Chapter 5: Colonial Society on the Eve of Revolution 1700-1775

  • Britain had 32 colonies, including Canada, Jamaica, and the Floridas.
  • The 13 "American" colonies revolted for independence for certain reasons...

Conquest by the Cradle:

  • Population growth - black slaves, white immigrants, having kids like crazy! Average age was 16.
  • America population was catching up with England - slow power shift.
  • Most populous colonies: Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Maryland.
  • 90% lived in rural areas

A Mingling of the Races:

  • 6% German (fleeing religious persecution, economic depression). Protestants, "Pennsylvania Dutch"
  • 7% Scots-Irish (fled economic depression). Maryland, Virginia, Carolinas. "Great wagon road." Fought w/ Indians. March of the Paxton Boys on Philadelphia - protested Quaker's leniency towards Indians.
  • 5% French Huguenots, Welsh, Dutch, Swedes, Jews, Irish, Swiss and Scots Highlanders.
  • 20% African
  • South: black-white, North: Puritan, least diversity, Middle: white immigrants

The Structure of Colonial Society:

  • Most people small farmers - not difficult to ride social ladder
  • Rich elite in New England - 10% of Bostonians and Philadelphians owned 2/3 of taxable wealth in their cities
  • Some, but few, destitute - almshouses. Homeless people had to wear P on their clothes.
  • Plantation and slave-owners became rich, gap widened -> indentured servants
  • "Jayle birds" 50,000 shipped to America - riffraff (paupers and convicts)
  • Black slaves - colonists feared slave revolts - wanted to slow slave trade - British vetoed.

The Scots-Irish:

  • Scottish lowlands -> Northern Ireland -> New world
  • 1600s - poverty in the Scottish lowlands.
  • Most came to Pennsylvania (religious tolerance and abundant land)
  • Backcountry of Virginia, Carolinas, Georgia
  • Presbyterian - churches - against Anglicans

Clerics, Physicians, and Jurists:

  • Christian ministry: most honored profession
  • Physicians - poorly trained and not highly esteemed
  • Epidemics - smallpox (powdered dried toad was treatment!) - Diphtheria
  • Lawyers not esteemed (drunkards, noisy windbags)

Workaday America:

  • Agriculture - 90% of people
  • South Chesapeake area: tobacco and now wheat
  • Middle - "breadbasket" grain!
  • New England: fishing (and whaling)
  • Commerce: New england - molasses for rum. Gold Coast Africa - rum for slaves. West Indies - slaves for molasses.
  • Skilled craftspeople highly prized
  • Lumbering - most important manufacturing activity
  • Made ship parts for British navy - trade imbalance with Britain - seeking foreign markets.
  • Traded w/ France and West Indies => Molasses Act - squelch trade with French West Indies => bribing and smuggling.

Horsepower and Sailpower:

  • No roads until the 1700s - dirt roads -travel very slow
  • Waterways more useful
  • Taverns - all social classes would mingle
  • Intercolonial postal system

Dominant Denominations:

  • 2 tax-supported churches: Anglican and Congregational
  • Church of England official faith in Georgia and N&S Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, part of NY. - church softened.
  • Congregational (=> Puritans) New England. Rebels.
  • Religious toleration for the most part - few Catholics - they were discriminated.

The Great Awakening:

  • Religion cooled down - droning preachers - more liberal about congregations - new ideas like Arminians (free will, not predestination).
  • The Great Awakening: 1730s and 1740s: Pastor Jonathan Edwards (God's grace, not good works). Passion for religion. Hell, hell, HELL!
  • George Whitefield: amazing orator. Preached spiritual awakening and human helpfulness, excited people!
  • Emotion in religion: "new light" - Baptist churches
  • Schisms set off

Schools and Colleges:

  • English tradition was that education was for male aristocrats.
  • New England most interested in education. Religious reasons (individuals should read the Bible).
  • Cambridge in England = the best. New England: some primary and secondary schools.
  • South: population spread out, public schools hard. Wealthy=> private tutors.
  • Education religious, not logical. Severe punishment.
  • 9 colleges in the colonies: religious -> slowly moved towards important stuff.
  • Ben Franklin -> U of Penn (nonreligious)

A Provincial Culture:

  • No time for the arts
  • John Trumbull - painter, CT
  • Charles Wilson Peale - museum, portraits of G. Washington
  • Benjamin West and John Singleton Copely - famous painters, but had to go to England to study.
  • Architecture - slightly altered from Old World. Red-bricked Georgia style from VA.
  • Phillis Wheatly: former slave, wrote book of poetry
  • Ben Franklin: Poor Richard's Almanack - 2nd most read to the Bible in America
  • Science - slow -Ben Franklin - kite lightning, bifocal spectacles.

Pioneer Presses:

  • Ben Franklin - first library
  • Hand-operated printing presses - pamphlets, newspapers
  • John Peter Zenger: newspaper printer. 1734-35: accused royal governer of NY "seditious libel." Lawyer Andrew Hamilton. Not guilty! Steps beginning freedom of the press.

The Great Game of Politics:

  • 8 colonies under royal governers, 3 (MD, PA, DE) under proprietors, 2 (CT, RI) under their own elected governors.
  • 2-house legislation, upper house =royal. lower house = elected by people.
  • Self-taxation
  • Lord Cornbury - English gov of NY and NJ - drunkard and fool.
  • Assemblies would hold Governor's salaries until he succumbed to their wishes.
  • London government - poor administration
  • south: county government
  • New England: town-meetings
  • Middle: modification of the two
  • Religious and property qualifications for voting
  • Much more democratic than England/Europe, but not a democracy yet.


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