Facts and info about Colonial History for kids.
Fact 1: Our journey through Colonial History starts when the first Charter of Virginia is issued by King James I of England in 1606 giving grants of land to private investors which lead to the establishment of Jamestown in Virginia in 1607 led by Captain John Smith.
Fact 2: The colonists were ill prepared for a self-sufficient lifestyle and badly equipped to start a settlement. Most of the colonists were out-of-work "gentlemen” who had little experience of hard manual labor. These colonists had not expected that it might become necessary to feed themselves and were starving. The starving time lasted for nearly two years until Pocahontas saved John Smith. This event initiated friendlier relations between the Powhatan Native Indians who then decided to help the colonists.
Fact 3: New settlers arrived in Virginia including John Rolfe who married Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan, on April 5, 1614
Fact 4: The government of Virginia was being discussed amongst the settlers which led to the establishment of the House of Burgesses. The House of Burgesses consisted of elected representatives of English colonists who assembled to debate and solve common problems and pass laws in the new colony of Virginia. Their first meeting was held in Jamestown in 1619.
Fact 5: The Mayflower was the name of the sailing ship that took 102 English people, who would become known collectively as the 'Pilgrim Fathers', to the New World. The voyage on the Mayflower took 66 days covering 3000 miles from Plymouth in England to Massachusetts.
Fact 6: Forty-one of the Mayflower Pilgrims were Puritans who wanted the Anglican Church of England to become pure by getting rid of Catholic practices refer to Pilgrims and Puritans. The Puritans wanted to practise their religious beliefs without fear of persecution. The other voyagers were tradesmen, craftsmen, laborers and Indentured servants and several young orphans.
Fact 7: An agreement was signed to ensure peace between the Puritan 'Saints' and the other passengers, referred to as 'Strangers'. The document created by the Pilgrim Fathers was called the Mayflower Compact and contained laws, social rules and a democratic structure for the new colony.
Fact 8: The colonists chose the site of the Plymouth settlement and started to build the first house on Christmas Day, 1620. The first Governor was John Carver and the military leader was Myles Standish. The Plymouth settlement is not included as one of the 13 colonies as it was de-established in 1691.
Fact 9: The first American colonists led the way for the Great Migration. Twenty thousand English men, women, and children crossed the Atlantic Ocean to settle New England between 1620 and 1640. In 1630 the population of the colonies totalled nearly 5000 and by 1540 had increased to nearly 22,000.
Fact 10: The 13 Colonies were established in three regions - the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies and the Southern Colonies. Each region prospered by trade with England using the natural resources in each of the regions that were determined by the climate and different types of soil and the surplus of raw materials. Refer to Colonial Food
Fact 11: The New England Colonies were Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire. The geography of New England consisted of mountains thick with trees, rivers and poor rocky soil that was difficult to farm and unsuitable for crops. So their trade and exports were based on fish, whale products, ships, timber, furs, maple syrup, copper, horses, rum, whiskey and beer.
Fact 12: The Middle Colonies were New York, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They had fertile soil, a mild climate and land that was suited to farming. Their trade and exports were based on corn, wheat and livestock including beef and pork. The Middle colonies are often called the breadbasket colonies because they grew so many crops, especially wheat. Other industries included the production of iron ore, lumber, coal, textiles & fur.
Fact 13: The Southern Colonies were Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Their warm climate made it possible to grow crops throughout the year and was ideally suited for plantations. Their trade and exports were based on cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, sugar, rice, indigo dye and farm products.
Fact 14: American trade was extremely profitable for the English due to the Mercantile system. Mercantilism was based on the benefits of profitable trading that favored the flow of wealth in raw materials from the colonies to the England where the more profitable ‘finished goods’ were made. America flourished but the English homeland prospered even more due to the Mercantile system.
Fact 15: America needed a bigger workforce. Indentured servants were introduced to meet the growing demand for cheap labor. They were contracted to work from 5 to 7 years in exchange for transportation, food, clothing and lodging but were not paid any wages.
Fact 16: The economy of the plantations was based on a system of agricultural mass production requiring a huge labor force. The Southern plantations began to use the enforced labor of African slaves to harvest cotton, rice, indigo, sugar, tobacco for trade and export.
