by Dr. John deTreville, Bill Pruden, and Mark Laskowski
CHAPTER I: ORIGINS OF ENGLISH COLONIZATION
Background to English Expansion in North America
When Christopher Columbus completed the first of his four journeys to the New World, he came back to an Old World that was fundamentally altered. Europeans, especially the monarchs of powerful European countries, recognized that gaining territories in the New World would bring about an increase in the amount of land, people, and natural resources under each monarch’s control, thus extending their country’s political power worldwide.
The two dominant forces in Europe at the time were Spain and Portugal. Both countries had assembled formidable military forces and had demonstrated a will to extend their influence beyond their borders. When the feeding frenzy of New World territorial expansion began after Columbus’ 1492 journey, it seemed likely that Spain and Portugal would constantly battle each other for supremacy. Foreseeing this, Pope Alexander VI proposed that the two nations divide the world in two, each country controlling one half. In 1494, in the Treaty of Tordesillas, the two countries agreed to this plan. In effect, Portugal received exclusive dominion over the eastern hemisphere, including all of Africa and much of Asia; Spain then was left in control of the western hemisphere, which included much of the Pacific Ocean and all of North and South America (except, curiously, the western tip of South America, which became the basis for the Portuguese colony of Brazil). This agreement allowed Portugal to focus on the areas such as Africa where it was dominant and Spain to focus on developing its new claims in the New World.
Spain rapidly conquered and settled the valuable sugar producing islands of the Caribbean, the vast populations and mining and agricultural region of Mexico, and most of Central and South America. Spanish attempts to settle North America, however, were generally unsuccessful. About 1526, a town of 500 was established on the Georgia coast but withdrawn when 150 of the settlers died. Despite this failure, Spain continued to gain wealth by exploring lands and conquering native inhabitants, a fact that was not lost on emerging European powers such as England, France, and the Netherlands. These countries sought to challenge Spanish dominance in the New World and establish colonies of their own, but with the seas controlled by the mighty Spanish navy, the best these countries could do was explore and hope for an event to signify Spain’s downfall.
In the 1560s, Spain, reacting to the landing of French Protestants in Florida, established its own settlement at St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish also moved to settle up the coast in present-day South Carolina. From there, soldiers were sent out to find gold, bring the Native Americans under governmental control, and establish more forts inland, while missionaries attempted to save the souls of the newly conquered. By 1576, however, there was an Indian uprising against the Spanish and the English were raiding Spanish settlements in the Caribbean and at St. Augustine. Spain abandoned all of her settlements in Spanish Florida except St. Augustine, which was needed to defend the Caribbean and the sea routes between her American empire and Spain itself. All subsequent Spanish settlement in the future United States was in the west, beginning with the founding of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1609, and a string of cities, forts and missions in California, beginning in the 1690s.
Countries cannot build empires without first achieving internal stability and strength. Spain was a strong, centralized nation-state run by an absolute monarch, and this enabled the country to establish a wealthy empire, a large navy, and a well-organized army. England, on the other hand, was weak during much of the sixteenth century, divided by religious quarrels between the Protestant Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, political rivalries with the Kingdom of Scotland to the north, and dynastic struggles over which branch of the royal family would rule. It would not be until Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne that stability would be achieved and these problems would be solved, at least temporarily, enabling England could pursue its own ambitions of empire.
Much of the stability arose as much from the Queen’s long life as from her refusal to marry, which prevented powerful noble families from adding claims to the royal succession. Politically astute, Elizabeth also balanced potential rivals in England by agreeing to share power with Parliament. Elizabeth’s famous—although dubious—status as “the Virgin Queen” eventually solved the political rivalry with Scotland, for when Elizabeth died in 1603, she was followed on the throne by her nearest heir, King James of Scotland, who united England and Scotland under his rule. In terms of religion, stability was achieved by the adoption of the Church of England as the established church in England, and the Calvinist Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Rivalries settled, England could begin to look abroad.
Before England realistically could hope to establish any colonies in the New World, she would need to build a navy to compete with the mighty Spanish navy. Building an armed force essentially from scratch required a considerable amount of money, which Queen Elizabeth attempted to gain by waging an undeclared “secret war” against Spain. She authorized private individuals (who came to be known as “Sea Dogs”) to carry out raids against the Spanish in the New World and to attack merchant ships loaded down with Spanish gold and silver. The Sea Dogs were essentially pirates, and the most famous of them all was Sir Francis Drake. After numerous adventures attacking Spanish ships in the Atlantic Ocean, Drake circumnavigated the globe in 1580, attacking and plundering Spanish outposts and ships all along the way. His journey gained him widespread acclaim, riches for the Queen to use in building her navy, and the attention of the increasingly suspicious Spanish crown. In the following years, Spain would grow increasingly frustrated by the actions of the Sea Dogs and by the support that they seemed to be getting from the English government. Trouble was brewing.
The Early Attempt at Roanoke
After a few abortive attempts at settlement in the late 1570s, England was poised to try again in 1585. Sir Walter Raleigh, an entrepreneur and “special advisor” to the Queen, convinced her to let him sponsor a settlement in North America. He hoped to establish a profitable colony in America to serve as a base for raids on the Spanish and to produce commodities needed by England, such as wine, silk, sugar, bananas, and naval stores. A first expedition established the settlement of Roanoke on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 1585, but the first settlers were not enchanted by their surroundings. Food was scarce, and the Native Americans grew increasingly suspicious and hostile to the English settlers. When Sir Francis Drake stopped by the settlement in early 1586, he found a group of hungry, discontented settlers, and he brought them home to England. Undaunted, Sir Walter Raleigh convinced the Queen to sponsor a second settlement in 1587, this time destined for the Chesapeake Bay, where food was plentiful and the Native Americans were rumored to be more friendly. However, when the settlers reached the New World, they found themselves considerably south of their destination, back in unfriendly Roanoke. Making the best of a bad situation, the settlers attempted to grow crops and make peace with the Native Americans. However, supplies were scarce and a supply boat never arrived. Late in 1587, the settlers urged their governor, John White, to return to England and gather supplies.
The settlers expected White to be back within months, but he was unable to return until 1590. In the meantime, Spain, upset by England’s interference in the Americas, declared war and planned to invade England. The British government, on paper much weaker than Spain, ordered all English ships and crews to remain in England for defense, including John White’s. Spain’s Armada, or invasion force, attacked in 1588, but surprisingly was defeated by a combination of severe storms and a determined English fleet. With the defeat of its Armada, Spain’s long decline had begun.
Liberated from military service, Governor White returned to Roanoke in 1590, only to find an abandoned settlement and a mysterious message, “CROATOAN,” etched on a tree trunk. The fate of the settlers of the “Missing Colony of Roanoke” has never been settled definitively. Perhaps they were attacked by the nearby Croatan Native Americans, or went to seek help from them, or set out to find a new home north toward the Chesapeake Bay. Once thing was certain: the settlement attempt was much more expensive than anticipated, and Sir Walter Raleigh personally lost a huge sum of money on the failed expedition. To succeed financially, any future colony would have to be created as a venture of joint-stock company, which would have many investors to raise more capital and to spread the risk.
The Settlement of Jamestown
Nearly twenty years passed before England would make another serious attempt at colonizing North America. Learning from the earlier failures, investors established the Virginia Company of London, a joint-stock company named in honor of the late Queen Elizabeth. In 1607, the expedition of 104 stockholders and employees, all men and boys, arrived on a peninsula near Chesapeake Bay, and named the settlement Jamestown after the king. They chose the location carefully: it had to be on a river for transportation, trade and exploration inland, but not right on the coast, where the Spanish or French pirates could easily find it. At first glance, Jamestown appeared to be ideal. The location was surrounded by the river and marshes, which made it easily defensible, but the marshes were ridden with malaria and other diseases. The original landing party included soldiers to build and defend the fort, craftsmen to make bricks and glass, and explorers to seek precious metals, naval stores, and perhaps the fabled Northwest Passage. There were, however, few farmers because the settlers expected to get most of their food in trade with the Native Americans, little realizing that these Native Americans, unlike those in Mexico and Peru, barely raised enough food for their own needs. They also expected that the Native Americans would follow European concepts of diplomatic relations and property rights. When neither of the preconceptions came to pass, violence between the two groups was almost inevitable. With all these errors, the Jamestown settlement nearly passed out of existence. Of the first 104 settlers, only thirty-eight survived the first winter. High death rates would plague the colony for many years, until settlement eventually reached inland toward Williamsburg.
As a commercial venture, the Virginia Company gave little thought to government or to the necessities of a permanent settlement. The twin cornerstones of British society, self-government and private property, were both lacking. The stockholders appointed governors to rule the settlers as well as all council members in Virginia, who, faced with Native American problems and demand for profits by the stockholders, ruled as dictators. All land was owned by the company, and there was little incentive for employees and indentured servants to work. The death rate remained high, resulting in a constant need for new settlers from England.
The need for work and population incentives eventually resulted in compromises by the company that set the pattern of English settlement and government in North America. The company first began to allow private ownership of land. The landowners would work part-time for the company, and produce and sell food to the company. In 1618, to encourage immigration, the company established a “headright system” by which any person who paid his own way would receive 100 acres for themselves and additional acres for their family members or for any indentured servants (and later slaves) brought over. In 1619, the company also sent women over to encourage families and permanent settlement.
Still, the colony could not survive if it did not make a profit or establish more harmonious relations with its Native American neighbors. By his actions and innovations, a man named John Rolfe addressed both of these problems. First, he helped establish at least temporary peace with the Native American tribe nearby by marrying the chief’s daughter, Pocahantas. This helped ease tensions between the native inhabitants of the peninsula and the English settlers. Second, Rolfe helped establish tobacco as a profitable crop in Virginia. Tobacco smoking had become very popular in England (despite of King James’ attempts to suppress what he called a “vile and stinking custom”), but was a drain on the British economy because the preferred varieties of tobacco came from the Spanish colonies. Rolfe obtained Spanish West Indian seed in 1612 and found that he was able to grow the crop successfully in Virginia. Suddenly, Jamestown went from being an outpost of disease and discontent to the capital city of a New World industry. The success of tobacco generated not only tremendous profits for investors but also a need for more land and more labor.
From Company to Royal Colony
By 1619, Virginia was beginning to gain notice as England’s first successful settlement in North America. That year proved significant for two other moves that would influence American history: government and slavery. As part of the further reforms of 1618 and to further immigration, the Company ended the arbitrary rule of the Company and extended more “rights of Englishmen” to the settlers. It allowed the formation of the first elected representative assembly in any of the European colonies in America. This assembly, including representatives from various Virginia settlements, met as the House of Burgesses on July 30, 1619, though it would be many years before it would be a true democracy. Women, indentured servants, slaves, Native Americans, free Africans, religious dissenters, and those who owned no property were, with very rare exceptions, denied suffrage. Still, it was a first step, and far beyond what the Spanish, French, Dutch, or other European colonies were allowed.
Despite the promising signs, Virginia was still hanging on to a thin strip of the coast and suffering from many problems. Death rates were still extremely high. For example, in 1618, the population stood at 1,000. By 1624, 4,000 more had immigrated to Virginia, but in 1625, the official population was only 1,210. Sickness took most, some doubtless returned to England, but 347 died as a result of war. In 1622, upset by constant encroachments on their land, the nearby Algonquins of the Powhatan Confederacy coordinated simultaneous attacks on the scattered English settlements, almost wiping some out entirely. The Native Americans were defeated eventually, but not before the rebellion raised the concern of the King. The conflict, coupled with word of the company’s maltreatment of indentured servants, raised the ire of the English government. In 1624, King James I revoked the Virginia Company’s charter and converted the territory into a royal colony. The governors appointed by the King quickly found it impossible to rule the Virginians without the colonists’ consent, and by 1629, the House of Burgesses was again making laws.
Slavery in Virginia
In an ironic quirk of history, commerce and chance introduced the very antithesis of democracy just a month after the establishment of the first House of Burgesses. At the end of August 1619, a Dutch ship arrived and sold nineteen Africans to some settlers. English law at the time prohibited slavery, and the first Africans may have been indentured servants. Nonetheless, the colonists were quick to adopt slavery, which was already well established in the many nations in Africa, Europe, and Asia, from whence it had spread to Spain, Portugal, and their colonies in America.
Slaves, however, were not the major source of labor until about 1670 (they made up five percent of the population in 1671, twenty-five percent in 1715, and fifty percent in 1775). Various theories have been offered as to why indentured white Englishmen continued, for fifty years, to be the primary source of forced labor. Some suggest that it was the high mortality rate in Virginia before 1670. Most servants were practically in the status of a slave anyway for seven years, but the cost to a planter of an indentured servant was about half that of a slave. However, in the early days, most indentured servants and slaves—and their owners too—died within seven years of arriving in Virginia. There was no financial incentive to own the lifetime of labor of a slave until the Virginia lifespan lengthened. Other theories have also been offered. As the population of Virginia grew, freed indentured servants began to exist in larger numbers, and settlement became more widespread, it became possible for an indentured servant to run away, blending into the general population. There were very few free Africans, however, so a runaway African slave could easily be identified and returned to his owner. A third theory revolves around Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676.
With existing agricultural lands on the east coast taken up by wealthy Virginia planters, freed indentured servants found it necessary to find land in the frontier lands of western Virginia, where representation in the House of Burgesses was minimal and conflict with Native Americans was considerable. The eastern counties had been settled first, so they enjoyed more representation in the House of Burgesses than newer western counties, where counties and populations were often much larger. After a series of incidents with Native Americans, the settlers petitioned the House of Burgesses to send out the militia for protection. When the House of Burgesses, dominated by east coast planters refused, Nathaniel Bacon led a group of white western settlers in a rebellion against the governor and the eastern planters. In the process, Jamestown was burned to the ground and the governor was run out of town. Bacon soon succumbed to disease and the rebellion was put down. Some historians speculate that powerful eastern planters were so shaken by Bacon’s Rebellion that they moved toward increased use of African slaves in order to prevent the further growth of a discontented poor and free white population. However, the scanty contemporary records available do not fully support this theory. What is certain is that, by the end of the seventeenth century, Virginia was importing more slaves and phasing out the indentured servant system.
Virginia and English Power
Although the Virginia Company introduced tobacco production to the New World, the company itself never realized any profits. However, individual planters did. In the early years, when tobacco prices were high, profits were great, especially for those who could afford large labor forces of indentured servants or slaves. As tobacco acreage increased, the price of tobacco dropped and other crops also became important. Over the next century, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania came to constitute the “grain belt” of the emerging British Empire. This grain, mostly wheat, was exported mainly to the West Indies where planters found it more profitable to grow sugar and buy their food from America. Enterprising Virginians added to their colony’s wealth and status by starting businesses as land speculators and as exporters of naval stores, glass, and “pig iron.” As the largest colony, in terms of both area and population, Virginia was the indispensable colony, and it served as a model for future colonial movements.
The urge to establish an English colony in the New World had been dreamed since the days of Columbus. However, it was impossible to attempt before Queen Elizabeth I came to power, and it was infeasible to do while the Spanish still dominated. But after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the doors were open to English settlement. For all of the trials and tribulations that the English endured to plant a colony in the New World, from the Lost Colony of Roanoke to the horrifying death rates in the first years of Jamestown, Virginia survived. It was significant not only because it announced an English presence in North America. That presence would evolve over the next two centuries as new generations of colonists contributed to, expanded, and later challenged English authority in the New World.
Chapter I Vocabulary Terms
Treaty of Tordesillas
Queen Elizabeth I
House of Burgesses
Chapter I Review Questions
1. Why was England originally unable to compete with Spain in colonizing the New World?
2. Why did the settlements at Roanoke fail? What is the most plausible explanation for what happened to the lost colony?
3. Why did the founders of Virginia use a joint-stock company? Why was Virginia later changed to a royal colony? Why did the king have to institute court proceedings to revoke the charter?
4. What difficulties did the settlers of Jamestown face in their first few years in Virginia? How was the settlement able to survive?
5. What is an indentured servant? Why would a poor Englishman become one?
6. What were the “rights of Englishmen” that colonists demanded?
7. Why was slavery adopted widely in Virginia after about 1670?
8. What caused the east-west tensions between settlers in Virginia?
9. Explain the circumstances surrounding Bacon’s Rebellion and why Bacon attacked Jamestown.
CHAPTER II: THE SOUTHERN COLONIES
A Catholic Haven in Maryland
The use of joint-stock companies enabled investors to raise the capital needed for a colonial venture in the New World, but it also revealed several problems to the political standing of the King. In Virginia, the joint-stock system contributed to wars with Native Americans, exploitation of indentured servants, high death rates, and financial losses. Business charters could be bought on the open market by forces unfriendly to the king and turned into government charters that practically ruled independent of royal authority. The King, as a limited monarch, could only cancel such corporate or joint-stock charters if the corporation violated the rather general provisions of the charters themselves.
To protect against any possible challenge to his royal authority, the King devised a new form of colonial charter, the proprietary colony. According to this system, the King would grant charters directly to his friends and supporters, who would in turn serve as proprietors (something akin to a manager or administrator), running the colony in the King’s name. This system enabled the King to reward those loyal to him with large grants of land, but it also meant that his friends and supporters could have almost absolute control over the colony. The only legal limits placed on the proprietor’s powers were that he must obtain the consent of the colony’s freemen (generally taxpaying property owners) for all laws passed, and that these laws for the colony must be consistent with those of England. The proprietor owned of all the land, so he could keep it for himself or rent it out, sell it, or grant it to whomever he wished. Generally, however, the proprietors found that the only way to make money was to give the land free to immigrants as a headright, and then charge a “quitrent” (a feudal tribute, something between a tax and rent) of a penny an acre per year.
The first proprietary charter was given to Cecil Calvert, whose title was Lord Baltimore, and the charter established the colony of Maryland. Lord Baltimore had two goals in establishing Maryland: to make money and to provide a haven for Roman Catholics within the English dominion. He first tried to set up a feudal manorial system with lands farmed by tenants but soon found that, to make money, he had to give away the lands to all who would immigrate and bring over family members, servants, slaves, and charge them all quitrents. Although Catholics were no longer officially persecuted in England, they were still sometimes treated as second-class citizens in England. They could not always freely worship or immigrate to other American colonies (especially New England, which was dominated by Puritans and Separatists) to take advantage of the opportunities there. Lord Baltimore wanted to be sure that Catholics could do so in his colony of Maryland, so in 1634, Cecil Calvert sent the first 200 settlers to Maryland. He did not go himself, but members of his family did, and his younger sons served as some of the early governors of the colony. Benefiting from the experience and proximity of earlier colonies, Maryland did not suffer the high death rates of Virginia or Plymouth, and it built its economy around tobacco and other cash crops.
