’s Weekly to learn more about how
Andrew Jackson was viewed by the public in that era.

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10.4 Indian Removal

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the legal wrangling that surrounded the Indian Removal Act
• Describe how depictions of Indians in popular culture helped lead to Indian removal

Pro-Jackson newspapers touted the president as a champion of opening land for white settlement and
moving native inhabitants beyond the boundaries of “American civilization.” In this effort, Jackson
reflected majority opinion: most Americans believed Indians had no place in the white republic. Jackson’s
animosity toward Indians ran deep. He had fought against the Creek in 1813 and against the Seminole
in 1817, and his reputation and popularity rested in large measure on his firm commitment to remove
Indians from states in the South. The 1830 Indian Removal Act and subsequent displacement of the Creek,
Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee tribes of the Southeast fulfilled the vision of a white nation
and became one of the identifying characteristics of the Age of Jackson.

Popular culture in the first half of the nineteenth century reflected the aversion to Indians that was
pervasive during the Age of Jackson. Jackson skillfully played upon this racial hatred to engage the United
States in a policy of ethnic cleansing, eradicating the Indian presence from the land to make way for white

In an age of mass democracy, powerful anti-Indian sentiments found expression in mass culture, shaping
popular perceptions. James Fenimore Cooper’s very popular historical novel, The Last of the Mohicans,
published in 1826 as part of his Leatherstocking series, told the tale of Nathaniel “Natty” Bumppo (aka
Hawkeye), who lived among Indians but had been born to white parents. Cooper provides a romantic
version of the French and Indian War in which Natty helps the British against the French and the feral,
bloodthirsty Huron. Natty endures even as his Indian friends die, including the noble Uncas, the last
Mohican, in a narrative that dovetailed with most people’s approval of Indian removal.

Indians also made frequent appearances in art. George Catlin produced many paintings of native peoples,
which he offered as true representations despite routinely emphasizing their supposed savage nature. The
Cutting Scene, Mandan O-kee-pa Ceremony (Figure 10.12) is one example. Scholars have long questioned
the accuracy of this portrayal of a rite of passage among the Mandan people. Accuracy aside, the painting
captured the imaginations of white viewers, reinforcing their disgust at the savagery of Indians.

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Figure 10.12 The Cutting Scene, Mandan O-kee-pa Ceremony, an 1832 painting by George Catlin, depicts a rite-of-
passage ceremony that Catlin said he witnessed. It featured wooden splints inserted into the chest and back muscles
of young men. Such paintings increased Indians’ reputation as savages.

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The Paintings of George Catlin
George Catlin seized upon the public fascination with the supposedly exotic and savage Indian, seeing
an opportunity to make money by painting them in a way that conformed to popular white stereotypes
(Figure 10.13). In the late 1830s, he toured major cities with his Indian Gallery, a collection of paintings of
native peoples. Though he hoped his exhibition would be profitable, it did not bring him financial security.

Figure 10.13 In Attacking the Grizzly Bear (a), painted in 1844, Catlin focused on the Indians’ own
vanishing culture, while in Wi-jún-jon, Pigeon’s Egg Head (The Light) Going To and Returning From
Washington (b), painted in 1837–1839, he contrasted their ways with those of whites by showing an
Assiniboine chief transformed by a visit to Washington, DC.

Catlin routinely painted Indians in a supposedly aboriginal state. In Attacking the Grizzly Bear, the hunters
do not have rifles and instead rely on spears. Such a portrayal stretches credibility as native peoples had
long been exposed to and adopted European weapons. Indeed, the painting’s depiction of Indians riding
horses, which were introduced by the Spanish, makes clear that, as much as Catlin and white viewers
wanted to believe in the primitive and savage native, the reality was otherwise.

In Wi-jún-jon, Pigeon’s Egg Head (The Light) Going To and Returning From Washington, the viewer is
shown a before and after portrait of Wi-jún-jon, who tried to emulate white dress and manners after going
to Washington, DC. What differences do you see between these two representations of Wi-jún-jon? Do
you think his attempt to imitate whites was successful? Why or why not? What do you think Catlin was
trying to convey with this depiction of Wi-jún-jon’s assimilation?

In his first message to Congress, Jackson had proclaimed that Indian groups living independently within
states, as sovereign entities, presented a major problem for state sovereignty. This message referred
directly to the situation in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, where the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw,
Seminole, and Cherokee peoples stood as obstacles to white settlement. These groups were known as the
Five Civilized Tribes, because they had largely adopted Anglo-American culture, speaking English and
practicing Christianity. Some held slaves like their white counterparts.

Whites especially resented the Cherokee in Georgia, coveting the tribe’s rich agricultural lands in the
northern part of the state. The impulse to remove the Cherokee only increased when gold was discovered
on their lands. Ironically, while whites insisted the Cherokee and other native peoples could never be good
citizens because of their savage ways, the Cherokee had arguably gone farther than any other indigenous
group in adopting white culture. The Cherokee Phoenix, the newspaper of the Cherokee, began publication

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 289

in 1828 (Figure 10.14) in English and the Cherokee language. Although the Cherokee followed the lead
of their white neighbors by farming and owning property, as well as embracing Christianity and owning
their own slaves, this proved of little consequence in an era when whites perceived all Indians as incapable
of becoming full citizens of the republic.

Figure 10.14 This image depicts the front page of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper from May 21, 1828. The paper
was published in both English and the Cherokee language.

Jackson’s anti-Indian stance struck a chord with a majority of white citizens, many of whom shared a
hatred of nonwhites that spurred Congress to pass the 1830 Indian Removal Act. The act called for the
removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from their home in the southeastern United States to land in the
West, in present-day Oklahoma. Jackson declared in December 1830, “It gives me pleasure to announce to
Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation
to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two
important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it
is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.”

The Cherokee decided to fight the federal law, however, and took their case to the Supreme Court.
Their legal fight had the support of anti-Jackson members of Congress, including Henry Clay and Daniel
Webster, and they retained the legal services of former attorney general William Wirt. In Cherokee Nation v.
Georgia, Wirt argued that the Cherokee constituted an independent foreign nation, and that an injunction
(a stop) should be placed on Georgia laws aimed at eradicating them. In 1831, the Supreme Court found
the Cherokee did not meet the criteria for being a foreign nation.

Another case involving the Cherokee also found its way to the highest court in the land. This legal
struggle—Worcester v. Georgia—asserted the rights of non-natives to live on Indian lands. Samuel
Worcester was a Christian missionary and federal postmaster of New Echota, the capital of the Cherokee
nation. A Congregationalist, he had gone to live among the Cherokee in Georgia to further the spread of
Christianity, and he strongly opposed Indian removal.

By living among the Cherokee, Worcester had violated a Georgia law forbidding whites, unless they
were agents of the federal government, to live in Indian territory. Worcester was arrested, but because
his federal job as postmaster gave him the right to live there, he was released. Jackson supporters then
succeeded in taking away Worcester’s job, and he was re-arrested. This time, a court sentenced him and
nine others for violating the Georgia state law banning whites from living on Indian land. Worcester was

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sentenced to four years of hard labor. When the case of Worcester v. Georgia came before the Supreme Court
in 1832, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in favor of Worcester, finding that the Cherokee constituted
“distinct political communities” with sovereign rights to their own territory.


Chief Justice John Marshall’s Ruling in Worcester v. Georgia
In 1832, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall ruled in favor of Samuel Worcester in
Worcester v. Georgia. In doing so, he established the principle of tribal sovereignty. Although this
judgment contradicted Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, it failed to halt the Indian Removal Act. In his opinion,
Marshall wrote the following:

From the commencement of our government Congress has passed acts to regulate trade and
intercourse with the Indians; which treat them as nations, respect their rights, and manifest
a firm purpose to afford that protection which treaties stipulate. All these acts, and especially
that of 1802, which is still in force, manifestly consider the several Indian nations as distinct
political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive,
and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged,
but guaranteed by the United States. . . .
The Cherokee Nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with
boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which
the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves
or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between
the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, vested in the government
of the United States.
The act of the State of Georgia under which the plaintiff in error was prosecuted is
consequently void, and the judgment a nullity. . . . The Acts of Georgia are repugnant to the
Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.

How does this opinion differ from the outcome of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia just one year earlier? Why
do you think the two outcomes were different?

The Supreme Court did not have the power to enforce its ruling in Worcester v. Georgia, however, and
it became clear that the Cherokee would be compelled to move. Those who understood that the only
option was removal traveled west, but the majority stayed on their land. In order to remove them, the
president relied on the U.S. military. In a series of forced marches, some fifteen thousand Cherokee were
finally relocated to Oklahoma. This forced migration, known as the Trail of Tears, caused the deaths of as
many as four thousand Cherokee (Figure 10.15). The Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole peoples
were also compelled to go. The removal of the Five Civilized Tribes provides an example of the power of
majority opinion in a democracy.

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 291

Figure 10.15 After the passage of the Indian Removal Act, the U.S. military forced the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw,
Chickasaw, and Seminole to relocate from the Southeast to an area in the western territory (now Oklahoma),
marching them along the routes shown here.

Explore the interactive Trail of Tears map (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
15NativeAm) at PBS.org to see the routes the Five Civilized Tribes traveled when they
were expelled from their lands. Then listen to a collection of Cherokee oral histories
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15NativeAm2) including verses of a Cherokee-
language song about the Trail of Tears. What do you think is the importance of oral

history in documenting the Cherokee experience?

The policy of removal led some Indians to actively resist. In 1832, the Fox and the Sauk, led by Sauk chief
Black Hawk (Makataimeshekiakiah), moved back across the Mississippi River to reclaim their ancestral
home in northern Illinois. A brief war in 1832, Black Hawk’s War, ensued. White settlers panicked at the
return of the native peoples, and militias and federal troops quickly mobilized. At the Battle of Bad Axe
(also known as the Bad Axe Massacre), they killed over two hundred men, women, and children. Some
seventy white settlers and soldiers also lost their lives in the conflict (Figure 10.16). The war, which lasted
only a matter of weeks, illustrates how much whites on the frontier hated and feared Indians during the
Age of Jackson.

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Figure 10.16 Charles Bird King’s 1837 portrait Sauk Chief Makataimeshekiakiah, or Black Hawk (a), depicts the
Sauk chief who led the Fox and Sauk peoples in an ill-fated effort to return to their native lands in northern Illinois.
This engraving depicting the Battle of Bad Axe (b) shows U.S. soldiers on a steamer firing on Indians aboard a raft.
(credit b: modification of work by Library of Congress)

10.5 The Tyranny and Triumph of the Majority

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain Alexis de Tocqueville’s analysis of American democracy
• Describe the election of 1840 and its outcome

To some observers, the rise of democracy in the United States raised troubling questions about the
new power of the majority to silence minority opinion. As the will of the majority became the rule of
the day, everyone outside of mainstream, white American opinion, especially Indians and blacks, were
vulnerable to the wrath of the majority. Some worried that the rights of those who opposed the will of
the majority would never be safe. Mass democracy also shaped political campaigns as never before. The
1840 presidential election marked a significant turning point in the evolving style of American democratic

Perhaps the most insightful commentator on American democracy was the young French aristocrat Alexis
de Tocqueville, whom the French government sent to the United States to report on American prison
reforms (Figure 10.17). Tocqueville marveled at the spirit of democracy that pervaded American life.
Given his place in French society, however, much of what he saw of American democracy caused him

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 293

Figure 10.17 Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for his insightful commentary on American democracy found in De
la démocratie en Amérique. The first volume of Tocqueville’s two-volume work was immediately popular throughout
Europe. The first English translation, by Henry Reeve and titled Democracy in America (a), was published in New
York in 1838. Théodore Chassériau painted this portrait of Alexis de Tocqueville in 1850 (b).

Tocqueville’s experience led him to believe that democracy was an unstoppable force that would one day
overthrow monarchy around the world. He wrote and published his findings in 1835 and 1840 in a two-
part work entitled Democracy in America. In analyzing the democratic revolution in the United States, he
wrote that the major benefit of democracy came in the form of equality before the law. A great deal of the
social revolution of democracy, however, carried negative consequences. Indeed, Tocqueville described a
new type of tyranny, the tyranny of the majority, which overpowers the will of minorities and individuals
and was, in his view, unleashed by democracy in the United States.

