By 1640 the British had solid colonies established
along the New England coast and the Chesapeake Bay. In between were
the Dutch and the tiny Swedish community. To the west were the original
Americans, the Indians.
Sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, the Eastern
tribes were no longer strangers to the Europeans. Although Native
Americans benefitted from access to new technology and trade, the
disease and thirst for land which the early settlers also brought
posed a serious challenge to the Indian's long-established way of
At first, trade with the European settlers brought
advantages: knives, axes, weapons, cooking utensils, fish hooks and
a host of other goods. Those Indians who traded initially had significant
advantage over rivals who did not.
In response to European demand, tribes such as the
Iroquois began to devote more attention to fur trapping during the
17th century. Furs and pelts provided tribes the means to purchase
colonial goods until late into the 18th century.
Early colonial-Indian relations were an uneasy mix
of cooperation and conflict. On the one hand, there were the exemplary
relations which prevailed during the first half century of Pennsylvania's
existence. On the other were a long series of setbacks, skirmishes
and wars, which almost invariably resulted in an Indian defeat and
further loss of land.
The first of the important Indian uprisings occurred
in Virginia in 1622, when some 347 whites were killed, including a
number of missionaries who had just recently come to Jamestown. The
Pequot War followed in 1637, as local tribes tried to prevent settlement
of the Connecticut River region.
In 1675 Phillip, the son of the chief who had made
the original peace with the Pilgrims in 1621, attempted to unite the
tribes of southern New England against further European encroachment
of their lands. In the struggle, however, Phillip lost his life and
many Indians were sold into servitude.
Almost 5,000 kilometers to the west, the Pueblo Indians
rose up against the Spanish missionaries five years later in the area
around Taos, New Mexico. For the next dozen years the Pueblo controlled
their former land again, only to see the Spanish retake it. Some 60
years later, another Indian revolt took place when the Pima Indians
clashed with the Spanish in what is now Arizona.
The steady influx of settlers into the backwoods regions
of the Eastern colonies disrupted Indian life. As more and more game
was killed off, tribes were faced with the difficult choice of going
hungry, going to war, or moving and coming into conflict with other
tribes to the west.
The Iroquois, who inhabited the area below Lakes Ontario
and Erie in northern New York and Pennsylvania, were more successful
in resisting European advances. In 1570 five tribes joined to form
the most democratic nation of its time, the "Ho-De-No-Sau-Nee," or
League of the Iroquois. The League was run by a council made up of
50 representatives from each of the five member tribes. The council
dealt with matters common to all the tribes, but it had no say in
how the free and equal tribes ran their day-to-day affairs. No tribe
was allowed to make war by itself. The council passed laws to deal
with crimes such as murder.
The League was a strong power in the 1600s and 1700s.
It traded furs with the British and sided with them against the French
in the war for the dominance of America between 1754 and 1763. The
British might not have won that war without the support of the League
of the Iroquois.
The League stayed strong until the American Revolution.
Then, for the first time, the council could not reach a unanimous
decision on whom to support. Member tribes made their own decisions,
some fighting with the British, some with the colonists, some remaining
neutral. As a result, everyone fought against the Iroquois. Their
losses were great and the League never recovered.
OF BRITISH COLONIES
The religious and civil conflict in England in the
mid-17th century limited immigration, as well as the attention the
mother country paid the fledgling American colonies.
In part to provide for the defense measures England
was neglecting, the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut and New
Haven colonies formed the New England Confederation in 1643. It was
the European colonists' first attempt at regional unity.
The early history of the British settlers reveals
a good deal of contention -- religious and political -- as groups
vied for power and position among themselves and their neighbors.
Maryland, in particular, suffered from the bitter religious rivalries
which afflicted England during the era of Oliver Cromwell. One of
the casualties was the state's Toleration Act, which was revoked in
the 1650s. It was soon reinstated, however, along with the religious
freedom it guaranteed.
In 1675 Bacon's Rebellion, the first significant revolt
against royal authority, broke out in the colonies. The original spark
was a clash between Virginia frontiersmen and the Susquehannock Indians,
but it soon pitted the common farmer against the wealth and privilege
of the large planters and Virginia's governor, William Berkeley.
The small farmers, embittered by low tobacco prices
and hard living conditions, rallied around Nathaniel Bacon, a recent
arrival from England. Berkeley refused to grant Bacon a commission
to conduct Indian raids, but he did agree to call new elections to
the House of Burgesses, which had remained unchanged since 1661.
Defying Berkeley's orders, Bacon led an attack against
the friendly Ocaneechee tribe, nearly wiping them out. Returning to
Jamestown in September 1676, he burned it, forcing Berkeley to flee.
Most of the state was now under Bacon's control. His victory was short
lived, however; he died of a fever the following month. Without Bacon,
the rebellion soon lost its vitality. Berkeley re-established his
authority and hanged 23 of Bacon's followers.
With the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, the
British once again turned their attentions to North America. Within
a brief span, the first European settlements were established in the
Carolinas and the Dutch driven out of New Netherland. New proprietary
colonies were established in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The Dutch settlements had, as a general matter, been
ruled by autocratic governors appointed in Europe. Over the years,
the local population had become estranged from them. As a result,
when the British colonists began encroaching on Dutch lands in Long
Island and Manhattan, the unpopular governor was unable to rally the
population to their defense. New Netherland fell in 1664. The terms
of the capitulation, however, were mild: the Dutch settlers were able
to retain their property and worship as they pleased.
As early as the 1650s, the Ablemarle Sound region
off the coast of what is now northern North Carolina was inhabited
by settlers trickling down from Virginia. The first proprietary governor
arrived in 1664. A remote area even today, Ablemarle's first town
was not established until the arrival of a group of French Huguenots
In 1670 the first settlers, drawn from New England
and the Caribbean island of Barbados, arrived in what is now Charleston,
South Carolina. An elaborate system of government, to which the British
philosopher John Locke contributed, was prepared for the new colony.
One of its prominent features was a failed attempt to create a hereditary
nobility. One of the colony's least appealing aspects was the early
trade in Indian slaves. Within time, however, timber, rice and indigo
gave the colony a worthier economic base.
Massachusetts Bay was not the only colony driven by
religious motives. In 1681 William Penn, a wealthy Quaker and friend
of Charles II, received a large tract of land west of the Delaware
River, which became known as Pennsylvania. To help populate it, Penn
actively recruited a host of religious dissenters from England and
the continent -- Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, Moravians and Baptists.
When Penn arrived the following year, there were already
Dutch, Swedish and English settlers living along the Delaware River.
It was there he founded Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love."
In keeping with his faith, Penn was motivated by a
sense of equality not often found in other American colonies at the
time. Thus, women in Pennsylvania had rights long before they did
in other parts of America. Penn and his deputies also paid considerable
attention to the colony's relations with the Delaware Indians, ensuring
that they were paid for any land the Europeans settled on.
Georgia was settled in 1732, the last of the 13 colonies
to be established. Lying close to, if not actually inside the boundaries
of Spanish Florida, the region was viewed as a buffer against Spanish
incursion. But it had another unique quality: the man charged with
Georgia's fortifications, General James Oglethorpe, was a reformer
who deliberately set out to create a refuge where the poor and former
prisoners would be given new opportunities.