As the experience of Virginia had proven, the consent of the governed was a necessary precondition to a functioning colony. But at first, the governor of Maryland was appointed by the proprietor and enjoyed almost dictatorial powers. He could command the militia, regulate commerce, and serve as the chief judicial officer. He also appointed all county officials directly, including sheriffs and justices of the peace, as well as the council, or upper house of the legislature. However, because the proprietor was required to have the consent of the people, he directed the governor to allow freeholders to elect the lower house of the legislature beginning in 1635.
Despite Lord Baltimore’s best intentions, his Catholic haven was quickly filled with Protestant settlers, and conflicts soon arose between the Catholic leadership of the colony and the Protestant majority. The situation was particularly tense during the English Civil War. A power struggle between the King and Parliament, the Civil War lasted from 1642 to 1649 and resulted in the overthrow of the King and the establishment of a commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell and his son from 1649 through 1660. The turmoil abroad led to the passage of the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649, which guaranteed freedom of worship to all Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike. Nonetheless, religious quarrels continued during the colonial period and, at times, the rights of the Catholic minority were restricted.
A Feudal Utopia in the Carolinas
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, King Charles II, son of Charles I, resumed the chartering of proprietary colonies. In terms of government, the same basic rules applied, but the immigrants began coming not directly from England but from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, France, the German provinces, and the other English colonies in America. The area near Albemarle Sound and Cape Fear River already had some settlers, but it was not included in any existing charter. Although claimed by Spain, the lands further south, as far as the Spanish outpost of Saint Augustine in Florida, were also unorganized by European powers. To both expand his political influence and prevent the Spanish from settling any further north, King Charles II granted a charter to a group of powerful supporters and investors; they called themselves the “Lords Proprietors” and named their settlement Carolina after the King. Setting out from England in 1669, the Lords Proprietors stopped first in Barbados to pick up more settlers. The island had originally been settled by English immigrants and owners of small farms, but the introduction of African slaves had resulted in most of Barbados being absorbed into large plantations. English farmers, pushed off the land by the plantation owners, looked to the Lords Proprietors for a new chance in Carolina. Curiously, the very farmers who had been displaced by slavery in Barbados became the first major slave owners in the Carolinas. Soon, slaves made up a large part of the population and, by 1708, they represented more than half the population. The economy of the Carolinas was based on slaves and the goods they were compelled to produce. Considered the center of the American slave trade, the Carolinas attracted sellers and buyers from throughout the New World, and many made their fortunes in the slave markets. Once sold, slaves sent to Carolina farms typically worked fields to produce staple crops that helped the colony flourish. Some tobacco was grown, but settlers found that they were able to make the most money using slave labor to grow rice and indigo and to cultivate the production of naval stores. The success of the Carolina colony convinced more settlers from England and Barbados, as well as Virginia and New England, to migrate there. As a result, the settlement at Charles Towne (later shortened to Charleston) soon became the largest city in the English colonies.
The Lords Proprietors hoped to make money from the settlement of Carolina, but they also sought to establish a society that blended the best of medieval Europe and the Enlightenment. Under the “Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina,” the Lords Proprietors and their families would constitute a hereditary nobility that would control two-fifths of the property. The nobles would serve in the upper house of colonial government, and the Proprietors would appoint the governor. The upper house would have the sole right to initiate legislation, but it would have to be approved by the lower house. Three-fifths of the property would be available to ordinary settlers who would pay a quitrent and elect the lower house.
The Fundamental Constitutions were not popular. The primary purpose of the proprietors was to make a profit, and the hereditary nobility and governmental aspects of the “constitutions” discouraged immigration; settlers could find better land deals, have more say in government, and avoid the artificial Carolina nobility by settling in other colonies. The lower house soon demanded and got the right to initiate legislation but quarrels continued and, by 1700, the Fundamental Constitutions were a dead letter. In 1715, a war with the Yemassee tribe broke out, and, in 1718, pirates attacked, and the Proprietors proved unable to defend adequately their own colony. As a result, a rebellion broke out in Charleston, overthrowing proprietary rule and organizing a provisional government. The situation was so chaotic that, in 1729, the British government bought out the rights of the Proprietors, and split Carolina into two royal colonies. The division greatly benefited those settlers living in the northern part of Carolina, because suddenly they were able to create their very own government instead of being dominated by southern landowners living near Charleston. However, the creation of two colonies did not do much to settle the old east-west rivalries. In North Carolina, western settlers continually felt underrepresented in colonial assemblies, a fact that contributed to the conflicts of the Regulator Movement in the eighteenth century.
Although the Church of England was the established and preferred church in the Carolinas, religious rivalries persisted, especially between the Church, French Huguenots and New England dissenters (including Puritans, Baptists and others). Eventually, harmony was restored by a series of compromises that extended limited religious freedom to most settlers. The Huguenots were considered members of the Anglican Church and allowed to use a French-language prayer book. Dissenters were allowed to vote and hold office despite their refusal to take communion as part of the Church of England.
The proximity of the Carolinas to Spanish Florida and the frequent wars fought between England and Spain caused considerable unease to southern settlers. Raids by Spanish troops and Native American allies were not uncommon and, in 1739, the Spanish tried to weaken the King’s power in America by promising freedom to any South Carolina slave who could reach Florida. Some individual slaves were able to make their way to Florida and gain their freedom as a result of this ploy, but the major impact was that it sparked the Stono Slave Rebellion of 1739. The insurrection cost the lives of twenty white settlers and a much larger number of slaves. When it was finally put down, South Carolina not only tightened its control over slaves but also realized that the colony needed more protection from the Spanish. That protection, they hoped, would come from a “buffer” colony called Georgia.
A Second Chance for Wayward Souls in Georgia
By 1732, momentum grew to establish a new settlement between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. After all, Spanish Florida served as a base for Native American raids and provided a refuge for runaway slaves; in addition, Saint Augustine was a major Spanish outpost from which to launch attacks on British America. Furthermore, as England (now united with Scotland and Wales and called Great Britain) continued to change from a feudal and agricultural economy to a commercial economy, large numbers of people were displaced and thrown out of work. As more and more destitute Englishmen congregated in cities with few prospects for employment, concerned people worried that these conditions would lead to lives of poverty, indebtedness, alcohol abuse, and crime. British General James Oglethorpe, leading a group of twenty-one philanthropic “trustees,” was determined to improve England’s urban situation and removed the Spanish threat in the New World by establishing a new colony named after King George II.
The colony of Georgia would serve as a military buffer between South Carolina and Florida. Because stationing regular troops in the New World was a major expense for the government, a militia force of private citizens usually defended the colonies. To ensure a large militia, the trustees of Georgia allotted land to farmers in plots of fifty acres or less. Because slaves were not often trusted with weapons, and they might also join the Spanish, slavery was outlawed in Georgia. Also, the philanthropists also wanted Georgia to be a haven for those who had fallen on hard times in England and needed a new start. If slaves did all the work, then these white settlers might never become useful and contributing citizens and, worse yet, might fall into the bad habits of sloth and drink. And so rum was outlawed as well. The trustees’ dream of a “debtor’s utopia” would soon come face to face with reality.
First, the trustees, fearful of bringing over unworthy debtors who would fall back into their shiftless ways, set such high standards that only a handful of the original settlers who established Savannah, Georgia, in 1733 were debtors. The rest were middle-class immigrants who paid their own way. Moreover, the poor sandy soil along the Georgia coast made it hard for even the most industrious farmers to make a decent living on fifty or even 100 acres. Hearing tales of the tremendous fortunes being made in South Carolina, settlers began demanding the right to own larger tracts of land and to gain the advantage of the “modern” institution of slavery. Denied things in Georgia, many simply crossed over to South Carolina and settled there instead. The prohibition of rum was also problematic, because Europeans produced few products that the Native Americans wanted other than rum. Because rum was forbidden to Georgians, the Native Americans sent most of their lucrative business to the South Carolinians. Defeated and demoralized by these developments, the trustees voted in 1751 to allow both slavery and rum as well as the right to accumulate large acreages of land.
The trustees had assumed that their colony of debtors would be so grateful for the fresh start in the New World that they would not demand a voice in the government. In fact, the trustees did not trust debtors and paupers to rule themselves, and General Oglethorpe ruled with near dictatorial powers. Before long, however, the settlers were unwilling to put up with this violation of traditional English rights. Again bowing to pressure from the settlers, the trustees called the first elected assembly in 1751, although it had no real power to legislate. It could only make recommendations to the trustees and hope for the best.
When the trustees’ twenty-year charter expired in 1752, Georgia became a royal colony. Free from the strict regulations set forth by General Oglethorpe and the trustees, the colony economically and politically began to resemble the Carolinas. Producing tobacco, rice, indigo, and timber, it developed into a plantation economy of widely dispersed plantations and farms. Few roads were because there were many rivers and streams to provide abundant river transportation. Politically, Georgia established a bicameral legislature with an appointed upper house and an elected lower house. Still, the governor was appointed by the King, and his salary as well as the salary of many of his officials was paid by the crown, not the legislature. He also had a small local cavalry force and did not have to rely entirely on the militia.
In terms of religion, Georgia was a heterogeneous mix. Although the Church of England was the established religion, religious minorities came to the colony in large numbers as early as 1733. From the beginning, freedom of worship was guaranteed to all except the Catholics, who were forbidden to immigrate in the early days for fear that they might join their Catholic brethren in Spanish Florida. The relative religious freedom contributed to the fact that non-Anglican Protestant groups (or “dissenters” including Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians) constituted the majority in the colony.
The Southern Colonies in Context
Despite the different motivations by the various proprietors, certain common themes or trends had developed in the southern colonies by 1750. Attempts to either set up a feudal or hereditary system or to rule without a legislative assembly had failed. The southern colonies had adopted the English tradition of a colonial assembly, which attached voting rights to property ownership, not birth. Moreover, although as the House of Commons had not redrawn its own districts to include the colonies (resulting in no direct representation in Parliament), the east-west struggles of settlers convinced colonists that new districts should be created in colonial assemblies to include the large group of people who had migrated westward. As a result, the assemblies came to represent geographic districts, not the entire class of commoners.
All the colonies had bicameral legislatures, typically with an appointed upper house and an elected lower house. The governors were appointed by the King or Proprietor and, in theory, had unlimited veto power over the assemblies, but the lower houses had gained the right to initiate as well as approve of legislation; in effect, the legislatures had veto power over the governor and the upper houses. Control of the “purse strings” was also seen as a basic right. Moreover, except in Georgia, governors had neither a police nor military force. Generally, the only military force in the colonies was the militia. Except for Maryland, local officials, including sheriffs, were also elected. Typically, the Anglican Church controlled county governments, but without a bishop in the colonies or a central church authority, each county was usually left to its own business.
Despite the economic success and the relative political freedom, there were no large towns in the South except for Baltimore, Charleston and Savannah. The southern colonies had extensive networks of rivers and streams, and much of the population was served directly by water transportation. Most of the population lived on the farm or plantation, going to the city only for court days (a major spectator sport) or horse races. Wealthy citizens sometimes went to the provincial capital to meet in the short legislative sessions. The representatives were elected by all property owners, large and small, but southern farmers tended to defer to the wealthy and successful.
Although positioned at the very edge of the British Empire, inhabitants of the southern colonies still considered themselves to be British citizens or citizens of their individual colonies. However, by creating a society based on slave labor and agricultrual production, these colonies established a way of life, distinct from that of England and even from its colonial neighbors to the north.
Chapter II Vocabulary Terms
Toleration Act of 1649
Church of England
Stono Slave Rebellion
Chapter II Review Questions
1. Why was Maryland founded?
2. Discuss the major crops and industries in Maryland?
3. Opinion: Why do you suppose attempts to set up a feudal society in America failed?
4. Why was Carolina founded? Why did the King buy back Carolina’s charter, and why was the colony dividend in two?
5. In what ways was the population of the Carolinas different from earlier English colonies?
6. Why was Georgia established? To what extent were the ideals of the founders realized? Why?
7. Why did proprietors typically give in to settlers’ demands for certain property and political rights?
8. Why was it important that southern colonies had bicameral colonial legislatures?
CHAPTER III: NEW ENGLAND AND MIDDLE COLONIES
The Founding of New England and the Middle Colonies
Whereas economic opportunity had been the factor which most contributed to the founding of the southern colonies, religion was clearly the driving force behind the founding of the colonies lying north of what would become the Mason-Dixon line. Motivated less by the earthly goals of personal profit and social status and more by the otherworldly goals of soul conversion and religious piety, northern settlers based their moral codes and social structures on religious principles. The colonies they created were rooted in religious freedom, but in many ways were the least free of all. By and large, freedom of religion for groups such as the Puritans meant the freedom to impose Puritan standards and practices on all inhabitants of the colony, whether the settlers were Puritans or not. This curious tension between religious freedom and repression would serve as a consistent thread running through northern colonial societies.
The Separatists and Plymouth Colony
What is now called Massachusetts was actually the product of two separate early settlements. The Pilgrims established the first on the coast of Cape Cod at Plymouth in 1620. The Puritans established the second, known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in the Boston area ten years later. They maintained their separate identities until a merger took place in 1691.
Religious turmoil engulfed Europe in the period following the Renaissance. The dominant and uncontested force in European politics and society had been the Catholic Church, but when Martin Luther began questioning the authority of the Pope, denying the miraculous powers of the priests, and charging the Church with corruption, he set the stage for a radical shift in the European power structure. Denying that priests or the Pope had the power to speak or act on behalf of God, Luther claimed that the only hope that humans had of escaping eternal damnation was the grace of God. His challenge, and the resulting religious battles that would be waged throughout Germany over his ideas, inspired other disaffected religious people to break off from the mother church in a movement that would come to be called the Protestant Reformation. In Switzerland, John Calvin established his own strict sect, claiming that, because God was omniscient, He could see into the future and know whether or not a person was bound for Heaven or Hell. This doctrine, called predestination, urged the faithful to act as if they knew that they would be going to Heaven. In France, Scotland, and the Netherlands, Calvin’s ideas helped inspire religious groups to found the Huguenot, Presbyterian, and Dutch Reformed Churches, respectively. In England, King Henry VIII, frustrated by having to share temporal power with the Church and by the Pope’s refusal to grant an annulment of his first marriage, took control of his nation’s church in 1534, creating the Church of England and establishing himself as the nation’s religious leader. Upon his death, the state church took on a decidedly Protestant form, and Henry’s daughter and successor, Queen Elizabeth, was herself a Protestant.
The Anglican Church under Elizabeth retained most of the trappings of traditional Catholicism. For many followers of Luther and Calvin, new Anglicanism was little better than old Catholicism. The most radical critics, known as Separatists, sought to separate themselves from the church totally, in protest against what they believed to be its continuing corruption and spiritual emptiness. When James I succeeded Elizabeth on the throne in 1603 and specifically denounced the Separatists, the dissident group feared for its safety and fled to the Netherlands. However, they found Dutch culture to be too different from that of their homeland, and their condition was further threatened by a potential invasion and conquest from Catholic Spain.
Thus, in 1620, the Separatists, along with some other English adventurers, obtained a charter from the Virginia Company, and prepared to start a new settlement at the northern edge of the company’s North American holdings. Setting out in September on a small ship, the Mayflower, the settlers eventually reached the American coastline. However, having arrived far north of their destination, they were not on the Virginia Company’s land. This error left them outside of the company’s jurisdiction and thus without any form of organized governmental authority. Consequently, before landing, the Pilgrims drafted a document, the Mayflower Compact, that served as the organizing and structural basis for their new community. Agreeing to remain loyal to the King and to do God’s will, the signers did not establish a formal government, but did assert that they would use majority rule in all in decision-making.
The first year in Plymouth colony was a difficult one. Arriving in December, they were too late to plant crops, and the subsequent food shortages, combined with the cold of the northern winter made daily life a desperate struggle. By spring, almost half of the small group of settlers had died from starvation, disease, and exposure. Despite these hardships, a sound, though always small, colony did emerge, in no small part due to the efforts of one of the colony’s young leaders, William Bradford. Bradford served as governor during the first harsh winter and led the colony in the years ahead. Cape Cod’s Wampanoag Indians provided critical guidance and aid in raising corn and other agricultural products. In fact, in the autumn of 1621, the Plymouth colony celebrated its first harvest with a formal day of thanksgiving.
The Puritans and the Massachusetts Bay Colony
The other branch of the Massachusetts founding tree was also the product of a group looking to practice its religion as it chose. In contrast to the Pilgrims who sought separation, the Puritans sought to reform, or purify, the Church of England from within. They achieved some early success. Puritan agitators got the Anglican Church to scale back many of the ceremonial aspects of the worship liturgy, and some Puritans achieved positions of prominence in the English government. However, the advances were short-lived and, when Charles I ascended to the throne in 1625, he undermined the reformers’ purification efforts. Charles saw efforts to reduce the church’s hierarchy as a direct challenge, and he quickly established his own primacy by restricting the Puritans’ freedom to worship and stripping many of their official posts. Understandably, the Puritans began to look toward the New World as a place where they freely could practice their religion unencumbered by meddling kings and bishops. After protracted negotiations, King Charles granted a charter to a Puritan delegation to establish a colony under the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Company, a Puritan joint-stock company. In 1630, over 900 aspiring colonists set sail for the New World to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Before landing at Gloucester, just north of the Pilgrims’ colony at Plymouth, the newly elected governor John Winthrop declared, “Wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” Massachusetts must become, as the name of his sermon suggested, a “Modelle of Christian Charity.”
Unlike Jamestown and Plymouth, the Massachusetts Bay Colony thrived from the start, due in part to outstanding advance planning the steady flow of English immigrants. It was also a successful experiment in self-government. Moving its corporate headquarters from London to Boston so that the colony could be run more efficiently, the Massachusetts Bay Company retained power to make laws for all the colonists as well as govern them without giving a voice to anyone who was not a shareholder. However, to ensure the consent of the governed, Governor John Winthrop allowed settlers who were not shareholders to have a substantive voice in the election of the colony’s officers, including the legislature and the governor himself. Still, there were limits on this process, and the vote was restricted to male church members. Even so, more citizens could vote in Massachusetts than in England, where the right of suffrage was still limited by strict property requirements.