In this excerpt from Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville warns of the dangers of democracy when
the majority will can turn to tyranny:

When an individual or a party is wronged in the United States, to whom can he apply for
redress? If to public opinion, public opinion constitutes the majority; if to the legislature, it
represents the majority, and implicitly obeys its injunctions; if to the executive power, it is
appointed by the majority, and remains a passive tool in its hands; the public troops consist of
the majority under arms; the jury is the majority invested with the right of hearing judicial cases;
and in certain States even the judges are elected by the majority. However iniquitous or absurd
the evil of which you complain may be, you must submit to it as well as you can.
The authority of a king is purely physical, and it controls the actions of the subject without
subduing his private will; but the majority possesses a power which is physical and moral at the
same time; it acts upon the will as well as upon the actions of men, and it represses not only all
contest, but all controversy. I know no country in which there is so little true independence of
mind and freedom of discussion as in America.

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Take the Alexis de Tocqueville Tour (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Tocqueville)
to experience nineteenth-century America as Tocqueville did, by reading his journal
entries about the states and territories he visited with fellow countryman Gustave de
Beaumont. What regional differences can you draw from his descriptions?

The presidential election contest of 1840 marked the culmination of the democratic revolution that swept
the United States. By this time, the second party system had taken hold, a system whereby the older
Federalist and Democratic-Republican Parties had been replaced by the new Democratic and Whig Parties.
Both Whigs and Democrats jockeyed for election victories and commanded the steady loyalty of political
partisans. Large-scale presidential campaign rallies and emotional propaganda became the order of the
day. Voter turnout increased dramatically under the second party system. Roughly 25 percent of eligible
voters had cast ballots in 1828. In 1840, voter participation surged to nearly 80 percent.

The differences between the parties were largely about economic policies. Whigs advocated accelerated
economic growth, often endorsing federal government projects to achieve that goal. Democrats did not
view the federal government as an engine promoting economic growth and advocated a smaller role for
the national government. The membership of the parties also differed: Whigs tended to be wealthier; they
were prominent planters in the South and wealthy urban northerners—in other words, the beneficiaries
of the market revolution. Democrats presented themselves as defenders of the common people against the

In the 1840 presidential campaign, taking their cue from the Democrats who had lionized Jackson’s
military accomplishments, the Whigs promoted William Henry Harrison as a war hero based on his 1811
military service against the Shawnee chief Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe. John Tyler of Virginia
ran as the vice presidential candidate, leading the Whigs to trumpet, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” as a
campaign slogan.

The campaign thrust Harrison into the national spotlight. Democrats tried to discredit him by declaring,
“Give him a barrel of hard [alcoholic] cider and settle a pension of two thousand a year on him, and take
my word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.” The Whigs turned the slur to their
advantage by presenting Harrison as a man of the people who had been born in a log cabin (in fact, he
came from a privileged background in Virginia), and the contest became known as the log cabin campaign
(Figure 10.18). At Whig political rallies, the faithful were treated to whiskey made by the E. C. Booz
Company, leading to the introduction of the word “booze” into the American lexicon. Tippecanoe Clubs,
where booze flowed freely, helped in the marketing of the Whig candidate.

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Figure 10.18 The Whig campaign song “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” (a) and the anti-Whig flyers (b) that were
circulated in response to the “log cabin campaign” illustrate the partisan fervor of the 1840 election.

The Whigs’ efforts, combined with their strategy of blaming Democrats for the lingering economic collapse
that began with the hard-currency Panic of 1837, succeeded in carrying the day. A mass campaign with
political rallies and party mobilization had molded a candidate to fit an ideal palatable to a majority of
American voters, and in 1840 Harrison won what many consider the first modern election.

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American System

code of deference

corrupt bargain

Five Civilized Tribes

Kitchen Cabinet

log cabin campaign

monster bank


rotation in office

second party system

spoils system

Tariff of Abominations

Trail of Tears

tyranny of the majority

universal manhood suffrage


Key Terms

the program of federally sponsored roads and canals, protective tariffs, and a national
bank advocated by Henry Clay and enacted by President Adams

the practice of showing respect for individuals who had distinguished themselves
through accomplishments or birth

the term that Andrew Jackson’s supporters applied to John Quincy Adams’s 1824
election, which had occurred through the machinations of Henry Clay in the U.S. House of

the five tribes—Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw—who had
most thoroughly adopted Anglo-American culture; they also happened to be the tribes that were believed
to stand in the way of western settlement in the South

a nickname for Andrew Jackson’s informal group of loyal advisers

the 1840 election, in which the Whigs painted William Henry Harrison as a man of
the people

the term Democratic opponents used to denounce the Second Bank of the United States as
an emblem of special privilege and big government

the theory, advocated in response to the Tariff of 1828, that states could void federal law at
their discretion

originally, simply the system of having term limits on political appointments; in the
Jackson era, this came to mean the replacement of officials with party loyalists

the system in which the Democratic and Whig Parties were the two main political
parties after the decline of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican Parties

the political system of rewarding friends and supporters with political appointments

a federal tariff introduced in 1828 that placed a high duty on imported goods in
order to help American manufacturers, which southerners viewed as unfair and harmful to their region

the route of the forced removal of the Cherokee and other tribes from the southeastern
United States to the territory that is now Oklahoma

Alexis de Tocqueville’s phrase warning of the dangers of American democracy

voting rights for all male adults

a political party that emerged in the early 1830s to oppose what members saw as President
Andrew Jackson’s abuses of power

10.1 A New Political Style: From John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson
The early 1800s saw an age of deference give way to universal manhood suffrage and a new type of
political organization based on loyalty to the party. The election of 1824 was a fight among Democratic-
Republicans that ended up pitting southerner Andrew Jackson against northerner John Quincy Adams.
When Adams won through political negotiations in the House of Representatives, Jackson’s supporters

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 297

derided the election as a “corrupt bargain.” The Tariff of 1828 further stirred southern sentiment, this
time against a perceived bias in the federal government toward northeastern manufacturers. At the same
time, the tariff stirred deeper fears that the federal government might take steps that could undermine the
system of slavery.

10.2 The Rise of American Democracy
The Democratic-Republicans’ “corrupt bargain” that brought John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to
office in 1824 also helped to push them out of office in 1828. Jackson used it to highlight the cronyism of
Washington politics. Supporters presented him as a true man of the people fighting against the elitism
of Clay and Adams. Jackson rode a wave of populist fervor all the way to the White House, ushering in
the ascendency of a new political party: the Democrats. Although Jackson ran on a platform of clearing
the corruption out of Washington, he rewarded his own loyal followers with plum government jobs, thus
continuing and intensifying the cycle of favoritism and corruption.

10.3 The Nullification Crisis and the Bank War
Andrew Jackson’s election in 1832 signaled the rise of the Democratic Party and a new style of American
politics. Jackson understood the views of the majority, and he skillfully used the popular will to his
advantage. He adroitly navigated through the Nullification Crisis and made headlines with what his
supporters viewed as his righteous war against the bastion of money, power, and entrenched insider
interests, the Second Bank of the United States. His actions, however, stimulated opponents to fashion an
opposition party, the Whigs.

10.4 Indian Removal
Popular culture in the Age of Jackson emphasized the savagery of the native peoples and shaped domestic
policy. Popular animosity found expression in the Indian Removal Act. Even the U.S. Supreme Court’s
ruling in favor of the Cherokee in Georgia offered no protection against the forced removal of the Five
Civilized Tribes from the Southeast, mandated by the 1830 Indian Removal Act and carried out by the U.S.

10.5 The Tyranny and Triumph of the Majority
American culture of the 1830s reflected the rise of democracy. The majority exercised a new type of
power that went well beyond politics, leading Alexis de Tocqueville to write about the “tyranny of the
majority.” Very quickly, politicians among the Whigs and Democrats learned to master the magic of the
many by presenting candidates and policies that catered to the will of the majority. In the 1840 “log cabin
campaign,” both sides engaged in the new democratic electioneering. The uninhibited expression during
the campaign inaugurated a new political style.

Review Questions
1. Which group saw an expansion of their voting
rights in the early nineteenth century?

A. free blacks
B. non-property-owning men
C. women
D. Indians

2. What was the lasting impact of the Bucktail
Republican Party in New York?

A. They implemented universal suffrage.
B. They pushed for the expansion of the canal

C. They elevated Martin Van Buren to the

national political stage.

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D. They changed state election laws from an
appointee system to a system of open

3. Who won the popular vote in the election of

A. Andrew Jackson
B. Martin Van Buren
C. Henry Clay
D. John Quincy Adams

4. Why did Andrew Jackson and his supporters
consider the election of John Quincy Adams to be
a “corrupt bargain”?

5. Who stood to gain from the Tariff of
Abominations, and who expected to lose by it?

6. What was the actual result of Jackson’s policy
of “rotation in office”?

A. an end to corruption in Washington
B. a replacement of Adams’s political loyalists

with Jackson’s political loyalists
C. the filling of government posts with

officials the people chose themselves
D. the creation of the Kitchen Cabinet

7. The election of 1828 brought in the first
presidency of which political party?

A. the Democrats
B. the Democratic-Republicans
C. the Republicans
D. the Bucktails

8. What were the planks of Andrew Jackson’s
campaign platform in 1828?

9. What was the significance of the Petticoat

10. South Carolina threatened to nullify which
federal act?

A. the abolition of slavery
B. the expansion of the transportation

C. the protective tariff on imported goods
D. the rotation in office that expelled several

federal officers

11. How did President Jackson respond to
Congress’s re-chartering of the Second Bank of the
United States?

A. He vetoed it.
B. He gave states the right to implement it or

C. He signed it into law.
D. He wrote a counterproposal.

12. Why did the Second Bank of the United States
make such an inviting target for President

13. What were the philosophies and policies of
the new Whig Party?

14. How did most whites in the United States
view Indians in the 1820s?

A. as savages
B. as being in touch with nature
C. as slaves
D. as shamans

15. The 1830 Indian Removal Act is best
understood as ________.

A. an example of President Jackson forcing
Congress to pursue an unpopular policy

B. an illustration of the widespread hatred of
Indians during the Age of Jackson

C. an example of laws designed to integrate
Indians into American life

D. an effort to deprive the Cherokee of their
slave property

16. What was the Trail of Tears?

17. The winner of the 1840 election was ________.

A. a Democrat
B. a Democratic-Republican
C. an Anti-Federalist
D. a Whig

18. Which of the following did not characterize
political changes in the 1830s?

A. higher voter participation
B. increasing political power of free black

C. stronger partisan ties

Chapter 10 Jacksonian Democracy, 1820–1840 299

D. political battles between Whigs and

19. How did Alexis de Tocqueville react to his
visit to the United States? What impressed and
what worried him?

Critical Thinking Questions
20. What were some of the social and cultural beliefs that became widespread during the Age of Jackson?
What lay behind these beliefs, and do you observe any of them in American culture today?

21. Were the political changes of the early nineteenth century positive or negative? Explain your opinion.

22. If you were defending the Cherokee and other native nations before the U.S. Supreme Court in the
1830s, what arguments would you make? If you were supporting Indian removal, what arguments would
you make?

23. How did depictions of Indians in popular culture help to sway popular opinion? Does modern
popular culture continue to wield this kind of power over us? Why or why not?

24. Does Alexis de Tocqueville’s argument about the tyranny of the majority reflect American democracy
today? Provide examples to support your answer.

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A Nation on the Move: Westward
Expansion, 1800–1860

Figure 11.1 In the first half of the nineteenth century, settlers began to move west of the Mississippi River in large
numbers. In John Gast’s American Progress (ca. 1872), the figure of Columbia, representing the United States and
the spirit of democracy, makes her way westward, literally bringing light to the darkness as she advances.

