The Origins of Servitude and Slavery in Colonial America

How do you fill jobs that no one wants to do?  One choice is that you can pay workers in these positions extremely well, making these hard jobs desirable.  That is expensive, making it hard or impossible to turn a profit.  The other option is to coerce people into performing that labor – through financial, legal, or violent means…  Which way did landowners in colonial America solve this dilemma?
This lesson was reported from:
A chapter of The United States: An Open Ended History, a free online textbook.  Adapted in part from open sources.

Indentured Servitude

Indentured servitude was a system by which immigrants, typically young Europeans under 25, both men and women, came to the English colonies.

Farmers, merchants, and shopkeepers in the British colonies found it very difficult to hire free workers, primarily because it was easy for potential workers to set up their own farms by moving to frontier lands. Consequently, a common solution was to transport a young worker from Britain or a German state, who would work for several years to pay off the debt of their travel costs. During the indenture period the servants were not paid cash wages, but were provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training. The indenture document specified how many years the servant would be required to work, after which they would be free. Terms of indenture ranged from one to seven years with typical terms of four or five years.

just arrived
Virginia Gazette, March 18, 1775.

Servants could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment (like many young ordinary servants), and saw their obligation to labor enforced by the courts. To ensure uninterrupted work by the female servants, the law lengthened the term of their indenture if they became pregnant. But unlike slaves, servants were guaranteed to be eventually released from bondage. At the end of their term they received a payment known as “freedom dues” (typically a small parcel of land or a new suit of clothes) and become free members of society. One could buy and sell indentured servants’ contracts, and the right to their labor would change hands, but not the person as a piece of property.

Both male and female laborers could be subject to violence, occasionally even resulting in death. Historian Richard Hofstadter notes that, as slaves arrived in greater numbers after 1700, white laborers in Virginia became a “privileged stratum, assigned to lighter work and more skilled tasks.” He also notes that “Runaways were regularly advertised in the newspapers, rewards were offered, and both sheriffs and the general public were enlisted to secure their return. … The standard penalty in the North, not always rigorously enforced, was extra service of twice the time the master had lost, though whipping was also common.”

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Pennsylvania Gazette, November 25, 1762.

Transatlantic Slave Trade

triangle-trade1
The triangular trade. While slave labor was not widely practiced in New England, the region’s merchants participated and profited off of the trade directly – transporting enslaved Africans into slavery in the Americas, and carrying the fruits of slave labor, such as tobacco and sugar, to to consumers outside of the American South.

The transatlantic slave trade was the forced transportation of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were Africans from central and western Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders (with a small number being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids), who brought them to the Americas.  South Atlantic and Caribbean economies especially were dependent on the supply of secure labor for the production of commodity crops such as tobacco, sugar, and cotton to sell elsewhere in the colonies and in Europe.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. The journey became more efficient over the centuries; while an average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks.

It is believed that African kings, warlords and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who held several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about 30 crew members.

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Diagram of a large slave ship. Thomas Clarkson: The cries of Africa to the inhabitants of Europe, 1822.

The male captives were normally chained together in pairs to save space; right leg to the next man’s left leg — while the women and children may have had somewhat more room. At best, captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Slaves were typically fed one meal a day with water, if at all.

bilboeSlaves lived below the decks in conditions of squalor and indescribable horror. Disease spread and ill health was one of the biggest killers. Mortality rates were high, and death made conditions even worse. Many crew members avoided going into the hold because of the smell, the sights, and the sounds below deck.  Even though the corpses were thrown overboard, living slaves might be shackled for hours and sometimes days to someone who was dead.

Current estimates are that about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, although the number purchased by the traders was considerably higher, as the passage had a high death rate. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll, as diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments of the slave ships.

As a way to counteract disease, slaves were forced onto the deck of the ship for exercise.  This frequently resulted in beatings from the crew because the slaves would be unwilling to dance for them or interact. These beatings would often be severe and could result in the slave dying or becoming more susceptible to diseases.

