A Concise History Of The United States
Part 1




The “new world” was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, who headed an expedition of three ships which landed in the island area (either at Samana Cay or San Salvador) we now know as the "Caribbean" area if our hemisphere. A few years later another expedition headed by a man named Amerigo landed on what is now known as Florida and as a result of his discovery of the great land mass, that continent was named for him and called America.

In the early 1600’s King James of Great Britain commissioned expeditions to settle Virginia and start plantations, which was organized, financed and managed by the London Company, later named the Virginia Company. By today’s standards this operations is something like a limited partnership in which wealthy people and companies invested money in the Virginia Company and would see a return on their investment if things went as planned, but had no liabilities beyond their capital risk. Things did not go as planned and the settlers, who founded a colony at Jamestown inland and up the Hudson river, died like flies due to disease, cold winters, starvation and Indian attacks.

Back in England a group of separatists from the Church of England contracted with the Virginia Company to settle in that area and set sail on the Mayflower, reaching the United states in 1620, but far off course due to poor navigation.

Since their charter was for a settlement in Virginia, but they found themselves in Plymouth, Massachusetts as winter was just starting, they adopted the attitude that there they were and there they’d stay! So, the elders created their own charter which became known as the Plymouth Compact, in which they agreed to start a colony in good faith for King James of England, to be run by them, of course. These “Pilgrims” as we’ve come to refer to them, made friends with the local Indians who taught them how to plant corn and other vegetables in the following year after the hard winter killed off a lot of Pilgrims from starvation. As a result of their cooperative effort with the Indians the start of their second year was very promising and after their harvest they established a day of thanks and cooperation with the local Indians, which is the origin of Thanksgiving Day in October of each year in the United States.

Another colony in Massachusetts, at what is now the Massachusetts Bay area, came from another group of religious separatists called Puritans. John Winthrop and some of his wealthy compatriots, petitioned King James to give them a charter in the new world. Winthrop, who was to be governor of that colony, and his followers managed to get a clause taken out of their charter, which went unnoticed by King James. This clause allowed them the freedom to govern the colony on their own terms instead of on the terms of England. So, when the colony was established they quickly formed a liberal government in which 40% of the men in the colony had a vote, so long as they were old enough an a member of the church congregation. These became known as freedmen and they were able to select and elect their own Governor and other members of government for the local and regional areas.

In 1624 the Virginia Company was dissolved and King James instituted a local government called The House of Burgesses, headed by an appointed governor. Power in the House of Burgesses was vested in the most wealthy and powerful men in the Virginia who then dictated policy to everyone else.

King James also granted a colony area to Lord Baltimore (Sir George Calvert) in the Maryland area for the Catholics displeased with the Anglican Church of England and the power it now held in that country, however Protestants also settled in this area along with the Catholics from England.

James declared Baltimore sole owner and ruler of this area and Baltimore established a feudal land system in which people and companies were allowed to buy parcels of land ("fiefs" or towships, bought from the Lord and ruler). Those who bought 6,000 acres (roughly 60 square miles or a square about 8 miles wide on either side) got to establish their own local courts of law and administer the area as Lord of the Manor. Many river front plantations began this way, with each Lord administrating the laws as they saw fit. The local Indians were not as hostile as they were in parts of the Virginia colony -- especially up the Hudson River area by Jamestown -- so the people of Maryland enjoyed a good working relationship with the indigenous natives. Lord Baltimore sent a family member, Leonard Calvert, to be co-proprietor of the Maryland colony. After a while a Parliamentary form of government evolved.

Most of the local government was done with a two chamber house that worked on local laws and local matters under the supervision of a Governor hand picked by King James (except in Massachusetts where the Pilgrims and Puritans had a certain amount of autonomy that was known by the King and tolerated because they were still loyal subjects, so he did not impose a Governor to rule them at this time).

Only business owners and wealthy men were in “government” during these times and they dictated the rules and laws for everyone else.

The major export in these times was tobacco and initially Holland (the Netherlands) was the major importer and exporter due to their shipping fleet and ports. By 1660, however, Britain had passed laws that required all trade between the British Colonies and Europe had to pass through British ports, by British subjects and via British ships. These became known as the Navigation acts and British companies working in tandem with British colonies in America establish a vast monopoly on goods and trade. With Britain as the hub for distribution and wholesale, the profits from this operation were used to finance and expanded plantations in America by the 1700s.