Chapter Outline
11.1 Lewis and Clark
11.2 The Missouri Crisis
11.3 Independence for Texas
11.4 The Mexican-American War, 1846–1848
11.5 Free Soil or Slave? The Dilemma of the West

After 1800, the United States militantly expanded westward across North America, confident of its right
and duty to gain control of the continent and spread the benefits of its “superior” culture. In John Gast’s
American Progress (Figure 11.1), the white, blonde figure of Columbia—a historical personification of the
United States—strides triumphantly westward with the Star of Empire on her head. She brings education,
symbolized by the schoolbook, and modern technology, represented by the telegraph wire. White settlers
follow her lead, driving the helpless natives away and bringing successive waves of technological progress
in their wake. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the quest for control of the West led to the
Louisiana Purchase, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican-American War. Efforts to seize western
territories from native peoples and expand the republic by warring with Mexico succeeded beyond
expectations. Few nations ever expanded so quickly. Yet, this expansion led to debates about the fate
of slavery in the West, creating tensions between North and South that ultimately led to the collapse of
American democracy and a brutal civil war.

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11.1 Lewis and Clark

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the significance of the Louisiana Purchase
• Describe the terms of the Adams-Onís Treaty
• Describe the role played by the filibuster in American expansion

For centuries Europeans had mistakenly believed an all-water route across the North American continent
existed. This “Northwest Passage” would afford the country that controlled it not only access to the
interior of North America but also—more importantly—a relatively quick route to the Pacific Ocean and
to trade with Asia. The Spanish, French, and British searched for years before American explorers took
up the challenge of finding it. Indeed, shortly before Lewis and Clark set out on their expedition for the
U.S. government, Alexander Mackenzie, an officer of the British North West Company, a fur trading outfit,
had attempted to discover the route. Mackenzie made it to the Pacific and even believed (erroneously) he
had discovered the headwaters of the Columbia River, but he could not find an easy water route with a
minimum of difficult portages, that is, spots where boats must be carried overland.

Many Americans also dreamed of finding a Northwest Passage and opening the Pacific to American
commerce and influence, including President Thomas Jefferson. In April 1803, Jefferson achieved his goal
of purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France, effectively doubling the size of the United States.
The purchase was made possible due to events outside the nation’s control. With the success of the
Haitian Revolution, an uprising of slaves against the French, France’s Napoleon abandoned his quest to
re-establish an extensive French Empire in America. As a result, he was amenable to selling off the vast
Louisiana territory. President Jefferson quickly set out to learn precisely what he had bought and to assess
its potential for commercial exploitation. Above all else, Jefferson wanted to exert U.S. control over the
territory, an area already well known to French and British explorers. It was therefore vital for the United
States to explore and map the land to pave the way for future white settlement.

Figure 11.2

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To head the expedition into the Louisiana territory, Jefferson appointed his friend and personal secretary,
twenty-nine-year-old army captain Meriwether Lewis, who was instructed to form a Corps of Discovery.
Lewis in turn selected William Clark, who had once been his commanding officer, to help him lead the
group (Figure 11.3).

Figure 11.3 Charles Willson Peale, celebrated portraitist of the American Revolution, painted both William Clark (a)
and Meriwether Lewis (b) in 1810 and 1807, respectively, after they returned from their expedition west.

Jefferson wanted to improve the ability of American merchants to access the ports of China. Establishing a
river route from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean was crucial to capturing a portion of the fur trade that had
proven so profitable to Great Britain. He also wanted to legitimize American claims to the land against
rivals, such as Great Britain and Spain. Lewis and Clark were thus instructed to map the territory through
which they would pass and to explore all tributaries of the Missouri River. This part of the expedition
struck fear into Spanish officials, who believed that Lewis and Clark would encroach on New Mexico, the
northern part of New Spain. Spain dispatched four unsuccessful expeditions from Santa Fe to intercept the
explorers. Lewis and Clark also had directives to establish friendly relationships with the western tribes,
introducing them to American trade goods and encouraging warring groups to make peace. Establishing
an overland route to the Pacific would bolster U.S. claims to the Pacific Northwest, first established in 1792
when Captain Robert Gray sailed his ship Columbia into the mouth of the river that now bears his vessel’s
name and forms the present-day border between Oregon and Washington. Finally, Jefferson, who had a
keen interest in science and nature, ordered Lewis and Clark to take extensive notes on the geography,
plant life, animals, and natural resources of the region into which they would journey.

After spending the winter of 1803–1804 encamped at the mouth of the Missouri River while the men
prepared for their expedition, the corps set off in May 1804. Although the thirty-three frontiersmen,
boatmen, and hunters took with them Alexander Mackenzie’s account of his explorations and the best
maps they could find, they did not have any real understanding of the difficulties they would face. Fierce
storms left them drenched and freezing. Enormous clouds of gnats and mosquitos swarmed about their
heads as they made their way up the Missouri River. Along the way they encountered (and killed) a variety
of animals including elk, buffalo, and grizzly bears. One member of the expedition survived a rattlesnake
bite. As the men collected minerals and specimens of plants and animals, the overly curious Lewis sampled
minerals by tasting them and became seriously ill at one point. What they did not collect, they sketched
and documented in the journals they kept. They also noted the customs of the Indian tribes who controlled

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 303

the land and attempted to establish peaceful relationships with them in order to ensure that future white
settlement would not be impeded.

Read the journals of Lewis and Clark on the University of Virginia
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15LandClark) website or on the University of
Nebraska–Lincoln (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15LandClark1) website, which also
has footnotes, maps, and commentary. According to their writings, what challenges did
the explorers confront?

The corps spent their first winter in the wilderness, 1804–1805, in a Mandan village in what is now
North Dakota. There they encountered a reminder of France’s former vast North American empire when
they met a French fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. When the corps left in the spring of
1805, Charbonneau accompanied them as a guide and interpreter, bringing his teenage Shoshone wife
Sacagawea and their newborn son. Charbonneau knew the land better than the Americans, and Sacagawea
proved invaluable in many ways, not least of which was that the presence of a young woman and her
infant convinced many groups that the men were not a war party and meant no harm (Figure 11.4).

Figure 11.4 In this idealized image, Sacagawea leads Lewis and Clark through the Montana wilderness. In reality,
she was still a teenager at the time and served as interpreter; she did not actually guide the party, although legend
says she did. Kidnapped as a child, she would not likely have retained detailed memories about the place where she
grew up.

The corps set about making friends with native tribes while simultaneously attempting to assert American
power over the territory. Hoping to overawe the people of the land, Lewis would let out a blast of his
air rifle, a relatively new piece of technology the Indians had never seen. The corps also followed native
custom by distributing gifts, including shirts, ribbons, and kettles, as a sign of goodwill. The explorers
presented native leaders with medallions, many of which bore Jefferson’s image, and invited them to visit
their new “ruler” in the East. These medallions or peace medals were meant to allow future explorers to
identify friendly native groups. Not all efforts to assert U.S. control went peacefully; some Indians rejected

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the explorers’ intrusion onto their land. An encounter with the Blackfoot turned hostile, for example, and
members of the corps killed two Blackfoot men.

After spending eighteen long months on the trail and nearly starving to death in the Bitterroot Mountains
of Montana, the Corps of Discovery finally reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805 and spent the winter of
1805–1806 in Oregon. They returned to St. Louis later in 1806 having lost only one man, who had died
of appendicitis. Upon their return, Meriwether Lewis was named governor of the Louisiana Territory.
Unfortunately, he died only three years later in circumstances that are still disputed, before he could write
a complete account of what the expedition had discovered.

Although the Corps of Discovery failed to find an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean (for none existed),
it nevertheless accomplished many of the goals Jefferson had set. The men traveled across the North
American continent and established relationships with many Indian tribes, paving the way for fur traders
like John Jacob Astor who later established trading posts solidifying U.S. claims to Oregon. Delegates of
several tribes did go to Washington to meet the president. Hundreds of plant and animal specimens were
collected, several of which were named for Lewis and Clark in recognition of their efforts. And the territory
was now more accurately mapped and legally claimed by the United States. Nonetheless, most of the vast
territory, home to a variety of native peoples, remained unknown to Americans (Figure 11.5).

Figure 11.5 This 1814 map of Lewis and Clark’s path across North America from the Missouri River to the Pacific
Ocean was based on maps and notes made by William Clark. Although most of the West still remained unknown, the
expedition added greatly to knowledge of what lay west of the Mississippi. Most important, it allowed the United
States to solidify its claim to the immense territory.

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 305


A Selection of Hats for the Fashionable Gentleman
Beaver hats (Figure 11.6) were popular apparel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in both
Europe and the United States because they were naturally waterproof and bore a glossy sheen. Demand
for beaver pelts (and for the pelts of sea otters, foxes, and martens) by hat makers, dressmakers, and
tailors led many fur trappers into the wilderness in pursuit of riches. Beaver hats fell out of fashion in the
1850s when silk hats became the rage and beaver became harder to find. In some parts of the West, the
animals had been hunted nearly to extinction.

Figure 11.6 This illustration from Castrologia, Or, The History and Traditions of the Canadian Beaver
shows a variety of beaver hat styles. Beaver pelts were also used to trim women’s bonnets.

Are there any contemporary fashions or fads that likewise promise to alter the natural world?

Despite the Lewis and Clark expedition, the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase remained contested.
Expansionists chose to believe the purchase included vast stretches of land, including all of Spanish Texas.
The Spanish government disagreed, however. The first attempt to resolve this issue took place in February
1819 with the signing of the Adams-Onís Treaty, which was actually intended to settle the problem of

Spanish Florida had presented difficulties for its neighbors since the settlement of the original North
American colonies, first for England and then for the United States. By 1819, American settlers no longer
feared attack by Spanish troops garrisoned in Florida, but hostile tribes like the Creek and Seminole raided
Georgia and then retreated to the relative safety of the Florida wilderness. These tribes also sheltered
runaway slaves, often intermarrying with them and making them members of their tribes. Sparsely
populated by Spanish colonists and far from both Mexico City and Madrid, the frontier in Florida proved
next to impossible for the Spanish government to control.

In March 1818, General Andrew Jackson, frustrated by his inability to punish Creek and Seminole raiders,
pursued them across the international border into Spanish Florida. Under Jackson’s command, U.S. troops

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defeated the Creek and Seminole, occupied several Florida settlements, and executed two British citizens
accused of acting against the United States. Outraged by the U.S. invasion of its territory, the Spanish
government demanded that Jackson and his troops withdraw. In agreeing to the withdrawal, however,
U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams also offered to purchase the colony. Realizing that conflict
between the United States and the Creeks and Seminoles would continue, Spain opted to cede the Spanish
colony to its northern neighbor. The Adams-Onís Treaty, named for Adams and the Spanish ambassador,
Luís de Onís, made the cession of Florida official while also setting the boundary between the United States
and Mexico at the Sabine River (Figure 11.7). In exchange, Adams gave up U.S. claims to lands west of the
Sabine and forgave Spain’s $5 million debt to the United States.

Figure 11.7 The red line indicates the border between U.S. and Spanish territory established by the Adams-Onís
Treaty of 1819.

The Adams-Onís Treaty upset many American expansionists, who criticized Adams for not laying claim
to all of Texas, which they believed had been included in the Louisiana Purchase. In the summer of 1819,
James Long, a planter from Natchez, Mississippi, became a filibuster, or a private, unauthorized military
adventurer, when he led three hundred men on an expedition across the Sabine River to take control
of Texas. Long’s men succeeded in capturing Nacogdoches, writing a Declaration of Independence (see
below), and setting up a republican government. Spanish troops drove them out a month later. Returning
in 1820 with a much smaller force, Long was arrested by the Spanish authorities, imprisoned, and killed.
Long was but one of many nineteenth-century American filibusters who aimed at seizing territory in the
Caribbean and Central America.