Slaves resisted in many ways. The two most common types of resistance were refusal to eat and suicide. Suicide was a frequent occurrence, often by refusal of food or medicine or jumping overboard, as well as by a variety of other opportunistic means. 

Ottobah Cugoano, who was taken from Africa as a slave when he was a child, later wrote a book of his life and in it described an uprising aboard the ship on which he was transported to the West Indies:

“When we found ourselves at last taken away, death was more preferable than life, and a plan was concerted amongst us, that we might burn and blow up the ship, and to perish all together in the flames.”

Slave ships were designed and operated to prevent the slaves from revolting. Resistance among slaves usually ended in failure and participants in a rebellion were punished severely.  Despite this, about one out of ten ships experienced some sort of rebellion.

Slavery

The first Africans to be brought to British North America landed in Virginia in 1619. They arrived on a Dutch ship that had captured them from the Spanish. These approximately 20 individuals appear to have been treated as indentured servants, and a significant number of enslaved Africans earned freedom by fulfilling a work contract or for converting to Christianity.  Like European indentured servants at the completion of their contract, many of these first African Americans were each granted 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land when freed from their indentures, so they could raise their own tobacco or other crops.

By 1650, there were about 300 Africans living in Virginia, about 1% of an estimated 30,000 population of people of English and European ancestry.  Some successful free people of color, such as Anthony Johnson, in turn acquired slaves or indentured servants for workers. Some historians say this evidence suggests that racial attitudes were much more flexible in 17th-century Virginia than they would later become.

Jamestown 1619From this early start, American slavery was born.  Slavery was an institution that lasted for more than three hundred years under which African Americans could expect to be held for life as the property of their masters.  This system evolved over time, gradually becoming more strict and regulated.  It also varied from owner to owner – some masters may have been more gentle or cruel than others, more generous or stingy with food, etc…  But at the end of the day, an enslaved person was regarded by the law as little more than a piece of livestock – property that was totally at the mercy, or lack thereof, of their master.

In the 1660s, the colonial legislature adopted a law stating that all children born in the colony would take the status of their mothers, regardless of who their father was. Thus children born to enslaved mothers would be enslaved, regardless of their ethnicity or paternity. This was contrary to English common law for children of parents who are both English subjects, in which the child takes status from the father. But the law also meant that mixed-race children born to white women were born free, and many families of free African Americans were descended from unions between white women and ethnic African men during the colonial era.

Slavery became a racial caste – a status determined at birth, for life.

You can see this process for yourself – Primary Source Analysis: The Evolution of the Virginia Laws of Servitude and Slavery (1643-1691).

slave children
The law developed in Virginia and later adopted in other colonies said that one’s status as either slave or free derived from one’s mother. This meant that both of the children depicted in this photo – from New Orleans in 1863 – were enslaved, despite the obvious European heritage of the girl on the right.

During the early 17th century, Virginia planters developed the commodity crop of tobacco as their chief export. It was a labor-intensive crop, and demand for it in England and Europe led to an increase in the importation of African slaves in the colony. By the mid-eighteenth century, there were 145,000 slaves in the Chesapeake Bay region, spread mostly on large plantations, as compared to 50,000 in the Spanish colony of Cuba, where they worked in urbanized settlements.

slave quarters assessment image
Enslaved African-Americans near their quarters during the middle of the nineteenth century.

The treatment of slaves in the varied by time and place, but was generally nothing that you would wish to experience – slavery was brutal and degrading.  Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, beating, mutilation, branding and/or imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but masters or overseers sometimes abused slaves to assert dominance.

An 1850 publication provided slaveholders with guidance on how to produce the “ideal slave:”

  1. Maintain strict discipline and unconditional submission.
  2. Create a sense of personal inferiority, so that slaves “know their place.”
  3. Instill fear.
  4. Teach servants to take interest in their master’s enterprise.
  5. Deprive access to education and recreation, to ensure that slaves remain uneducated, helpless, and dependent.
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While conditions varied across time and place, slave quarters were usually very simple.  This space would likely be occupied by an entire family.