To ensure that citizens in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were properly educated in proper religious and social practices, members established the first formal educational institutions in the New World. Harvard College opened in 1636 as a school to train the colony’s ministers, and soon thereafter the colonial legislature established a system of primary and secondary schools. All towns of more than fifty inhabitants were required to have a functioning school with a teacher. As a result of these advances, the residents of New England would generally be the best educated in the New World.
Despite the advances in representative government and education, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was not truly a democracy. It was, rather, a theocracy, in which church and state were intermingled. Residents were required by law to pay taxes to support the church and to attend Puritan church services every Sunday, whether or not they were Puritans. Leaders, although elected by the people, were bound to uphold the strict Puritan interpretation of the Bible, even if it conflicted with the will of the people. Moreover, having left England in an effort to establish a pure religion, the early founders of Massachusetts did not tolerate dissent. Dissent was considered heresy, and heretics, were not welcome in Massachusetts’ “citty upon a hill.” Those who did speak out against the strict rules of Puritan society, including Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were not so subtly encouraged to leave the colony.
The union of church and state typically kept residents of Massachusetts both morally and legally bound together, but one episode underscores a darker side to the connection. In the seaside village of Salem in 1692, two young daughters of the local minister began, in the words of a witness, “uttering foolish, ridiculous speeches which neither they themselves nor any others could make sense of.” When the two were found to be afflicted by a witch’s curse, townspeople began hunting for any signs of witchcraft and demanding that the courts condemn any and all witches to death. Accusations flew as enemies settled old scores by accusing each other of witchcraft. By the time that the Reverend Increase Mather stepped in to convince the town court to halt the madness, it had formally charged 150 people with witchcraft, of whom twenty-eight had been convicted, and nineteen had been executed. The episode would serve as a cautionary tale to those who favored building or strengthening the link between church and state.
A Religious Haven in Rhode Island
One of the earliest results of the Puritans’ intolerance was the founding of the colony of Rhode Island. Its founder was Roger Williams, an outspoken advocate of religious freedom who had arrived in Massachusetts Bay in 1631. Williams soon found that his espousal of a complete separation of church and state clashed with the Puritan leaders who, naturally, dubbed him a heretic and banished him from the colony in 1635. Heading south into the wilderness, Williams and his followers founded a new colony that became Rhode Island. In 1644, Parliament granted a charter that gave Rhode Island a government similar to that of Massachusetts.
Under Williams’ direction, this new colony offered settlers something completely new: absolute religious freedom. So many European dissidents and Puritan exiles sought out the safe haven of Rhode Island that the colony earned a reputation as the “sewer of New England.” One of the most prominent of these exiles was Anne Hutchinson. One of the first settlers in Boston, Hutchinson was married to one of the most powerful men in the colony, mother to fifteen children, and midwife to countless more. As she conversed with the other women of the town, she addressed what she considered to be inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the sermons of Puritan ministers. When the court accused her of defaming the clergy, she defended herself by claiming that she had received divine insights directly from God. Upon hearing this, the court banished her from Massachusetts in 1637. Hutchinson, her family, and supporters sought out refuge in Rhode Island in 1638. There, she and Roger Williams continued to speak out religious freedom. Together they made Rhode Island a place where that was a reality.
Puritan Offshoots in Connecticut and New Hampshire
Rhode Island was not the only colony that emerged due to dissatisfaction with the ways of the Puritans. In the case of Connecticut, however, the conflict was less religious and more political. Although basically in tune with the Puritan philosophy, Hooker believed that Winthrop and the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had taken too much authority for themselves, a violation of his belief that the authority for government should come from the people. In 1636, Hooker led a group of similarly discontented Puritans southwest into Connecticut, where he founded the town of Hartford and undertook the task of authoring the first written constitution in the colonies. The resulting Fundamental Orders built still featured many of the social structures of Puritan society, but it was far more democratic than Massachusetts because it granted suffrage to non-church members. This more inclusive version of Puritanism attracted many converts, and Connecticut grew considerably by the end of the seventeenth century.
In the case of New Hampshire, there were no philosophical or religious differences that contributed to its settlement. Put simply, Puritans in Massachusetts began running out of room, so several groups moved to establish new towns and villages in areas to the north. Back in 1629, Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason had claimed the land including Maine and New Hampshire, but neither was able to establish a permanent settlement during their lifetimes. However, as Massachusetts grew more and more crowded, settlers began to covet the plentiful land to the north. In 1677, Massachusetts paid a mere £1,250 to buy the Maine territory. Three years later, enough settlers had moved to New Hampshire that they were able to obtain a royal charter for their offshoot colony.
A Dutch Treat: New York and New Jersey
The founding of the colonies that became New York and New Jersey differed a bit from that of their New England neighbors in that economic rather than religious motivations were at the root of their establishment. Originally settled by Dutch fur traders and called “New Netherland,” the area was thriving when Charles II granted all of the land north of the Delaware River and south of Connecticut to his brother, the Duke of York. Expecting a conflict with the Dutch, the English force that arrived at the mouth of the Hudson River in 1664 was surprised to be welcomed by colonists unhappy with Dutch rule. These settlers quickly surrendered to the English, who renamed the area New York. Although the Dutch responded by declaring war, their harassment of English shipping had no substantive impact, and the land remained under the English flag.
Initially, New York was administered by a governor and council, both of which acted as the Duke of York’s representatives. It was a comparatively generous arrangement. The Duke allowed large Dutch and English landowners to keep their estates, awarded extensive grants of land to English settlers, and permitted freedom of worship. Although New Jersey had originally been part of the Duke of York’s holdings, he relinquished control in the mid-1660s, turning the grant over to friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley. Berkeley, in turn, sold his half of the New Jersey claim to a group of Quakers, who immediately established settlements in the area. The Quaker settlers wrote a constitution granting exclusive power to an elected legislature and guaranteeing religious freedom and civil rights. However, miscommunication between the Duke of York, the governor of New York, and the Quaker settlers left the ownership of much of New Jersey in dispute for many years. In 1702, the sides finally agreed to reunite the colony of New Jersey and run it according to Quaker law.
Holy Experiments in Pennsylvania and Delaware
Although religion was central to the founding of Pennsylvania, commercial considerations played a prominent role in the development of the colony. During the years following the English Civil War, Admiral William Penn loaned Charles II a considerable sum of money when the besieged monarch was in exile. King Charles II remained chronically low on funds even after the monarchy was restored in 1660, and for years he was unable to repay the debt. When the Admiral died in 1681, his son William Penn inherited the claim. Rather than repaying Penn in hard money, King Charles II gave Penn a grant to the land north of Maryland and west of the Delaware River. With the grant in hand, William Penn, a member of the ridiculed and persecuted Quaker sect, sought to create a “holy experiment” in the New World. He established treaties with the Native Americans, buying their land and offering them protection in their dealings with others. He granted religious freedom to those who believed in “One Almighty and Eternal God.” In addition, Penn made the safeguarding of individual rights a priority. Penn’s desire to make the colony a “holy experiment” did not preclude him from maximizing his personal economic interests. He made land available on easy terms, but he reserved some of the best real estate for himself. A tireless promoter of his colony, William Penn sought to attract settlers from all over Europe. By 1685, there were approximately 9,000 settlers in Pennsylvania, a number that doubled by 1700. Ironically, although Penn’s views on politics were not particularly democratic, these new settlers found themselves living in the most democratic of the new colonies. Initially, Pennsylvania had a bicameral legislature whose members were elected by the vote of every man who owned land or paid taxes, the broadest electorate in the New World. But at the same time, the colony’s assembly was less a legislative body than an advisory board. It had the authority only to approve or reject legislation proposed by the governor or the council.
Delaware, meanwhile, was something of an orphan. Originally settled by the Swedes in 1638, it was conquered soon thereafter by the Dutch, who later relinquished control to of it and New Netherland to England. Finally, it became part of the Pennsylvania. The culturally diverse population of Delaware established an identity distinct from the Quaker society of Pennsylvania and, in 1704 William Pen allowed its residents to create a separate colonial government.
Early Life in the Northern Colonies
Distinctive societies and cultures began to emerge in each region during the early colonial period. Natural differences in climate, natural resources, and geography combined with sociological variations in the ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds of the settlers to produce singular ways of life in each region. The early economy of the New England region was agriculturally based despite the lack of rich soil. The short growing season, rocky soil, and harsh climate meant that subsistence farming was the general rule; few farmers made a significant profit. Because the small family farms yielded only enough to support the immediate family, there was no incentive to import numerous servants or slaves or to establish plantations. Indentured servants, with terms usually limited to four to seven years, provided supplemental labor when necessary. The crops they grew (grain, squash, beans, and vegetables) were also grown in England, so the region was of limited interest to English mercantilists. Lacking cash crops but still needing money to buy English goods, New Englanders turned to shipping as a means of becoming profitable. Timber cut from the plentiful New England forests soon became a major component of the region’s economy. The ships built from lumber led to other enterprises; soon, fishing and shipping emerged as important contributors to the region’s economic well being.
The issue of a social hierarchy was closely related to the economy. Remnants of the Old World’s class system accompanied the colonists to North America, but none of the rigidity that marked the English system remained. Distinctions did exist, but the further settlers moved from their European roots, the more the old barriers crumbled. Because the class lines were so often based on wealth and property, and because the colonies offered so many new opportunities to farmers and unskilled workers alike, there was significant opportunity for movement. By the time of the Revolution, class differences remained, but it was possible for anyone—except for slaves—to climb the social ladder.
The physical layout of most New England towns reflected their religious roots and the Puritan commitment to a society of small family farms. As the early settlements in Boston, Salem, and Charlestown filled up, New Englanders distributed themselves to new locations, with several families moving at the same time. The new village elders established a local government, divided land among themselves into small 150-acre plots, and formed churches. Town founders deliberately laid out villages with houses, meetinghouses, and schools arranged around central pastures or village greens. The design of the village thus both reflected and reinforced the New Englanders’ strong sense of community and commitment to Christian modesty.
Life in New England towns revolved around the family unit. Most settlers in New England were free men working as farmers, artisans, or merchants. Skilled and literate, they had migrated with their wives and children. The importance of family ties was underscored by the relatively long life expectancy of seventy years that resulted from the healthier climate in the Northeast. Moreover, low mortality rates made for more rapid reproduction as, on average, families could expect six or seven children to live to maturity. Consequently, the population of New England doubled every twenty-seven years at a time when numbers in the Chesapeake hardly increased at all.
Unique to New England, the town meeting formed the basis of local government. Only property-holding church members were allowed to vote and participate in town meetings. The village leadership also provided a measure of authority and stability for a people who still believed in the importance of hierarchy. The church and its leaders were also important in preserving the social order. The churches oversaw public morality, fining and punishing the citizens for everything from drunkenness to adultery. Despite the obvious intermingling of church and state, Puritan ministers held no civil power; they were not members of the government.
Nevertheless, problems arose during the latter half of the seventeenth century as the New England settlements spread, religious intensity waned, and commercialization grew. The cohesive, tightly-woven communities of the first half-century felt the strain of growth and challenges from the inside and the outside groups and forces. The dream of a “citty on a hill” did not die, but it had to adapt to the terrain of New England, to the demands of a growing population, and the political struggles between the colonies and the mother country.
Early Life in the Middle Colonies
The population of the Middle Colonies was more diverse than any other part of the American colonies. Settlers from Ireland sought refuge from the anti-Presbyterian policies of the Anglican Church, a fact that led to animosity towards the English. Meanwhile, another wave of immigration came from the German states, as people fled an area ravaged by religious wars and a devastated agricultural economy. Pennsylvania became a haven for many of these people, but Germans also settled among the Swedish and Dutch communities already established in Delaware and New York.
Settlers in the Middle Colonies based their economy on farming, but unlike their counterparts in New England, these farmers were blessed with rich and fertile farmlands. Pennsylvania was the center of the region’s agricultural production. The colony’s farmers produced a surplus of corn and wheat, which helped feed people in neighboring colonies. New York’s land was as just as fertile as Pennsylvania’s, but policies established under the colony’s original Dutch founders had created a system modeled on Europe’s feudal system, and this significantly limited that colony’s harvest.
As the colonies grew, they expanded to the base of the Appalachian Mountains, establishing new settlements that came to be known as the backcountry. Subsistence farming was the rule in these areas. Given their geographic separation from the main settlements, they developed distinctly independent ways and beliefs, including a deep-seated antipathy toward the colonial government. These western settlers believed that government was controlled by and only responsive to wealthy eastern interests. Their opposition sometimes took violent forms, as in the case of a group of Pennsylvania frontiersmen who became known as the notorious Paxton Boys. Like the Virginia settlers that had joined with Nathaniel Bacon nearly century earlier, the Paxton Boys became incensed by the colonial government’s refusal to protect them from belligerent Native Americans. In 1763, they undertook their own war against the Native Americans as a prelude to marching on Philadelphia. Unfortunately, they attacked a peaceful tribe that they mistook for the tribe with which they were at war, destroying a village in the process Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and they were talked out of their planned attack on the capital. However, the independence that sparked this action was never extinguished despite the gradual improvement in relations between the backcountry and the coast.
Cities and the Colonies
Although the overwhelming percentage of the population lived in rural, farm-based communities, northern colonists soon built cities that played an important role in colonial development. Boston, New York and Philadelphia became the major ports for the developing shipping trades and also served as the focal points for the growing trade between the coast and the backcountry. Indeed, these cities served as the cultural centers of colonial America. It would be in these urban environments that the colonial economy would grow and flourish, where the arts and sciences found willing audiences, and where citizens would meet to share, exchange, debate, argue, and publish their ideas. The ability to communicate freely with other colonists would become particularly significant as the eighteenth century dawned and in the difficult century that followed.
Chapter III Vocabulary Terms
Salem Witch Trials
Chapter III Review Questions
1. In what ways did the ideas of the Protestant Reformation lead to conflicts between the Church of England and smaller denominations?
2. What were the major differences in the way in which the New England colonies were founded and the way in which the middle colonies were settled?
3. What is the significance of the Mayflower Compact?
4. How did the early settlers of New England and the middle colonies treat the Native Americans that they encountered?
5. What was the basis of the early New England economy? What was the basis of the early middle colonies economy? How did their economies change and develop over the years?
6. Why and how was the social system in New England different from that of Europe? How was it different from that of the middle colonies?
7. What was the primary reason for New England colonies to place such an emphasis on education?
8. What was the most agriculturally successful colony in the middle colonies or New England? Why?
CHAPTER IV: COLONIAL RELATIONS WITH BRITAIN
The Mercantile System and the Colonies
By 1750, the North American colonies were no longer just experiment but an essential part of the British economic and political system. To be sure, there were seasons of feast and famine for the colonists, and no settlement was entirely protected from the threat of attack from either the Spanish, French, or Native Americans. Even so, free citizens of the colonies generally had more opportunities than their counterparts in England: land was cheap and plentiful, resources were abundant, governmental controls were loose, and taxes were almost non-existent. Over time, members of Parliament began to suggest that imposing more strict controls and levying steep taxes could make the colonies more profitable to the mother country. The idea of asserting direct control over the colonies was a relatively new idea in Britain. Unlike French or Spanish colonies, where every detail of colonization had been administered by strong central governments from the start, the English colonies were established by individuals and groups, independent of governmental interference. Parliament and the King tended to be more concerned with the situation in nearby European countries and in the more profitable colonial holdings of India and the Caribbean. As a result, America was, at best, fourth in England’s list of priorities during the first hundred years of colonization.
The casual attitude toward the colonies stemmed from the mercantile system. The object of the mercantile system was to make the mother country wealthy by increasing the nation’s supply of gold and silver, thereby increasing the country’s status in terms of international trade. To increase the supply of these precious metals, a nation tried to export far more goods than it imported. As goods flowed out of the country, gold and silver flowed in. The less money that flowed out again to import goods, the wealthier the nation became. However, if the other major nations practiced mercantilism, they would refuse to buy England’s goods, leaving the country short of raw materials and products such as tobacco, sugar, and spices that could not be produced domestically. Thus, the system created the need for colonies, which would both provide needed raw materials and provide a captive market for the mother country’s exports, usually manufactured goods. As long as the American colonies provided England with a steady supply of raw materials and profits; most in Parliament saw little reason to tinker with the system.
Understandably, the mercantile system was not always favorable to the colonies. England bought cheap raw materials from America and sold back expensive manufactured goods to the colonists, and as a result, most of the precious metals flowed out of the colonies and back to England. Without the benefit of hard currency, most colonies were forced to issue paper money by the 1690s. Considering the instability of an economy based on paper money and without the backing of hard currency, colonies began looking to other countries for trading opportunities. Planters of tobacco, rice, and indigo were guaranteed a market in England, but they found that they could often get a higher price for their goods by selling them to the Dutch or directly to French or Spanish colonies. Meanwhile, merchants in northern colonies began building ships and engaging in international commerce, carrying not only the goods of the southern colonies and England, but also those of other countries, in which prices and opportunities tended to be better.
The Navigation Acts and Salutary Neglect
Although the mercantile system was the stated economic policy of England, there were few laws to enforce the system or to control the colonies before the 1660. Then, in the wake of the domestic turmoil of the English Civil War and the Commonwealth period, Parliament passed the first of the Navigation Acts, designed to enforce the mercantile system and make more money for the mother country. The new laws limited trade in the colonies to English ships in which the captain and at least three-quarters of the crew were English. Also, Parliament declared that goods from outside of England or its colonies must be brought to England, unloaded, taxed, and then reloaded before being shipped to the colonies. Furthermore, certain American products, called “enumerated articles,” could only be sent to England or another English colony. These included most of the profitable American products, including tobacco, rice, indigo, cotton, and naval stores.
If enforced fully, the Navigation Acts would have been ruinous to American farmers and merchants, because European importers were often willing to pay higher prices for such products as tobacco and rice than their counterparts in England. However, Parliament rarely expended the money and energy to see that the Acts were being carried out. As long as the colonies continued to generate a steady income for the mother country, it was enough to simply assert England’s right to rule over the colonies rather than rigidly enforcing harsh laws. Prime Minister Robert Walpole articulated this viewpoint when he declared that “salutary neglect,” or lax enforcement of the Navigation Acts, actually stimulated prosperity.