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The Long Expedition’s Declaration of Independence
The Long Expedition’s short-lived Republic of Texas was announced with the drafting of a Declaration of
Independence in 1819. The declaration named settlers’ grievances against the limits put on expansion
by the Adams-Onís treaty and expressed their fears of Spain:

The citizens of Texas have long indulged the hope, that in the adjustment of the boundaries
of the Spanish possessions in America, and of the territories of the United States, that they
should be included within the limits of the latter. The claims of the United States, long and
strenuously urged, encouraged the hope. The recent [Adams-Onís] treaty between Spain and
the United States of America has dissipated an illusion too long fondly cherished, and has
roused the citizens of Texas . . . They have seen themselves . . . literally abandoned to the
dominion of the crown of Spain and left a prey . . . to all those exactions which Spanish
rapacity is fertile in devising. The citizens of Texas would have proved themselves unworthy
of the age . . . unworthy of their ancestry, of the kindred of the republics of the American
continent, could they have hesitated in this emergency . . . Spurning the fetters of colonial
vassalage, disdaining to submit to the most atrocious despotism that ever disgraced the
annals of Europe, they have resolved under the blessing of God to be free.

How did the filibusters view Spain? What do their actions say about the nature of American society and
of U.S. expansion?

11.2 The Missouri Crisis

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain why the North and South differed over the admission of Missouri as a state
• Explain how the admission of new states to the Union threatened to upset the balance

between free and slave states in Congress

Another stage of U.S. expansion took place when inhabitants of Missouri began petitioning for statehood
beginning in 1817. The Missouri territory had been part of the Louisiana Purchase and was the first part of
that vast acquisition to apply for statehood. By 1818, tens of thousands of settlers had flocked to Missouri,
including slaveholders who brought with them some ten thousand slaves. When the status of the Missouri
territory was taken up in earnest in the U.S. House of Representatives in early 1819, its admission to the
Union proved to be no easy matter, since it brought to the surface a violent debate over whether slavery
would be allowed in the new state.

Politicians had sought to avoid the issue of slavery ever since the 1787 Constitutional Convention arrived
at an uneasy compromise in the form of the “three-fifths clause.” This provision stated that the entirety
of a state’s free population and 60 percent of its enslaved population would be counted in establishing
the number of that state’s members in the House of Representatives and the size of its federal tax bill.
Although slavery existed in several northern states at the time, the compromise had angered many
northern politicians because, they argued, the “extra” population of slaves would give southern states
more votes than they deserved in both the House and the Electoral College. Admitting Missouri as a slave
state also threatened the tenuous balance between free and slave states in the Senate by giving slave states
a two-vote advantage.

The debate about representation shifted to the morality of slavery itself when New York representative
James Tallmadge, an opponent of slavery, attempted to amend the statehood bill in the House of
Representatives. Tallmadge proposed that Missouri be admitted as a free state, that no more slaves be

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allowed to enter Missouri after it achieved statehood, and that all enslaved children born there after its
admission be freed at age twenty-five. The amendment shifted the terms of debate by presenting slavery
as an evil to be stopped.

Northern representatives supported the Tallmadge Amendment, denouncing slavery as immoral and
opposed to the nation’s founding principles of equality and liberty. Southerners in Congress rejected
the amendment as an attempt to gradually abolish slavery—not just in Missouri but throughout the
Union—by violating the property rights of slaveholders and their freedom to take their property wherever
they wished. Slavery’s apologists, who had long argued that slavery was a necessary evil, now began to
perpetuate the idea that slavery was a positive good for the United States. They asserted that it generated
wealth and left white men free to exercise their true talents instead of toiling in the soil, as the descendants
of Africans were better suited to do. Slaves were cared for, supporters argued, and were better off exposed
to the teachings of Christianity as slaves than living as free heathens in uncivilized Africa. Above all, the
United States had a destiny, they argued, to create an empire of slavery throughout the Americas. These
proslavery arguments were to be made repeatedly and forcefully as expansion to the West proceeded.

Most disturbing for the unity of the young nation, however, was that debaters divided along sectional
lines, not party lines. With only a few exceptions, northerners supported the Tallmadge Amendment
regardless of party affiliation, and southerners opposed it despite having party differences on other
matters. It did not pass, and the crisis over Missouri led to strident calls of disunion and threats of civil

Congress finally came to an agreement, called the Missouri Compromise, in 1820. Missouri and Maine
(which had been part of Massachusetts) would enter the Union at the same time, Maine as a free state,
Missouri as a slave state. The Tallmadge Amendment was narrowly rejected, the balance between free and
slave states was maintained in the Senate, and southerners did not have to fear that Missouri slaveholders
would be deprived of their human property. To prevent similar conflicts each time a territory applied for
statehood, a line coinciding with the southern border of Missouri (at latitude 36° 30′) was drawn across the
remainder of the Louisiana Territory (Figure 11.8). Slavery could exist south of this line but was forbidden
north of it, with the obvious exception of Missouri.

Figure 11.8 The Missouri Compromise resulted in the District of Maine, which had originally been settled in 1607 by
the Plymouth Company and was a part of Massachusetts, being admitted to the Union as a free state and Missouri
being admitted as a slave state.

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Thomas Jefferson on the Missouri Crisis
On April 22, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Holmes to express his reaction to the Missouri Crisis,
especially the open threat of disunion and war:

I thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your
constituents on the Missouri question. it is a perfect justification to them. I had for a long time
ceased to read the newspapers or pay any attention to public affairs, confident they were in
good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not
distant. but this momentous question [over slavery in Missouri], like a fire bell in the night,
awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is
hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical
line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once concieved [sic] and held up
to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it
deeper and deeper. I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would
sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. . .
I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the
generation of 76. to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown
away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is
to be that I live not to weep over it. if they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings
they will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by
scission, they would pause before they would perpetuate this act of suicide themselves and
of treason against the hopes of the world. to yourself as the faithful advocate of union I tender
the offering of my high esteem and respect.
Th. Jefferson

How would you characterize the former president’s reaction? What do you think he means by writing that
the Missouri Compromise line “is a reprieve only, not a final sentence”?

Access a collection of primary documents relating to the Missouri Compromise,
including Missouri’s application for admission into the Union and Jefferson’s
correspondence on the Missouri question, at the Library of Congress
(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15MOComp) website.

11.3 Independence for Texas

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain why American settlers in Texas sought independence from Mexico
• Discuss early attempts to make Texas independent of Mexico
• Describe the relationship between Anglo-Americans and Tejanos in Texas before and

after independence

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As the incursions of the earlier filibusters into Texas demonstrated, American expansionists had desired
this area of Spain’s empire in America for many years. After the 1819 Adams-Onís treaty established the
boundary between Mexico and the United States, more American expansionists began to move into the
northern portion of Mexico’s province of Coahuila y Texas. Following Mexico’s independence from Spain
in 1821, American settlers immigrated to Texas in even larger numbers, intent on taking the land from the
new and vulnerable Mexican nation in order to create a new American slave state.

After the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty defined the U.S.-Mexico boundary, Spain began actively encouraging
Americans to settle their northern province. Texas was sparsely settled, and the few Mexican farmers
and ranchers who lived there were under constant threat of attack by hostile Indian tribes, especially the
Comanche, who supplemented their hunting with raids in pursuit of horses and cattle.

To increase the non-Indian population in Texas and provide a buffer zone between its hostile tribes and the
rest of Mexico, Spain began to recruit empresarios. An empresario was someone who brought settlers to the
region in exchange for generous grants of land. Moses Austin, a once-prosperous entrepreneur reduced
to poverty by the Panic of 1819, requested permission to settle three hundred English-speaking American
residents in Texas. Spain agreed on the condition that the resettled people convert to Roman Catholicism.

On his deathbed in 1821, Austin asked his son Stephen to carry out his plans, and Mexico, which had won
independence from Spain the same year, allowed Stephen to take control of his father’s grant. Like Spain,
Mexico also wished to encourage settlement in the state of Coahuila y Texas and passed colonization laws
to encourage immigration. Thousands of Americans, primarily from slave states, flocked to Texas and
quickly came to outnumber the Tejanos, the Mexican residents of the region. The soil and climate offered
good opportunities to expand slavery and the cotton kingdom. Land was plentiful and offered at generous
terms. Unlike the U.S. government, Mexico allowed buyers to pay for their land in installments and did not
require a minimum purchase. Furthermore, to many whites, it seemed not only their God-given right but
also their patriotic duty to populate the lands beyond the Mississippi River, bringing with them American
slavery, culture, laws, and political traditions (Figure 11.9).

Figure 11.9 By the early 1830s, all the lands east of the Mississippi River had been settled and admitted to the
Union as states. The land west of the river, though in this contemporary map united with the settled areas in the body
of an eagle symbolizing the territorial ambitions of the United States, remained largely unsettled by white Americans.
Texas (just southwest of the bird’s tail feathers) remained outside the U.S. border.

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Many Americans who migrated to Texas at the invitation of the Mexican government did not completely
shed their identity or loyalty to the United States. They brought American traditions and expectations with
them (including, for many, the right to own slaves). For instance, the majority of these new settlers were
Protestant, and though they were not required to attend the Catholic mass, Mexico’s prohibition on the
public practice of other religions upset them and they routinely ignored it.

Accustomed to representative democracy, jury trials, and the defendant’s right to appear before a judge,
the Anglo-American settlers in Texas also disliked the Mexican legal system, which provided for an
initial hearing by an alcalde, an administrator who often combined the duties of mayor, judge, and law
enforcement officer. The alcalde sent a written record of the proceeding to a judge in Saltillo, the state
capital, who decided the outcome. Settlers also resented that at most two Texas representatives were
allowed in the state legislature.

Their greatest source of discontent, though, was the Mexican government’s 1829 abolition of slavery. Most
American settlers were from southern states, and many had brought slaves with them. Mexico tried to
accommodate them by maintaining the fiction that the slaves were indentured servants. But American
slaveholders in Texas distrusted the Mexican government and wanted Texas to be a new U.S. slave state.
The dislike of most for Roman Catholicism (the prevailing religion of Mexico) and a widely held belief in
American racial superiority led them generally to regard Mexicans as dishonest, ignorant, and backward.

Belief in their own superiority inspired some Texans to try to undermine the power of the Mexican
government. When empresario Haden Edwards attempted to evict people who had settled his land grant
before he gained title to it, the Mexican government nullified its agreement with him. Outraged, Edwards
and a small party of men took prisoner the alcalde of Nacogdoches. The Mexican army marched to the
town, and Edwards and his troop then declared the formation of the Republic of Fredonia between the
Sabine and Rio Grande Rivers. To demonstrate loyalty to their adopted country, a force led by Stephen
Austin hastened to Nacogdoches to support the Mexican army. Edwards’s revolt collapsed, and the
revolutionaries fled Texas.

The growing presence of American settlers in Texas, their reluctance to abide by Mexican law, and their
desire for independence caused the Mexican government to grow wary. In 1830, it forbade future U.S.
immigration and increased its military presence in Texas. Settlers continued to stream illegally across the
long border; by 1835, after immigration resumed, there were twenty thousand Anglo-Americans in Texas
(Figure 11.10).

Figure 11.10 This 1833 map shows the extent of land grants made by Mexico to American settlers in Texas. Nearly
all are in the eastern portion of the state, one factor that led to war with Mexico in 1846.

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Fifty-five delegates from the Anglo-American settlements gathered in 1831 to demand the suspension
of customs duties, the resumption of immigration from the United States, better protection from Indian
tribes, the granting of promised land titles, and the creation of an independent state of Texas separate from
Coahuila. Ordered to disband, the delegates reconvened in early April 1833 to write a constitution for an
independent Texas. Surprisingly, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Mexico’s new president, agreed
to all demands, except the call for statehood (Figure 11.11). Coahuila y Texas made provisions for jury
trials, increased Texas’s representation in the state legislature, and removed restrictions on commerce.

Figure 11.11 This portrait of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna depicts the Mexican president and general in full
military regalia.

Texans’ hopes for independence were quashed in 1834, however, when Santa Anna dismissed the Mexican
Congress and abolished all state governments, including that of Coahuila y Texas. In January 1835,
reneging on earlier promises, he dispatched troops to the town of Anahuac to collect customs duties.
Lawyer and soldier William B. Travis and a small force marched on Anahuac in June, and the fort
surrendered. On October 2, Anglo-American forces met Mexican troops at the town of Gonzales; the
Mexican troops fled and the Americans moved on to take San Antonio. Now more cautious, delegates to
the Consultation of 1835 at San Felipe de Austin voted against declaring independence, instead drafting
a statement, which became known as the Declaration of Causes, promising continued loyalty if Mexico
returned to a constitutional form of government. They selected Henry Smith, leader of the Independence
Party, as governor of Texas and placed Sam Houston, a former soldier who had been a congressman and
governor of Tennessee, in charge of its small military force.

