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St. Augustine, The First Permanent European Settlement
Chesapeake Colonies
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The Puritan Experiment
Effort To Colonize Maine
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The Middle Colonies Also Frustrated English Visions Of An Empire Responsive To Command
On The Banks Of The James River
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The Plantation System
The Colonies Swarmed With Rogues, Tricksters, Impostors, And Con Men
Anglo–Powhatan War
The New World
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St. Augustine, The First Permanent European Settlement

The first Europeans to establish colonies in North America were the Spanish. In 1526 a Spaniard called Lucas Vasquez de Allyon attempted to found a colony in Carolina. (He also brought the first black slaves to North America). However the attempt failed. Many Spaniards died of disease and the survivors abandoned the colony. In 1565 Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded a settlement at St Augustine, Florida, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the USA.

The first English attempt to colonize North America was made by a man named Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In 1578 Queen Elizabeth granted him permission to establish a colony there. In 1583 Gilbert sailed with a small fleet of ships to Newfoundland. However Gilbert soon abandoned the venture. Gilbert was lost on the voyage home. However his half-brother, Walter Raleigh made another attempt to found a colony.

In 1584 he sent two ships to explore the coast. They found what they thought was a suitable place for a colony. In January 1585 Queen Elizabeth the 'Virgin Queen' allowed him to call the place Virginia, after her. In April 1585 an expedition was sent led by Richard Grenville. They arrived in July 1585. Grenville left men on Roanoke Island then left for England to obtain more men and supplies. However while he was gone the colonists ran very short of supplies. In 1586 the colonists abandoned Virginia and returned to England.

In 1587 another attempt to found a colony was made by a man named John White. He led an expedition of men, women and children to Virginia. However White returned to England to seek more support for the colony. Because of a war between England and Spain he was unable to return to Virginia until 1590. When he did he found the colony deserted. The fate of the colonists is unknown.

The first attempts to found a colony in North America were made by gentlemen adventurers. Success came only when a group of men joined together and pooled their resources to found a colony. The Virginia Company was founded in 1606. They sent two expeditions to North America. Raleigh Gilbert (Sir Humphrey Gilbert's son) led one of them. They landed in Maine but soon gave up. They returned to England in 1609. The second expedition founded Jamestown on 14 May 1607.

More settlers arrived in 1609. However shortage of food, disease and conflict with the natives caused many deaths among the colonists. In 1610 the survivors were on the verge of leaving. They were dissuaded from doing so only when more ships from England arrived. In 1611 Sir Thomas Dale became the Governor of the colony. He introduced strict discipline with a code of laws called 'Laws, Divine, Moral and Martial'. Penalties for disobedience were severe.

In 1612 a man named John Rolfe began growing tobacco. In 1614 the first Virginian tobacco was sold in England. Exports of tobacco soon became the mainstay of the Virginian economy. Gradually the colony expanded. In 1618 the Company offered 50 acres of land to anyone who could pay for the cost of their voyage across the Atlantic. If they could not pay they could become indentured servants. When they arrived they were not free. They had to work for the company for several years to pay back the cost of their passage. In 1619 twenty black indentured servants arrived in Virginia.

Also in 1619 the first representative government in North America was created when the House of Burgesses met. In 1624 the Virginia Company was dissolved and the Crown took over the colony. By 1660 the population of Virginia was 27,000. By 1710 it had risen to 78,000. However in 1699 the seat of government of Virginia was moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation (Williamsburg). Afterwards Jamestown went into decline.

Another English colony was founded 1620 by a group of people fleeing religious persecution. They disagreed with the teachings of the Church of England and wished to separate themselves from it not to reform it. However they did not actually call themselves 'pilgrims'. The colonists set out in a ship called the Mayflower and they arrived on 11 December 1620. Half of the colonists did not survive the first year in North America. The Natives who taught them how to grow crops saved the survivors. Another colony was founded at Salem in 1628.

The Massachusetts Bay Company was formed in 1629. From 1630 large numbers of settlers were transported to New England and its population swelled. Furthermore English colonists spread over the coast of North America. In 1634 people from Massachusetts founded the town of Wethersfield in Connecticut. In 1636 a group of people left the Massachusetts Bay colony and settled on Rhode Island. The first settlement was at Providence.

Meanwhile a fishing settlement was founded in New Hampshire in 1623. In 1629 the area between the Merrimack River and the Piscataqua River was granted to a man named Mason. It was named New Hampshire. Portsmouth, New Hampshire was founded in 1630. Officially New Hampshire was part of Massachusetts until 1679. Unlike the southern states, which were overwhelmingly agricultural New England developed a partly mercantile economy. Fishing was an important industry. Exports of timber and barrels were also important. There was also a ship building industry in New England.

The Europeans introduced many diseases to which the natives had little or no resistance. As a result many natives died and their number declined sharply. As the British colonies grew they inevitably came into conflict with the natives. The Pequot War was fought in 1637-1638 and it ended in the destruction of the Pequot tribe. Another desperate struggle took place in 1675-1676. Colonist?s heavy-handed treatment of the natives led to King Philip's War. King Philip was actually a native called Metacom and the war ended with his death. Although great damage was done on both sides the defeat of the natives effectively meant that the colonists now had mastery of New England.

