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COLONIAL LIFE AND CONDITIONS IN 1750
108. Three groups of colonies. In many ways colonial life was the same both North and South, but there were marked differences between the geography and climate of the Southern, New England or Northern, and Middle Colonies; and their people also differed much in manners, customs, and occupations.
109. Southern society. The planters were the upper class in the South. They were well educated, had stately manners, were hospitable to strangers, woré fine clothing, and kept numerous black servants. Many planters spent their leisure in the study of politics, and were fond of military life. From this class came
A large hogshead was filled with tobacco; then an axle was run through Washington and it, a frame was attached, and oxen
drew it from the field to the plantother Southern
er's wharf leaders of the Revolution; indeed, for a long time after the Revolution, the young nation found in the South, particularly in Virginia, some of its best soldiers and statesmen.
The English were the most numerous nationality; but there were also many French, Germans, Swiss, and ScotchIrish.
110. Southern occupations and commerce. Virginia's
Courtesy, United States National Museum A TOBACCO ROLLER
one great crop was tobacco; but in the Carolinas, rice, indigo, tar, and turpentine were nearly as important, and there were also raised much corn, cotton, and beef. Commerce was carried on with sister colonies to the north, as well as with the West Indies and England.
The fur traders of Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland frequently ventured with their packhorses over the passes of the Allegheny Mountains and down into the valley of the Ohio River - where dwelt some of the most warlike tribes.
111. New England society. Even the poorest New Englander stood stoutly for his rights, as Englishmen have always done, but the wealthy were in their manner quite as aristocratic as any Southern gentleman. At church the rich sat in the front pews, beside the colonial officials who had been sent out by the King. Behind them, in the order named, came farmers, merchants, and mechanics. 1
Practically all of the immigrants who came to New England in colonial days were English, so that for a century and a half its people were almost wholly of that one race.
112. New England occupations and commerce. As farming in that thin soil was not very profitable, there were in New England very few large landed estates. Men of the highest class and best ability held public office, or followed such professions as the law, the ministry, and medicine. There also grew up an aristocratic merchant class, who took a prominent part in public affairs and were highly respected by everybody. Indeed, no one was idle in the North. There were but few slaves; this was not because in colonial days New Englanders opposed slavery, for they did not; but because they did not think it profitable, on their small farms or in their other industries, to keep servants who had to be driven to labor, under overseers.
Unlike the people of the South, New Englanders made for themselves, chiefly in their own houses, almost all the
1 At Harvard College the students were seated in chapel in the order of their social rank.
manufactured goods they wanted, and mechanics, millers, and the like were plentiful in every town.
Large numbers of those who lived along the coast obtained a good share of their living from the sea, as fishermen and sailors. Hundreds of stout little sailing ships, made and owned by New Englanders, not only plied up and down the entire American coast, but made voyages to Europe, Africa, and the West Indies.' Outgoing cargoes consisted of the products of their farms, lumber camps, and factories, which were bartered in all parts of the world for the products of other lands, and even for African slaves.
113. Society in the Middle Colonies. In this favored region dwelt many nationalities, Dutch, French, Germans, Swedes, Finns, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish, as well as English, thus bringing together a great variety of speech, customs, and ways of thinking. In New Jersey, and in Philadelphia itself, however, the people were chiefly English. Along the Hudson the Dutch patroons held trade and free labor in high favor, but often owned large numbers of both black and white house servants. The rich Quakers in Pennsylvania were rather aristocratic in their ideas; but on the whole there was more democracy in that province than either in New England or the South.
114. Occupations in the Middle Colonies. Farming was of course the chief industry, but there was some mining of coal and iron, and a few small factories were also operated. As in the South there grew up in New York and Pennsylvania an extensive fur trade with the Indians to the north and west. Ships from the Middle Colonies traded with other colonies both north and south, and even carried cargoes to and from the West Indies, Madeira Islands, Portugal, and England.
115. Navigation laws, and smuggling. All nations having seacoasts prefer that their ocean commerce shall be carried on in vessels built, or at least owned, by their own citizens; a country does not feel independent of others, in case of war,
1 Boston alone employed six hundred ships in her foreign trade, and over a thousand in coast trade and the fisheries.
unless its ships are its own. A hundred years before the voyage of Columbus, England had laws making it an offense "to ship merchandise out of or into the realm" except in English vessels. At first the colonists were not compelled to obey these laws. But it was soon seen that enterprising Dutch sailors were taking a large part of the colonial trade in their ships, and making a great deal of money from it. The English Government, therefore, in the middle of the seventeenth century passed severe laws compelling the colonists to help build up English commerce. These laws were of three classes:
(a) Nobody was allowed to ship any goods into, or from, or between the colonies, except in English-built or colonialbuilt ships, worked by English or colonial crews.
(6) Certain exports, among them tobacco, indigo, copper, and furs, must be sent only to England. Some exports, such as lumber, provisions, and salt fish, were allowed to go to other countries.
(c) An American merchant was not permitted to import goods directly from the continent of Europe; he must first have them shipped to London, where an English duty was collected on them; there they were reloaded and sent on to America, where still another duty must be paid. This was a very slow and costly method of importation.
It was difficult, however, to enforce the two last-named regulations, because there were not enough officers in America to search every ship that sailed from or came to our shores, to see if the laws had been obeyed. The Northern Colonies, especially, paid little attention to such laws, and there was a great deal of smuggling — which was a practice then common also on the coasts of most European countries.
116. Domestic manufactures. In addition to these Navigation Acts, as they were called, there were laws practically forbidding American factories to make anything that might be made in England.
1 Under these rules iron mined in America might be made here into crude bars (or “pigs”), but must be sent to England to be manufactured into useful
Copyright, Esser Institute
It was found to be as difficult to get the Americans to obey these oppressive manufacturing laws as it was to force the Navigation Acts upon them. If they could have been enforced, then almost all manufacturing and business interests in the colonies would have been ruined. As it was, the laws were broken every day many small colonial industries managed to thrive, and a great deal of profitable commerce was carried on between the colonies. . Farmers' wives and daughters dressed flax and carded wool, spun
AN OLD NEW ENGLAND KITCHEN these into thread
Notice the spinning wheel, the flax-reel, the pewter plates on the and yarn, and wove shelves, the lanterns and candles on the mantle, the cooking
utensils, and the rifle and powderhorn and crudely dyed “homespun" cloth, from which they made clothing for the family. Mittens and socks were also knitted in the homes, and sold in large quantities throughout the colonies. Many straw hats and bonnets were made, but cloth or felt hats were imported from England. A few iron-working mills were to be found, flour- and grist-mills were numerous, ships were built in every colony, and carpenters, ropemakers, and sailmakers found abundant employment.
117. Houses. Up to the opening of the Revolution, most of the smaller country houses were still made of logs — which were either left round or roughly squared by the axe articles. The making of hats in America was declared by one law to be “an evil practice.” It was forbidden to ship either wool or woolen fabrics outside of the colony where grown and made. New England was particularly hurt by the "Sugar Act," prohibiting the importation into the colonies of any nonEnglish sugar, molasses, or rum — this was in order to help the sugar industry in the British West Indies.
Similar regulations then governed the colonies of all other European countries. In fact, the English acts were less severe than those of France or Spain.