The Consultation delegates met again in March 1836. They declared their independence from Mexico
and drafted a constitution calling for an American-style judicial system and an elected president and
legislature. Significantly, they also established that slavery would not be prohibited in Texas. Many
wealthy Tejanos supported the push for independence, hoping for liberal governmental reforms and
economic benefits.

Mexico had no intention of losing its northern province. Santa Anna and his army of four thousand
had besieged San Antonio in February 1836. Hopelessly outnumbered, its two hundred defenders, under
Travis, fought fiercely from their refuge in an old mission known as the Alamo (Figure 11.12). After ten
days, however, the mission was taken and all but a few of the defenders were dead, including Travis

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 313

and James Bowie, the famed frontiersman who was also a land speculator and slave trader. A few male
survivors, possibly including the frontier legend and former Tennessee congressman Davy Crockett, were
led outside the walls and executed. The few women and children inside the mission were allowed to leave
with the only adult male survivor, a slave owned by Travis who was then freed by the Mexican Army.
Terrified, they fled.

Figure 11.12 The Fall of the Alamo, painted by Theodore Gentilz fewer than ten years after this pivotal moment in
the Texas Revolution, depicts the 1836 assault on the Alamo complex.

Although hungry for revenge, the Texas forces under Sam Houston nevertheless withdrew across Texas,
gathering recruits as they went. Coming upon Santa Anna’s encampment on the banks of San Jacinto River
on April 21, 1836, they waited as the Mexican troops settled for an afternoon nap. Assured by Houston
that “Victory is certain!” and told to “Trust in God and fear not!” the seven hundred men descended on
a sleeping force nearly twice their number with cries of “Remember the Alamo!” Within fifteen minutes
the Battle of San Jacinto was over. Approximately half the Mexican troops were killed, and the survivors,
including Santa Anna, taken prisoner.

Santa Anna grudgingly signed a peace treaty and was sent to Washington, where he met with President
Andrew Jackson and, under pressure, agreed to recognize an independent Texas with the Rio Grande
River as its southwestern border. By the time the agreement had been signed, however, Santa Anna had
been removed from power in Mexico. For that reason, the Mexican Congress refused to be bound by Santa
Anna’s promises and continued to insist that the renegade territory still belonged to Mexico.

Visit the official Alamo (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Alamo) website to learn more
about the battle of the Alamo and take a virtual tour of the old mission.

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In September 1836, military hero Sam Houston was elected president of Texas, and, following the
relentless logic of U.S. expansion, Texans voted in favor of annexation to the United States. This had been
the dream of many settlers in Texas all along. They wanted to expand the United States west and saw
Texas as the next logical step. Slaveholders there, such as Sam Houston, William B. Travis and James Bowie
(the latter two of whom died at the Alamo), believed too in the destiny of slavery. Mindful of the vicious
debates over Missouri that had led to talk of disunion and war, American politicians were reluctant to
annex Texas or, indeed, even to recognize it as a sovereign nation. Annexation would almost certainly
mean war with Mexico, and the admission of a state with a large slave population, though permissible
under the Missouri Compromise, would bring the issue of slavery once again to the fore. Texas had
no choice but to organize itself as the independent Lone Star Republic. To protect itself from Mexican
attempts to reclaim it, Texas sought and received recognition from France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the
Netherlands. The United States did not officially recognize Texas as an independent nation until March
1837, nearly a year after the final victory over the Mexican army at San Jacinto.

Uncertainty about its future did not discourage Americans committed to expansion, especially
slaveholders, from rushing to settle in the Lone Star Republic, however. Between 1836 and 1846, its
population nearly tripled. By 1840, nearly twelve thousand enslaved Africans had been brought to Texas
by American slaveholders. Many new settlers had suffered financial losses in the severe financial
depression of 1837 and hoped for a new start in the new nation. According to folklore, across the United
States, homes and farms were deserted overnight, and curious neighbors found notes reading only “GTT”
(“Gone to Texas”). Many Europeans, especially Germans, also immigrated to Texas during this period.

In keeping with the program of ethnic cleansing and white racial domination, as illustrated by the image
at the beginning of this chapter, Americans in Texas generally treated both Tejano and Indian residents
with utter contempt, eager to displace and dispossess them. Anglo-American leaders failed to return the
support their Tejano neighbors had extended during the rebellion and repaid them by seizing their lands.
In 1839, the republic’s militia attempted to drive out the Cherokee and Comanche.

The impulse to expand did not lay dormant, and Anglo-American settlers and leaders in the newly formed
Texas republic soon cast their gaze on the Mexican province of New Mexico as well. Repeating the tactics
of earlier filibusters, a Texas force set out in 1841 intent on taking Santa Fe. Its members encountered an
army of New Mexicans and were taken prisoner and sent to Mexico City. On Christmas Day, 1842, Texans
avenged a Mexican assault on San Antonio by attacking the Mexican town of Mier. In August, another
Texas army was sent to attack Santa Fe, but Mexican troops forced them to retreat. Clearly, hostilities
between Texas and Mexico had not ended simply because Texas had declared its independence.

11.4 The Mexican-American War, 1846–1848

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the causes of the Mexican-American War
• Describe the outcomes of the war in 1848, especially the Mexican Cession
• Describe the effect of the California Gold Rush on westward expansion

Tensions between the United States and Mexico rapidly deteriorated in the 1840s as American
expansionists eagerly eyed Mexican land to the west, including the lush northern Mexican province of
California. Indeed, in 1842, a U.S. naval fleet, incorrectly believing war had broken out, seized Monterey,
California, a part of Mexico. Monterey was returned the next day, but the episode only added to the
uneasiness with which Mexico viewed its northern neighbor. The forces of expansion, however, could
not be contained, and American voters elected James Polk in 1844 because he promised to deliver more

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 315

lands. President Polk fulfilled his promise by gaining Oregon and, most spectacularly, provoking a war
with Mexico that ultimately fulfilled the wildest fantasies of expansionists. By 1848, the United States
encompassed much of North America, a republic that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

A fervent belief in expansion gripped the United States in the 1840s. In 1845, a New York newspaper
editor, John O’Sullivan, introduced the concept of “manifest destiny” to describe the very popular idea of
the special role of the United States in overspreading the continent—the divine right and duty of white
Americans to seize and settle the American West, thus spreading Protestant, democratic values. In this
climate of opinion, voters in 1844 elected James K. Polk, a slaveholder from Tennessee, because he vowed
to annex Texas as a new slave state and take Oregon.

Annexing Oregon was an important objective for U.S. foreign policy because it appeared to be an area
rich in commercial possibilities. Northerners favored U.S. control of Oregon because ports in the Pacific
Northwest would be gateways for trade with Asia. Southerners hoped that, in exchange for their support
of expansion into the northwest, northerners would not oppose plans for expansion into the southwest.

President Polk—whose campaign slogan in 1844 had been “Fifty-four forty or fight!”—asserted the United
States’ right to gain full control of what was known as Oregon Country, from its southern border at 42°
latitude (the current boundary with California) to its northern border at 54° 40′ latitude. According to an
1818 agreement, Great Britain and the United States held joint ownership of this territory, but the 1827
Treaty of Joint Occupation opened the land to settlement by both countries. Realizing that the British were
not willing to cede all claims to the territory, Polk proposed the land be divided at 49° latitude (the current
border between Washington and Canada). The British, however, denied U.S. claims to land north of the
Columbia River (Oregon’s current northern border) (Figure 11.13). Indeed, the British foreign secretary
refused even to relay Polk’s proposal to London. However, reports of the difficulty Great Britain would
face defending Oregon in the event of a U.S. attack, combined with concerns over affairs at home and
elsewhere in its empire, quickly changed the minds of the British, and in June 1846, Queen Victoria’s
government agreed to a division at the forty-ninth parallel.

Figure 11.13 This map of the Oregon territory during the period of joint occupation by the United States and Great
Britain shows the area whose ownership was contested by the two powers.

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In contrast to the diplomatic solution with Great Britain over Oregon, when it came to Mexico, Polk and
the American people proved willing to use force to wrest more land for the United States. In keeping
with voters’ expectations, President Polk set his sights on the Mexican state of California. After the
mistaken capture of Monterey, negotiations about purchasing the port of San Francisco from Mexico
broke off until September 1845. Then, following a revolt in California that left it divided in two, Polk
attempted to purchase Upper California and New Mexico as well. These efforts went nowhere. The
Mexican government, angered by U.S. actions, refused to recognize the independence of Texas.

Finally, after nearly a decade of public clamoring for the annexation of Texas, in December 1845 Polk
officially agreed to the annexation of the former Mexican state, making the Lone Star Republic an
additional slave state. Incensed that the United States had annexed Texas, however, the Mexican
government refused to discuss the matter of selling land to the United States. Indeed, Mexico refused even
to acknowledge Polk’s emissary, John Slidell, who had been sent to Mexico City to negotiate. Not to be
deterred, Polk encouraged Thomas O. Larkin, the U.S. consul in Monterey, to assist any American settlers
and any Californios, the Mexican residents of the state, who wished to proclaim their independence from
Mexico. By the end of 1845, having broken diplomatic ties with the United States over Texas and having
grown alarmed by American actions in California, the Mexican government warily anticipated the next
move. It did not have long to wait.

WAR WITH MEXICO, 1846–1848
Expansionistic fervor propelled the United States to war against Mexico in 1846. The United States had
long argued that the Rio Grande was the border between Mexico and the United States, and at the end of
the Texas war for independence Santa Anna had been pressured to agree. Mexico, however, refused to be
bound by Santa Anna’s promises and insisted the border lay farther north, at the Nueces River (Figure
11.14). To set it at the Rio Grande would, in effect, allow the United States to control land it had never
occupied. In Mexico’s eyes, therefore, President Polk violated its sovereign territory when he ordered U.S.
troops into the disputed lands in 1846. From the Mexican perspective, it appeared the United States had
invaded their nation.

Figure 11.14 In 1845, when Texas joined the United States, Mexico insisted the United States had a right only to the
territory northeast of the Nueces River. The United States argued in turn that it should have title to all land between
the Nueces and the Rio Grande as well.

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 317

In January 1846, the U.S. force that was ordered to the banks of the Rio Grande to build a fort on the
“American” side encountered a Mexican cavalry unit on patrol. Shots rang out, and sixteen U.S. soldiers
were killed or wounded. Angrily declaring that Mexico “has invaded our territory and shed American
blood upon American soil,” President Polk demanded the United States declare war on Mexico. On May
12, Congress obliged.

The small but vocal antislavery faction decried the decision to go to war, arguing that Polk had deliberately
provoked hostilities so the United States could annex more slave territory. Illinois representative Abraham
Lincoln and other members of Congress issued the “Spot Resolutions” in which they demanded to know
the precise spot on U.S. soil where American blood had been spilled. Many Whigs also denounced the war.
Democrats, however, supported Polk’s decision, and volunteers for the army came forward in droves from
every part of the country except New England, the seat of abolitionist activity. Enthusiasm for the war
was aided by the widely held belief that Mexico was a weak, impoverished country and that the Mexican
people, perceived as ignorant, lazy, and controlled by a corrupt Roman Catholic clergy, would be easy to
defeat. (Figure 11.15).

Figure 11.15 Anti-Catholic sentiment played an important role in the Mexican-American War. The American public
widely regarded Roman Catholics as cowardly and vice-ridden, like the clergy in this ca. 1846 lithograph who are
shown fleeing the Mexican town of Matamoros accompanied by pretty women and baskets full of alcohol. (credit:
Library of Congress)

U.S. military strategy had three main objectives: 1) Take control of northern Mexico, including New
Mexico; 2) seize California; and 3) capture Mexico City. General Zachary Taylor and his Army of the
Center were assigned to accomplish the first goal, and with superior weapons they soon captured the
Mexican city of Monterrey. Taylor quickly became a hero in the eyes of the American people, and Polk
appointed him commander of all U.S. forces.