Under slavery, planters and other slaveholders owned, controlled and sold entire families of slaves. The slave population increased in the southern United States as native-born slaves produced large families.  Slaves were at a continual risk of losing family members if their owners decided to sell them for profit, punishment or to pay debts. Slaveholders also made gifts of slaves to grown children (or other family members), such as on the occasion of their marriage. Masters considered slave children ready to work and leave home as young as age 12 or 14.

A few slaves retaliated by murdering their owners and overseers, burning barns, and killing horses. These acts were rare, however, given the strong, harsh reactions from neighboring whites who worried that any act of defiance might lead to a full-scale slave rebellion.  Work slowdowns were probably the most frequent form of resistance and hard to control – slaves deliberately worked at a pace fast enough not to get in trouble, but no faster.

Martin's_Best_Virginia_tobacco_advertisement
Enslaved Africans were not a hidden secret – they were included in the advertisements for Virginia tobacco.

Bacon’s Rebellion

The Burning of Jamestown by Howard Pyle, c. 1905
The Burning of Jamestown by Howard Pyle, c. 1905.

Bacon’s Rebellion was an armed rebellion in 1676 by Virginia settlers led by Nathaniel Bacon against the rule of Royal Governor William Berkeley. The governor’s dismissive policy with regard to land on its western frontier, along with other challenges including leaving Bacon out of his inner circle, refusing to allow Bacon to be a part of his fur trade with the Native Americans, and a lack of colonial response to Doeg American Indian attacks, helped to motivate a popular uprising against Berkeley, who had failed to address the demands of the colonists regarding their safety.

A thousand Virginians of all classes and races rose up in arms against Berkeley, attacking Indians, chasing Berkeley from Jamestown, Virginia, and ultimately torching the capital. The rebellion was first suppressed by a few armed merchant ships from London whose captains sided with Berkeley and the loyalists. Government forces from England arrived soon after and spent several years defeating pockets of resistance and reforming the colonial government to be once more under direct royal control.

It was the first rebellion in the American colonies in which discontented frontiersmen took part.  The alliance between indentured servants and Africans (most enslaved until death or freed), united by their bond-servitude, disturbed the ruling class, who responded by hardening the racial caste of slavery in an attempt to divide the two races from subsequent united uprisings with the passage of the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705. While the farmers did not succeed in their initial goal of driving the Indians from Virginia, the rebellion did result in Berkeley being recalled to England.

The article was adapted in part from:

  1. Indentured Servitude in the Americas
  2. History of Slavery in Virginia
  3. The Middle Passage
  4. Bacon’s Rebellion
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Massachusetts: Church and State in the Land of the Wampanoag

Imagine that you have come around the world to found a proverbial city upon a hill – a model of Christian living which you intend as an example for the world.  What happens when the experiment spins out of control?
This lesson was reported from:
A chapter of The United States: An Open Ended History, a free online textbook.  Adapted in part from open sources.

The Plymouth Colony

village
Plimouth Plantation is a living history park in Massachusetts that strives to recreate 17th century life in Plymouth faithfully for visitors.

During the religious upheavals of the 16th century, a body of men and women called Puritans sought to reform the Established Church of England from within. Essentially, they demanded that the rituals and structures associated with Roman Catholicism be replaced by simpler Calvinist Protestant forms of faith and worship. Their reformist ideas, by destroying the unity of the state church, threatened to divide the people and to undermine royal authority.

In 1607 a small group of Separatists—a radical sect of Puritans who did not believe the Established Church could ever be reformed—departed for Leyden, Holland, where the Dutch granted them asylum. However, the Calvinist Dutch restricted them mainly to low-paid laboring jobs. Some members of the congregation grew dissatisfied with this discrimination and resolved to emigrate to the New World.