Other strategies proved equally effective in evading the Navigation Acts. The British customs agents sent to America to enforce the Acts were often either incompetent or interested only in the money their positions brought, and many accepted bribes to overlook violations of the Acts. In addition, those rare merchants who were caught smuggling found that American juries were also reluctant to convict other Americans. Thus, the Navigation Acts affected few colonists directly. However, a power struggle in England and the emergence of a new European colonial power would soon challenge American complacency and change the colonists’ way of life forever
The Glorious Revolution and its Consequences
The relative independence of the colonies remained unchallenged by Parliament until a political and religious conflict erupted in 1684. Charles II, who had been placed on the throne with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, had acceded to Parliament’s demand that he uphold the Church of England and serve as its leader. However, the King and his brother James secretly still preferred the Catholic Church, and they looked with suspicion at the mixture of religious ideologies that were running amok in the colonies, especially Puritanism. They were also horrified to learn that the northern colonies were getting rich by avoiding the Navigation Acts. Seeking to bring the wayward colonies to heel, Charles II revoked the royal charters of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Following the death of Charles in 1685, King James II revoked the charters of New York and New Jersey as well and combined all seven colonies into one legal entity called the Dominion of New England. The King named Edmond Andros governor of the Dominion and instructed him to dismantle all the major institutions of Puritan society by banning town meetings, charging the colonists a quitrent on what was called the King’s land, and disestablishing the Puritans’ Congregationalist Church.
The Dominion of New England represented a dramatic change in England’s relationship with its colonies, and it could have turned explosive if not for another, larger crisis taking place in England at the same time. King James II had fathered two daughters, named Mary and Anne, by his first wife. When the girls’ mother died, James married a Catholic named Mary of Modena, and the two had a son. When the King announced that his son and most immediate heir would be raised Catholic, members of Parliament revolted, believing that Catholicism would destroy England. They denounced the King and convinced the army to follow their orders, and not those of the King. Then, Parliament invited James’ daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William to return from the Netherlands and assume the English monarchy. They accepted the crown in 1689, and James II was exiled. The new monarchs pledged that they and all future rulers of England would be Protestants. The so-called Glorious Revolution was bloodless, and it represented a fundamental shift in English power away from the King and to Parliament. Every monarch thereafter would rule at the pleasure of Parliament, not the other way around.
The Glorious Revolution had a profound effect on the colonies, especially those included in the Dominion of New England. After the Revolution, each of the colonies received new royal charters except for tiny Plymouth, which became part of Massachusetts in 1691. Most importantly, the colonies learned that Parliament and not the King was the true source of power. Any questions or complaints hereafter would be directed to Parliament. For its own part, Parliament emerged from the Glorious Revolution with a new appreciation for the strategic and political significance of the American colonies, and would move to protect and expand its holdings in the New World in the decades to come.
The Emerging French Threat
During the years following the Glorious Revolution, a new threat to England’s dominance emerged. French explorers had claimed vast amounts of land in North America, including the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the vast area surrounding Hudson Bay and west of the Appalachian Mountains. Despite these claims, the French originally only established a few small settlements along the St. Lawrence, including Quebec and Montreal. However, the success of the English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard inspired the King of France to increase and expand his commitment to territorial holdings in the New World.
Recognizing this emerging threat, members of Parliament had tried in vain to get first Charles II and then James II to attack the French. However, neither would declare war on a Catholic nation, and so the French were able to continue their expansion in North America. After the Glorious Revolution, Parliament urged the new monarchs to attack the French, and this time they acquiesced. The conflict known as King William’s War lasted from 1689 to 1697. Curiously, both countries sent very few of its own troops into battle in North America because they wanted to save their best troops for possible engagements in Europe. Instead, they hired different Native American tribes to do the fighting for them. This practice, known as proxy fighting, would be a common feature of European military engagements in America throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, after eight years of intermittent skirmishing and no territory gained on either side, the countries agreed to stop fighting.
Colonial tensions flared up again just five years later, and France and England again declared war on each other. By this time, William and Mary had died and the crown passed to Mary’s sister, Anne. Accordingly, the conflict, which lasted from 1702 to 1713, was named Queen Anne’s War. The manner of the fighting was much like the previous war, with both sides resorting to proxy fighting, but when peace was finally restored, England had gained control of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the area immediately surrounding Hudson Bay.
An uneasy peace was maintained between the two countries, but in 1744 a dispute arose over who should be the next monarch in Austria, and France and what was now called Great Britain again went to war. Known as the War of Austrian Succession in Europe, it bore the name King George’s War in America, and it lasted from 1744 to 1748. British troops captured the strategic stronghold of Cape Breton, but were forced to return it to the French as part of the peace treaty that ended the war. After sixty years and three wars, the British had gained a considerable amount of French territory, but the two sides were still at odds. It would take one final war to settle the issue of New World dominance one and for all.
Relations Between Native Americans and French and British Settlers
The harsh northern weather and the medieval system of land distribution guaranteed that few French settlers would make the trip to the country’s North American holdings. As a result, the entire area of what was called New France had only 90,000 residents, as compared with nearly 1.2 million living in the American colonies. Whereas Americans could boast large cities such as Charleston, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, French settlers had only established two towns of note, Montreal and New Orleans. In the vast areas between these settlements, French explorers were active, establishing trading posts along the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and Mississippi River.
Because their presence in the New World was relatively insignificant, the French found little need to take land away from the Native Americans and therefore proved much less threatening to them. By contrast, the British colonies were much larger, contained many more inhabitants, and always seemed to be expanding westward, conquering Native American tribes and taking their land. Britain did manage to maintain reasonably friendly relations with the Iroquois tribe in New York, but most other tribes viewed the British with both suspicion and fear, and with good reason. By the middle of the eighteenth century, settlers in the fast-growing colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia had claimed all of the land east of the Appalachian Mountains. New waves of settlers crossed over the mountains and claimed Native American land the Ohio River Valley or “Ohio Country” for themselves. Not surprisingly, when conflicts erupted between France and England, most Native American tribes were likely to view the French as their allies.
The Seven Years War Begins, 1754
The land of the Ohio Country was claimed not only by the British colonists but also by the French, and the territory soon became an area controversy. The French sent troops south to build Fort Duquesne where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River. Almost simultaneously, Virginia, which claimed that its charter gave it all land west of the Appalachians, sent a young colonel George Washington and 150 men to construct a fort at the exact same strategic location. The French got there first, and when George Washington and his men arrived on the scene, they drew back and hastily constructed the appropriately named Fort Necessity. Badly outnumbered, Washington ordered an attack anyway. His force was quickly surrounded, forced to surrender, and sent back to Virginia in disgrace.
When Parliament heard of the humiliating defeat, it declared war on France and sent 1,400 of the best regular soldiers under General Edward Braddock to take Fort Duquesne. The Redcoats built a road as they marched in European order through the wilderness. Thoroughly warned, the French and Indians ambushed and defeated Braddock, killing or capturing 900 soldiers. Braddock himself was killed and Washington, as second in command, led the battered remnants back to Virginia.
As war fears spread throughout the colonies early in 1754, representatives from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and the New England colonies met in Albany, New York, to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois. The Iroquois rejected the treaty at the Albany meeting, although they formed an alliance with Britain the next year. Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin, head of the British postal service in America, proposed that the delegates adopt his Albany Plan of Union. Under this plan, the King would appoint a President General, and a legislature made up of delegates from the colonies would meet to handle national issues, including western land claims, relations with the Native Americans, and reinforcing defensive forts on the frontier. Representation in the legislature would be based on how much money each colony contributed. Despite the obvious advantages of the idea, the delegates rejected Franklin’s plan, arguing that they had no authority to establish a national legislature. In reality, the plan was rejected was because individual colonies jealously guarded their money and their western land claims. Ridiculed and dismissed in 1754, Franklin’s plan represented the first genuine attempt to unite the colonies politically.
The Course of the War
In the first years of the war, the British military leadership demonstrated spectacular ineptitude and a tight-fisted Parliament refused to adequately fund its military forces. As a result, defeat followed defeat, and soon American settlers were forced to flee east of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1757, a force of 12,500 French and Native American troops under General Montcalm captured Fort William Henry in upstate New York; this gave the French control of the main invasion route into the colonies. Native Americans then looted the fort slaughtered hundreds of those who had surrendered. Things looked bleak indeed for the American colonists.
The war had become a worldwide conflict. Britain could boast allies including the Prussians, the other German states, the Americans, and the Iroquois tribe. France allied itself with Spain, the French Canadians, and the Algonquin tribe. Although the bulk of the fighting took place in Europe, India, the Caribbean, and the Philippines, the new Prime Minister William Pitt contended that the war would be won or lost in the North America. He convinced Parliament that it must spend freely to build up the British army and navy. As a result, the British went into considerable debt during the course of the war, but the country was able to raise a large and potent fighting force.
With the Prussians handling most of the fighting in Europe, Prime Minister Pitt was free to send unit after unit to America. The British quickly overwhelmed the French and Indian troops, and General Montcalm was compelled to abandon his hopes of invasion and withdraw to Quebec. Then the British went on the offensive. General Jeffrey Amherst seized the “impregnable” French fort at Louisburg, on Cape Breton, giving the British easy access to the St. Lawrence River. Meanwhile, British troops captured Fort Duquesne and quickly renamed it Fort Pitt (and, still later, Pittsburgh). The following year, under the direction of thirty-year-old General James Wolfe, the British overran both Quebec and, in the process, destroyed Motcalm’s army. Both generals were killed in the battle, but the victory gave the British control of the St. Lawrence River, cutting off the French from reinforcements of any kind. The war in North America was effectively over. Britain proved victorious elsewhere in the world as well, and by the time the sides met to negotiate a peace treaty, France and Spain were defeated and demoralized.
Considering the magnitude of the British victory in the war, the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1763 were remarkably moderate. France relinquished control of all of its territorial holdings in North America (except for two small islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), with the land east of the Mississippi River going to Great Britain and the land west of the Mississippi falling under Spanish control. For their part, the Spanish ceded Florida to the British, but retained control of her Caribbean holdings. The Prussians, who had borne the brunt of much of the fighting in Europe, were disgruntled to find that the war ended before they could achieve any military objectives. Feeling betrayed, the Prussians severed their alliance with Great Britain.
In America, the mood was euphoric. Once threatened by attack and ruin, the colonies had been protected by the mighty British Army. Cities demonstrated their gratitude by holding parades, staging rallies, firing cannon, and setting off fireworks in celebration of the victory and of the mother country. The governor of Massachusetts declared, “nothing can eradicate from our hearts the natural, almost mechanical affection to Great Britain.” However, the events of the following thirteen years would test the limits of that affection.
Chapter IV Vocabulary Terms
Dominion of New England
King William’s War
Queen Anne’s War
King George’s War
Seven Years War
Albany Plan of Union
Gen. James Wolfe
Treaty of Paris of 1763
Chapter IV Review Questions
1. In what ways did French and English settlements in the New World differ? How did their relations with Native Americans differ and why?
2. How does mercantilism work? How does it affect the economy of colonies?
3. Why did the King want to establish the Dominion of New England? Why did it not last long
4. How did the Glorious Revolution alter the relationship between the King and Parliament, and between Parliament and the colonies?
5. How did salutary neglect actually contribute to the wealth of the mother country?
6. Discuss the causes and effects of the three wars named after English monarchs.
7. What claims did Virginia, Britain, and France have to the Ohio Country? Which claim was the most legitimate?
8. What was the strategic significance of the area where Fort Duquesne was built?
9. Why did the British lose many of the early battles in the war? What accounts for their stunning recovery and victory?
10. How did the Treaty of Paris of 1763 fundamentally alter the balance of power in the New World?
CHAPTER V: THE ROAD TO REVOLUTION
Early Antagonism Between Parliament and the Colonies
With the French gone from North America, the relationship between Great Britain and her colonies changed dramatically. Fear of France had once kept America closely tied to Britain, but now the only other potential European enemy Spain, now much weaker and further away beyond the Mississippi River. America no longer needed Britain’s as much as she before, nor did the mother country need America’s help to keep France in check in North America. The only real threat to the colonies came from the Native Americans, and a controversial proclamation soon reduced that threat.
The Seven Years War had begun over Virginia’s claim to the Ohio Country. Now that peace had been declared, residents of Virginia and other colonies wanted to settle these western lands and establish trade with Native American tribes that had heretofore only traded with the French. Britain, on the other hand, wanted to avoid any more expensive military conflicts between the colonists and those Native American tribes that had not accepted the Treaty of Paris. An Ottawa chieftain, Pontiac, continued fighting even after peace was declared, attacking the outpost at Detroit, and urging other tribes soon raided sites along the rest of the Ohio Country frontier. Although British troops were able to put down Pontiac’s Rebellion, the British moved to prevent further outbreaks of violence by issuing the Proclamation of 1763. The Proclamation forbade American settlers from moving or residing west of the Appalachian Mountains, and it required all trans-Appalachian traders to obtain a permit from the British government in an effort to prevent further friction with the Native Americans. In reality, the Proclamation proved virtually impossible to enforce, but its very existence filled many American colonists with suspicion and contempt. Some went so far as to claim that the Proclamation of 1763 was be part of a British plot to keep the Ohio country and the Native American trade for itself.
Parliament’s decision to keep troops stationed in America to enforce the peace with the Native Americans further raised the suspicions of American colonists. Never before had British had left a large standing army in America, and many colonists began to fear that the army was there not to enforce the peace but to awe and intimidate the Americans. Adding insult to injury, Parliament made the colonies pay for the cost of the army they did not want in the first place. The Quartering Act of 1765 required the colonists to provide food and quarters for the British troops, which amounted to a direct tax on New York, where the soldiers were stationed. When New York refused to provide the required services, the British government suspended the right of the New York assembly to meet until the full supplies were approved.
The Quartering Act angered many colonists, but it was just one in a wave of acts passed by Parliament that increased the animosity between the colonists and the mother country. In 1761, Parliament had authorized the use of writs of assistance, or search warrants, to help customs agents catch smugglers. Colonists viewed the writs as an invasion of their fundamental right of privacy. Three years later, Parliament bowed to pressure from British merchants who felt cheated by Americans paying off their debts in paper money, which was rarely worth its face value in gold or silver. The Currency Act of 1764 was passed, effectively outlawing colonial paper money. If strictly enforced, the act would have dealt a crushing blow to the colonial economy, which was mostly carried on in paper money as a result of the mercantile system. Luckily for the colonists, this law was rarely enforced.
Many colonists believed these acts to be unreasonable and malicious, but they represented a changing political and economic environment in post-war Britain. By design, colonies were supposed to enrich to the mother country, but George Grenville, Parliament’s new treasury secretary, discovered that Britain collected £2,000 a year in revenue from America, but spent £8,000 in salaries to colonial officials. Furthermore, thanks to the free spending of William Pitt, Britain had amassed a monumental debt of £140 million during the course of the war, and the only feasible way to begin paying off that debt was by raising taxes. Parliament raised taxes in Britain, resulting in protests among the wealthy merchants and riots among the working poor. Grenville sought an easier and more politically expedient way of making money; he convinced Parliament that the American colonies, which paid almost no taxes at all, should bear some of the cost of the war that had been fought to protect them from the French.
Of Sugar and Stamps
Grenville’s sought to raise money from the colonies in two ways, by taxing imported goods and by strictly enforcing smuggling laws. Accordingly, the Sugar Act of 1764 placed a modest tariff on sugar, molasses, wine, coffee, and other products imported into America, and it set new rules for trying smugglers in court. The act infuriated Americans, especially in New England, where shippers had turned smuggling into an art and where molasses was essential to the economy. As part of what would be called triangular trade, New Englanders purchased molasses from the West Indies, converted it into rum, and then sold the rum to Africa in exchange for slaves. To the colonists, the tax represented not only an unwelcome interference in its commercial dealings, but also as a direct tax on Americans that had not been enacted without the consent of the colonial legislatures. Such an action violated what Americans saw as one of their “basic rights of Englishmen,” rights that were further undermined by the part of the act dealing with smuggling. According to the new rules, those caught smuggling would not get jury trials—another basic English right—but would be tried in Admiralty Courts by judges appointed by the King and without juries, with the burden of proof resting now with the accused, not on the prosecution.
Without the means to organize a formal protest against the Sugar Act, most colonists simply grumbled and paid the taxes, but a new series of taxes passed the following year would inspire even more anger and force the colonists to act. The Stamp Act of 1765 sought to raise yet more revenue from the colonies, this time by requiring a tax stamp to be affixed to all paper products sold or used in the colonies. In one sweeping act, Grenville managed to incense nearly every important opinion-maker in the colonies: the act applied to legal documents (upsetting lawyers), newspapers (upsetting writers and editors), pamphlets (upsetting political activists), playing cards, almanacs, diplomas, and even tavern licenses (upsetting owners and visitors to taverns, a major social gathering place for American men). Moreover, the taxes could not be avoided like earlier laws and taxes had been. After all, molasses could not be identified as legal or smuggled once it was off the ship, and paper money could be back-dated to before the Currency Act was passed, but the Stamp Act dictated that every single deed, will, newspaper and pamphlet had to have the stamp affixed to it. Clearly, the time for action had arrived.
The response of the colonies to the Stamp Act took two forms: peaceful political protest and violent acts of intimidation and coercion. Members of the various colonial assemblies felt that they could not simply sit by and allow Parliament to bleed the colonies dry with taxes and regulations. Furthermore, they maintained that no government had the right to tax citizens without their consent. Because the colonies had no voice in Parliament, the Stamp Act, like the Sugar Act before it, constituted “taxation without representation” and was insupportable. To plan their protest, nine colonies answered an invitation to attend a Stamp Act Congress in New York in 1765; this was the first time the American colonies had ever joined and acted as one. The Congress pledged its loyalty to England and to Parliament, but asserted the American view that the colonies could not be taxed without Parliament’s either receiving the consent of the colonial assemblies or granting the colonies representation in Parliament itself.
While many American merchants protested the Stamp Act by boycotting British products, other groups took more extreme measures to undermine the act and prevent it from taking effect. An organization calling itself the Sons of Liberty used intimidation and violence to “persuade” the British revenue agents in charge of selling the stamps to resign their posts. Many were tarred and feathered while their houses were looted. The Sons of Liberty and similar organizations terrorized the British agents and, not surprisingly, many of the agents resigned or fled the colonies. The situation threatened to collapse into utter lawlessness when colonial judges, who either agreed with the protestors or were coerced into allowing newspapers to be published without the stamps, refused to enforce the act.
