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Chapter Three

Colonial Society In The Eighteenth

Population Growth
• The beginning population of the colonies, in
1701, was a mere 250,000
• 75 years later, the population multiplied ten-
• This was only white citizens – African
Americans made the jump from 28,000 to
• The factors that most influenced this jump
was immigration, and a high birthrate
European Immigrants
• Most immigrants came from England, Scotland,
Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, and other parts
of Western and Central Europe
• Main reasons include:
– Religious persecution
– War
– Economic opportunity
• Most immigrants settled in the middle colonies,
or on the west part of the southern colonies
• Few immigrants went to New England, because it
was controlled by the puritans.
• In general, problems in Great Britain had
lessened, so there were less disgruntled
people moving across the ocean to escape
debt, at least from England.
• Most of the Germans settled in what was
known as the Pennsylvania Dutch country,
west of Philadelphia
• They kept their heritage and culture, and had
small interest in English affairs.
• Accounted for 6% of the population
• Emigrated from northern Ireland
• Little respect for the British
• Settled in the western parts, including
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia.
• Accounted for 7% of the total population
Other Europeans
• All of the others were comprised of French,
Dutch, and Swedes.
• They accounted for 5% of the total population
• Africans were the largest denomination of
immigrants in the Americas
• In 1775, the population of the Africans made
up 20% of the entire population
• 90% of Africans lived in the southern states
• In all colonies, laws discriminating against
African Americans were in full force
Structure of Colonial Society
General Characteristics
• Dominance of English Culture
– The majority of all settlers were English in decent
• Self-government
– Most colonies had self appointed governments.
– Only a few colonies had royal appointed governments
• Religious Toleration
– The practice of all religions was permitted, but with varying degrees of
• No Hereditary Aristocracy
– A class system was present in the colonies, but it was based on
economic prosperity, not birth
• Social Mobility
– All people had the opportunity to improve their social status, besides
the slaves
The Family
• Colonists married at a young ages
• 90% of colonists lived on farms
• Family was the center of life
• Men
– Most men worked
– Only men could own land
– Husbands could do whatever they wanted, including
beat their wives
• Women
– Generally had at least 8 children
– Work includes…
• Cooking, cleaning, clothes making, medical care
– Divorce was rare
The Economy
• When the 1760’s rolled around, more than
half of England’s economy included America
• England tried to keep America from starting
businesses that could compete with English
New England
• Farming was very limited
• Farms usually smaller than 100 acres
• General economic opportunities included
logging, shipbuilding, fishing, trading, and
• The family generally worked the farm alone
Middle Colonies
• The soil in the middle colonies was very rich
• Crops included wheat and corn
• Farms were usually 200 acres, at least
• Indentured servants and hired labor were
• Philadelphia and New York grew because of
the stimulated economy
Southern Colonies
• There were small farms, and vast plantations,
because of the erratic change of the climate
over the south.
• Cash crops included tobacco, rice, timber, tar,
pitch, and indigo
• Slave labor was most common
• Cash crops were sent directly to Europe
Monetary System
• To attempt to control the colonies, the English
decided to limit their use of money
• Colonies made paper money, which lead to
• Colonial laws that could hurt English business
were vetoed
• Most goods were transported by water
• Boston, new York, Philadelphia, and
Charleston were all well-located near the
• Postal systems using horses and small ships
were used as well
• Most large towns accumulated a Jewish
• The majority of colonists were Protestant
• Presbyterians mainly lived in New England
• The Dutch congregated in New York
• Lutherans, Mennonites, and Quakers were the
most common in Pennsylvania
Protestant Dominance
• Established churches
– The Church of England / Anglican Church
– Congregational Church
• Anglicans:
– Farmers and merchants, plantation owners
– Now leadership
• Congregationalists
– Found mainly in New England
– Overly complex
The Great Awakening
• In the 1730’s and 40’s, opinions and feelings
about religion began to change, and was
called the Great Awakening
• Jonathan Edwards
– Initiated the Great Awakening
– Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
– Preached penitence would save the soul
George Whitefield
• Immigrated in 1739
• Preached ‘hell and damnation’ absolutely
• God would only save those people who openly
professed belief in Jesus Christ
Religious Impact
• The Great Awakening ended up causes an
enormous split between the Congregational
and Presbyterian churches.
• New Lights
– Those who supported the new teachings
• Old Lights
– Those who condemned the teachings
Cultural Life
Achievements in the Arts and Sciences
• Finally, as the instinct of survival over all else
began to fade, people were able to focus on
other things, such as art, and other aspects of
civilized living
• Generally, houses followed the ‘Georgian’
style, prevalent in London
– Characterized by
• Brick and stucco
• Symmetrical placement of windows
• Two fireplaces
• Most artists were like wandering bards,
hoping that someone would want their
portrait painted
• Two more popular artists, Benjamin West and
John Copley, got the training in England before
coming to America
• Most subjects were religion and politics
• Most important authors:
– John Adams
– James Otis
– John Dickinson
– Thomas Paine
– Thomas Jefferson
– Benjamin Franklin
• New England:
– Emphasis on the bible
– First tax supported school
• Middle Colonies
– Either church sponsored or private
• Southern Colonies
– Parents taught their children
• Higher Education
– Harvard was the first college
– Later came William and Mary, and Yale
– Other colleges included Princeton, Columbia, Brown,
Rutgers, and Dartmouth
• Physicians
– Little or no training
• Lawyers
– John Adams, James Otis, Patrick Henry
The Press
• Newspapers:
– In the earlier times, only 5 newspapers were in
the colonies. By 1776, there were 40
– The first cartoon was put in the Philadelphia
Gazette, by Ben Franklin
The Zenger Case
• If an article offended the authorities, the
offender could be jailed for life
• John Peter Zenger was brought to trial for
criticizing New York’s governor
• Eventually, Zenger was acquitted
Rural Folkways
• No book was read besides the bible
• People generally worked from sunup to
• Entertainment included playing cards,
horseracing, theater, and religious lectures
Structure of Government
• Eight colonies were considered Royal, and had
governors appointed by the King
• Three colonies were proprietary
• Only two colonies elected governors by
popular vote
• Legislature consisted of two houses
Local Government
• In New England
– A Town Meeting
• In the South
– The sheriff controlled everything
• No rights
– Women, poor white men, slaves, free blacks
– Religious restrictions were removed, slowly but