Early American History

Please write essays of about 2 pages each on four of the following questions.  As much as possible, please avoid repeating the same information in more than one essay.  Provide a picture for each of your essays and explain how the picture helps us.

  1. Southern Colonies.  Describe some of the Southern settlements that became English colonies in the 1600s.  What do you find most remarkable about Virginia and other early colonies?  How did slavery become such a major part of the society in the South?
  1. Puritans and Quakers.  Compare the Puritan colonies in New England with the Quaker colony in Pennsylvania.  What similarities or differences do you see between these two religious movements?   Do you think religion was a factor in the success of both areas?
  1. Spanish Missions.  What do you find remarkable about the Spanish mission era in California in the late 1700s?  Do you see California in the 1700s as similar to the British colonies of the same era, or do you see California as a different strand of our history?
  • Britain v. America.  How did the colonists manage to gain independence, fighting against the powerful British Empire?

Early American History

Question One: Southern Colonies

The Southern Colonies were established during the 16th and 17th century by the British. One of the colonies was Maryland; Gorge Calvert founded this colony in 1634 after receiving a charter. This territory was intended to give refuge to Catholics but since the protestant population was quite significant, they were able to take control of it.Carolina though chartered in 1629 had the first English settlement in 1653. Immigrants from New England, Bermuda and Virginia Colony settled majorly along the northeastern corner in the current North Carolina (Housel 5). The north and south operated independently at that time because of their remoteness but this was until 1691when a common governor was appointed to head the entire province.

Virginia is the oldest English colony in North America as it had existed from the 16th century. Richmond, a city in Virginia which is a seaport facilitated trade with Africa, Caribbean and Europe (Armstrong 66). Georgia which was the last to be established was given a charter in 1732 acted as buffer state between South Carolina which was prosperous with cash crops and Spanish Florida this had foreign enemies. The region was situated at a prime location along the coastal line; this means that the region was easily accessible by ship. More importantly the region was endowed with natural resource which included; fertile soils, abundant fuel and raw materials and the good climatic conditions favored farming. The region being adjacent to the sea meant that the travelers would access sea foods. All these made the region attractive to the British Settlers. The southern colonies had a significant commercial advantage to the British Empire. Tobacco and rice exports from the region contributed to the region’s rapid economic growth (Housel 3). The American colonies provided a market for products from Britain.  

The southern region was an enormous producer of tobacco. This was the main cash crop in the region and a luxury product which had a huge and lucrative market in the European soil. It therefore, required reliable and intensive labor.  The Indians were the first category to be enslaved in the tobacco farms but they were most often succumbed to illnesses while others ran away into hiding. Due to the impending labor shortage at the tobacco farms, it became necessary that the farm contracted servants who were majorly the poor Irish and British people. They were subjected to unfavorable working conditions and would work up to seven years without any pay. Africans also arrived in Virginia as contract workers and worked together with the white servants on plantations (Roark). They would socialize and ended up in interracial marriages. Their unity threatened the sovereignty of the authorities as they would sometimes rebel against land owners; this created a need for slaves. The planters bought slaves that had been imported so that they could be in a position fully control them as they owned them as their property.

This need for the colonies to meet commercial expectations greatly influenced the manner in which commerce was conducted. For instance, as mentioned above, the presence of large plantations coupled with the demand for produce resulted in the demand for labor, which was readily met through slave trade (Armstrong 82). Rice, tobacco, and eventually cotton greatly contributed towards the development of slavery in British colonies. This picture portrays some of the farms in which slaves were forced to work. The vastness of the plantations underpins the great need for slaves that existed at the time.

(Colonial America)

Question Two: Puritans and Quakers

New England was dominated by Puritans who lived by strict religious rules. Other forms of religion were not tolerated; they did not believe in religious freedom. To be baptized and to partake of the Holy Communion was a Puritan way of practice. They focused on being wholly devoted to God. In essence, the settlements established within this colony were based on religion, and as such religious observation and commitment was greatly valued, which in turn greatly influenced the way of life in New England (Butler 33). Puritans were non-separatist in nature, which limited the establishment of many congregations in the colony. This not only limited movement, but also facilitated control. In the Quaker colony, their religion was less severe and more accommodating. Their region was characterized by religious freedom, much unlike New England. It was also dominated by black slaves who did not take part in church activities most of the time. They unlike the Puritans did not believe or administer any sacraments.