In England, members of Parliament were stunned by the turn of events in the colonies. Some discontent was to be expected when people were taxed, but violence against British officials and coordinated political protests were considerably more significant and troubling. Some in Parliament believed that a new round of stiff taxes should be levied, if only to assert control over the colonies; others, especially those with ties to merchants who were suffering under the American boycott, demanded that the Stamp Act be repealed. In the end, Parliament split the difference, repealing the Stamp Act but then passing the Declaratory Act on the very same day in 1766. The Declaratory Act, rejected the colonial claims about “taxation without representation” and asserted Parliament’s control over the colonies and its right to pass laws and levy taxes on the colonies without restriction.
The conflict over the Stamp Act demonstrated that colonists could work together to oppose a hated law. It also underscored the colonists’ hostility to any violation of their rights of Englishmen, especially the freedom from being taxed without consent. However, the fact that the Sons of Liberty had resorted to violence set a dangerous precedent and raised the stakes in dealings between the colonies and the mother country. At the time though, most colonists were so overjoyed by the repeal of the Stamp Act that they took little notice of the larger trends or consequences of their actions. But when Parliament acted on the Declaratory Act and moved to assert its authority once again, Americans would be forced to pay attention.
The Townshend Duties and the Consequences
After the Stamp Act debacle, Charles Townshend replaced George Grenville as Chancellor of the Exchequer, or treasury secretary. With the post, Townshend inherited the huge war debt and, failing to comprehend just how united the colonies were against taxation without representation, he set about levying a new series of taxes on the colonies in 1767. Townshend maintained that the basis of the objection was opposition to ”internal taxes” raised within the colonies. He decided that, because the colonies had accepted, albeit begrudgingly, earlier “external taxes” on imports of sugar and molasses, so long as Parliament only levied external taxes, the colonies would not protest. He further suggested that only taxing luxury goods would keep the majority of colonists from objecting to the taxes. Accordingly, he convinced Parliament to pass the Townshend Duties of 1767, which placed taxes on the importation of luxury goods such as paint, paper, glass, and lead, but also on tea.
The new round of taxes was bad enough, but Townshend added to the tension by declaring that Parliament and not the colonial legislatures would pay the salaries of British officials in the colonies. This violated another one of what Americans saw as their rights of Englishmen—control of the purse strings. In England, the government, military and even the King were dependent upon Parliament for funds. In the colonies, the colonial legislatures had likewise asserted their right to approve all expenditures as well, including the salaries of all government officials. This had the effect of making governors and British agents beholden to the legislatures and much more likely to do what the legislatures wanted. Under the Townshend Duties, however, the officials had no need to please the colonial legislatures, and as a result, they were more likely to enforce British laws strictly.
The Townshend Duties incensed the colonists, but not to the point that they felt the need to call for another congress. Instead, they expressed their dissatisfaction through newspapers, pamphlets, and the mail. Perhaps the most significant of these was the Circular Letter, which was written by Samuel Adams in 1768 and distributed to the other colonies. The Letter articulated the colonists’ objections to fact that the Townshend Duties levied taxes without the consent of the governed, appeared to be intended solely to raise money, and removed the control of the purse strings from colonial control. The Circular Letter caused uproar in the other colonies, and soon another boycott of British goods was organized, enforced by the Sons of Liberty. To compensate for the loss of imported goods, Americans began to promote home manufacture of the taxed English goods, undermining the very basis of the mercantile system.
Because the newest crop of customs agents received their salaries from Parliament, they saw no need to take bribes from American smugglers. However, they did find other means of making money, such as seizing colonial ships and cargoes for customs violations. Under British law, any ship caught smuggling was condemned and sold in an Admiralty Court, with the British government, the governor, and the customs officer splitting the proceeds evenly. In addition, the customs agents were given the power to search ships and warehouses at any time without approval or advance warning. Needless to say, customs agents were soon as unpopular as the stamp agents had been three years earlier. To protect the agents from the attentions of the Sons of Liberty, Britain sent two regiments of British troops to Boston.
Residents of Massachusetts viewed the colonists as an occupying force, and they took every opportunity to taunt and harass the soldiers. Conditions in Boston were tense and grew more so as each day passed. Then, on March 5, 1770, the situation exploded in a spectacularly violent episode known as the Boston Massacre. After a long night of heavy drinking and political debating, a mob of several hundred Bostonians, including members of the Sons of Liberty, jeered and taunted ten British soldiers guarding the customs house. Some in the crown through snowballs, ice, sticks, and other objects. In the resulting panic and confusion, shots were fired by several of the British troops. When the smoke cleared, several Americans were wounded and five died, including Crispus Attucks, a black sailor and member of the Sons of Liberty.
The news of British soldiers firing on Americans was shocking, and it spread quickly throughout the colonies. The stories were soon accompanied by incendiary pamphlets written by discontented Americans who began calling themselves “patriots.” One such patriot was Paul Revere, who created an engraving of the Boston Massacre, depicting a line of soldiers mercilessly firing down on a defenseless crowd of citizens. The engraving was less description than propaganda, and it had its intended effect as other colonies rallied to offer sympathy and pledges of support. However, the court case against the soldiers charged with the attack was destined to be a much less partisan undertaking. Noted patriot John Adams agreed to defend the soldiers charged with the attack, hoping to prove that the American courts could hold a fair trial. The court found that that the firing on civilians was the result of confusion, fear, and misunderstandings, and not a coordinated attack. As a result, only two of the seven soldiers charged were convicted.
Parliament was already having second thoughts about the Townshend Duties when it received news of the massacre. Little revenue was being generated because Americans had boycotted British products and begun to manufacture their own glass, paint, and paper. In late 1770, Lord North, the new British Prime Minister, convinced Parliament to repeal the Townshend Duties and allow the Quartering Act to expire. However, as if to remind the colonists that Parliament retained the right to regulate the colonies, the tax on tea remained in place. Most Americans were pleased with the turn of events, and because most of the tea consumed in the colonies was smuggled in by the Dutch, they even were inclined to overlook the tea tax. For the moment at least, the crisis was over
From Resistance to Revolution
Relations between Parliament and the colonies appeared relatively peaceful for the next two years, but beneath the surface, old tensions still lingered. Quite simply, British and American ideas on their respective rights and theories of government remained far apart, and any Parliamentary action seemed to split the two sides even more. In 1772, Parliament began paying the salaries not only of British agents and officials but also judges and royal governors in the colonies, trying to make them more independent of the assemblies. This act was especially unpopular in Massachusetts the haughty governor Thomas Hutchinson was heartily disliked. The avarice and arrogance of British revenue agents continued to make them equally unpopular, and this contributed to the Gaspee Incident. The crew of the British revenue ship Gaspee patrolled the waters around Rhode Island, seizing small boats involved in local traffic, cutting down orchards for firewood, and rustling livestock. One day in 1772, the ship ran aground; the locals, instead of helping it float free, burned it. Parliament was outraged and wanted to make an example of the perpetrators, but they believed that local courts would not be able to bring the guilty to justice. Therefore, a “special commission” was set up to investigate. It was no more successful in finding the arsonists, but the very existence of the commission outraged Americans, who saw this as an attempt to bypass or replace the colonial courts.
Americans in other colonies learned of Gaspee quickly because of the work of the Committees of Correspondence. In many ways an outgrowth of the Circular Letter and the Sons of Liberty, the Committees were organized by Samuel Adams in 1772 as means of communicating between the leaders of various Massachusetts towns. They soon spread to the other colonies, allowing patriots north and south to exchange views on British policies and coordinate activities of their own. Although new and still relatively powerless, the Committees of Correspondence represented the embryonic stages of a new American government.
Blissfully unaware of political developments in America, Parliament now blundered over the brink with the Tea Act of 1773. In truth, the Tea Act was designed not so much to raise revenue for the British, but to prop up the British East India Company. The major exporter of British tea from India and Ceylon and a company owned by many influential British stockholders, the Tea Company had recently fallen on hard times, partly because Americans preferred to buy smuggled Dutch tea. The Tea Act of 1773 granted the company a monopoly on all tea sales to the colonies, and allowed it to export its tea directly to America. These actions eliminated the need for middlemen and thus lowered the price on the tea to levels even below that the Dutch tea. In addition, the tea tax itself was assessed at the point of export (India) and not the point of import (the colonies), so that the tax had the appearance of being reduced in the colonies, even if the price remained the same.
Lord North believed the Tea Act to be a win-win-win situation: Americans would be thrilled to have cheaper tea, the East India Company would be profitable, and Britain would finally get some revenue from America. He was mistaken. American middlemen and smugglers were outraged at the assault on their profits, and the Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence viewed the Act as yet another attempt to impose a tax without representation. In most of the American colonies, Americans refused to allow the tea to be landed, and most royal governors, sensing American outrage, did not push the issue. In Massachusetts, however, Governor Hutchinson decided that the colonists needed to be put in their place, and so, in December of 1773, he ordered the tea landed. Before the ships could be unloaded, Samuel Adams called for the Sons of Liberty to act. Only slightly disguised as Native Americans, they threw the all342 chests of tea overboard into Boston Harbor.
The Boston Tea Party inspired Americans in other colonies to seize the ships sitting in their harbors and destroy the tea as well, and it demonstrated to Parliament that a crisis was at hand in the colonies. Lord North was convinced that Massachusetts had to be punished severely and the rest of the colonies taught a lesson. Accordingly, in 1774, he convinced Parliament to pass a series of acts, designed to codify the relationship between Parliament and the colonies once and for all. The Boston Port Act closed the harbor all shipping until the colonists repaid the cost of the tea. The Massachusetts Government Act altered the Massachusetts Charter, limiting town meetings to once a year making the upper house appointed by the king rather than elected locally. Furthermore, two other acts were passed as well, one allowing British officials to be tried for serious crimes in England, away from local juries, the other instituting a new Quartering Act. To give emphasis to the punishment, troops were immediately quartered in Boston itself, and their commander, General Thomas Gage, was appointed governor. Taken together, these measures were labeled the Coercive Acts by the British, but the Americans called them the “Intolerable Acts.” Adding insult to injury, Parliament later that year passed the Quebec Act, which it put all the Ohio Country permanently under the government of Quebec, and not Virginia, New York, or any of the other colonies that had claimed it. A new Canadian civil government was established, one with no elected lower house, no jury trials, and, no presumption of innocence.
Although most of the punishments contained in the acts were directed at Massachusetts, the Committees of Correspondence realized that if Britain could abuse the natural rights of those in Massachusetts, it could do so to any colony. Therefore, the colonies needed to act together to protest the Intolerable Acts. In 1774, the Committees invited the various colonies to attend the First Continental Congress, scheduled for later that year in Philadelphia. Twelve colonies sent representatives; only Georgia, the newest colony, did not send a delegate. The Congress went a step further than the Stamp Act Congress had gone nine years earlier, claiming not only that Parliament had no right to tax Americans but also that it had no regulatory control over the colonies at all. According to the delegates at the Congress, the colonies were united to Britain through the king, but his authority was as limited in America by the colonial assemblies just as it was in Britain by Parliament. Furthermore, the Congress called for a complete embargo on trade with Britain and the British West Indies, and it adopted the Suffolk Resolves, which called for armed resistance to any attempt by Britain to enforce the Intolerable Acts.
Understandably, the King and Parliament were unwilling to let a few troublemakers dictate the terms of their relationship with the colonies, but they underestimated what would be necessary to reassert their authority. Parliament ordered General Gage to enforce the Coercive Acts and restore order in Massachusetts. Gage, recognizing the seriousness of the situation, asked for 20,000 more troops, but Parliament gave him only 3,500.
America on the Eve of Revolution
In 1607, America had been little more than a remote English outpost. However, as settlements grew and thrived, each colony developed its own distinct identity, with a separate economy, set of social customs, and political beliefs from those in England. As the years passed, colonists grew more frustrated by increasingly intrusive regulations set down by a Parliament that neither understood the situations of the colonists nor respected their rights as Englishmen. With each oppressive act passed by Parliament following the Seven Years War, that frustration grew into suspicion. By 1775, many Americans had come to believe that Parliament was plotting to “enslave” Americans and take away their rights as Englishmen. With no written constitution to protect them, the colonists feared that they would lose forever any power or right claimed by Parliament or the King. For its part, the British government believed that, over time, the colonies had strayed from the course of obedience and subservience; every act of defiance or protest only underscored Parliament’s belief that the colonies must be dealt with harshly to bring them back into line. By 1775, both sides had become firmly entrenched and unwilling to bow or bend to the demands of the other. Soon, neither side had any other recourse to resolve the crisis except armed conflict.
Chapter V Vocabulary Terms
Proclamation of 1763
Writs of Assistance
Stamp Act Congress
Sons of Liberty
Committees of Correspondence
Boston Tea Party
First Continental Congress
Chapter V Review Questions
1. Why did the British issue the Proclamation of 1763? Why did this upset the colonists so much?
2. Explain the philosophical and practical reasoning behind the colonists’
objections to taxation?
3. Explain the different ways in which colonists responded to the Stamp Act.
4. What is the difference between internal taxes and external taxes? Why did Charles Townshend believe that the colonists would be more willing to tolerate the Townshend Duties? Were they?
5. Explain the circumstances surrounding the Boston Massacre and the subsequent trial.
6. What does the Gaspee Incident reveal about colonial attitudes toward smuggling and British attempts to collect import duties?
7. What were the circumstances surrounding the passage of the Tea Act? Why did the colonists object to it, even though it meant cheaper tea? How did they respond?
8. In what ways did colonists believe that the Coercive Acts violated their natural rights of Englishmen? Why were they so concerned about the Quebec Act?
9. Explain the ways that colonists’ attitudes toward national unity evolved between 1754 and 1774, especially with regard to: (1) the Seven Years War, (2) the Stamp Act, and (3) the Coercive Acts.
CHAPTER VI: THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
In April, 1775, General Gage received orders from England to take the offensive against the Americans. He developed a plan to march out in the early hours of April 19, and attack Lexington, where rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock were rumored to be hiding. From there, he would proceed to Concord, where the patriots had been building up a store of arms and gunpowder. Gage kept his plans as secret as possible, but patriots in Boston led by Dr. Joseph Warren, were ready to spread the alarm of the approaching troops. Dr. Warren sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn the rebel leaders in Lexington and to inform the militia leaders in the area. Revere and Dawes, travelling separately to avoid capture, reached Lexington around midnight and helped Adams and Hancock to escape. As they moved on toward Concord, a third rider, Samuel Prescott, joined them; this proved fortunate because Revere was captured and Dawes lost his horse on the road to Concord, and neither could not complete the ride.
Enough militia members had been alerted that, by the time the British soldiers reached Lexington, a small fighting force of American patriots had gathered on the village green. Outnumbered ten to one, the members of the militia began to disperse when the British commander confronted them, when someone, unknown to this day, fired a shot. The British then opened fire on the retreating militiamen, killing eight Americans, wounding ten, and thoroughly outraging others along the route to Concord.
When the British advanced into Concord, a fighting force of 250 Massachusetts militiamen was waiting for them. One of the militia members fired what would come to be known as the “shot heard ‘round the world,” as it signaled that Americans would fight to defend their rights, even if it meant engaging in revolutionary activities. In the short battle, the British were turned back by a surprisingly strong fighting force of militiamen, who would earn the nickname “minutemen” for the speed with which it had assembled. Unable to achieve his objectives, the British began the long retreat back to Boston. Jubilant Americans continued to fire at the troops from windows and from behind fences all the way back, leading British officers to burn down any house suspected of harboring minutemen. By the end of the bloody day, there were forty-nine dead and thirty-nine wounded on the American side and seventy-three dead and 174 wounded on the British side. General Gage admitted, “the Rebels are not the despicable rabble too many have supposed them to be.”
The situation did not improve for Gage and his men back in Boston, where 16,000 militiamen soon surrounded the city. Realizing that, if the Americans were allowed to control the heights around Boston Harbor, they could fire down into the city at will and prevent British ships from re-supplying the troops. For Gage to keep hold of Boston, he would need to force the Americans off of the high ground at Charlestown Point across the harbor. He could have easily ordered the heavy guns of the Royal Navy to force them off, but he wanted to teach the Americans a lesson by destroying the militia in a dramatic frontal assault up Breed’s Hill. On June 17, 1775, Gage ordered the attack, but again the Americans surprised the Redcoats with their tenacity. They turned back two British charges up the hill before running out of ammunition and being forced off Breed’s Hill and nearby Bunker Hill. Gage achieved his objective in what would inexplicably come to be called the Battle of Bunker Hill but at a very high cost; he lost over 1,000 killed and wounded, a quarter of his force, while the Americans lost only 400. His confidence shaken and his leadership in doubt, General Gage was soon replaced in Boston by General William Howe.
The Second Continental Congress and George Washington
Most of the early military engagements took place in Massachusetts, but other colonies took part in revolutionary activities as well. In colonies without occupying British troops, Americans quickly took control, forcing out royal governors who would then “rule” from British ships off the coast. New governments were formed, usually out of the lower houses of colonial assemblies, and leaders were chosen from among the Committees of Public Safety, the Sons of Liberty, and the Committees of Correspondence. Provincial militias were renamed “state” militias. The postal service was already under the control of a rebel, Benjamin Franklin. All that was needed was a national government, and that soon came when the Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775.
Initially, the Congress had no intention of declaring independence. Instead, it hoped to coordinate resistance to British oppression so that the colonies could be both free and still British. Accordingly, the Congress issued two important documents in the first year of its existence. It issued the Olive Branch Petition, which swore the colonies’ loyalty to King George III and pleaded with him to protect his subjects from the oppression of Parliament. Furthermore, it passed the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, which argued that the colonists were well within their rights to defend themselves against a Parliament that had violated their rights of Englishmen. The King was unconvinced by these two documents, having already declared after Bunker Hill that the American colonies were “in open rebellion.”
It was clear that the colonies needed to organize their armed resistance, so one of the first duties of the Second Continental Congress was to appoint a national commander for the Massachusetts militia, which was offered to Congress as the basis of the Continental Army. Members of the Congress believed that the commander should be from a southern colony, to ensure that this would not be perceived as merely a New England revolt. The ideal candidate would possess considerable military experience, a will to train the undisciplined American fighters, and a fierce loyalty to the ideals of the revolution. In George Washington, Congress found its ideal commander.