Fact 17: Trade with America was so good that the English introduced a series of laws to protect their interests in the colonies. The Navigation Acts that were passed to ensure that the American colonies only traded with England and placed taxes on goods like tobacco, sugar, rice, cotton, wool and indigo.
Fact 18: Various laws were passed but the British chose to allow the colonists to flout the laws associated with trade. They wanted to ensure that the America Colonies would remain loyal to the ‘mother country’ and it would have been expensive to send British troops to the American colonies to ensure the laws were enforced. So they turned a ‘blind eye’ to trade violations.
Fact 19: Efficient trade routes increased profits. The 'Triangular Trade' was so-called because it was three-sided, involving voyages from England to Africa, Africa to the Americas and the Americas back to England. Trading ships were packed on each leg of their journey, ensuring maximum profitability.
Fact 20: Trade aside, the religious fervor in the New England colonies in the late 1600’s took an ominous turn in the guise of witch hunts. The Salem Witch Trials took many innocent victims and resulted in 100-200 arrests, the execution of 19 convicted ‘witches’, 1 man pressed to death, 1 man stoned to death & 2 dogs executed as accomplices of witches.
Fact 21: During the whole of the colonization period there were conflicts with the native Indians and other European countries over the lands of North America. The French and Indian Wars erupted between France and Great Britain for its lands and associated wealth that lasted for 75 years. The French and Indian War ended in 1763 with a British victory over the French but Great Britain had accumulated a massive war debt in the process.
Fact 22: The British looked for ways to raise money from the American colonies to reduce their war debt. Their strategy was to tighten their control in the colonies enabling them to reverse their policy of Salutary Neglect, to enforce the Navigation Acts and to impose even more taxes on goods.
Fact 23: Their hard line approach to the colonies started when King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was designed to halt the westward expansion to new lands by the colonists by introducing a massive border, or Boundary Line, referred to as the Proclamation Line. The ‘Proclamation Line’ safeguarded Native Indian territories and repaid them for helping the British during the war. It also ensured that the Native Indians would help the British expand the fur trade. Not surprisingly, the colonists believed that the British had favored the Native Indians to the detriment of Americans.
Fact 24: The French and Indian Wars might have ended but the British remained in America. They needed troops in the colonies to man the new border and enforce the ‘Proclamation Line’. They also knew that they would need a strong presence to ensure that the new taxes they planned could be collected. Colonists objected to housing British troops who would clearly be working against their interests. Their uncooperative attitude led to the British parliament passing the 1765 Quartering Act which forced the colonies to provide provisions and housing to British soldiers stationed in America.
Fact 25: The British need for raising revenue from the colonies resulted in Parliament passing a new law. The Stamp Act of 1765 placed a stamp duty, or tax, on 54 separate items. The tax was not on goods and commodities but on items that affected every single colonist in America including newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, calendars, certificates, diplomas, contracts, wills, Bills of Sale and Licences. Stamp Agents were appointed to collect the taxes. Vehement opposition to the new taxes by the Sons of Liberty resulted in the Stamp Act Riots.
Fact 27: The Sons and Daughters of Liberty were a secret, underground organization of American patriots that was founded in Boston to force British stamp agents to resign and stop American merchants from ordering British goods.
Fact 28: The voices of American politicians joined those of the Sons of Liberty against the hated English laws and taxes. The cry of “No Taxation without representation!” was heard throughout the colonies. The British were losing money due to the boycotts and were forced to repeal the Stamp Act in 1766.
Fact 29: As the colonists celebrated their political victory parliament passed the 1766 Declaratory Act in response to their forced repeal of the Stamp Act. It gave the British a broad mandate to impose laws, and taxes, on the American colonies.
Fact 30: Due to the additional powers provided in the Declaratory Act the British were able to impose new taxes in the colonies. Within a year new trade laws were imposed on America. The 1767 Townshend Acts set new import taxes on British goods including paint, paper, lead, glass and tea and used revenues to maintain British troops in America.