General Stephen Watts Kearny, commander of the Army of the West, accepted the surrender of Santa
Fe, New Mexico, and moved on to take control of California, leaving Colonel Sterling Price in command.
Despite Kearny’s assurances that New Mexicans need not fear for their lives or their property, and in fact
the region’s residents rose in revolt in January 1847 in an effort to drive the Americans away. Although
Price managed to put an end to the rebellion, tensions remained high.

Kearny, meanwhile, arrived in California to find it already in American hands through the joint efforts of
California settlers, U.S. naval commander John D. Sloat, and John C. Fremont, a former army captain and
son-in-law of Missouri senator Thomas Benton. Sloat, at anchor off the coast of Mazatlan, learned that war
had begun and quickly set sail for California. He seized the town of Monterey in July 1846, less than a
month after a group of American settlers led by William B. Ide had taken control of Sonoma and declared

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California a republic. A week after the fall of Monterey, the navy took San Francisco with no resistance.
Although some Californios staged a short-lived rebellion in September 1846, many others submitted to the
U.S. takeover. Thus Kearny had little to do other than take command of California as its governor.

Leading the Army of the South was General Winfield Scott. Both Taylor and Scott were potential
competitors for the presidency, and believing—correctly—that whoever seized Mexico City would become
a hero, Polk assigned Scott the campaign to avoid elevating the more popular Taylor, who was
affectionately known as “Old Rough and Ready.”

Scott captured Veracruz in March 1847, and moving in a northwesterly direction from there (much as
Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés had done in 1519), he slowly closed in on the capital. Every step of
the way was a hard-fought victory, however, and Mexican soldiers and civilians both fought bravely to
save their land from the American invaders. Mexico City’s defenders, including young military cadets,
fought to the end. According to legend, cadet Juan Escutia’s last act was to save the Mexican flag, and he
leapt from the city’s walls with it wrapped around his body. On September 14, 1847, Scott entered Mexico
City’s central plaza; the city had fallen (Figure 11.16). While Polk and other expansionists called for “all
Mexico,” the Mexican government and the United States negotiated for peace in 1848, resulting in the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Figure 11.16 In General Scott’s Entrance into Mexico (1851), Carl Nebel depicts General Winfield Scott on a white
horse entering Mexico City’s Plaza de la Constitución as anxious residents of the city watch. One woman peers
furtively from behind the curtain of an upstairs window. On the left, a man bends down to pick up a paving stone to
throw at the invaders.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in February 1848, was a triumph for American expansionism
under which Mexico ceded nearly half its land to the United States. The Mexican Cession, as the conquest
of land west of the Rio Grande was called, included the current states of California, New Mexico, Arizona,
Nevada, Utah, and portions of Colorado and Wyoming. Mexico also recognized the Rio Grande as the
border with the United States. Mexican citizens in the ceded territory were promised U.S. citizenship in
the future when the territories they were living in became states. In exchange, the United States agreed to
assume $3.35 million worth of Mexican debts owed to U.S. citizens, paid Mexico $15 million for the loss of
its land, and promised to guard the residents of the Mexican Cession from Indian raids.

As extensive as the Mexican Cession was, some argued the United States should not be satisfied until it
had taken all of Mexico. Many who were opposed to this idea were southerners who, while desiring the
annexation of more slave territory, did not want to make Mexico’s large mestizo (people of mixed Indian
and European ancestry) population part of the United States. Others did not want to absorb a large group
of Roman Catholics. These expansionists could not accept the idea of new U.S. territory filled with mixed-
race, Catholic populations.

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 319

Explore the U.S.-Mexican War (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15MexAmWar) at PBS
to read about life in the Mexican and U.S. armies during the war and to learn more
about the various battles.

The United States had no way of knowing that part of the land about to be ceded by Mexico had
just become far more valuable than anyone could have imagined. On January 24, 1848, James Marshall
discovered gold in the millrace of the sawmill he had built with his partner John Sutter on the south fork of
California’s American River. Word quickly spread, and within a few weeks all of Sutter’s employees had
left to search for gold. When the news reached San Francisco, most of its inhabitants abandoned the town
and headed for the American River. By the end of the year, thousands of California’s residents had gone
north to the gold fields with visions of wealth dancing in their heads, and in 1849 thousands of people
from around the world followed them (Figure 11.17). The Gold Rush had begun.

Figure 11.17 Word about the discovery of gold in California in 1848 quickly spread and thousands soon made their
way to the West Coast in search of quick riches.

The fantasy of instant wealth induced a mass exodus to California. Settlers in Oregon and Utah rushed
to the American River. Easterners sailed around the southern tip of South America or to Panama’s
Atlantic coast, where they crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific and booked ship’s passage for San
Francisco. As California-bound vessels stopped in South American ports to take on food and fresh water,
hundreds of Peruvians and Chileans streamed aboard. Easterners who could not afford to sail to California
crossed the continent on foot, on horseback, or in wagons. Others journeyed from as far away as Hawaii
and Europe. Chinese people came as well, adding to the polyglot population in the California boomtowns
(Figure 11.18).

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Figure 11.18 This Currier & Ives lithograph from 1849 imagines the extreme lengths that people might go to in order
to be part of the California Gold Rush. In addition to the men with picks and shovels trying to reach the ship from the
dock, airships and rocket are shown flying overhead. (credit: Library of Congress)

Once in California, gathered in camps with names like Drunkard’s Bar, Angel’s Camp, Gouge Eye, and
Whiskeytown, the “forty-niners” did not find wealth so easy to come by as they had first imagined.
Although some were able to find gold by panning for it or shoveling soil from river bottoms into sieve-
like contraptions called rockers, most did not. The placer gold, the gold that had been washed down the
mountains into streams and rivers, was quickly exhausted, and what remained was deep below ground.
Independent miners were supplanted by companies that could afford not only to purchase hydraulic
mining technology but also to hire laborers to work the hills. The frustration of many a miner was
expressed in the words of Sullivan Osborne. In 1857, Osborne wrote that he had arrived in California “full
of high hopes and bright anticipations of the future” only to find his dreams “have long since perished.”
Although $550 million worth of gold was found in California between 1849 and 1850, very little of it went
to individuals.

Observers in the gold fields also reported abuse of Indians by miners. Some miners forced Indians to work
their claims for them; others drove Indians off their lands, stole from them, and even murdered them.
Foreigners were generally disliked, especially those from South America. The most despised, however,
were the thousands of Chinese migrants. Eager to earn money to send to their families in Hong Kong
and southern China, they quickly earned a reputation as frugal men and hard workers who routinely
took over diggings others had abandoned as worthless and worked them until every scrap of gold had
been found. Many American miners, often spendthrifts, resented their presence and discriminated against
them, believing the Chinese, who represented about 8 percent of the nearly 300,000 who arrived, were
depriving them of the opportunity to make a living.

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Visit The Chinese in California (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15ChinaCA) to learn
more about the experience of Chinese migrants who came to California in the Gold
Rush era.

In 1850, California imposed a tax on foreign miners, and in 1858 it prohibited all immigration from China.
Those Chinese who remained in the face of the growing hostility were often beaten and killed, and some
Westerners made a sport of cutting off Chinese men’s queues, the long braids of hair worn down their
backs (Figure 11.19). In 1882, Congress took up the power to restrict immigration by banning the further
immigration of Chinese.

Figure 11.19 “Pacific Chivalry: Encouragement to Chinese Immigration,” which appeared in Harper’s Weekly in
1869, depicts a white man attacking a Chinese man with a whip as he holds him by the queue. Americans sometimes
forcefully cut off the queues of Chinese immigrants. This could have serious consequences for the victim. Until 1911,
all Chinese men were required by their nation’s law to wear the queue as a sign of loyalty. Miners returning to China
without it could be put to death. (credit: Library of Congress)

As people flocked to California in 1849, the population of the new territory swelled from a few thousand
to about 100,000. The new arrivals quickly organized themselves into communities, and the trappings of
“civilized” life—stores, saloons, libraries, stage lines, and fraternal lodges—began to appear. Newspapers
were established, and musicians, singers, and acting companies arrived to entertain the gold seekers. The
epitome of these Gold Rush boomtowns was San Francisco, which counted only a few hundred residents
in 1846 but by 1850 had reached a population of thirty-four thousand (Figure 11.20). So quickly did the
territory grow that by 1850 California was ready to enter the Union as a state. When it sought admission,
however, the issue of slavery expansion and sectional tensions emerged once again.

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Figure 11.20 This daguerreotype shows the bustling port of San Francisco in January 1851, just a few months after
San Francisco became part of the new U.S. state of California. (credit: Library of Congress)

11.5 Free Soil or Slave? The Dilemma of the West

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the terms of the Wilmot Proviso
• Discuss why the Free-Soil Party objected to the westward expansion of slavery
• Explain why sectional and political divisions in the United States grew
• Describe the terms of the Compromise of 1850

The 1848 treaty with Mexico did not bring the United States domestic peace. Instead, the acquisition of new
territory revived and intensified the debate over the future of slavery in the western territories, widening
the growing division between North and South and leading to the creation of new single-issue parties.
Increasingly, the South came to regard itself as under attack by radical northern abolitionists, and many
northerners began to speak ominously of a southern drive to dominate American politics for the purpose
of protecting slaveholders’ human property. As tensions mounted and both sides hurled accusations,
national unity frayed. Compromise became nearly impossible and antagonistic sectional rivalries replaced
the idea of a unified, democratic republic.

Committed to protecting white workers by keeping slavery out of the lands taken from Mexico,
Pennsylvania congressman David Wilmot attached to an 1846 revenue bill an amendment that would
prohibit slavery in the new territory. The Wilmot Proviso was not entirely new. Other congressmen had
drafted similar legislation, and Wilmot’s language was largely copied from the 1787 Northwest Ordinance
that had banned slavery in that territory. His ideas were very controversial in the 1840s, however, because
his proposals would prevent American slaveholders from bringing what they viewed as their lawful
property, their slaves, into the western lands. The measure passed the House but was defeated in the
Senate. When Polk tried again to raise revenue the following year (to pay for lands taken from Mexico), the
Wilmot Proviso was reintroduced, this time calling for the prohibition of slavery not only in the Mexican
Cession but in all U.S. territories. The revenue bill passed, but without the proviso.

That Wilmot, a loyal Democrat, should attempt to counter the actions of a Democratic president hinted
at the party divisions that were to come. The 1840s were a particularly active time in the creation and
reorganization of political parties and constituencies, mainly because of discontent with the positions of

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 323

the mainstream Whig and Democratic Parties in regard to slavery and its extension into the territories. The
first new party, the small and politically weak Liberty Party founded in 1840, was a single-issue party, as
were many of those that followed it. Its members were abolitionists who fervently believed slavery was
evil and should be ended, and that this was best accomplished by political means.

The Wilmot Proviso captured the “antislavery” sentiments during and after the Mexican War. Antislavery
advocates differed from the abolitionists. While abolitionists called for the end of slavery everywhere,
antislavery advocates, for various reasons, did not challenge the presence of slavery in the states where it
already existed. Those who supported antislavery fervently opposed its expansion westward because, they
argued, slavery would degrade white labor and reduce its value, cast a stigma upon hard-working whites,
and deprive them of a chance to advance economically. The western lands, they argued, should be open
to white men only—small farmers and urban workers for whom the West held the promise of economic
advancement. Where slavery was entrenched, according to antislavery advocates, there was little land left
for small farmers to purchase, and such men could not compete fairly with slaveholders who held large
farms and gangs of slaves. Ordinary laborers suffered also; no one would pay a white man a decent wage
when a slave worked for nothing. When labor was associated with loss of freedom, antislavery supporters
argued, all white workers carried a stigma that marked them as little better than slaves.