Washington arrived in Massachusetts to take command after the Battle of Breed’s Hill and immediately set about the task of training the men. That winter, he received assistance from Vermont patriot Ethan Allen, who along with his “Green Mountain Boys” militia, had attacked Fort Ticonderoga in New York, and stolen the fort’s cannon. The hard ground and frozen rivers of winter, allowed the cannon to be dragged all the way to Boston and placed upon Dorchester Heights, a bluff south of Boston overlooking the harbor. General Howe realized that his army’s safety in Boston was threatened by the large trained army surrounding the city and by the heavy guns on Dorchester Heights. In March 1776, he abandoned Boston and withdrew his army by sea to Nova Scotia.
The united colonies were now free of British troops, but their status in the British dominion was still unclear. They had denied the right of Parliament to tax or otherwise regulate the colonies, but they had not yet broken all political connections with the mother country. However, many were beginning to think that such a split was not just inevitable but essential to the maintenance of American liberty. Adding fuel to the fire was Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, Common Sense, was published in early 1776, and immediately caused a sensation. Paine claimed that King George III had sat by idly while Parliament eliminated the colonists’ rights of Englishmen one by one. He went further, claiming that the entire idea of a divine right monarch ran contrary to the Enlightenment idea that all souls had been created equal. Common Sense became a runaway best seller in the colonies, and it effectively poisoned the well so that no peaceful reconciliation could be achieved with Great Britain. The colonies would have to declare independence and take their chances fighting a war against the world’s most formidable fighting force.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution dissolving the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies. The Congress determined that, prior to voting on independence, it should appoint a committee that would explain why the colonists were justified in declaring independence. Five delegates, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, served on the committee, but it was Jefferson who wrote the first draft. After being edited and revised by Adams and Franklin, the document was introduced into Congress on in late June. On July 2, the Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s independence resolution, and two days later it passed a revised version of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence was divided into three sections. The first explained the philosophy behind the decision for independence. It owed much to the theories of John Locke, who first put forth the idea that governments were created with consent of the governed to protect the people and their rights, and that any government violating this “social contract” with the people could be altered or abolished. The second section justified American independence, listing the violations of colonists’ rights, including levying illegal taxes, passing intolerable acts, attacking citizen militias, and hiring mercenary soldiers to put down the American rebellion. Although Parliament was responsible for most of these violations, the Declaration singled out King George III for blame, ostensibly because he, as sovereign, did nothing to stop Parliament. The third section declared that, because the King had failed to live up to his responsibility of protecting the natural rights of the people, he was “unfit to rule a free people.” The people in the colonies, then, were thereby free to declare themselves independent from the authority of the King, Parliament, and Great Britain altogether. The argument having been made, the members of the Continental Congress signed their names, knowing that this action had sealed their fate. What that fate would be, however, was still quite unknown in 1776.
Military Engagements of 1776
The Americans would have to fight and make the Declaration stick, for Britain had no intention of giving up so much land and power over a scrap of paper. In his temporary headquarters of Nova Scotia, General Howe devised a strategy that he believed would bring the colonies back into line. Believing that most of the malcontents and trouble-makers were in New England, Howe suggested that, if he could capture New York City, and the Hudson River valley, he could effectively isolate the rebels and easily coerce the more moderate southern colonies into submission. Accordingly, he spent the early months of 1776 amassing a huge fighting force of 32,000 troops, and an accompanying fleet of fleet of 370 transports, seventy-three warships, and 13,000 sailors.
As he prepared to attack New York City, another British naval squadron, under the leadership of Admiral Sir Peter Parker, set sail for Cape Fear River in North Carolina. He hoped that local Loyalists would join him and help pacify the southern colonies, but this plan was doomed from the start. The squadron was delayed by bad weather, and when it finally arrived in North Carolina, the Admiral Parker discovered that the Cape Fear River was too shallow for warships to navigate. Furthermore, the Loyalists who were supposed to help the British force sweep through the South had themselves been defeated by a patriot militia group in the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. Discouraged, the British abandoned his original plans and headed directly to Charleston. However, luck failed them there as well. The British fleet attacked the Fort Moultrie, a palmetto log and sand fort that controlled the entrance to Charleston harbor. However, the spongy palmetto wood logs absorbed the force of the British cannon balls, and caused them to fall away harmlessly. On the other hand caused heavy damage to the British oak ships, sinking several and incapacitating others. Admiral Parker suffered the ultimate indignity when an explosion onboard caused a large splinter to tear off the backside of his own pants. Defeated and dismayed, the Admiral called off his attack and the British were forced to abandon their southern strategy.
Back in the North, George Washington, commanding a fighting force of 10,000 Continental “regulars” and 7,000 short time militiamen, moved his troops to Long Island to head off any attack of New York City. General Howe landed his army on the eastern side of Long Island and marched west toward New York City and Washington’s waiting army. Knowing better than to launch a direct assault, Howe attempted to outflank Washington’s army, hoping to surround Washington and force his surrender without a bloody confrontation. In what would be called the Battle of Long Island, Howe managed to outflank Washington but was unable to completely surround him. Washington retreated to Brooklyn and, in the middle of a foggy night, led his army across the East River and into Manhattan.
Howe continued to pursue Washington, engaging him in battles at Harlem and White Plains, but even though he now occupied New York City, he was still not able to cut off Washington’s retreat. Thus, Washington began to show his strategic genius, even if not his tactical expertise: even though his army lost battle after battle, Washington never allowed himself to be trapped and always retreated deeper into the American countryside. As he did so, the British army was forced to leave occupation troops behind and defend long supply lines to support their troops.
Washington retreated to New Jersey, but Howe’s relentless pursuit soon pushed him further west into Pennsylvania. After six straight months of defeats and retreats, American morale was at its nadir. In addition, with enlistments of the Continental Army due to expire on December 31, 1776, it seemed possible that the American army and any hopes for independence could simply evaporate in the new year. Therefore, Washington could not simply retreat to a winter encampment and hope for the best in 1777; he had to act immediately and decisively. Learning that a detachment of Hessian mercenaries was occupying Trenton, New Jersey, Washington ordered his troops to move east across the Delaware River early on Christmas morning. The Americans attacked the surprised Hessians, many of whom were still sleeping off the effects of the previous evening’s Christmas revelry. The victory was complete, and almost the entire Hessian contingent was captured. Washington followed this up with another victory at Princeton, New Jersey, a few days later. These successes, combined with a personal appeal by General Washington, convinced many Continentals to re-enlist. Once again, Washington had kept the army in existence.
The Hinge of Fate: 1777
General Howe had made progress in 1776, but by the end of the year, Washington’s army was still intact, the Second Continental Congress was still meeting freely, and New England was still not isolated from the rest of the colonies. To solve all of these problems, British generals spent the better part of the winter devising a new three-part strategy that would end the American uprising once and for all. The first part would require General Henry Clinton to keep an occupying force in New York City so that Washington would not try to retake it. For the second part, General John Burgoyne would move his army south from Quebec, and meet up with Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger, who would move east from Fort Oswego. Together, the joint force would move toward New York City, capturing everything along the way and thereby cutting off New England from the other colonies once and for all. The original third part of the strategy called for Howe to move north from New York and join General Burgoyne in the Hudson River valley, but at the last moment, Howe changed his part of the strategy. He decided instead to take the bulk of his fighting force and sail it up the Chesapeake Bay. From there, his army could attack Philadelphia from behind and capture the Continental Congress before moving on to attack Washington’s army once again.
The plan, even as altered by General Howe, was outstanding in theory, but the rebellion would only be crushed if all three parts worked. While General Clinton did his part and remained in New York City, Howe sailed his troops up the Chesapeake. When Washington learned of Howe’s plans, he moved back in to Pennsylvania to protect Philadelphia. In the Battle of Brandywine, Howe attacked Washington and dealt him a crushing defeat. Washington retreated, but then, hoping to catch Howe off guard, turned and launched an attack of his own at Germantown. The outnumbered and outgunned Americans were beaten yet again, forcing Washington to abandon Philadelphia and encamp for the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Again, morale was low, and food and supplies scarce in a land of plenty because many Americans would not sell their crops for near-worthless paper continental currency. Washington, however, shared the privations of the men, spending the winter in a nearby house rather than heading for his plantation until spring as other generals might have done.
The British had captured the capital city and forced the national government to abandon its headquarters. Meanwhile, the main rebel army was suffering through a long winter, short on food, clothes, and weapons. On the surface, it appeared that the war should be drawing to a close. Instead, things were going very poorly for the British and getting worse, as a result of General Burgoyne’s inability to execute his part of the British strategy. At first things went well. Burgoyne moved south from Quebec with an army of 6,000 regulars, 650 Loyalists, and 500 Native Americans, as well as over thirty carts of his own personal effects, including his wardrobe, cases of champagne, and his mistress. The forts on Lake Champlain fell easily to his heavy artillery, but problems soon arose as Burgoyne began to travel overland for the last few miles to Albany. First, a scalping by one of his Native American allies outraged local farmers, leading them to join the rebels. Then, General Benedict Arnold thwarted St. Leger’s attempts to join Burgoyne by defeating him at Fort Stanwix. Finally, a column of Hessians sent out to find food was defeated at Bennington, Vermont. Burgoyne’s main army, short on food and supplies, and men was engaged at Saratoga by the Continental Army led by General Horatio Gates. General Arnold, having just returned from the battle at Fort Stanwix, managed to outflank in a Burgoyne’s force and cut off any means of retreat. Surrounded, General Burgoyne had no choice but to surrender his entire remaining army of 5,700 men.
The French Join the War
The Battle of Saratoga is considered the turning point of the war. For one thing, it constituted one of the only and certainly the most important victories against the British army. The importance of the battle, however, stretches far beyond the Hudson River valley. The French had been watching the American Revolution with great interest. They had been sending some aid to the Americans through a dummy trading company, but feared to get openly involved in another war with Britain unless they were certain of winning the war. Benjamin Franklin had been trying to convince the French to join an alliance, but only after the Battle of Saratoga were the French convinced to sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States. With the treaty, the new nation now had a powerful ally, which would not only draw British troops away from America as Britain had to defend more important parts of its empire, but would also serve as a source of loans and supplies. France also possessed a large army and the world’s second largest naval fleet and highly trained military advisors, some of whom would join the fight in North America.
The entry of the French on the American side had ripple effects across Europe, and soon the revolution evolved into another worldwide war. France was allied with Spain which, although despising the very suggestion of republicanism, democracy, or colonial rebellion, hated the British even more and joined the war against the British. The Spanish fought the British at Gibralter, in the Caribbean, and in Florida. The Dutch, Britain’s main commercial rival, still smarting from the loss of colonial possessions in earlier wars with Britain, joined the alliance and provided crucial loans to the Americans. Even Poland took part, sending two of its great Generals, Kosciusko and Pulaski, to America for the fight. Great Britain, on the other had, had no allies in this war: the Prussians, still believing that the British had betrayed them at the end of the Seven Years War, remained neutral. Short on friends and long on enemies, Britain had no choice but to withdraw some of its troops from North America and appoint a new commander, as General Howe resigned on hearing of Burgoyne’s defeat.
An agonizing coda to the story of the Battle of Saratoga involves Benedict Arnold. Undeniably the hero of the most significant battle of the war, Arnold was a flawed man, more concerned with personal glory than with patriotism. In 1779, he received command of the army at West Point, but he felt that he was worthy of a larger and more important commission. Feeling betrayed, he soon took part in an act of betrayal himself. He contacted British Major John André, and began divulging American battle plans to the British officer. The two planned a scheme that would call for Arnold to turn over his army at West Point to Andre in exchange for £10,000 and the promise of a commission in the British Army. However, when Americans caught Major André behind American lines in civilian clothes, they immediately tried and executed him as a spy. They also found evidence implicating Arnold, who immediately fled to the British. Eventually Arnold did receive a commission in the British army, but his career was short and undistinguished. The man who might have been America’s greatest war hero died in obscurity in 1801 as America’s most notorious traitor.
The task of leading the British effort in the colonies fell to General Henry Clinton, who developed yet another strategy for victory. Believing that the true Loyalists were in the South, he decided to pull out of the middle colonies, except for the area around New York City, and move the British army into Georgia and South Carolina. After building a base there, Clinton’s troops would slowly advance north. This plan, like others before it, was fatally flawed because, although about a third of the southern population were Loyalists, Clinton had to abandon and betray Loyalists in the middle colonies, where an estimated half of the population favored the British.
The British did well in the South at first. By May 1780, they had captured Savannah, Georgia, and captured Charleston, South Carolina, as well as several thousand Continental Army troops under the leadership of Lieutenant General Benjamin Lincoln. A second Continental Army, under the leadership of General Horatio Gates, was completely dispersed at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. As a result, the governments of Georgia and South Carolina had virtually ceased to exist. However, when General Clinton proclaimed that citizens of the two recaptured states were required to fight the rebels, many American soldiers who had surrendered and been paroled refused to fight against their fellow patriots and then formed guerrilla bands. Led by such figures as Francis Marion (later given the delightfully descriptive nickname the “Swamp Fox”), the guerillas hid out in the vast forests and swamps of the South, coming out to attack the British and Loyalists, then slipping back into the wilderness areas behind British lines. Clinton, himself, returned to New York City, leaving General Lord Cornwallis to keep South Carolina and Georgia secure.
Cornwallis, fighting guerilla war in South Carolina, decided to cut off the rebel supply lines by invading North Carolina. It proved to be a costly mistake. Dividing his command into three columns, he moved north, but American militia and “over mountain men” from Tennessee and Kentucky surrounded and wiped out most of Cornwallis’ Loyalist militia at the Battle of King’s Mountain, and then his cavalry was destroyed in the Battle of Cowpens. Despite these losses, Cornwallis proceeded into North Carolina, now effectively traveling blind through hostile territory with British Regulars. At Guilford Court House, Cornwallis defeated General Nathaniel Green, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. The Americans retreated after the battle, but the Redcoats had lost so many men and were so short of supplies that they had to retreat to Wilmington, where the British fleet could protect and supply them.
Having failed to destroy the Americans in South and North Carolina, Cornwallis ignored General Clinton’s advice to turn back. He moved still further north, believing that if he could conquer Virginia—the home of rebel leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, and Patrick Henry—he could demoralize the Americans and capture all the southern states easily. This idea, fanciful at best, isolated Cornwallis from his other armies in New York and South Carolina and gave the Americans the opening they needed to win the war outright. While General Green remained south, capturing isolated British outposts in South Carolina and Georgia, General Washington moved south from the middle colonies, where he had been mired for the better part of three years.
Washington’s army had not figured in many of the decisive battles, but the general devised a brilliant three-part strategy to capture Lord Cornwallis and win the war outright. The first part called for General Lafayette’s small American force to outflank Cornwallis’ army, pushing it onto the peninsula formed by the James and York rivers. Then, in the second part of the plan, Generals Washington and Rochambeau would land the bulk of the Continental Army on the other side of the peninsula. The two American armies would then move toward each other, surrounding the British. The third part of the plan called for the French fleet to patrol the waters around the peninsula, sealing off any possible escape route for Cornwallis. As the three parts of the strategy fell perfectly into place, Cornwallis was soon surrounded and cut off in Yorktown, Virginia. He sent word to General Clinton, asking for a force to sail down from New York to help him evacuate, but the French Fleet defeated the British in the Battle of the Capes off Virginia. The French and American armies attacked and broke through Cornwallis’ outer defense lines, compelling him to surrender on October 19, 1781.
Although the British still held New York City and the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, leaders in Parliament finally realized that they had to let the colonies go, or else risk losing their other possessions in India and the Caribbean. After months of negotiations between the Americans, British, French and Spanish, the Treaty of Paris was at last signed on September 3, 1783. According to its terms, Britain recognized American independence and promised to move its troops off of American soil as soon as possible. The new nation’s borders were established, as the United States took possession of everything east of the Mississippi River, south of Canada, and north of Florida. Britain was able to retain Canada, while Spain regained Florida. For its part, France received no land in North America but a measure of revenge against the British.
Loyalists During the American Revolution
Americans had not been united in their desire to sever ties with Britain. A large percentage remained faithful to the King, earning the name “Loyalists” from the British and the derisive title “Tories” from the patriots. Exact numbers of Loyalists cannot be known for certain, but some historians suggest that there were almost none in New England, about half the population in the middle colonies, and about a third of the population in the South. After the war, John Adams famously noted that “we were about one third Tories, and one third timid, and one third true blue.” The “timid” third represented those who did not or would not have an opinion on the revolution, but there were clearly sizeable numbers of Americans who both favored and opposed independence.
The Loyalists included former British officials, leaders of the Church of England, and wealthy landowners and merchants, but they also included many middle-class and poor people, even slaves. In many states, being a Loyalist was not illegal, but “Tories” would be treated as second class citizens and watched very carefully. In North Carolina, those who refused to swear allegiance to the United States had to pay a tax rate four times that of those who had renounced their loyalty to the king. In other states, Loyalists were still required to serve in their state militia, regardless of their political beliefs. Furthermore, any overt act favoring the British while on militia duty was a criminal act punishable by death. In Georgia and South Carolina after the British occupation, the Loyalists were technically in charge, but American guerrillas often attacked and burned their property and did not always protect Loyalist prisoners captured during battles. For example, Colonel Bannistre Tarleton’s Loyalist New York cavalry had a reputation for taking no prisoners.
Although poor and middle class Loyalists were often left alone, the same cannot be said of wealthy Loyalists. Many were run out of their homes and states and their property confiscated. In some states, such as Georgia, the confiscated property became public property and was used to endow schools. In others, however, it tended to wind up in the hands of wealthy revolutionaries. Even though the Treaty of Paris of 1783 guaranteed that the United States would return confiscated land or provide compensation for it, many Loyalists never received either. As a result, many Loyalists were forced to either accept the authority of the United States or emigrate to Canada or other parts of the Empire.
African Americans in the War
Slavery existed throughout the colonies at the time of the American Revolution, although the South had nearly ten times as many slaves as the North had. In the North, a large number of “free men of color” took part in the fighting, including Crispus Attucks, who was killed in the Boston Massacre, and African American militiamen and soldiers, who fought at Lexington, Concord, Fort Ticonderoga, and Breed’s Hill. However, in the early stages of the war, African Americans were not allowed to join the Continental Army. The Continental Congress feared that the use of these soldiers might encourage a slave rebellion. The British had no such qualms, and generals recruited free African Americans to serve as soldiers and as laborers. In addition, the British offered freedom to any slave who would join them. Many did so, including Quamino Dolly, whose knowledge of the local countryside allowed the British to maneuver around American battle lines and capture the city of Savannah in 1779. After the war, Britain, although still a slaveholding empire, kept its promise and evacuated many of their African American soldiers from the United States to such places as Bermuda as Sierra Leone.