In 1624 the Dutch West India Company founded a colony called New Netherland. The first settlement was at Fort Orange (Albany). In 1638 Swedes formed a colony at Fort Christina (Wilmington). The Dutch captured this colony in 1655 and made it part of New Netherland. The British captured New Netherland in 1664 and renamed it New York in honour of the king's brother the Duke of York. King Charles II granted the colony to his brother. He in turn granted the land between the Delaware and the Hudson to two men, Lord John Berkeley (1607-1678) and Sir George Carteret (1615-1680). Carteret came from the island of Jersey in the English channel and he named the area New Jersey after his home. In 1676 the colony was divided into East and West Jersey. Carteret took East Jersey. In 1681 his widow sold it to William Penn and 11 other Quakers. Penn hoped to turn this new colony into a haven of religious tolerance for Quakers and others. In 1682 the area now called Delaware was ceded to William Penn. In 1704 it was allowed its own assembly. However until the revolution Delaware and Pennsylvania shared a governor. Meanwhile East and West Jersey were reunited in 1702.

Maryland was founded as a haven for Catholics (though by no means all the early colonists were Catholic, some were Protestant). A man named Cecil Calvert was granted territory north of the Potomac River. His brother Leonard led 200 settlers there to found a colony in 1634. It was named Maryland after the king's wife, Henrietta Maria. By 1640 there were about 500 people in Maryland. It soon became another tobacco growing colony.

The Carolinas were settled after 1663 when Charles II granted them to 8 proprietors. Settlers came from islands in the Caribbean as well as from Virginia and New England. Charleston was founded in 1670. Carolina soon became a slave state. From the end of the 17th century many African slaves were transported to work on the plantations. In the early 18th century the African slave population in North America increased rapidly. In 1701 Carolina was divided into North and South Carolina. Georgia was founded in 1732 when George II gave it a charter. It was named after him. The first settlement in Georgia was Savannah, which was founded in 1733.

As the North American colonies grew tension with Britain was inevitable. The British felt that the colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country and this attitude was bound to cause resentment. As early as 1651 the British Parliament passed a navigation act. It stated that any goods grown or made outside Europe must be transported to England in English ships. Other Navigation Acts followed it. The 1660 Navigation Act stated that certain goods (cotton, indigo, sugar and tobacco) could only be exported from the colonies to England or to other colonies. It was followed by acts in 1670 and 1673. However the British made little attempt to enforce these acts and they were widely ignored by the colonists. (After 1763 the British tried to enforce them more rigorously, causing great resentment among the colonists).

In the early 18th century the population of the North American colonies grew rapidly. It was probably about 300,000 at the end of the 17th century but by 1760 it was over 1 million. By 1780 it had doubled. In the early 18th century the population was boosted by immigrants from Northern Ireland (most of them descended from Scottish Presbyterians). There were also many immigrants from Scotland itself. Also in the early 18th century there were many German immigrants. Land was cheap in North America and it attracted many people hoping for a better life.

However relations between the colonists and the mother country turned sour after 1763. The British had just finished fighting the Seven Years War against France. They had won Canada but the war was very expensive. The British were keen to prevent any wars with the Native Americans, which might prove expensive. In 1763 a royal proclamation known as the Great Proclamation sought to ban any further westward expansion. It forbade people to settle in 'any lands beyond the heads or sources of any of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the West or Northwest'. This proclamation was ignored by the colonists but it also caused great resentment. The colonists objected to being told by the British government that they could not expand westwards.

Furthermore in 1763 Americans paid few taxes, certainly less than the British. The British felt that the Americans should pay a greater contribution towards the cost of their defense. In 1764 the British Prime Minister, George Grenville, passed the Sugar Act. (So called because it affected imports of molasses from the West Indies. Its proper name was the American Revenue Act.) The act actually reduced duty on molasses but steps were taken to make sure it was collected! (smuggling was widespread). The Sugar Act antagonized the Americans and they were alienated further by the Currency Act of 1764. The colonies were printing their own money because of a shortage of currency but the act banned the issue of paper money in the American colonies (and so hindered trade).

However most offence was caused by the Stamp Act of 1765 which imposed duty on legal documents, newspapers and playing cards. It was not just that the Americans hated paying the tax but that they felt a constitutional issue was involved. They believed that since they were not represented in the British parliament it had no right to impose taxes on them. In the immortal phrase 'no taxation without representation'. The Stamp Act soon proved to be unenforceable. Colonial assemblies denounced it and in October 1765 a number of colonies sent delegates to a 'Stamp act Congress' to organize resistance. Imports of British goods were boycotted and debts to British merchants were suspended. Rioters attacked tax collectors and their property. Eventually in March 1766 the British were forced to repeal the Stamp Act. However at the same time they passed the Declaratory Act, which said that parliament was sovereign over all American colonies. This stupid act simply annoyed and antagonized the colonists.

Moreover the British had learned nothing. In 1767 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, imposed duties on lead, glass, paint, oil and tea. Once again the colonists boycotted imports of British goods and once again the British government was forced to back down. By March 1770 all duties except those on tea were removed. However American public opinion was galvanized by the 'Boston massacre' of March 1770. - By Tim Lambert

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Along The Atlantic Coast | St. Augustine, The First Permanent European Settlement | Chesapeake Colonies | New England Colonies | The Puritan Experiment | Effort To Colonize Maine | Middle Colonies | The Middle Colonies Also Frustrated English Visions Of An Empire Responsive To Command | Virginia English Colony On The Banks Of The James River | Southern Colonies | The Plantation System | The Colonies Swarmed With Rogues, Tricksters, Impostors, And Con Men | Anglo–Powhatan War | The New World
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