Wilmot opposed the extension of slavery into the Mexican Cession not because of his concern for African
Americans, but because of his belief that slavery hurt white workers, and that lands acquired by the
government should be used to better the position of white small farmers and laborers. Work was not
simply something that people did; it gave them dignity, but in a slave society, labor had no dignity.
In response to these arguments, southerners maintained that laborers in northern factories were treated
worse than slaves. Their work was tedious and low paid. Their meager income was spent on inadequate
food, clothing, and shelter. There was no dignity in such a life. In contrast, they argued, southern slaves
were provided with a home, the necessities of life, and the protection of their masters. Factory owners did
not care for or protect their employees in the same way.

The Wilmot Proviso was an issue of great importance to the Democrats. Would they pledge to support it?
At the party’s New York State convention in Buffalo, Martin Van Buren’s antislavery supporters—called
Barnburners because they were likened to farmers who were willing to burn down their own barn to
get rid of a rat infestation—spoke in favor of the proviso. Their opponents, known as Hunkers, refused
to support it. Angered, the Barnburners organized their own convention, where they chose antislavery,
pro–Wilmot Proviso delegates to send to the Democrats’ national convention in Baltimore. In this way, the
controversy over the expansion of slavery divided the Democratic Party.

At the national convention, both sets of delegates were seated—the pro-proviso ones chosen by the
Barnburners and the anti-proviso ones chosen by the Hunkers. When it came time to vote for the party’s
presidential nominee, the majority of votes were for Lewis Cass, an advocate of popular sovereignty.
Popular sovereignty was the belief that citizens should be able to decide issues based on the principle of
majority rule; in this case, residents of a territory should have the right to decide whether slavery would be
allowed in it. Theoretically, this doctrine would allow slavery to become established in any U.S. territory,
including those from which it had been banned by earlier laws.

Disgusted by the result, the Barnburners united with antislavery Whigs and former members of the
Liberty Party to form a new political party—the Free-Soil Party, which took as its slogan “Free Soil, Free
Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men.” The party had one real goal—to oppose the extension of slavery
into the territories (Figure 11.21). In the minds of its members and many other northerners of the
time, southern slaveholders had marshaled their wealth and power to control national politics for the
purpose of protecting the institution of slavery and extending it into the territories. Many in the Free-Soil
Party believed in this far-reaching conspiracy of the slaveholding elite to control both foreign affairs and
domestic policies for their own ends, a cabal that came to be known as the Slave Power.

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Figure 11.21 This political cartoon depicts Martin Van Buren and his son John, both Barnburners, forcing the slavery
issue within the Democratic Party by “smoking out” fellow Democrat Lewis Cass on the roof. Their support of the
Wilmot Proviso and the new Free-Soil Party is demonstrated by John’s declaration, “That’s you Dad! more ‘Free-Soil.’
We’ll rat ‘em out yet. Long life to Davy Wilmot.” (credit: Library of Congress)

In the wake of the Mexican War, antislavery sentiment entered mainstream American politics when the
new Free-Soil party promptly selected Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate. For the first time, a
national political party committed itself to the goal of stopping the expansion of slavery. The Democrats
chose Lewis Cass, and the Whigs nominated General Zachary Taylor, as Polk had assumed they would.
On Election Day, Democrats split their votes between Van Buren and Cass. With the strength of the
Democratic vote diluted, Taylor won. His popularity with the American people served him well, and his
status as a slaveholder helped him win the South.

Visit the archives of the Gilder Lehrman Institute (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/
15GerritSmith) to read an August 1848 letter from Gerrit Smith, a staunch abolitionist,
regarding the Free-Soil candidate, Martin Van Buren. Smith played a major role in the
Liberty Party and was their presidential candidate in 1848.

The election of 1848 did nothing to quell the controversy over whether slavery would advance into the
Mexican Cession. Some slaveholders, like President Taylor, considered the question a moot point because
the lands acquired from Mexico were far too dry for growing cotton and therefore, they thought, no
slaveholder would want to move there. Other southerners, however, argued that the question was not
whether slaveholders would want to move to the lands of the Mexican Cession, but whether they could
and still retain control of their slave property. Denying them the right to freely relocate with their lawful
property was, they maintained, unfair and unconstitutional. Northerners argued, just as fervidly, that
because Mexico had abolished slavery, no slaves currently lived in the Mexican Cession, and to introduce
slavery there would extend it to a new territory, thus furthering the institution and giving the Slave Power
more control over the United States. The strong current of antislavery sentiment—that is, the desire to
protect white labor—only increased the opposition to the expansion of slavery into the West.

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Most northerners, except members of the Free-Soil Party, favored popular sovereignty for California and
the New Mexico territory. Many southerners opposed this position, however, for they feared residents
of these regions might choose to outlaw slavery. Some southern politicians spoke ominously of secession
from the United States. Free-Soilers rejected popular sovereignty and demanded that slavery be
permanently excluded from the territories.

Beginning in January 1850, Congress worked for eight months on a compromise that might quiet the
growing sectional conflict. Led by the aged Henry Clay, members finally agreed to the following:

1. California, which was ready to enter the Union, was admitted as a free state in accordance
with its state constitution.
2. Popular sovereignty was to determine the status of slavery in New Mexico and Utah, even
though Utah and part of New Mexico were north of the Missouri Compromise line.
3. The slave trade was banned in the nation’s capital. Slavery, however, was allowed to remain.
4. Under a new fugitive slave law, those who helped runaway slaves or refused to assist in their
return would be fined and possibly imprisoned.
5. The border between Texas and New Mexico was established.

The Compromise of 1850 brought temporary relief. It resolved the issue of slavery in the territories for
the moment and prevented secession. The peace would not last, however. Instead of relieving tensions
between North and South, it had actually made them worse.

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Compromise of 1850

Corps of Discovery




Free-Soil Party

Liberty Party

Mexican Cession

Missouri Compromise

Northwest Passage

Slave Power

Tallmadge Amendment


Wilmot Proviso

Key Terms

a Mexican official who often served as combined civil administrator, judge, and law enforcement

northern Democrats loyal to Martin Van Buren who opposed the extension of slavery into
the territories and broke away from the main party when it nominated a pro-popular sovereignty

Mexican residents of California

five separate laws passed by Congress in September 1850 to resolve issues
stemming from the Mexican Cession and the sectional crisis

the group led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the expedition to explore
and map the territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase

a person who brought new settlers to Texas in exchange for a grant of land

a person who engages in an unofficial military operation intended to seize land from foreign
countries or foment revolution there

the nickname for those who traveled to California in 1849 in hopes of finding gold

a political party that sought to exclude slavery from the western territories, leaving these
areas open for settlement by white farmers and ensuring that white laborers would not have to compete
with slaves

a political party formed in 1840 by those who believed political measures were the best
means by which abolition could be accomplished

the lands west of the Rio Grande ceded to the United States by Mexico in 1848,
including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado

an agreement reached in Congress in 1820 that allowed Missouri to enter the
Union as a slave state, brought Maine into the Union as a free state, and prohibited slavery north of 36°
30′ latitude

the nonexistent all-water route across the North American continent sought by
European and American explorers

a term northerners used to describe the disproportionate influence that they felt elite
southern slaveholders wielded in both domestic and international affairs

an amendment (which did not pass) proposed by representative James
Tallmadge in 1819 that called for Missouri to be admitted as a free state and for all slaves there to be
gradually emancipated

Mexican residents of Texas

an amendment to a revenue bill that would have barred slavery from all the territory
acquired from Mexico


Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 327

11.1 Lewis and Clark
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis to organize an expedition into the Louisiana
Territory to explore and map the area but also to find an all-water route from the Missouri River to the
Pacific Coast. The Louisiana Purchase and the journey of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery captured
the imagination of many, who dedicated themselves to the economic exploitation of the western lands
and the expansion of American influence and power. In the South, the Adams-Onís treaty legally secured
Florida for the United States, though it did nothing to end the resistance of the Seminoles against American
expansionists. At the same time, the treaty frustrated those Americans who considered Texas a part of the
Louisiana Purchase. Taking matters into their own hands, some American settlers tried to take Texas by

11.2 The Missouri Crisis
The Missouri Crisis created a division over slavery that profoundly and ominously shaped sectional
identities and rivalries as never before. Conflict over the uneasy balance between slave and free states
in Congress came to a head when Missouri petitioned to join the Union as a slave state in 1819, and the
debate broadened from simple issues of representation to a critique of the morality of slavery. The debates
also raised the specter of disunion and civil war, leading many, including Thomas Jefferson, to fear for
the future of the republic. Under the Missouri Compromise, Missouri and Maine entered the Union at the
same time, Maine as a free state, Missouri as a slave state, and a line was drawn across the remainder of
the Louisiana territory north of which slavery was forbidden.

11.3 Independence for Texas
The establishment of the Lone Star Republic formed a new chapter in the history of U.S. westward
expansion. In contrast to the addition of the Louisiana Territory through diplomacy with France,
Americans in Texas employed violence against Mexico to achieve their goals. Orchestrated largely by
slaveholders, the acquisition of Texas appeared the next logical step in creating an American empire that
included slavery. Nonetheless, with the Missouri Crisis in mind, the United States refused the Texans’
request to enter the United States as a slave state in 1836. Instead, Texas formed an independent republic
where slavery was legal. But American settlers there continued to press for more land. The strained
relationship between expansionists in Texas and Mexico in the early 1840s hinted of things to come.

11.4 The Mexican-American War, 1846–1848
President James K. Polk’s administration was a period of intensive expansion for the United States. After
overseeing the final details regarding the annexation of Texas from Mexico, Polk negotiated a peaceful
settlement with Great Britain regarding ownership of the Oregon Country, which brought the United
States what are now the states of Washington and Oregon. The acquisition of additional lands from
Mexico, a country many in the United States perceived as weak and inferior, was not so bloodless. The
Mexican Cession added nearly half of Mexico’s territory to the United States, including New Mexico and
California, and established the U.S.-Mexico border at the Rio Grande. The California Gold Rush rapidly
expanded the population of the new territory, but also prompted concerns over immigration, especially
from China.

11.5 Free Soil or Slave? The Dilemma of the West
The acquisition of lands from Mexico in 1848 reawakened debates regarding slavery. The suggestion that
slavery be barred from the Mexican Cession caused rancorous debate between North and South and
split the Democratic Party when many northern members left to create the Free-Soil Party. Although the

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Compromise of 1850 resolved the question of whether slavery would be allowed in the new territories,
the solution pleased no one. The peace brought by the compromise was short-lived, and the debate over
slavery continued.

Review Questions
1. As a result of the Adams-Onís Treaty, the
United States gained which territory from Spain?

A. Florida
B. New Mexico
C. California
D. Nevada

2. The Long Expedition established a short-lived
republic in Texas known as ________.

A. the Lone Star Republic
B. the Republic of Texas
C. Columbiana
D. the Republic of Fredonia

3. For what purposes did Thomas Jefferson send
Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana
Territory? What did he want them to accomplish?

4. A proposal to prohibit the importation of
slaves to Missouri following its admission to the
United States was made by ________.

A. John C. Calhoun
B. Henry Clay
C. James Tallmadge
D. John Quincy Adams

5. To balance votes in the Senate, ________ was
admitted to the Union as a free state at the same
time that Missouri was admitted as a slave state.

A. Florida
B. Maine
C. New York
D. Arkansas

6. Why did the Missouri Crisis trigger threats of
disunion and war? Identify the positions of both
southern slaveholders and northern opponents of
the spread of slavery.

7. Texas won its independence from Mexico in

A. 1821
B. 1830
C. 1836

D. 1845

8. Texans defeated the army of General Antonio
Lopez de Santa Anna at the battle of ________.

A. the Alamo
B. San Jacinto
C. Nacogdoches
D. Austin

9. How did Texas settlers’ view of Mexico and its
people contribute to the history of Texas in the

10. Which of the following was not a reason the
United States was reluctant to annex Texas?

A. The United States did not want to fight a
war with Mexico.

B. Annexing Texas would add more slave
territory to the United States and anger

C. Texans considered U.S. citizens inferior and
did not want to be part of their country.

D. Adding Texas would upset the balance
between free and slave states in Congress.

11. According to treaties signed in 1818 and 1827,
with which country did the United States jointly
occupy Oregon?

A. Great Britain
B. Spain
C. Mexico
D. France

12. During the war between the United States
and Mexico, revolts against U.S. control broke out
in ________.

A. Florida and Texas
B. New Mexico and California
C. California and Texas
D. Florida and California

13. Why did whites in California dislike the
Chinese so much?

Chapter 11 A Nation on the Move: Westward Expansion, 1800–1860 329

14. The practice of allowing residents of
territories to decide whether their land should be
slave or free was called ________.