The British recruitment of African Americans convinced the revolutionaries to enlist the “free men of color” in the Continental Army, beginning in 1777. Some New England states enlisted not only free African Americans also slaves. By the end of the war, about 5,000 African Americans had fought in American armies, mostly in integrated units; significant numbers also served with white sailors on privateers, which were privately owned warships commissioned by Congress that captured over 700 British merchant ships during the war.
Although Thomas Jefferson’s claim that “all men are created equal” had originally compared only Americans and British, the sweeping nature of the phrase led many to question whether a nation conceived in liberty could allow the continued existence of slavery. Many Americans already considered slavery to be, at best, a necessary evil and, by the end of the eighteenth century, all of the northern states had either abolished slavery, or established plans for its gradual abolition. The Continental Congress took no action on slavery but did outlaw the international slave trade during the war, and all but two states continued the ban after the war.
Women in the Revolution
Women had few opportunities for direct involvement in the fighting, but there were exceptions. During the guerilla war in Georgia, Nancy Hanks single-handedly captured a party of Loyalist militia searching for her husband. Women often accompanied their husbands to camp, carrying on housekeeping duties, but also getting involved in the fighting from time to time. Many brought water to artillerymen during battles, earning the nickname “Molly Pitcher,” and on at least two occasions, Molly Pitchers took over the guns from their wounded husbands. A handful of women disguised themselves as men and fought as soldiers, while others served as spies for the Continental Army. Women also performed nursing duties, made clothing and uniforms for the soldiers, gathered supplies, and collected and prepared medicines. The greatest contribution of women, however mundane, was in running households, farms, and shops while their husbands were fighting in the armies.
Some women, including John Adams’ wife Abigail, were inclined to believe that the revolutionary concepts of equality and natural rights should apply to women as well as men. However, this resulted in very little action being taken, with the exception of a modest increase in the acceptance of education for women and the easing of divorce restrictions in some states. New Jersey granted women the right to vote, but repealed it in 1807. Overall, changes in the status would not come until many decades after the revolution.
Chapter VI Vocabulary Terms
Lexington and Concord
Battle of Breed’s Hill
Battle of Long Island
Crossing the Delaware
Second Continental Congress
Olive Branch Petition
Declaration of Independence
General William Howe
General John Burgoyne
Battle of Saratoga
Treaty of Amity and Commerce
Battle of Yorktown
Treaty of Paris of 1783
Chapter VI Review Questions
1. Assess the performance of the British troops and American militia in the early battles of the Revolution. Why were the Americans not crushed utterly?
2. Compare and contrast the situation of General Gage in the following incidents: (1) the Battle of Breed’s Hill and (2) the withdrawal of troops in light of Dorchester Heights. Why did Gage choose not to attack Washington at Dorchester Heights?
3. Assess the military fortunes of George Washington. To what extent can or should he be considered a great general?
4. Review the text of the Declaration of Independence. In what ways did the Declaration use events of the previous thirteen years to justify independence?
5. Discuss the British war strategy in 1777. Why was it unsuccessful?
6. Discuss the contributions of other countries to the American war for independence.
7. Discuss the three-part strategy of the Americans in the Battle of Yorktown.
8. What were the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783? Why do the French not get more from the settlement after being so crucial to the American victory?
CHAPTER VII: THE CRITICAL PERIOD
The Need for a Government after the Declaration of Independence
The act of declaring independence left the former colonies without a true national government. The Second Continental Congress filled that void, paying the troops and negotiating treaties with other countries, but this was only a temporary fix. American political leaders quickly realized that a new national government must be created not only to provide the country with stability for the future, but also to ensure that the nation did not slide back into tyranny in the critical years to come. Accordingly, in July, 1776, Pennsylvania delegate John Dickinson introduced a document establishing a new national government. However, it would take a year for what would be called the Articles of Confederation to be passed in Congress and another four years before it would be ratified by all thirteen states. In the meantime, the Continental Congress served as an emergency legislature, and most of the real attention in government was focused on the states.
Americans’ experience with Parliament left them suspicious of central government, so they were far more concerned with creating effective state governments that would protect their rights than in establishing a national authority that could take them away. As a result, state constitutions were written and approved first, prior to any consideration of the Articles of Confederation. Furthermore, the powerful state governments demanded input on the form and authority of the national government that the Articles would create, and worked to ensure that state governments would not surrender their authority or sovereignty under the Articles of Confederation.
The New State Governments
Although there were variations from state to state, the new state governments shared four fundamental principles: that a written constitution was essential to liberty, that power should be divided between three branches of government, that the legislature should be the most powerful branch, and the belief that all governmental power was derived from the people. First, each state had a written constitution, which made specific grants and denials of power. Given the states’ experiences with Parliament and the fact that Great Britain lacked a true written constitution, the decision to clearly state what government did and did not have the power to do was not surprising. Indeed, after the many debates over the nature of representation during the revolutionary period, the men who formed these new state governments wanted to leave as little room as possible for misinterpretation.
Second, the basic structure of each state government was the same, with an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch or court system. The “tyranny” of King George III instilled in the authors of the state constitutions a deep distrust of the executive branch; Pennsylvania went the furthest to avoid any single concentration of power, eliminating the position of governor and instead having the executive responsibilities carried out by a council of twelve. Even in states with only one governor, executive power was limited. Few had veto power, most were limited to one-year terms, and they were elected not by the people but by the state legislatures, making them beholden to that most powerful branch. Judges were also limited in their authority; typically, they were chosen by the legislature and subject to removal from office if the judge fell out of favor of the legislature.
Third, the state constitutions entrusted the legislature, the branch most directly responsible to the states’ citizens, with the greatest authority. Legislatures had been representing Americans directly since the House of Burgesses first met in 1619, and colonial legislatures had become especially important in the turbulent period following the Seven Years War. Indeed, although colonists were rarely pleased to be taxed, they had acceded to the taxes imposed by their own representative governments. It had been that lack of representation in Parliament rather than the actual taxes that had been most loathsome to the colonists in the years leading up to the Revolution. As a result, when the states were finally able to distribute power as they saw fit, they granted the most power to the legislatures, those officials who were most directly answerable to the people.
Although legislatures constituted the most powerful branch of state governments, even their power was not absolute. All the states except Pennsylvania had bicameral legislatures, which effectively guaranteed a balance of power. More importantly, most of the state constitutions contained a bill of rights, which specifically listed the natural rights of citizens that government did not have the power to take away. By specifically protecting such rights as freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, the constitutions’ drafters endeavored to protect citizens from the kind of governmental abuses that had been perpetrated by the British.
Fourth, every state operated from the assumption that the source of all authority was the people. Indeed, the people of Massachusetts were unwilling to leave the drafting of their state constitution to the existing government. They held a separate convention, not accountable to the existing government, to write a constitution, increasing the credibility of the document as a reflection of the will of the people. However, determining whom “the people” included was a matter of debate in the new state constitutions. Despite the lofty words in the Declaration of Independence about equality, very real inequalities in most aspects of these new state governments, especially in terms of voting rights. Given that virtually every state required ether the ownership of a certain amount of property or the payment of a set level of taxes, the poor and those who owned no land were effectively disenfranchised. Women were foremost among the others who were excluded. Only New Jersey, and then only briefly, allowed women to vote. Slaves obviously could not cast a ballot although some states permitted free African Americans to vote.
Overall, the state constitutions and the governments they created were a compromise. They reflected the struggle to create structures strong enough to govern but not so strong as to endanger the liberties that were being fought for at the time that the constitutions were being written.
The Creation of the Articles of Confederation
With so much power guaranteed to the state governments, there was very little left over for the new national government that the Articles of Confederation created. Certainly, a national authority was necessary to fight wars and to negotiate treaties with other countries, but states remained suspicious of handing over any more power than absolutely necessary to the national government. As a result, the final draft of the Articles of Confederation constitutes a reaction—or perhaps, more rightly, an overreaction—to what the colonies had endured under the British system. It established a loosely binding “league of friendship” between the states, one in which the union was voluntary and the real power remained with the states. Indeed, the word “confederacy,” as the authors of the document understood it, meant a loose partnership of sovereign independent states.
The distribution of power allocated by the Articles of Confederation reflected the same concerns that drove the creation of the state governments. By design, the legislature had the most power in the national government, but the authors of the Articles went a step further. Concerned that any single person given executive authority over the entire country might become another tyrannical ruler or an American version of King George III, the authors made no provision for a national executive at all. Furthermore, no new national courts were established. With neither executive nor judicial branches, all responsibility for enforcing the law and meting out justice fell to the states. This was not accidental; the authors of the Articles wanted the meaningful power in the United States to reside not in the national government but in the states, which held both the purse strings and the control of the representatives. For instance, Congress could requisition money from the states but because it had no power to enforce the request, states were free to ignore Congress’ requests. Even the powers that were granted to Congress, including the conduct of foreign policy, settling disputes between states, coining money, establishing standards for weights and measures and determining state boundaries, could be limited. Each state had one vote in Congress, but nine of the thirteen states had to approve any legislation before it could be implemented. As a result, Congress was unable to pass many laws in its first few years, resulting in a flow of power back to the states.
All states shared a distrust of central government, but they disagreed on how power should be shared between the states. Despite the very real military and economic crises facing them, the states lacked a shared concern and vision about what was best for the young country. Rather, the loose ties between the states led to united action only when their individual goals or desires happened to coincide. This was not a government that would or could act quickly or in concert in any but the greatest emergencies. This proved abundantly clear during the process of ratifying the Articles of Confederation. Because the Articles needed to be approved by every state to take effect, Maryland realized that it could use the ratification process to gain concessions from its larger neighbors. Early land grants were often imprecise, leading two or more states to claim the same land. The territory most in dispute was the area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Maryland, a small landlocked state, feared that a state with extensive western land claims such as Virginia might come to dominate the new government. Large states could sell the land and add to their wealth, while smaller states would be relegated to second-class status in the new government. To avoid this, Maryland refused to ratify the Articles of Confederation until the large states turned over all western land claims to Congress. Virginia’s leaders initially balked at the idea of surrendering their claims, but after four war-torn years, more farsighted and nationalistic leaders such as Thomas Jefferson persuaded the Virginia legislature to give up their claims. The other large states followed Virginia’s example, and Maryland finally agreed to ratify the Articles in February, 1781. Nearly five years after the Declaration of Independence, the United States at last had a new national government.
Strengths of the Articles of Confederation Government
Even after ratification, the built-in weaknesses of the national government and the persistent rivalries between states made it difficult for the national government to wield much power. In fact, the only area in which the United States made substantial progress was in the organization of the western territories that the larger colonies had turned over to Congress. Taken together, the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the legal guidelines under which the western areas could achieve statehood. The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided for the division of the territories into townships, each of which was divided into thirty-six sections of one square mile apiece. Congress intended to sell each section for $640.00, with one section per township being set aside for public schools. Two years later, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, which set up a governing framework for the area and banned slavery in the territories. It established conditions for dividing the area into new political territories and allowing them to apply for statehood if they met certain requirements. The Ordinance specifically guaranteed that any states that resulted from this territory were to be considered equal in power and status to the original thirteen states. Eventually, five states—Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin—were carved from the region and later joined the union.
Although no provision had been made for an executive branch, members of the Confederation Congress quickly recognized that laws were meaningless if they could not be enforced. Accordingly, the Congress established executive departments needed to administer the new government, including that of Superintendent of Finance. The first superintendent was Philadelphia merchant Robert Morris, who handled his responsibilities ably and brought some order to the nation’s tangled finances, despite having no power to issue taxes and being forced to beg for donations or borrow money from other countries or the states. He implemented more efficient purchasing procedures, guaranteeing a steady flow of supplies for the army while also cutting spending. In May 1781, Morris convinced Congress to establish a national bank, empowered to hold governmental funds and make loans to the government. This helped create at least a minimal national economic structure, but the capitalization of the bank was so small that the bank’s overall impact was limited. Undeterred, Superintendent Morris sought to balance the budget, restructuring many of the nation’s loans and interest payments in pursuit of that goal. Although initially successful, he also provoked a massive outcry from public creditors who besieged Congress for some relief. Congress proposed altering Articles to allow Congress to collect duties and use the income to pay off outstanding loans, but Rhode Island’s refusal to support the plan prevented it from receiving the unanimous approval required to change the Articles. This was typical of the difficulties Morris encountered as he struggled to keep the young nation solvent.
Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation Government
Notwithstanding its success with the Northwest Territory, the Articles of Confederation was a blueprint for limited and ineffectual government. The document achieved one of the goals of the Founding Fathers by preventing any excessive concentration of power, but in so doing, it failed to provide the government enough power to protect the people. Like any new nation, the United States was forced to confront major economic, diplomatic, and security problems, but the government under the Articles of Confederation proved ill equipped to respond to these crises.
Economically, the Confederation Congress proved unable to handle monetary problems because the government had not been given the power to levy tariffs or taxes. As a result, the Congress had to resort to asking the states for loans, but the states had economic difficulties of their own. The economic dislocation and restructuring that had occurred as a result of the war and the severing of ties with Britain made the states highly competitive with each other. Rather than submitting to a national authority that could regulate the economy for the entire nation’s benefit, each state fended for itself. Many states used their own currencies instead of that issued by Congress and even resorted to imposing tariffs on goods imported from other states. Although some states profited handsomely from these tactics, it proved disastrous for other states and for the national economy as a whole. By 1787, the combined state and national debt had reached $77.25 million.
Diplomatically, the United States government did not fare much better. It was forced to negotiate with other countries in a world in which the fledgling United States commanded little respect. Indeed, as late as the 1790s, John Quincy Adams, while serving as minister to Prussia, was kept waiting at the palace gate while a guard sought confirmation that the United States was actually a country. The fact that the government lacked the money to support its diplomats abroad or to develop the military forces necessary to defend itself undermined America’s credibility and invited foreign and domestic challenges to its security and sovereignty. King George III refused to remove British troops from western forts in violation of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, but the American government was powerless to do anything but complain loudly about it. Spain also maintained some forts and troops in the western lands; although she had been willing to help the United States against Britain, she was not above demonstrating her power to the new nation. Too, diplomatic efforts on the national level were complicated by the actions of individual states, which repeatedly violated the Articles through actions that ranged from waging war on the Native Americans to building their own navies.
In terms of security, the British and the Spanish represented just two of the many looming threats. As white settlers began pushing west across the Proclamation Line of 1763, they found themselves under attack from Native American tribes, especially in western Pennsylvania and Georgia, and the new territories of Tennessee and Kentucky. The settlers asked the state governments for protection, and overwhelmed state governments in turn called on the national government for assistance. However, the government had neither the money to pay troops to protect the settlers nor an explicit statement in the Articles of Confederation granting it power in the to do so. As a result, western settlers were left to fend for themselves.
The security threat that most shook Americans’ confidence in the Articles of Confederation government came not from the western territories but from western Massachusetts. There, in the cradle of the rebellion, the state that had given the nation revolutionary leaders James Otis, Sam Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock, a group of farmers rose up in armed rebellion. The economic problems in Massachusetts led the state legislature to raise property taxes as a means of paying off their large state war debt. The farmers, many of whom had served in the Revolutionary War, were already afflicted by low crop prices, and they had no way of paying the higher taxes. Under the leadership of Daniel Shays, the farmers began to protest the taxes and their economic hardships in the late summer of 1786. Soon, the movement turned violent, with armed mobs of farmers literally closing the courts in three western counties, thus thwarting creditors in their debt collection. Shays and his men moved on Springfield, where they attacked federal armory but were unable to capture it. Only when the state militia intervened did the rebellion fall apart and Shays flee to Vermont. a direct defiance of the state government, was only suppressed when the state militia intervened, but the Rebellion underscored the fact that economic troubles in the United States could quickly become security threats.
In the wake of Shays’ Rebellion and the other economic, diplomatic, and security problems, American leaders agreed that the Articles of Confederation needed to be altered. Without changes, the government would be unable to protect the basic principles upon which the revolution had been founded: securing property and individual freedoms. The very existence of the nation was at stake, but given the stringent requirements for altering the Articles, few expressed optimism that the changes necessary in the government could be achieved. However, steps were being taken to do just that.
Chapter VII Vocabulary Terms
Articles of Confederation
Land Ordinance of 1785
Northwest Ordinance of 1787
Chapter VII Review Questions
1. What were the basic principles that served as the foundation for the state constitutions?
2. What was the issue upon which Maryland based its original opposition to the Articles of Confederation? How was this issue resolved?
3. In what ways were the Articles of Confederation a reaction to the abuses experienced by the colonists at the hands of the British in the period leading up to American independence?
4. What were the economic, diplomatic, and security challenges facing the new country? How did the government respond to them?
5. How democratic were the governments set up by the newly independent American states?
6. What were the major strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation government?
7. What were the major reasons why the government created by the Articles of Confederation was inadequate to respond to the problems facing the United States in this period?
CHAPTER VIII: CREATING THE CONSTITUTION
The Annapolis Convention
By mid-1786, the nation’s leaders recognized that coordinating the states’ commercial interests was essential to protecting the young country’s freedom and stability. The core of the rebellion then taking place in Massachusetts was economic, and American trade, which had long been depressed, was reaching new lows that year. A group of Virginia leaders meeting at George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon called for a meeting of the states to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss the economic situation and propose modest economic changes to the Articles of Confederation government.
Unhappily for the organizers, only five states sent delegations to the September meeting; indeed, not even the host state was represented. Given the sparse attendance, those present determined that it made no sense to seek any changes in the form of government, but they remained concerned about the nation’s economic, diplomatic and military problems. The delegates thus endorsed a plan by New York’s Alexander Hamilton calling for another meeting, this one to deal with full-scale reform of the governmental system created by the increasingly ineffective Articles of Confederation. The small group assembled at Annapolis then petitioned Congress to sanction such a meeting, which did so without great enthusiasm. On February 21, 1787, Congress adopted a resolution that appealed to all states to send representatives to Philadelphia for a convention that spring.
