An indenture is a labor contract that young, impoverished, and often illiterate Englishmen and occasionally Englishwomen ed in England, pledging to work for a of years usually between five and seven growing tobacco in the Chesapeake colonies. Many were exploited by unscrupulous tobacco planters who seduced them with promises of marriage. Smoking tobacco was a long-standing practice among native peoples, and English and other European consumers soon adopted it.
The turmoil in England made the administration and imperial oversight of the Chesapeake and New England colonies difficult, and the two regions developed divergent cultures. Growing tobacco proved very labor-intensive, and the Chesapeake colonists needed a steady workforce to do the hard work of clearing the land and caring for the tender young plants.
Many historians believe the fault lines separating what later became the North and South in the United States originated in the profound differences between the Chesapeake and New England colonies. Other English men and women in the Chesapeake colonies and elsewhere in the English Atlantic World looked on in horror at the mayhem the Parliamentarians, led by the Puritan insurgents, appeared to unleash in England. The English encouraged emigration far more than the Spanish, French, or Dutch. A very different group of English men and women flocked to the cold climate and rocky soil of New England, spurred by religious motives.
If they committed a crime or disobeyed their masters, they found their terms of service lengthened, often by several years. Another stream, this one of pious Puritan families, sought to live as they believed scripture demanded and established the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, New Haven, Connecticut, and Rhode Island colonies of New England. From the outset, its settlers struggled both with each other and with the native inhabitants, the powerful Powhatan, who controlled the area. The Congregational Church is the result of the Puritan enterprise in America. In return, indentured servants received paid passage to America and food, clothing, and lodging.
To meet these labor demands, early Virginians relied on indentured servants. Thousands of unmarried, unemployed, and impatient young Englishmen, along with a few Englishwomen, pinned their hopes for a better life on the tobacco fields of these two colonies. Political stability came slowly, but bythe fledgling colony was operating under the leadership of a governor, a council, and a House of Burgesses.
ByNew England had a population of twenty-five thousand. By the s, Virginia had weathered the worst and gained a degree of permanence. Though the early Virginians at Jamestown hoped to find gold, they and the settlers in Maryland quickly discovered that growing tobacco was the only sure means of making money.
Nonetheless, those indentured servants who completed their term of service often began new lives as tobacco planters.
And now famine beginning to look ghastly and pale in every face that nothing was spared to maintain life and to do those things which seem incredible as to dig up dead corpses out of graves and to eat them, and some have licked up the blood which has fallen from their weak fellows. At the start of the seventeenth century, the English had not established a permanent settlement in the Americas.
In the early seventeenth century, thousands of English settlers came to what are now Virginia, Maryland, and the New England states in search of opportunity and a better life. Now all of us at James Town, beginning to feel that sharp prick of hunger which no man truly describe but he which has tasted the bitterness thereof, a world of miseries ensued as the sequel will express unto you, in so much that some to satisfy their hunger have robbed the store for the which I caused them to be executed.
How do you think Jamestown managed to survive after such an experience? Peace in Virginia did not last long. Inthe settlers captured Pocahontas also called Matoakathe daughter of a Powhatan headman named Wahunsonacook, and gave her in marriage to Englishman John Rolfe. Economic stability came from the lucrative cultivation of tobacco. English colonists in America closely followed these events. In this painting by an unknown artist, slaves work in tobacco-drying sheds.
By the s, the Church of England began to see leading Puritan ministers and their followers as outlaws, a national security threat because of their opposition to its power. Inthe Parliamentarians gained the upper hand and, in an unprecedented move, executed Charles I. In the s, therefore, England became a republic, a state without a king.
The diverging cultures of the new england and chesapeake colonies
Once cured, the tobacco had to be packaged in hogshe large wooden barrels and loaded aboard ship, which also required considerable labor. English actions infuriated and insulted the Powhatan. Then having fed upon horses and other beasts as long as they lasted, we were glad to make shift with vermin as dogs, cats, rats, and mice. The territory of the equally impressive Susquehannock people also bordered English settlements at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay. Tensions ran high between the English and the Powhatan, and near-constant war prevailed.
These boosters of colonization hoped to turn a profit—whether by importing raw resources or providing new markets for English goods—and spread Protestantism. Meanwhile, many loyal members of the Church of England, who ridiculed and mocked Puritans both at home and in New England, flocked to Virginia for economic opportunity.
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The English migrants who actually made the journey, however, had different goals. Indentured servants could not marry, and they were subject to the will of the tobacco planters who bought their labor contracts. Life in the colonies proved harsh, however.