In 1620, a group of Leyden Puritans secured a land patent from the Virginia Company. Numbering 101, they set out for Virginia on the Mayflower. A storm sent them far north and they landed in New England on Cape Cod. Believing themselves outside the jurisdiction of any organized government, the men drafted a formal agreement to abide by “just and equal laws” drafted by leaders of their own choosing. This was the Mayflower Compact.

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899
The Mayflower was originally bound for the Colony of Virginia, financed by the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London. Storms forced them to anchor at the hook of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, as it was unwise to continue with provisions running short. This inspired some to proclaim that, since the settlement would not be made in the agreed-upon Virginia territory, they “would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them.” To prevent this, the Pilgrims chose to establish a government described in the Mayflower Compact. It was in essence a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the compact’s rules and regulations for the sake of order and survival.

In December the Mayflower reached Plymouth harbor; the Pilgrims began to build their settlement during the winter. Nearly half the colonists died of exposure and disease, but come spring, neighboring Wampanoag Indians provided the information that would sustain them: how to grow maize.

The Landing of the Pilgrims, by Henry A. Bacon, 1877.
The Landing of the Pilgrims, by Henry A. Bacon, 1877.

Squanto

1911 illustration of Tisquantum 'Squanto' teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant maize.
1911 illustration of Tisquantum (“Squanto”) teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant maize.

Some European expedition captains were known to increase profits by capturing natives to sell as slaves. Such was the case when Thomas Hunt kidnapped several Wampanoag in 1614 in order to sell them later in Spain. One of Hunt’s captives was a Patuxet named Tisquantum. Tisquantum eventually came to be known as Squanto (a nickname given to him by his friend William Bradford). After Squanto regained his freedom, he was able to work his way to England where he lived for several years, working with a shipbuilder.

He signed on as an interpreter for a British expedition to Newfoundland. From there Squanto went back to his home, only to discover that, in his absence, epidemics had killed everyone in his village.  Squanto was the last of the Patuxet.

Southern_New_England,_1620–22_(rev)When the Mayflower landed in 1620, Squanto worked to broker peaceable relations between the Pilgrims and the local Pokanokets (another group in Wampanoag). He played a key role in the early meetings in March 1621, partly because he spoke English. He then lived with the Pilgrims for 20 months, acting as a translator, guide, and adviser. He introduced the settlers to the fur trade, and taught them how to sow and fertilize native crops, which proved vital since the seeds which the Pilgrims had brought from England largely failed.  Whatever his motivations, with great kindness and patience, Squanto taught the English the skills they needed to survive, including how best to cultivate varieties of the Three Sisters: beans, maize and squash.

BONUS: Read more about The Three Sisters.

Illustration of corn cultivation in mounds by Algonquian village in North Carolina. Watercolor by John White c. 1585.
Illustration of corn cultivation in mounds by Algonquian village in North Carolina. Watercolor by John White c. 1585.

In the fall of 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast. This feast was a celebration of the first successful harvest season of the colonists.  This three-day celebration involving the entire village and about 90 Wampanoag has been celebrated as a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. The event later inspired 19th century Americans to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the United States. The harvest celebration took place at the historic site of the Patuxet villages. Squanto’s involvement as an intermediary in negotiating the friendship treaty with Massasoit led to the joint feast between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag.

As food shortages increased, Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford relied on Squanto to pilot a ship of settlers on a trading expedition around Cape Cod and through dangerous shoals. During that voyage, Squanto contracted what Bradford called an “Indian fever.” Bradford stayed with him for several days until he died, which Bradford described as a “great loss.”

Considerable mythology and legend has grown up around Squanto over time, largely because of early praise by Bradford and owing to the central role that the Thanksgiving festival of 1621 plays in American folk history. Squanto was less the “noble savage” that later myth portrayed him and more a practical adviser and diplomat.