A. the democratic process
B. the Wilmot Proviso
C. popular sovereignty
D. the Free Soil solution

15. Which of the following was not a provision of
the Compromise of 1850?

A. California was admitted as a free state.
B. Slavery was abolished in Washington, DC.
C. A stronger fugitive slave law was passed.
D. Residents of New Mexico and Utah were to

decide for themselves whether their
territories would be slave or free.

16. Describe the events leading up to the
formation of the Free-Soil Party.

Critical Thinking Questions
17. Consider the role of filibusters in American expansion. What are some arguments in favor of
filibustering? What are some arguments against it?

18. What are the economic and political issues raised by having an imbalance between free and slave
states? Why did the balance of free and slave states matter?

19. How did Anglo-American settlers in Texas see themselves? Did they adopt a Mexican identity because
they were living in Mexican territory? Why or why not?

20. Consider the annexation of Texas and the Mexican-American War from a Mexican perspective. What
would you find objectionable about American actions, foreign policy, and attitudes in the 1840s?

21. Describe the place of Texas in the history of American westward expansion by comparing Texas’s
early history to the Missouri Crisis in 1819–1820. What are the similarities and what are the differences?

22. Consider the arguments over the expansion of slavery made by both northerners and southerners in
the aftermath of the U.S. victory over Mexico. Who had the more compelling case? Or did each side make
equally significant arguments?

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Cotton is King: The Antebellum
South, 1800–1860

Figure 12.1 Bateaux à Vapeur Géant, la Nouvelle-Orléans 1853 (Giant Steamboats at New Orleans, 1853), by
Hippolyte Sebron, shows how New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, was the primary trading hub for the
cotton that fueled the growth of the southern economy.

Chapter Outline
12.1 The Economics of Cotton
12.2 African Americans in the Antebellum United States
12.3 Wealth and Culture in the South
12.4 The Filibuster and the Quest for New Slave States

Nine new slave states entered the Union between 1789 and 1860, rapidly expanding and transforming the
South into a region of economic growth built on slave labor. In the image above (Figure 12.1), innumerable
slaves load cargo onto a steamship in the Port of New Orleans, the commercial center of the antebellum
South, while two well-dressed white men stand by talking. Commercial activity extends as far as the eye
can see.

By the mid-nineteenth century, southern commercial centers like New Orleans had become home to the
greatest concentration of wealth in the United States. While most white southerners did not own slaves,
they aspired to join the ranks of elite slaveholders, who played a key role in the politics of both the South
and the nation. Meanwhile, slavery shaped the culture and society of the South, which rested on a racial
ideology of white supremacy and a vision of the United States as a white man’s republic. Slaves endured
the traumas of slavery by creating their own culture and using the Christian message of redemption to
find hope for a world of freedom without violence.

Chapter 12 Cotton is King: The Antebellum South, 1800–1860 331

12.1 The Economics of Cotton

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the labor-intensive processes of cotton production
• Describe the importance of cotton to the Atlantic and American antebellum economy

In the antebellum era—that is, in the years before the Civil War—American planters in the South
continued to grow Chesapeake tobacco and Carolina rice as they had in the colonial era. Cotton, however,
emerged as the antebellum South’s major commercial crop, eclipsing tobacco, rice, and sugar in economic
importance. By 1860, the region was producing two-thirds of the world’s cotton. In 1793, Eli Whitney
revolutionized the production of cotton when he invented the cotton gin, a device that separated the seeds
from raw cotton. Suddenly, a process that was extraordinarily labor-intensive when done by hand could
be completed quickly and easily. American plantation owners, who were searching for a successful staple
crop to compete on the world market, found it in cotton.

As a commodity, cotton had the advantage of being easily stored and transported. A demand for it
already existed in the industrial textile mills in Great Britain, and in time, a steady stream of slave-grown
American cotton would also supply northern textile mills. Southern cotton, picked and processed by
American slaves, helped fuel the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution in both the United States and
Great Britain.

Almost no cotton was grown in the United States in 1787, the year the federal constitution was written.
However, following the War of 1812, a huge increase in production resulted in the so-called cotton boom,
and by midcentury, cotton became the key cash crop (a crop grown to sell rather than for the farmer’s sole
use) of the southern economy and the most important American commodity. By 1850, of the 3.2 million
slaves in the country’s fifteen slave states, 1.8 million were producing cotton; by 1860, slave labor was
producing over two billion pounds of cotton per year. Indeed, American cotton soon made up two-thirds
of the global supply, and production continued to soar. By the time of the Civil War, South Carolina

Figure 12.2

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politician James Hammond confidently proclaimed that the North could never threaten the South because
“cotton is king.”

The crop grown in the South was a hybrid: Gossypium barbadense, known as Petit Gulf cotton, a mix
of Mexican, Georgia, and Siamese strains. Petit Gulf cotton grew extremely well in different soils and
climates. It dominated cotton production in the Mississippi River Valley—home of the new slave states of
Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri—as well as in other states like Texas.
Whenever new slave states entered the Union, white slaveholders sent armies of slaves to clear the land in
order to grow and pick the lucrative crop. The phrase “to be sold down the river,” used by Harriet Beecher
Stowe in her 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, refers to this forced migration from the upper southern states
to the Deep South, lower on the Mississippi, to grow cotton.

The slaves who built this cotton kingdom with their labor started by clearing the land. Although the
Jeffersonian vision of the settlement of new U.S. territories entailed white yeoman farmers single-handedly
carving out small independent farms, the reality proved quite different. Entire old-growth forests and
cypress swamps fell to the axe as slaves labored to strip the vegetation to make way for cotton. With the
land cleared, slaves readied the earth by plowing and planting. To ambitious white planters, the extent of
new land available for cotton production seemed almost limitless, and many planters simply leapfrogged
from one area to the next, abandoning their fields every ten to fifteen years after the soil became exhausted.
Theirs was a world of mobility and restlessness, a constant search for the next area to grow the valuable
crop. Slaves composed the vanguard of this American expansion to the West.

Cotton planting took place in March and April, when slaves planted seeds in rows around three to five
feet apart. Over the next several months, from April to August, they carefully tended the plants. Weeding
the cotton rows took significant energy and time. In August, after the cotton plants had flowered and the
flowers had begun to give way to cotton bolls (the seed-bearing capsule that contains the cotton fiber),
all the plantation’s slaves—men, women, and children—worked together to pick the crop (Figure 12.3).
On each day of cotton picking, slaves went to the fields with sacks, which they would fill as many times
as they could. The effort was laborious, and a white “driver” employed the lash to make slaves work as
quickly as possible.

Figure 12.3 In the late nineteenth century, J. N. Wilson captured this image of harvest time at a southern plantation.
While the workers in this photograph are not slave laborers, the process of cotton harvesting shown here had
changed little from antebellum times.

Cotton planters projected the amount of cotton they could harvest based on the number of slaves under
their control. In general, planters expected a good “hand,” or slave, to work ten acres of land and pick
two hundred pounds of cotton a day. An overseer or master measured each individual slave’s daily yield.

Chapter 12 Cotton is King: The Antebellum South, 1800–1860 333

Great pressure existed to meet the expected daily amount, and some masters whipped slaves who picked
less than expected.

Cotton picking occurred as many as seven times a season as the plant grew and continued to produce bolls
through the fall and early winter. During the picking season, slaves worked from sunrise to sunset with
a ten-minute break at lunch; many slaveholders tended to give them little to eat, since spending on food
would cut into their profits. Other slaveholders knew that feeding slaves could increase productivity and
therefore provided what they thought would help ensure a profitable crop. The slaves’ day didn’t end after
they picked the cotton; once they had brought it to the gin house to be weighed, they then had to care for
the animals and perform other chores. Indeed, slaves often maintained their own gardens and livestock,
which they tended after working the cotton fields, in order to supplement their supply of food.

Sometimes the cotton was dried before it was ginned (put through the process of separating the seeds from
the cotton fiber). The cotton gin allowed a slave to remove the seeds from fifty pounds of cotton a day,
compared to one pound if done by hand. After the seeds had been removed, the cotton was pressed into
bales. These bales, weighing about four hundred to five hundred pounds, were wrapped in burlap cloth
and sent down the Mississippi River.

Visit the Internet Archive (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15LoadCotton) to watch a
1937 WPA film showing cotton bales being loaded onto a steamboat.

As the cotton industry boomed in the South, the Mississippi River quickly became the essential water
highway in the United States. Steamboats, a crucial part of the transportation revolution thanks to their
enormous freight-carrying capacity and ability to navigate shallow waterways, became a defining
component of the cotton kingdom. Steamboats also illustrated the class and social distinctions of the
antebellum age. While the decks carried precious cargo, ornate rooms graced the interior. In these spaces,
whites socialized in the ship’s saloons and dining halls while black slaves served them (Figure 12.4).

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Figure 12.4 As in this depiction of the saloon of the Mississippi River steamboat Princess, elegant and luxurious
rooms often occupied the interiors of antebellum steamships, whose decks were filled with cargo.

Investors poured huge sums into steamships. In 1817, only seventeen plied the waters of western rivers,
but by 1837, there were over seven hundred steamships in operation. Major new ports developed at St.
Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and other locations. By 1860, some thirty-five hundred vessels were
steaming in and out of New Orleans, carrying an annual cargo made up primarily of cotton that amounted
to $220 million worth of goods (approximately $6.5 billion in 2014 dollars).

New Orleans had been part of the French empire before the United States purchased it, along with the
rest of the Louisiana Territory, in 1803. In the first half of the nineteenth century, it rose in prominence
and importance largely because of the cotton boom, steam-powered river traffic, and its strategic position
near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Steamboats moved down the river transporting cotton grown on
plantations along the river and throughout the South to the port at New Orleans. From there, the bulk
of American cotton went to Liverpool, England, where it was sold to British manufacturers who ran the
cotton mills in Manchester and elsewhere. This lucrative international trade brought new wealth and new
residents to the city. By 1840, New Orleans alone had 12 percent of the nation’s total banking capital,
and visitors often commented on the great cultural diversity of the city. In 1835, Joseph Holt Ingraham
wrote: “Truly does New-Orleans represent every other city and nation upon earth. I know of none where
is congregated so great a variety of the human species.” Slaves, cotton, and the steamship transformed the
city from a relatively isolated corner of North America in the eighteenth century to a thriving metropolis
that rivaled New York in importance (Figure 12.5).

Chapter 12 Cotton is King: The Antebellum South, 1800–1860 335

Figure 12.5 This print of The Levee – New Orleans (1884) shows the bustling port of New Orleans with bales of
cotton waiting to be shipped. The sheer volume of cotton indicates its economic importance throughout the century.

The South’s dependence on cotton was matched by its dependence on slaves to harvest the cotton. Despite
the rhetoric of the Revolution that “all men are created equal,” slavery not only endured in the American
republic but formed the very foundation of the country’s economic success. Cotton and slavery occupied
a central—and intertwined—place in the nineteenth-century economy.

In 1807, the U.S. Congress abolished the foreign slave trade, a ban that went into effect on January 1,
1808. After this date, importing slaves from Africa became illegal in the United States. While smuggling
continued to occur, the end of the international slave trade meant that domestic slaves were in very high
demand. Fortunately for Americans whose wealth depended upon the exploitation of slave labor, a fall in
the price of tobacco had caused landowners in the Upper South to reduce their production of this crop and
use more of their land to grow wheat, which was far more profitable. While tobacco was a labor-intensive
crop that required many people to cultivate it, wheat was not. Former tobacco f