The economy under the Quaker leadership was heavily dependent on the tobacco industry which relied on slaves. The owners of tobacco plantations would engage in slave trade from the money they earned in order to acquire more slaves and increase production. The need to continuously improve production greatly influenced the stance that many individuals in Pennsylvania, Quakers included, took concerning slavery and slave trade. This created a cycle that promoted increased slave trade and improved productivity. The New England economy on the other hand was based on farming, shipbuilding and fishing. This was largely influenced by the Dutch populace that had settled in New England after migrating from the Netherlands. Since the religion focused so much on family, their lives were also focused on the basic family unit. In this respect, farming activities were carried out in small scale to support one’s own family. By relying on subsistence farming, the economy grew at a relatively slower pace compared to other colonies such as Pennsylvania (Rivett and Kirk 73).

The puritans integrated their religion with the political structure. The government was influenced by theocracy and leaders depended on divine guidance. Those who disagreed religiously were punished harshly. Their religious beliefs were used to establish the laws. They allowed only the men to vote for community leaders (Roark). Quakers, on the other hand, were keen to follow practices that did not violate their beliefs. They did not approve violence in any way and upheld equality. Women in Quaker churches were allowed to take up leadership roles. The Quakers showed great concern for the African-Americans and even supported abolition of slavery. These picture on the right depicts William Penn’s meeting with the Indians while the one on the left depicts the arrival of Puritans in New England. Both of these occasions were significant in the history of Puritans and Quakers.

(Source: Pennsylvania Heritage) 

(Source: End-Time Pilgrim)

Question Three: Spanish Missions

The Spanish mission era is arguably one of the most exciting times in the history of the US, particularly due to the developments that were witnessed during this period. First off, it must be understood that unlike the other British colonies during and before the era, the Spanish missions were a manifestation of the progress that religion made in the US. While many of the previous settlers had come to the colonies as a result of escaping some form of religious persecution, the Spanish missions were driven by the sole desire of spreading Christianity, and in particular Catholicism (Suben 27). During the early ears of this era, many missions were established by the missionaries, but were interestingly turned over to secular clergies. It is worth noting that the vast area that California covered played a central role in this. Missionaries such as Gaspar de Portola and Junipero Serra were forced to travel long distances while establishing abundant and closely spaced missions (Higgins, Sherman and Stratford 45). Seeing as they could effectively man all of these missions, they employed the use of secular clergy to maintain control over the missions and the mission lands.

            This was significantly different from British colonies who established settlements with the main aim of actually settling within the regions they chose. Unlike the Spanish missionaries that were driven by the need to establish missions, the English settlers were driven by the need to establish colonies, which would easily be used for economic gain (Higgins, Sherman and Stratford 91). While the Spanish missions also served this purpose, it was not the main reason for their establishment, unlike colonies which were established with the core purpose of profit. As such, this made the approaches of the English settlers and the Spanish missionaries very different, and the result was also seen in the interactions that these two groups had with the native inhabitants.

            As the late 1700s approached, the British colonies and the Spanish missions could never have been more different. While there was an increasing call for contract workers and slaves to work on plantations in the British colonies, the Spanish missions were focused on their secularization (Suben 66). With increasing calls for missions to be secularized to accommodate a wide array of immigrants from various ethnicities and religions. While this may have cut short the impact of the missions in California, it is one of the most significant periods in American history (Roark). At a time when many of the colonies were keen on acquiring slaves, this region remained largely aloof of this fact, and instead focused on the development of the region into what resembles a cosmopolitan region of the day. I confer that the Spanish missions are a completely different strand of American history. This is because these missions shared very little or no resemblance to British colonies in terms of principle, management, and habitation.