Note her European garb and pose. Their union, and her choice to remain with the English, helped quell the war in Pocahontas converted to Christianity, changing her name to Rebecca, and sailed with her husband and several other Powhatan to England where she was introduced to King James I. Promoters of colonization publicized Pocahontas as an example of the good work of converting the Powhatan to Christianity. By Junethe few remaining settlers had decided to abandon the area; only the last-minute arrival of a supply ship from England prevented another failed colonization effort.
What do you think the Jamestown colonists learned? What message did the painter likely intend to convey with this portrait of Pocahontas, the daughter of a powerful Indian chief? Most initially devoted themselves to finding gold and silver instead of finding ways to grow their own food. Indeed, many Puritans left New England and returned home to take part in the struggle against the king and the national church. As the noose of conformity tightened around them, many Puritans decided to remove to New England. This engraving by Simon van de Passe, completed when Pocahontas and John Rolfe were presented at court in England, is the only known contemporary image of Pocahontas.
To entice even more migrants to the New World, the Virginia Company also implemented the headright systemin which those who paid their own passage to Virginia received fifty acres plus an additional fifty for each servant or family member they brought with them. George Percy, the youngest son of an English nobleman, was in the first group of settlers at the Jamestown Colony.
These planters would then sell their pregnant servants to other tobacco planters to avoid the costs of raising. A second tobacco colony, Maryland, was formed inwhen King Charles I granted its charter to the Calvert family for their loyal service to England.
Thousands of English migrants arrived in the Chesapeake Bay colonies of Virginia and Maryland to work in the tobacco fields. In Chesapeake Bay, English migrants established Virginia and Maryland with a decidedly commercial orientation. The Second Anglo-Powhatan War s broke out because of the expansion of the English settlement nearly one hundred miles into the interior, and because of the continued insults and friction caused by English activities.
They established nearly a dozen colonies, sending swarms of immigrants to populate the land. In the s, someindentured servants traveled to the Chesapeake Bay. Most were poor young men in their early twenties. Poor health, lack of food, and fighting with native peoples took the lives of many of the original Jamestown settlers. The Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland served a vital purpose in the developing seventeenth-century English empire by providing tobacco, a cash crop. By choosing to settle along the rivers on the banks of the Chesapeake, the English unknowingly placed themselves at the center of the Powhatan Empire, a powerful Algonquian confederacy of thirty native groups with perhaps as many as twenty-two thousand people.
The supply ship brought new settlers, but only twelve hundred of the seventy-five hundred who came to Virginia between and survived. England had experienced a dramatic rise in population in the sixteenth century, and the colonies appeared a welcoming place for those who faced overcrowding and grinding poverty at home. However, the early history of Jamestown did not suggest the English outpost would survive. Increasingly in the early s, the English state church—the Church of England, established in the s—demanded conformity, or compliance with its practices, but Puritans pushed for greater reforms.
The mature leaf of the plant then had to be cured driedwhich necessitated the construction of drying barns. The Powhatan attacked in and succeeded in killing almost English, about a third of the settlers. They were essentially employees of the Virginia Company of London, an English t-stock company, in which investors provided the capital and assumed the risk in order to reap the profit, and they had to make a profit for their shareholders as well as for themselves. The troubles in England escalated in the s when civil war broke out, pitting Royalist supporters of King Charles I and the Church of England against Parliamentarians, the Puritan reformers and their supporters in Parliament.
Jealousies and infighting among the English destabilized the colony. Inthe Virginia colony began exporting tobacco back to England, which earned it a sizable profit and saved the colony from ruin.
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Female indentured servants faced special dangers in what was essentially a bachelor colony. Over the next century, however, they outpaced their rivals. Many of the Puritans crossing the Atlantic were people who brought families and children.
One member, John Smith, whose famous map begins this chapter, took control and exercised near-dictatorial powers, which furthered aggravated the squabbling.
While the English in Virginia and Maryland worked on expanding their profitable tobacco fields, the English in New England built towns focused on the church, where each congregation decided what was best for itself. Promoters of English colonization in North America, many of whom never ventured across the Atlantic, wrote about the bounty the English would find there.
All was fish that came to net to satisfy cruel hunger as to eat boots, shoes, or any other leather some could come by, and, those being spent and devoured, some were enforced to search the woods and to feed upon serpents and snakes and to dig the earth for wild and unknown roots, where many of our men were cut off of and slain by the savages.
The headright system and the promise of a new life for servants acted as powerful incentives for English migrants to hazard the journey to the New World.