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All you Need To Know About – 13 Colonies

When we talk about “Colonial America,” we usually refer to the English colonies along the Eastern seaboard. By the time Englishmen began to establish colonies in earnest, there were plenty of French, Spanish, Dutch, and even Russian colonial outposts on the American continent. However, the story of those 13 colonies is significant. These colonies were the ones that came together to form the United States.

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The original 13 North American colonies in 1776, at the time of the United States Declaration of Independence.

English Colonial Expansion

England in the sixteenth century was a volatile place. Many of the country’s landlords were converting farmer’s fields into sheep pastures because they could make more money selling wool than selling crops. This resulted in a food crisis, as well as the layoff of numerous agricultural workers.

The 16th century also saw the rise of mercantilism, an intensely competitive economic doctrine that urged European powers to acquire as many colonies as possible. As a result, the English colonies in North America were mostly corporate ventures. They provided an outlet for England’s surplus population and (in certain cases) greater religious freedom than England. However, their major goal was to generate revenue for their sponsors.

The Tobacco Colonies

In 1606, King James I divided the Atlantic seaboard in half, giving the London Company (later the Virginia Company) the southern half and the Plymouth Company the northern half.

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The first English settlement in North America had actually been formed some 20 years before. In 1587, when a group of colonists led by Sir Walter Raleigh settled on the island of Roanoke. (91 men, 17 women, and nine children). Surprisingly, the Roanoke colony had vanished totally by 1590. Historians are still unsure what happened to its population.

The London Company despatched 144 men to Virginia on three ships in 1606, barely a few months after James I issued its charter: the Godspeed, the Discovery, and the Susan Constant. They arrived in the Chesapeake Bay in the spring of 1607 and traveled roughly 60 miles up the James River, where they established Jamestown.

The Jamestown colonists had it tough. They were so busy seeking gold and other exportable resources that they couldn’t even feed themselves. It wasn’t until 1616 when Virginia’s inhabitants discovered how to cultivate tobacco, that the colony appeared to have a chance of survival. In 1619, the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia.

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The English crown handed Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, approximately 12 million acres of land near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in 1632. In many ways, this colony, named Maryland after the queen, was comparable to Virginia. Its landowners grew tobacco on huge plantations that relied on indentured servants and (later) enslaved labor.

But, unlike Virginia’s founders, Lord Baltimore was a devout Catholic. He thought that his colony would provide a safe haven for his persecuted fellow Christians. Maryland became known for its religious tolerance policy for everybody.

The New England Colonies

As the Massachusetts settlements grew, new colonies in New England sprang up. Puritans who thought Massachusetts was too religious established the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven (the two combined in 1665). Meanwhile, Puritans who felt Massachusetts was too restricted established the colony of Rhode Island, where everyone—including Jews—had complete “liberty in religious concerns.” A small group of daring pioneers established the colony of New Hampshire to the north of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Middle Colonies

In 1664, King Charles II granted his brother James, Duke of York, the country between New England and Virginia, much of which was already held by Dutch traders and landlords known as patroons. Soon after, the English absorbed Dutch New Netherland and renamed it New York.

The majority of the Dutch residents (together with Belgian Flemings and Walloons, French Huguenots, Scandinavians, and Germans) remained. As a result, New York grew to be one of the most diversified and successful colonies in the New World.

In 1680, the king handed William Penn, a Quaker who owned enormous swathes of land in Ireland, 45,000 square miles of territory west of the Delaware River. Penn’s estates in North America formed the colony of “Penn’s Woods,” or Pennsylvania.

People came from all over Europe, drawn by the fertile soil and religious tolerance that Penn promised. Most of these emigrants, like their Puritan counterparts in New England, paid their own way to the colonies. They were not indentured servants—and had enough money to establish themselves when they arrived. As a result, Pennsylvania quickly grew rich and largely equitable.

The Southern Colonies

The Carolina colony, which spanned south from Virginia to Florida and west to the Pacific Ocean, was far less cosmopolitan. Farmers struggled to make a living in its northern half. Planters ruled over extensive estates in its southern half, producing grain, lumber, beef and pork, and rice beginning in the 1690s.

These Carolinians were closely linked to the English planter colony in the Caribbean island of Barbados, which relied largely on African slave labor, and many were themselves implicated in the slave trade. As a result, slavery was crucial to the establishment of the Carolina colony. (In 1729, it was divided into North and South Carolina.)

The Carolina colony, which spanned south from Virginia to Florida and west to the Pacific Ocean, was far less cosmopolitan. Farmers struggled to make a living in its northern half. Planters ruled over extensive estates in its southern half, producing grain, lumber, beef and pork, and rice beginning in the 1690s.

These Carolinians were closely linked to the English planter colony in the Caribbean island of Barbados, which relied largely on African slave labor, and many were themselves implicated in the slave trade. As a result, slavery was crucial to the establishment of the Carolina colony. (In 1729, it was divided into North and South Carolina.)

The Revolutionary War and the Treaty of Paris

In the English colonies of North America in 1700, there were around 250,000 European settlers and enslaved Africans. There were an estimated 2.5 million by 1775, on the brink of the revolution. Although the colonists had nothing in common, they were able to band together and fight for their independence.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) arose as a result of American colonists’ dissatisfaction. Especially with issues such as taxation without representation. Also embodied through laws such as the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts. Tensions reached a climax on April 19, 1775, during the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when the “shot heard round the world” was fired.

The Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, and the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, both demonstrated the colonists’ growing displeasure with British control in the colonies.

The Declaration of Independence was written on July 4, 1776. It stated the reasons why the Founding Fathers felt forced to defy King George III and parliament. Then to establish a new nation. The Continental Congress declared the “United Colonies” of America to be the “United States of America” in September of that year.

In 1778, France joined the war on the side of the colonists, assisting the Continental Army in defeating the British in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed. It officially ended the American Revolution and delivered freedom to the 13 original colonies.