Fact 31: In protest against the new taxes Boston immediately resumed its embargo of British imports. The British gave in and lifted the new taxes – except the Tea Tax. However, Great Britain needed to stem the protests of the Massachusetts colonists and sent additional troops to Boston to maintain order.
Fact 32: Tensions increased due to the sheer number of British troops in Boston. On March 5, 1770 British soldiers, who were quartered in the city, fired into a rioting mob and killed 5 American civilians - the event became known as the Boston Massacre.
Fact 33: Sons of Liberty groups had spread across all of the colonies. In 1772 a British customs ship, the HMS Gaspee, ran aground in Rhode Island and was attacked and set on fire by some Sons of Liberty. The British threatened to send culprits for trial in England, but none were ever caught. However, the threat alone was enough to anger the American politicians. Their anger turned to fury when the British interfered in the colonies again by passing the 1773 Tea Act.
Fact 34: The American colonists refused to buy taxed tea from the British, they either purchased tea obtained by America tea merchants via smugglers or drank coffee. Containers of tea were piling up in British warehouses. The British East India Company was on the verge of bankruptcy. The 1773 Tea Act was designed to bail out the British East India Company. The law did not impose any new taxes on tea but allowed low-cost tea to be shipped directly from China to the colonies, thus avoiding the tax on goods sent via England, as required by previous legislation. The low cost tea could only be sold by special consignees selected by the East India Company which would have resulted in the ruin of colonial tea merchants.
Fact 35: The British had anticipated a good reception to the Tea Act in America; after all, the colonists would get their tea at a cost lower than ever before. In late 1773 three ships laden with the low cost tea arrived in Boston. However, the Sons of Liberty continued to agitate against British interference in the colonies. They were enforcing a ban on all goods imported from Britain and were determined that the tea would not be unloaded. The collector of the customs in Boston refused to give the ships permission to leave before the tea was off-loaded. The only way to get rid of the tea was to destroy it. Sons of Liberty Patriots, dressed as Mohawk Indians, raided the 3 British ships in Boston harbor and dumped 342 containers of tea into the harbor. The event became known as the Boston Tea Party.
Fact 36: The British were furious with the Boston colonists and their actions during the Boston Tea Party. In 1774 Parliament responded by passing five laws, that became known as the ‘Intolerable Acts’, as a British reprisal to the Boston Tea Party rebellion. The ‘Intolerable Acts’ punished the whole of Massachusetts for the actions taken in Boston. The British intended the provisions in the acts to intimidate the other colonies and restore British authority in America.
Fact 37: The passing of the ‘Intolerable Acts’ was seen as the last straw. The American colonists united against the intolerable interference from Great Britain. Continental Congress was therefore established on September 5, 1774 in which elected representatives of colonists of the continent of North America assembled in revolt against British rule.
Fact 38: One of the first acts of the Continental Congress was to create the Continental Association which imposed economic sanctions against Great Britain - a ban on all British goods. The colonists would hit the British where it hurt the most – in their pockets!
Fact 39: The colonies were in turmoil and the British became aware that Massachusetts, who had been specifically targeted by the ‘Intolerable Acts’, was preparing for armed conflict. Great Britain issued orders to disarm the rebels and capture their leaders. The British were informed that Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying in the village of Lexington, about 11 miles from Boston. The Sons of Liberty discovered the British plans to arrest their leaders and confiscate their arms and munitions. Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington to warn them.
Fact 40: Thanks to Paul Revere the rebel leaders escaped but on Wednesday, April 19, 1775 shots were fired between colonists and British troops at Lexington, Massachusetts. This event was referred to as the "shot heard round the world" and marked the start of the American Revolutionary war.
Fact 41: The British troops at Lexington marched on to the town of Concord to search for the cache of munitions. They were met with strong resistance and the Battle of Concord ended in victory for the American colonists. There was no turning back. America was at war with Great Britain.
Fact 42: On July 6, 1775 Congress issued the Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms that explained why the 13 Colonies had taken up arms in what had become the American Revolutionary War. The Declaration also stated that Americans were “resolved to die free men rather than live as slaves”. The Revolutionary War raged from 1775 to 1783 during which a total of 25,000 Americans lost their lives.