Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Early English Colonies

Before the arrival of the English most of the coastal Indians of the Massachusetts to Virgina area lived is small villages such as this.


Sir Walter Raleigh tried to establish a successful English colony in North America several times. All were failures, but he is credited with introducing smoking to the court of King James. James thought smoking was a vile, disgusting and unhealthy habit (he was a few centuries ahead of the times on this thought).

The establishment of the "Lost Colony of Roanoke" in 1587, was the most famous failure of the early English colonial attempts. Established on an island off the coast of modern day North Carolina, Roanoke had the distinction of having the first European born in North America, Virginia Dare.


The last contact with the colonists was when their ship left for England in 1587, for needed supplies. The attack of the Spanish Armada delayed the return of the relief ship until 1590. What they found was that the 100+ colonists had disappeared, no sign of violence or struggle was found although much of the housing and fortifications of the colony had be dismantled. The only clue was the word "Croatan" carved on a tree post. Although both the English and the Spanish (the former to rescue the survivors and the latter to destroy the interlopers into land claimed by Spain) searched for additional clues to the colony's disappearance for many years, the mystery has never been solved to this day.

Jamestown-Virginia 1607, was the first successful English Colony in the New World. It was touch and go for several years but thanks to the strong leadership of Capt. John Smith and initial friendly relations with the local Powhatan Tribes the colony slowly grew.

The marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe was hoped to continue peaceful relations with the local Indians.


The peace failed with the death of Pocahontas' father, Chief Wahunsonacock (more commonly known as Chief Powhatan). Increased resentment between the colonists and Indians over cultural misunderstandings and land use rights lead to several small violent clashes. The final breach occurred in 1622, with the Jamestown Massacre, where 347 of the European colonists (25% of the Population) were killed and many captured by the Powhatan Indians under the leadership of Chief Opechancanough (the Uncle of Pocahontas).

The true saviour of the colony was the the cash crop-tobacco. Aways a money maker, tobacco earned Virginia the title "the Colony Built on Smoke."


Plymouth Plantation in 1620, was established by religious discontents, the "Pilgrims" (also known as Separatists) and some adventurers from England.

Arriving on the Mayflower, the colonists were at first dismayed to learn that they were not in Virginia where their contract for settlement gave them a legal claim.


Upon their own authority the men of the colony wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact,establishing a "Body Politic" with equality for all. These action is seen as the beginnings of American independent thought that would lead to the Revolution and US Constitution.


The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the first harvest in the new colony and the survival of the same.


After the English Civil War of the 17th Century, the new Government of Cromwell became interested in the Caribbean and its treasures. A series of attacks led to the capture of Jamaica from Spain by the English in 1655, by troops under General Robert Venables. The new English colony was an immediate money maker with its vast sugar plantations and as a haven for pirates and privateers raiding the rich seas of the Spanish Main.


The use of sugar plantation slaves in Jamaica like these was the norm throughout the Spanish, Dutch and English colonies on the islands of the Caribbean from Cuba to Grenada.

Family crest of Sir George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, original sponsor and his son Sir Cecil, the founder of Maryland.

In the new colony of Maryland, the Act of Toleration in 1649, became the first law of religious toleration in the New World. This act was originally only for Christians that believed in the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the concept was later expanded to all European and finally all religions that is now formalized in the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

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