British subjects living in or born in the American colonies had become vastly different people than their English cousins. Britain was made up of "those of who have" and those who have not. Those "who had" were usually nobility or of a royal blood line with titles, pomp and circumstance. In America you became what you were by surviving attacks by bears, Indians and shooting your own food. Americans were a gritty, smelly, hard working people who traveled half a day from their cabin to a town to trade a few furs for the "essentials of life," such as sugar, flower or gunpowder. This was how the English settlers who moved to America had learned to survive.

Another way some of the colonial Americans survived the dwindling population caused by harsh winters, lack of food and Indian attacks was with the slave trade, which came with the Dutch ships around the year 1619.

Initially it was antiseptically dubbed the “servant” trade and not all servants (slaves) were black African natives! Many poor English white men and women sold themselves into indentured servitude. Many women came over to become wives for men already in the colony. Many others came over to work in the towns, fields and plantations. Many Native Americans (Indians) were also turned into indentured “servants.”

While by statute of law the black servants were to be afforded the same status as the white English servants, one wonders if this ever really happened, especially since many of the white servants had a light at the end of the tunnel after which they could become “free” to make their own way in the world, after buying out the cost of the passage over the Ocean, which was a considerable sum of money (brings to mind the Ernie Ford song "Sixteen Tons" where you owe your soul to the company store). It should be noted, however, that in the Pilgrim Plymouth colony blacks were considered servants and often obtained their freedom by the age of 25.

Virginia and Maryland were among the first states to legalize slavery and by the late 1600’s the black slave dominated the landscape in the Southern portions of the colonies, replacing the white Englishmen and American Indians (although Indian slaves would still amount of about 25% of the total slave population in the 1700s). The first known black slave auction was in Jamestown around 1638.

With the enactment of British slave laws in Barbados, some American colonies followed suit with whippings, beatings and other harsh penalties -- sometimes even for small infractions of social behavior on the part of black slaves -- becoming the "norm" for the treatment of slaves. It should be noted that throughout the entire world women, children and servants were considered "chattle" with no rights. If a husband beat his wife and she went to the authorities they'd often take his side and tell her she probably deserved the beating! Arranged marriages were often the "norm" almost everywhere, with the young girl having next to no "say" in the matter! White, rich, church-going males over the age of 21 made the laws, kept the peace, fought the wars and had all the say over everyone else.

By the 1700’s the American colonies were thriving and England, no longer finding the duties, customs and tariffs were "enough" to finance the colonial “Governments” established by the King of England in the form of puppet legislatures reporting to an appointed English Governor, began imposing taxes on items within the colonies.

Just after the middle of the 1700’s a new British Treasurer arrived in America and he quickly noticed that costs were not in keeping with duty revenues. This would become the start of a taxation initiative in the colonies that would lead to independence.

By this time George the III was King of England and the American Colonies had no representatives in the English Parliament (Government), that was now keeping a standing Army in the colonies, taxing everything from newspapers (the Stamp Tax) to tea (the Tea Tax) and at times closing down local government bodies.

The Colonialists sent written petitions and some representatives sailed to England to get the King and Parliament to reach an understanding with America. The results were more soldiers, dissolved state or local legislatures and even fighting.

Between 1764 and 1775 came a lot of conflicts between England and America, starting with the sugar tax, then the stamp act, then mandatory housing of British soldiers by all colonist, with food and board to be provided free of charge.

Some colonists began a campaign of terrorism against the British. The Sons of Liberty waged a silent war of intimidation against all British Stamp issuers. A Boston mob attacked the British Chief Justice assigned to Massachusetts and his family. Other mobs in New York rebelled against the British troops, officials and businesses. The New York assembly also refused to comply with the troop quartering act, that forced any colonial household to house and feed British soldier.

Patrick Henry put a bill into the House of Burgesses in Virginia that states only Virginia may tax Virginians and later Samuel Adams in Massachusetts published a circular opposing taxation without representation.

By 1769 a boycott of all English goods was in effects throughout most of the American colonial “states” – there are now over 2 million citizens in the American colonies, most of British decent and most still wishing to pledge allegiance to the crown, but not at the price they are being asked to pay in taxes and other services.

Violence breaks out in 1770 in New York where the Sons of Liberty go after some British soldiers and in Boston an angry confrontation between the soldiers and citizens turns into gunfire, leaving three citizens dead. An officer and eight soldiers are arrested for murder but colonial lawyer John Adams gets all but two of them acquitted.

Between 1771 and 1774 Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee begin efforts to get local comminutes and townships together under the concept of American self-rule. In 1776 a group of colonial leaders meet in Philadelphia and on July 4 1776 from this meeting of the minds came a final draft of a document crafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson listing the grievances and issues of the American colonialists that concluded with a bold declaration of independence made by the colony representatives to the government of England...

 






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