The Philadelphia Convention
The Constitutional Convention commenced on May 25, 1787 in Philadelphia, with representatives from all states except the ever-stubborn and isolated Rhode Island. From the beginning, there was widespread recognition that the Articles of Confederation was inadequate to its task, but there was far less agreement on how it could be altered. Nationalistic leaders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton saw the Philadelphia convention as an opportunity to overhaul the document. However, other delegates seemed interested only in making minor revisions; in fact, many delegates had been specifically instructed by their states to accept only minor changes to the Articles, not scrap it altogether. In issuing the call for the convention, Congress had provided little guidance, merely urging the states to attend a gathering that was “the most probable means of establishing in these states a firm national government.” The Congressional invitation noted that the meeting was for the “sole and express purpose of revising” the Articles, but that the convention was to report to Congress and the state legislatures “such alteration and provisions … as shall render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the government and the preservation of the Union.”
The assemblage in Philadelphia included most of the nation’s best and brightest and very few men who could be considered ordinary Americans. Indeed, as historian James McGregor Burns famously noted, “This was a convention of the well-bred, the well-fed, the well-read, and the well-wed.” However, there were a few notable absentees, including the aging Samuel Adams, who declined to attend, and the ever-independent Patrick Henry, who claimed to have “smelled a rat” and opted to stay home and focus on more local allegiances. Absent too were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, serving as ambassadors to Great Britain and France respectively, although their views were adequately represented by political soulmates Gourverneur Morris and James Madison. The nation’s greatest hero, George Washington, did attend, and the delegates quickly elected him president of the convention. The undertaking gained immediate stature because no American was more widely revered than Washington was. Although he was certainly not a political philosopher on the order of Jefferson or Franklin nor an orator such as Henry, Washington possessed innate leadership skills, had expressed his steadfast dedication to the revolutionary effort, and had sacrificed much for the union up to that point.
The guiding, but given the tremendous intellectual talent in attendance, by no means dominant force at the convention was James Madison. Embodying two fundamental truths, “knowledge is power” and “forewarned is forearmed,” the gentleman from Virginia came armed with not only prodigious knowledge about the workings of government but also a plan that was quickly presented to the convention by the leader of the Virginia delegation, Governor Edmund Randolph. The “Virginia Plan,” as it became known, served as the centerpiece of the subsequent debates that summer. Much to Madison’s dismay, his plan was immediately attacked from both sides. Some believed that the changes proposed did not make the new government strong enough to provide economic and military security. Others felt that the Virginia Plan was too sweeping in its changes and that it did not serve the best interests of their individual states or protect citizens’ natural rights.
The Crisis over Representation
Despite these attacks, the basic structure of the Virginia Plan survived to form the core of the resulting Constitution. It laid out a national government made up of three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial. The legislative was to be bicameral with the lower house elected by popular vote. These basic provisions were adopted without incident, but determining to how much representation each state would have in Congress would prove more problematic. The Virginia Plan called for population to be the sole factor in determining the number of representatives in Congress, thereby creating a system of “proportional representation” in which each state was represented according to its proportion of the total population. This plan naturally pleased the large states but alarmed the small states. The smaller states balked at this plan and offered their own version, known as the New Jersey Plan, which called for “equal representation,” that is, an equal number of representatives in Congress for each state. Although it was soundly rejected, it reflected the concerns of many about the possible domination by the larger states of the government and the nation. For nearly two months, the convention appeared to be deadlocked, and some feared that the convention would have to be dissolved.
Stuck in Philadelphia in the midst of a hot summer, unable even to open a window in the meeting room for fear that their deliberations would leak out in advance of the final decisions, the Founding Fathers struggled with both the details and the broad concepts of their master plan. Finally, prodded by Connecticut’s Roger Sherman, the delegates approved what came to be known as the Connecticut Compromise, or the Great Compromise. Under Sherman’s proposal, the large states would be given greater representation in the lower house, the House of Representatives, where membership would be based on population. The other chamber, the Senate, would have equal representation for all states, with each getting two seats. Revenue bills would have to originate in the people’s house, the House of Representatives, to ensure that the popular will was being followed.
Delegation of Powers
Although solving the riddle of proper representation was a major hurdle, it was only one of many that had to be surmounted. The question of how to divide power between the states and the national government remained unresolved. Despite the ineffectual nature of the central government under the Articles of Confederation, many delegates viewed any effort to shift authority to the national level with intense suspicion. At the same time, the staunch nationalists feared the impact of leaving any substantive power in the hands of the states. Here too, the delegates reached a compromise. Leaving the election of both the senators and the presidential electors to the states established a reasonable balance with the popularly elected House of Representatives. Moreover, the qualifications of state officials, the oversight of personal matters such as marriage and divorce, the establishment and maintenance of schools, and the regulation of commerce within individual states were left to the states themselves. The national government and the states would share the power to tax and to borrow money, which ensured that Congress would be able to oversee the national economy and states could look after their own commercial interests.
The delegates reserved many powers for the states, but it claimed some powers for the central government that were essential to protecting the country. Congress was granted the exclusive power to declare war, regulate immigration and naturalization, coin money, establish a lower court system, and regulate interstate commerce. In addition, the national legislature was given the authority to pass any laws considered “necessary and proper” to the proper running of the country. This controversial last provision was often called the “elastic clause” because it gave Congress the ability to expand its authority, as the needs of the country dictated. Furthermore, the experience of Shays’ Rebellion had convinced delegates to place limits on the states’ ability to act in certain economic areas. By prohibiting the states from imposing customs duties, issuing paper money or enacting legislation that might interfere with contractual obligations, they provided greater protection for property-owners.
The Executive and Judicial Branches
Given their experience with King George III, the question of a single executive caused the assembly in Philadelphia no small amount of consternation. Many argued that executive power should be divided between three or more men to prevent any one person from abusing his authority. However, the general assumption that George Washington would be the first man to hold the office helped assuage fears of a tyrannical single executive, at least in the short term. In the end, the delegates agreed that there should be one executive, called a President, but that he should have severe limitations placed on his authority. The President’s major appointments had to be approved by the Senate, his executive vetoes could be overridden, and he could be impeached and removed from office if he tried to exercise too much power. Indeed, the delegates made it clear that Congress and not the President would be the preeminent force in the new government.
Considering the fact that the Articles of Confederation had not provided for a functioning or powerful judicial branch, the creation of a judiciary in the Constitution could be seen as visionary or even revolutionary. In fact, the delegates derived most of their inspiration for the judicial branch from the traditions and institutions established in British common law. By and large, existing state courts would be left to deal with the majority of court cases. However, a Supreme Court was established to serve as the final authority in conflicts such as those between two states or those regarding constitutional issues. Congress was also given the power to establish lower national courts if necessary, which it did almost immediately after convening for the first time. Although the Supreme Court would come to, in the words of Chief Justice John Marshall, “say what the law is,” its power was just as limited as the President’s. Justices could be impeached and removed from office, and their rulings could be overturned by a constitutional amendment.
Other Issues Facing the Convention
Despite the ineffectual nature of the Articles, those in attendance in Philadelphia were clearly mindful of the potential for abuse that was inherent in unbounded concentrations of power. They were guided by two basic principles: separation of power and checks and balances. Authority at the national level was separated into the three branches, each with a means of limiting the power and influence of the other two branches. For example, the President was given the power to negotiate treaties and appoint judges, but Congress could choose reject the treaties or deny the judicial appointments. Congress could pass any bill it deemed “necessary and proper,” but the President could veto the bill and the Supreme Court could, theoretically, rule on its constitutionality. Some argued that this structure would make taking any action almost impossible, but others maintained that these safeguards simply made ill-considered action unlikely.
Slavery topped the list of controversial issues facing the delegates in Philadelphia. Opponents of slavery saw the Constitutional Convention as the perfect opportunity to live up to the sweeping proclamation in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” However, the pro-slavery delegates insisted that any attempt to abolish slavery would result in the departure from the convention—and the union—of those southern states in which slavery was essential to the economy. They argued that any limitation on slavery would infringe on slave owners’ property rights, a view that nearly split apart the convention as the issues of representation and taxation were discussed.
Delegates from states in which slavery was prohibited wanted representation in Congress to be based on a number that did not include the slave population, thereby increasing the representation of the free states. However, they wanted to count the slaves when it came to determining how much taxes each state should pay, which would place a greater tax burden on slave states. Not surprisingly, delegates from slaveholding states wanted just the opposite: slaves should be counted as people when determining representation, but not when levying taxes. After a long and contentious series of debates, the delegates resolved this dispute by passing the Three-Fifths Compromise, which established that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for both representation and taxation purposes. Delegates from slave-owning states also fended off attempts to abolish the slave trade, gaining a twenty-year reprieve before Congress was given the discretion to end that practice. In the end, the issue over slavery proved too large and divisive to be settled by the Constitutional Convention; indeed, the word “slave” does not even appear in the original text of the Constitution. Rather, the delegates were content to leave it to the states and to later generations to settle the question once and for all.
The document signed on September 17, 1787 was not perfect. Rather, it as the product of many compromise and carried the weaknesses inherent in such solutions. Indeed, three of the delegates—Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia—refused to sign the final document, fearing that it did not provide sufficient protection for the natural individual rights of the nation’s citizens. One final step remained before the Constitution could be implemented. It had to be ratified by the people. A skeptical public, kept in the dark since the convention had first met in May, had to be convinced that this document was a risk worth taking. As the delegates dispersed and headed home, ready to make their cases to their fellow statesmen, there was no guarantee that their fellow citizens would be convinced.
The Fight for Ratification
The debate over ratifying the United States Constitution was both practical and philosophical. Those for and against ratification argued forcefully in newspapers and in ratifying conventions, often quoting the words of Enlightenment philosophers to help their cause. Invariably, those in favor of ratification, who would come to be called Federalists, cited Thomas Hobbes in stressing the need for a strong central government. Hobbes claimed that humans were not good by nature, and, left to their own devices, they fail to act virtuously, falling into petty rivalries and selfishness. To the Federalists, the years of the Articles of Confederation government had proven this to be true; states had all the power and prestige yet refused to work together for the common good. Therefore, the new government had to be strong enough to protect the people and keep wayward states and citizens in line.
Those who opposed the United States Constitution would come to be called Anti-Federalists. To make the argument against the Constitution, Anti-Federalist leaders cited the philosophies of John Locke, the man who had inspired Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. To Locke, humans were good by nature, and government was necessary only as a means of protecting the natural rights of its citizens. The Anti-Federalists claimed that the Constitution granted too much power to the national government and diminished the importance of the individual states. An unchecked, overly powerful government could abuse the natural rights of citizens just as easily as the British had. Furthermore, Anti-Federalists objected not only to the provisions of the Constitution but also to the way in which the delegates had discarded the Articles of Confederation and surreptitiously replaced it with an entirely new document.
Clearly the Federalists had to campaign vigorously to win ratification by the nine states necessary to make the Constitution operative, but it was not a pitched battle in all locales. Some of the smaller states, satisfied with the equal representation they received in the Senate, jumped on board quickly. Tiny Delaware was the first to ratify, less than three months after the delegates in Philadelphia had finished their work. Pennsylvania, home to the convention, followed suit only days later, although Anti-Federalists accused the Federalists of using physical force and mob violence to sway the vote. In the end, however, Pennsylvania’s ratification vote served as a final tribute to its favorite son and the Constitutional Convention’s oldest delegate, Benjamin Franklin. In many ways, the Constitution represented the culmination of Franklin’s long-held dream of genuine American unity.
By the first days of 1788, conventions in New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut the Constitution, thus securing over half of the necessary nine votes. The debate over ratification was more heated in Massachusetts, where the residue of the revolution led many to significant distrust the sweeping national powers granted in the Constitution. To many, the proposed new system seemed to create great concentrations of power while appearing unmindful of individual liberties. Men such as Samuel Adams who had been so critical to the overthrow of the tyrannical British government had no interest in replacing the old royal tyranny with a new constitutional version. Fortunately for the advocates of the Constitution, the strongest potential opposition leaders, Adams and Gerry, opted to hold their fire. Although he stated his objections, Adams recognized that his home constituency of Boston favored the new plan, and he limited his activism. Gerry had refused to sign the document back in Philadelphia, but he had also played a significant role in drafting it and was not willing to lead an assault on his handiwork, however imperfect the final draft was. This lack of opposition leadership enabled the Federalists to gain momentum in their push for ratification.
The Federalists’ prospects improved markedly when John Hancock, whose attendance at the ratifying convention had been limited due to illness, recovered enough to lend his support to the Federalists. Although Hancock’s decision was probably influenced by the Federalists’ suggestion that they would support him for Vice President—or even President, should Washington’s Virginia fail to ratify—it proved pivotal. He was a wealthy and powerful man who had signed the Declaration of Independence, served as president of Congress, and earned renown more for his practical approach to politics than his ideological loyalties. With Hancock’s support, the Federalists were able to secure ratification, although Massachusetts became the first state to call for the adoption of amendments. Still, it was enough to turn the tide. Soon after, Maryland and South Carolina ratified the Constitution, and New Hampshire became the ninth state to join the union on June 21,1788.
With the necessary nine votes, the Constitution took effect in those states. However, the Federalists recognized that without its two largest states, Virginia and New York, the new nation would be little more than a shell of what they had envisioned when they had declared their independence over a decade before. In terms of economic and human resources, these two states were critical to any national venture. Even then, it was hard to imagine a United States whose population did not include the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, or Hamilton. Consequently, efforts were redoubled to persuade them to join. Virginia proved to be the easier challenge. The dynamic Patrick Henry had opposed ratification from the outset, but his talents and efforts were more oratorical than organizational. The Federalist forces led by James Madison, and ably complemented by the next generation of leaders, including the young lawyer and Revolutionary War veteran John Marshall, organized a campaign that narrowly secured ratification as the tenth state on June 25, 1788. Despite his defeat, Patrick Henry’s efforts did much to draw attention to the omission in the Constitution of a bill of rights. Other states had also called for the inclusion of a bill of rights as a series of amendments to the existing document, but few states or speakers had the influence of Patrick Henry. His warnings and protestations virtually assured the creation and adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791.
New York remained the last crucial state outside the Constitutional framework. Alexander Hamilton, however, was not going to allow himself or his state to be left out of this new nation. This tremendously ambitious man had worked too hard to secure a constitution that was sufficiently energetic to help the nation achieve the greatness that he envisioned. Joining with one of New York’s most respected statesmen, John Jay, Hamilton devised a plan to write articles which were to be printed in newspapers statewide in order to convince the people of New York of the benefits of ratification. Jay became ill early in the process, so Hamilton quickly enlisted the assistance of James Madison, and they completed the extensive series of eighty-five articles outlining the benefits of and need for the new Constitution. These articles, now referred to as the Federalist Papers, helped turn the tide of public opinion in New York toward ratification. After New York agreed to join the new Constitutional system, North Carolina, which had originally voted to reject the new Constitution, reconsidered and ratified. Finally, nearly three years after Delaware led the way, and over a year into the first term of President George Washington, Rhode Island voted to ratify the Constitution. The idea of national unity, first proposed by Benjamin Franklin back in 1754 was, by 1790, at last a reality.
The Federalists had maintained that no bill of rights would be necessary to protect the natural rights of American citizens under the new Constitution. However, they realized that, in the interest of national unity, they could stand to articulate those rights that would be forever protected. Written as a series of proposals by none other than James Madison himself, the Bill of Rights would be ratified by the states and thus become first ten amendments added to the Constitution. These amendments, addressing the natural rights of religion, speech, assembly, property, self-preservation and protection, and the rights of the accused, would come to stand as bulwarks against those who had designs of an oppressive government, and would become, in many ways, as vital to the success of the American system of government, as the original seven articles.
Chapter VIII Vocabulary Terms
New Jersey Plan
Separation of Powers
Checks and Balances
The Federalist Papers
Bill of Rights
Chapter VIII Review Questions
1. How did the Constitution attempt to correct the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation government? How does the Constitution differ from the Articles in terms of distribution of power?
2. In what ways did the Constitution respond to the abuses suffered by the colonists in the years leading up to the American Revolution?
3. Identify and discuss the significance of the following men in terms of the creation of the Constitution: George Washington, Roger Sherman, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph.
4. To what extent was the issue of slavery addressed at the convention? What were the long-term social and legal consequences of the Three-Fifths Compromise?
5. What were some of the major complaints about the Constitution offered by the Anti-Federalists? Specifically, what was the most significant omission?
6. Trace the ratification process. Why was so much time and energy spent writing the Federalist Papers after the ninth state had already ratified the Constitution?
The Mayflower Compact
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, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour 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 Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, 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 eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.
Mr. John Carver,
Mr. William Bradford,
Mr Edward Winslow,
Mr. William Brewster.
Mr. Samuel Fuller,
Mr. Christopher Martin,
Mr. William Mullins,
Mr. William White,
Mr. Richard Warren,
Mr. Steven Hopkins,
Mr. John Allerton,
The Declaration of Independence
In Congress July 4, 1776
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America
In General Congress Assembled
WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
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 to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great- Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.
HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.
HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.
HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.
HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.
HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of the Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and the Convulsions within.
HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.
HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.
HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.
HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us;
FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:
FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:
FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:
FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rules into these Colonies:
FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.
HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.
HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.
HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, ofall Ages, Sexes and Conditions.
IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.
NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Timeof Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.
WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, 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 that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Signed by ORDER and in BEHALF of the CONGRESS,
John Hancock, President
GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton.
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr., Thomas Lynch, junr., Arthur Middleton.
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross.
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read.
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris.
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark.
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, &c., Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.
The United States Constitution
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.
Section 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.
No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.
Section 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any state, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.
No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.
Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.
Section 4. The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.
Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.
Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.
Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.
Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;--And
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
Section 9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.
No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Section 10. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.
No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.
No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.
Section 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:
Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.
The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.
In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Section 2. The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
Section 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;-- between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
Section 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.
Section 2. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.
A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.
No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
Section 3. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.
The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.
Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.
Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
G. Washington-Presidt. and deputy from Virginia
New Hampshire: John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman
Massachusetts: Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King
Connecticut: Wm: Saml. Johnson, Roger Sherman
New York: Alexander Hamilton
New Jersey: Wil: Livingston, David Brearly, Wm. Paterson, Jona: Dayton
Pennsylvania: B. Franklin, Thomas Mifflin, Robt. Morris, Geo. Clymer, Thos. FitzSimons, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson, Gouv Morris
Delaware: Geo: Read, Gunning Bedford jun, John Dickinson, Richard Bassett, Jaco: Broom
Maryland: James McHenry, Dan of St Thos. Jenifer, Danl Carroll
Virginia: John Blair--, James Madison Jr.
North Carolina: Wm. Blount, Richd. Dobbs Spaight, Hu Williamson
South Carolina: J. Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, Pierce Butler
Georgia: William Few, Abr Baldwin
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