The First Thanksgiving
The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899). The painting shows common misconceptions about the event that persist to modern times: Pilgrims did not wear such outfits, and the Wampanoag are dressed in the style of Native Americans from the Great Plains.

Massachusetts Bay Colony

John Winthrop
John Winthrop was one of the leading figures in founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the second major settlement in New England, following Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of immigrants from England in 1630 and served as governor for 12 of the colony’s first 20 years. His writings and vision of the colony as a Puritan “city upon a hill” dominated New England colonial development, influencing the governments and religions of neighboring colonies.

A new wave of immigrants arrived on the shores of Massachusetts Bay in 1630 bearing a grant from King Charles I to establish a colony. Many of them were Puritans whose religious practices were increasingly prohibited in England. Their leader, John Winthrop, urged them to create a “city upon a hill” in the New World—a place where they would live in strict accordance with their religious beliefs and set an example for all of Christendom—an example of communal charity, affection, and unity to the world or, if the Puritans failed to uphold their covenant of God, “we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world” of God’s judgment. Winthrop’s sermon is often cited as an early example of American exceptionalism.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was to play a significant role in the development of the entire New England region, in part because Winthrop and his Puritan colleagues were able to bring their charter with them. Thus the authority for the colony’s government resided in Massachusetts, not in England.

Under the charter’s provisions, power rested with the General Court, which was made up of “freemen,” required to be members of the Puritan, or Congregational, Church. This guaranteed that the Puritans would be the dominant political as well as religious force in the colony. The General Court elected the governor, who for most of the next generation would be John Winthrop.

The Puritan emphasis on reading directly from the Scriptures underscored the importance of literacy. In 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted the “ye olde deluder Satan” Act, requiring every town having more than 50 families to establish a grammar school (a Latin school to prepare students for college). Shortly thereafter, all the other New England colonies, except for Rhode Island, followed its example.

The Pilgrims and Puritans had brought their own little libraries and continued to import books from London. And as early as the 1680s, Boston booksellers were doing a thriving business in works of classical literature, history, politics, philosophy, science, theology, and belles-lettres. In 1638 the first printing press in the English colonies and the second in North America was installed at Harvard College.

Harvard College in 1720
Harvard College in 1720.

Witch Trials

Like most Christians in the early modern period, Puritans believed in the active existence of the devil and demons as evil forces that could possess and cause harm to men and women. There was also widespread belief in witchcraft and witches—persons in league with the devil. “Unexplained phenomena such as the death of livestock, human disease, and hideous fits suffered by young and old” might all be blamed on the agency of the devil or a witch.

In 1692 a group of adolescent girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, became subject to strange fits after hearing tales told by a West Indian slave. They accused several women of being witches. The townspeople were appalled but not surprised: Belief in witchcraft was widespread throughout 17th-century America and Europe. Town officials convened a court to hear the charges of witchcraft. Within a month, six women were convicted and hanged.

The hysteria grew, in large measure because the court permitted witnesses to testify that they had seen the accused as spirits or in visions. Such “spectral evidence” could neither be verified nor made subject to objective examination. By the fall of 1692, 20 victims, including several men, had been executed, and more than 100 others were in jail (where another five victims died)—among them some of the town’s most prominent citizens. When the charges threatened to spread beyond Salem, ministers throughout the colony called for an end to the trials. The governor of the colony agreed. Those still in jail were later acquitted or given reprieves.

Giles_Corey_restored
Giles Corey (Sept. 19, 1692) being pressed with heavy stones for failing to enter a plea to the charge of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.

Although an isolated incident, the Salem episode has long fascinated Americans. Most historians agree that Salem Village in 1692 experienced a kind of public hysteria, fueled by a genuine belief in the existence of witchcraft. While some of the girls may have been acting, many responsible adults became caught up in the frenzy as well.

