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Colonial Society in the 18th Century

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Colonial Society in the 18th
Century
The American is a new man, who acts
upon new principles; he must therefore
entertain new ideas, and form new
opinions. From involuntary idleness,
servile dependence, and useless labor,
he has passed to toils of a very different
nature, rewarded by ample subsistence.
This is an American.
Jean de Crevecoeur, 1782
Population Growth
European Immigrants
English
Germans
Scots-Irish
Other Europeans
English
Continued to come
Smaller in numbers when compared to
other groups
Fewer problems at home
Germans
Settled chiefly west of Philiadelphia
AKA Pennsylvania Dutch country
Maintained German language, customs, and
religions (Lutheran)
Obeyed colonial laws
Showed little interest in English politics
By 1775, people of German stock made up
6% of the colonial population
Scots-Irish
From Northern Ireland
Original ancestors had moved to Ireland from
Scotland
Little respect for British government - had
pressured them into leaving Ireland
Settled in the western frontier of
Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, and
Georgia
By 1775, made up 7% of the colonial
population
Other Europeans
French Protestants (Hugenots)
Dutch
Swede
By 1775, made up 5% of the colonial
population
Africans
Largest group of non-English
immigrants
Did not come of their own free will
Some were granted their freedom after
years of forced labor
By 1775, African Americans (both slave
and free) made up 20% of the colonial
population
Africans cont’d
90% lived in southern colonies - enslaved
Majority of the population in S. Carolina and
Georgia
Significant minority in North Carolina,
Virginia, and Maryland
Outside the South, they worked as slaves or
were free wage earners
Some owned property
Laws from New Hampshire to Virginia that
discriminated
Structure of Colonial Society
Dominance of English Culture
Majority of the population were English
in origin, language, and tradition
Africans and European immigrants
were creating a diversity of culture
Self-government
Each colony had a representative
assembly elected by eligible of voters
(white male property owners)
Rhode Island and Connecticut governors elected by the people
Governors in other colonies were
appointed by the crown or by a
proprietor
Religious toleration
All of the colonies permitted the practice
of different religions with varying
degrees of freedom
Massachusetts - least tolerant
Rhode Island and Pennsylvania - most
liberal
No hereditary aristocracy
Social extremes of Europe did not exist
in the colonies
Narrower class system
Social mobility
Everybody in colonial society had an
opportunity to improve their standard of
living and social status by hard work
Everyone except African Americans
that is
The Family
Economic and social center of colonial life
Men
Landowning reserved to men
Husbands had unlimited power in the home
Women
Household chores, educated the children, worked
on the farm
Limited rights
The Economy
New England
Subsistence farming
Logging, shipbuilding, fishing, trading, & rumdistilling
Middle colonies
Exported wheat and corn
Small manufacturers
Southern colonies
Small farms to large plantations
Tobacco, rice, indigo, timber
The Economy cont’d
Monetary System
Colonies had to use hard currency
Paper money for domestic trade
Parliament vetoed colonial laws that might
harm English merchants
Transportation
Goods transported by water
Taverns became social centers
Religion
Protestant Dominance
2 established churches (tax supported)
Anglicans
Colonial members tended to be
prosperous farmers and merchants or
plantation owners
Congregationalists
Successors to the Puritans
The Great Awakening
Early 1700s, sermons tended to be long
intellectual discourses
Portrayed God as a benign creator
1730s a change swept through the
colonies
Fervent expressions of religious feeling
among the masses
George Whitefield
Sermons on hellish
torments of the
damned
Attracted audiences
of 10,000
Ordinary people
didn’t need to rely
on ministers to lead
them
Jonathan Edwards
“Sinners in the
Hands of an Angry
God”
God was angry
God’s grace could
save the penitent
Others would suffer
eternal damnation
Religious Impact
Emotionalism became a common part
of Protestant services
Ministers lost former authority among
those who studied the Bible on their
own
Schism between “New Lights” and
“Old Lights”
New sects - Baptists and Methodists
Political Influence
Colonists shared a common experience
for the first time
Democratizing effect
If common people could make religious
decisions on their own, why not political
decisions?
Cultural Life
Achievements in the Arts and
Sciences
Architecture
Georgian style
Painting
Itinerant artists
Literature
Religious tracts - Cotton Mather and Jonathan
Edwards
Political literature - Adams, Paine, Jefferson
Science - Franklin
Education
New England
1st tax supported schools
Middle colonies
Church sponsored or private
Southern Colonies
Home taught or tutored
Higher Education
Harvard - Cambridge, MA - 1636
William and Mary - VA - 1694
Yale - CT - 1701
All sectarian - to support a particular
religious sect
5 New colleges
College of New Jersey (Princeton)
King’s College (Columbia)
Rhode Island College (Brown)
Queens College (Rutgers)
Dartmouth College
Only one non-sectarian college College of Philadelphia (Univ. of Penn.)
Professions
Physicians
Little to no formal training
1st medical college at the College of Philadelphia
Lawyers
Most individuals represented themselves
As problems became more complex, the need for
expert assistance became apparent
Most able lawyers formed a bar
The Press
Newspapers
1725 - 5 newspapers existed in the
colonies
1776 - more than 40
Single sheet folded once to make four
pages
The Zenger case
John Peter Zenger brought
to trial on a charge of
libelously criticizing New
York’s royal governor
Andrew Hamilton
represented him
Zenger was acquitted
Rural Folkways
Most colonists rarely read anything
other than the bible
Worked from daylight to sundown
Entertainment for the well-to-do
South - cardplaying and horse-racing
Middle colonies - theater
New England - religious lectures
Emergence of a National
Character
Motivations for leaving Europe
Political heritage of the English majority
The influence of the American natural
environment
Politics
Structure of Government
2 house legislature in every colony
Assemblies voted for or against taxes
Voting
More couldn’t vote than could
White males (in some cases property
owners or members of a particular religion)
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