(The FRENCH, DUTCH and ENGLISH to AMERICA – continued)
With the rise of prosperity in England, most of those going from there to the colonies were sent by order of the courts. These were vagrants and others judged lewd or dangerous. Some people were given the choice of migrating to the Americas or being hanged, and after little thought they chose America. But not wanting such people, the Virginia colony passed a law prohibiting the acceptance of such importations.
Virginia had around 8,000 colonists in 1644, and by 1675 their number had grown to 23,000. Like most colonists from England they saw themselves as English. They bought their supplies from England. They preferred to dress according to the fashion in England. And they read English books.
Virginia society was marked by class differences, with the Church of England considered a part of social high standing. Many of the successful tobacco growers among the Virginians looked upon Puritans as subversives. Those with thousands of acres of land considered themselves aristocracy. Some tobacco growers possessed several hundred acres of land, while numerous others owned between 50 and 200 acres. Some of the latter had been indentured servants who had served their time during years long past. Many of those who were just recently freed from servitude did not have the opportunity to acquire land that the older freed men had. The large plantation owners did not want competition from more growers and sought to limit the opportunities of these others. The established plantation owners looked askance at the landless young men wandering the colony, fearing they would turn to crime. And the young men without property were likely to wander into what Europeans called the frontier – to establish themselves as best they could.
With the diminished supply of whites to work their plantations, and Indians unwilling to turn themselves into plantation slaves, the plantation owners of Virginia bought an increasing number of slaves from Africa, Virginia's slave population rising from around 2,000 in 1671 to around 4,000 in 1690. And by 1700 there were 16,000 blacks in Virginia – 28 per cent of what has been estimated as the 57,000 Virginia colonists in 1700.
Some plantation owners were unusually kind towards their slaves, but even they resorted to brutal methods to control recalcitrant slaves. Blacks who did not take to slavery might be punished by having a finger or arm cut off. But this diminished the productivity of the slave, and other punishments were used, whippings being the most common disincentive to disobedience. Whether the slaves received decent food or a roof that kept out most of the rain depended upon the master.
England's colony at Barbados was its major source of sugar and molasses. During the Cromwell era it was a refuge for royalists. In the 1660s, hard times hit the growers in Barbados, and some of them, and some Royalists, migrated to the Carolinas. In 1663, Charles created the Carolina Charter, giving to eight "true and absolute Lords Proprietors [sic]" control over territory south of Virginia. The proprietors were obliged to pay rent, or a tax, to the king and one fourth of all the gold and silver mined there. And they were free to establish government, churches, customs duties, to tax people and to suppress rebellion as they saw fit.
In trying to build their colonies in the Carolinas, the proprietors sought European settlers where they could get them. People willing to migrate were rare. It was a migrants market, with the colonial proprietors promising freedom of worship with "liberty of conscience" for all, a representative legislature and taxation by collective agreement.
A colony was begun at Clarendon, where some adventurers from the Massachusetts area and a few hundred migrants from Barbados had settled. The newly arrived colonists did not get along with the earlier settlers. There was trouble with the Indians, and in the late 1660s the colony collapsed, with people moving to another Carolina colony, at Albemarle, or north to Virginia, to the Massachusetts area, back to Barbados, and perhaps some settled in South Carolina.
Albemarle lacked a good harbor or navigable river. It was poorly run, and its land policy discouraged settlement. By the end of the century its settlers were to number only around 3,000. A most successful colony grew in South Carolina. There, at Charles Town, a fort had been built as protection from attack by Spaniards from St. Augustine. In South Carolina the nearby Kiawah branch of the Cusabo tribe welcomed the settlers as allies against Indians they were in conflict with – such as the Westoes. By 1671, however, the settlers in South Carolina were warring against other Indians who were hostile, who turned to the Spaniards in Florida as allies in hope of exterminating the new colony.
The colony in South Carolina had a good harbor and was closely linked more in trade with Barbados and other islands in the Caribbean. Climate in South Carolina was mild. The settlers began raising cattle, engaged in the fur trade and sold supplies to passing ships. In 1680 the colony was relocated as Charleston. Colonists built tobacco plantations and began growing rice, indigo and tropical fruits. The colony's leading exports were furs, lumber, rice, beef and pork. Some of the settlers were involved in exchanging captured Indians for sugar or for black slaves for the plantations that were developing.
The colony's proprietors offered large tracts of land to some wealthy Englishmen, one receiving 12,000 acres, another 35,800 acres. South Carolina was developing similar to Virginia, with many of the planters descended from English families of moderate wealth. By 1700 the number of black slaves in South Carolina was around 2,400. The Indians serving the Europeans as slaves numbered around 200. And the Europeans numbered around 3,300 (Francis Jennings, The Creation of America, p 44). This was only a little more than at Albemarle, but they tended to be more affluent.
Slavery was in greater demand where the slaves were needed in gangs at a common task and where the climate did not require expensive winter clothing and warm housing. The number of slaves in Massachusetts in 1680 has been estimated at 120. Most of them were domestic servants. Slaves in Massachusetts could own and inherit property, and whites and blacks were held to be equal before the law (except that the law permitted the slavery of blacks). Slaves could give testimony in court, and they had the right to counsel and due process.
The land in Massachusetts was harder than in Virginia and South Carolina and the farms smaller. The crop was mostly cereal, and most of the colonists were small farmers rather than plantation owners. New England farms did not produce much that could be sold for profit, and with little money to pay for imported good, New Englanders were encouraged to produce their own goods, including shoes, clothing and ironware, largely for their own use rather than trade. Britain's parliament forbade commercial manufacturing in the colonies, but it did permit shipbuilding. New England had more trees with which to build ships than did England, which had become deforested, and New England had the kinds of rivers on which logs could be moved to sawmills. As Kenneth Pomeranz and Stephen Topic write in The World that Trade Created, "the builders of ships became the users of ships." New Englanders became cod fishermen and then moved into whaling and merchant shipping. Merchant capitalism was developing in New England. A few people there engaged in money lending and banking, and a few began living off their investments, contributing to the formation of an upper class.
The Puritans in Massachusetts were still teaching that misfortune was punishment from God for sin. They saw the magic of God at work and also the magic of demons. People still believed in the supernatural powers of witches, and in 1691 the witchhunts that had occurred in Europe appeared in the area of Salem, where judicial authorities took seriously the accusations of witchery. During a four-month period, hundreds were arrested, 19 were hanged and one was pressed to death for refusing to plead guilty or not guilty.
By 1700, Harvard College was 64-years old, having been founded to serve the Massachusetts Bay Colony and to make literate Puritan ministers. Its charter expressed dedication to the "arts and sciences" and "the education of the English and Indian youth." Also in 1700, the Massachusetts colony passed a law ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave the colony within three months, upon penalty of life imprisonment or execution.
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.