Even more revealing is a closer analysis of the identities of the accused and the accusers. Salem Village, as much of colonial New England, was undergoing an economic and political transition from a largely agrarian, Puritan-dominated community to a more commercial, secular society. Many of the accusers were representatives of a traditional way of life tied to farming and the church, whereas a number of the accused witches were members of a rising commercial class of small shopkeepers and tradesmen. Salem’s obscure struggle for social and political power between older traditional groups and a newer commercial class was one repeated in communities throughout American history. It took a bizarre and deadly detour when its citizens were swept up by the conviction that the devil was loose in their homes.

The Salem witch trials also serve as a dramatic parable of the deadly consequences of making sensational, but false, charges. Three hundred years later, we still call false accusations against a large number of people a “witch hunt.”

Bridget-Bishop-Salem
Accused witch Bridget Bishop hanged at Salem.

Rhode Island

The rigid structure of the Puritan rule was not to everyone’s liking. One of the first to challenge the General Court openly was a young clergyman named Roger Williams, who objected to the colony’s seizure of Indian lands and advocated separation of church and state. Another dissenter, Anne Hutchinson, challenged key doctrines of Puritan theology. Both they and their followers were banished.

Williams purchased land from the Narragansett Indians in what is now Providence, Rhode Island, in 1636. In 1644, a sympathetic Puritan-controlled English Parliament gave him the charter that established Rhode Island as a distinct colony where complete separation of church and state as well as freedom of religion was practiced.

Roger_Williams_and_Narragansetts
Narragansett Indians receiving Roger Williams.

So‑called heretics like Williams were not the only ones who left Massachusetts. Orthodox Puritans, seeking better lands and opportunities, soon began leaving Massachusetts Bay Colony. News of the fertility of the Connecticut River Valley, for instance, attracted the interest of farmers having a difficult time with poor land. By the early 1630s, many were ready to brave the danger of Indian attack to obtain level ground and deep, rich soil. These new communities often eliminated church membership as a prerequisite for voting, thereby extending the franchise to ever larger numbers of men.

At the same time, other settlements began cropping up along the New Hampshire and Maine coasts, as more and more immigrants sought the land and liberty the New World seemed to offer.

King Philip’s War

Massasoit and governor John Carver smoking a peace pipe.
Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, and early Plymouth governor John Carver smoking a peace pipe.

The Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower and founded Plymouth Plantation expended great effort forging friendship and peace with the American Indians around Cape Cod. They traveled long distances to make peace with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag tribe, and Governor William Bradford made a gift of his prized red horse coat upon seeing that the chief admired it. Yet over the next 50 years, frictions and misunderstandings multiplied as wave after wave of Puritans and non-religious “strangers” (fortune-seekers not motivated by religion) kept arriving, often oblivious to the fragile peace carefully woven since the earliest arrivals. By 1675, the early efforts at friendship failed.

The Wampanoag tribe had entered into an agreement with the Plymouth Colony and believed that they could rely on the colony for protection. However, in the decades preceding the war, it became clear to them that the treaty was not stopping colonists from settling in Wampanoag territories.

Throughout the Northeast, Native Americans had suffered severe population losses as a result of pandemics of smallpox, spotted fever, typhoid, and measles, starting in about 1618, two years before the first colony at Plymouth had been settled.

The population of New England colonists totaled about 80,000 people. They lived in 110 towns, of which 64 were in the Massachusetts Bay colony, which then included the southwestern portion of the present state of Maine. The towns had about 16,000 men of military age who were almost all part of the militia, as universal training was prevalent in all colonial New England towns. Many towns had built strong garrison houses for defense, and others had stockades enclosing most of the houses. All of these were strengthened as the war progressed. Some poorly populated towns without enough men to defend them were abandoned.

Each town had local militias, based on all eligible men, who had to supply their own arms. Only those who were too old, too young, disabled, or clergy were excused from military service. The militias were usually only minimally trained and initially did relatively poorly against the warring Indians, until more effective training and tactics could be devised. Joint forces of militia volunteers and volunteer Indian allies were found to be the most effective. The officers were usually elected by popular vote of the militia members. 