            It is this ability to remain different and authentic during a tumultuous time that makes the Spanish missions a special part of American heritage. They existed in a fashion that demonstrated independence and principle, as opposed to conformity and exploitative commerce, which largely characterized many of British colonies at the time. However, this does not mean that Spanish missions were unprofitable. At the height of their power, they have vast lands and many possessions, and their independence essentially characterized the positive traits of this historic period. Below is a picture showing the various missions established in California by the Spanish. Their abundance signifies the success the missions enjoyed.

(History 383 )

Question Four: Britain v. America

Britain’s military was well equipped; the soldiers were fed and paid well and were well disciplined making it unbeatable. The British military was funded by the empire but the American troops were not funded well enough to obtain basic supplies. The economic state of the American colonists was not in order; the value of their currency had less worth because the national government lacked power and therefore could not unify the states (Roark). Despite this the American troops had various advantages over the British troops. They were determined to gain their freedom even with an inexperienced military and political leadership in place. Their strong will to resist Since the British were fighting away from home, they required supplies and additional troops from home and this would sometimes take months. This war became expensive to the British and some of its citizens even began to question its necessity.

British efforts were greatly hindered by geographical vastness of the colonies they ruled despite taking control of the major cities. The troops were not enough to occupy a large territory (Huff 58). Recruitment had been carried out and this included troops from allied states but they did not make it to North America to help launch what would be a decisive blow. This gave the American rebels an advantage. In regards to that, the British army faced mental and physical exhaustion.

It is also worth noting that seeing as America had only recently declared independence when the war broke out, there was no established center of power within the entire country. This made it extremely difficult for the British to launch decisive attacks on rebel forces, seeing as the forces were scattered over various locations and in vast regions (Neimeyer 111). The result was that British forces stretched themselves thinly while waging battles on many fronts, which significantly contributed to their defeat. Had there been a central power location, say like a capital, then the British would have inflicted significant damage to rebel forces during the war. The Master, that is, the British Government and troop commanders lacked confidence in the subject loyalty. Better intelligence services, military force and even necessary supplies would have been cheaply, adequately and conveniently sourced locally. It is observed that a lot of time was wasted sourcing and training army troops all the way from Britain to fight in the war.

Another significant factor that led to American victory over the British colonist was the French support. During the war, the French massively chipped in through reinforcing the American military troops by her own as well as supplying and covering the cost of gunpowder used. To the American side this was tremendous help that had a good impact. Other nations which included Netherlands and Spain who were also fighting against the British, helped divert the British attention and resources from America thereby weakening them further as a result giving America an upper hand towards winning the war.

At the time of the American war the then British Prime Minister was ideologically inconsistent with all the parties involved. In this case the military situation did not match the objectives he relayed (Roark). This escalated parliamentary opposition towards the war at the same time cropping up sympathizers who never saw the war as fit to be fought any longer.

Britain would have easily and conveniently found a solution to the American war had they taken the political approach rather than fighting the colonies since in this way they lost the subjects’ loyalty. Below is a picture depicting the British marching against the colonists. In spite of their numbers, they were still unable to defeat the colonists.

(British Army in Concord)

Work Cited

Armstrong, Catherine. Landscape And Identity In North America’s Southern Colonies From

1660 To 1745. Routledge, 2016. Print.

Butler, Jon. New World Faiths: Religion In Colonial America. Oxford: Oxford University Press,

2008. Print.

Higgins, Nadia, Jill Sherman, and Nicola Stratford. Spanish Missions: Forever Changing The

People Of The Old West. Britannica Digital Learning, 2014. Print.

Housel, Debra J. Leveled Texts: Southern Colonies. Teacher Created Materials, 2014. Print.

Huff, Randall. The Revolutionary War Era. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.

Neimeyer, Charles Patrick. The Revolutionary War. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007.


Rivett, Sarah and Stephanie L Kirk. Religious Transformations In The Early Modern Americas.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. Print.

Roark, James L. The American Promise: A Concise History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014.


Suben, Eric. The Spanish Missions Of Florida. New York: Children’s Press, 2010. Print.



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