Map depicting the approximate tribal territories of Native Americans around the year 1600, before the foundation of any permanent English settlements.

By 1676, the regional Indian population had decreased to about 10,000 (exact numbers are unavailable), largely because of epidemics. These included about 4,000 Narragansetts of western Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, 2,400 Nipmucks of central and western Massachusetts, and 2,400 combined in the Massachusett and Pawtucket tribes living around Massachusetts Bay and extending northwest to Maine. The Wampanoags and Pokanokets of Plymouth and eastern Rhode Island are thought to have numbered fewer than 1,000. About one in four were considered to be warriors. By then, the Indians had almost universally adopted steel knives, tomahawks, and flintlock muskets as their weapons of choice. The various tribes had no common government. They had distinct cultures and often warred among themselves, although they all spoke related languages from the Algonquian family.

Indians Attacking a Garrison House.jpg
Indians Attacking a Garrison House, from an Old Wood Engraving This is likely a depiction of the attack on the Haynes Garrison, Sudbury, April 21, 1676.  Notice the European livestock dead in the foreground – to the Wompanoag, a frequent source of ire and a potent symbol of encroaching colonists, as cattle would graze in native fields, destroying their harvest.

Metacomet was the son of the sachem Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief who had originally made peace with the people of Plymouth colony in the 1620s.  Because of his closeness with the colonists during his youth, he adopted the name King Philip.  Unfortunately, by the time he himself became chief of the Wampanoag in 1662, the period of peaceful coexistence had become a distant memory following conflicts over land use, diminished game as a consequence of expanding European settlement, and questions of whether or not the Native Americans would submit to English rule.

Starting in 1675, in a conflict known by the colonists as King Philip’s War, Metacomet used tribal alliances to coordinate efforts to push European colonists out of New England.

The war was the single greatest calamity to occur in seventeenth-century Puritan New England and is considered by many to be the deadliest war in the history of European settlement in North America in proportion to the population. In the space of little more than a year, twelve of the region’s towns were destroyed and many more were damaged, the economy of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies was all but ruined and their population was decimated, losing one-tenth of all men available for military service. More than half of New England’s towns were attacked by Indians.

Philip_King_of_Mount_Hope_by_Paul_Revere
“Philip. King of Mount Hope,” a 1772 engraving of a caricature of King Philip by Paul Revere.

The war largely ended with Metacomet’s death. His head was mounted on a pike at the entrance to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees.

More than 1,000 colonists and 3,000 Indians had died. More than half of all New England villages were attacked by Indian warriors, and many were completely destroyed. Several Indians were enslaved and transported to Bermuda, including Metacomet’s son, and numerous Bermudians today claim ancestry from the Indian exiles.

 

 

The article was adapted in part from:

  1. The Colonial Period
  2. English Colonies
  3. Squanto
  4. Patuxet

The Philippines: At the Crossroads of the World

LESSON PLANS

“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?
I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.” – Ninoy Aquino
  • Islands in a Friendly Sea: Some Basics of Filipino History and Culture (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who are the Filipinos?  What is their history and culture?  How has it been shaped by island geography?  By contact with the outside world?
  • Manila at the Crossroads of World Trade (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): For more than three centuries, Manila was one of the crown jewels of the Spanish Empire, sitting at the intersection of global trade between Asia, the Americas, and Europe.  How did this global trade shape the Philippines – and how did the Philippines shape global trade?
  • The Origins of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How did the Filipinos gain independence from Spain, only to have it snatched away by their alleged ally, the United States?  How does this experience resonate in both Philippine and U.S. history?
  • The Brutality of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Why was the Philippine-American War so violent?  Did this violence help or hinder the goals of each side?  Should there be rules that govern the conduct of war?
  • The Philippines in the American Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): After nearly 400 years, how did independence finally come to the Philippines?  Was the United States conquest of the Philippines an anomaly in its history, or was it business as usual?
  • “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.
  • Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  • In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.

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