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9-08-2015, 18:30

Trade and colonies in the Atlantic

The Caribbean is, of course, geographically part of the Atlantic, and its economy, social structure, and political situation tied it very clearly into what historians term the “Atlantic world.” By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that world also connected to the Indian Ocean, and to the lives of people far from any sea. Millions of pieces of Chinese porcelain made in the inland city of Jingdezhen were transported to Canton, carried on ships to Amsterdam and London, and then exported to Jamaica, Boston, Berlin, and Moscow. Calico cloth made by village residents in the Gujerati area of northwest India went to Europe, but also to the Senegambia in western Africa, where it was traded to African merchants for slaves and for the gum of the acacia tree. Acacia gum was used in Britain and France for papermaking and for producing calicoes that Europeans hoped might eventually compete with those of India. Calico was one of the many items promised “in perpetuity” to Native American tribes in treaties with British and later American authorities. Commerce in the Atlantic is often described as a “triangle trade” linking Europe, Africa, and the Americas, but no geometrical fi gure can accurately capture the many lines of interaction. The colonies established in North America by powers other than Spain and Portugal were a key part of this Atlantic world. The earliest colonies were tiny and underfunded, often dependent on indigenous peoples for their survival. Half failed, whether through conquest by another power, disease, abandonment, economic or environmental collapse, or indigenous opposition. English-sponsored voyages to the Americas began with those of John Cabot in 1495, but nearly a century later Hakluyt and others were still trying to encourage a fi rst successful settlement. In 1585, the English writer, explorer, and New World promoter Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618) founded a small colony at Roanoke Island off what is now North Carolina, but the colonists vanished within several years. About twenty years later another group settled at Jamestown in Virginia, organized by the joint-stock Virginia Company, though it was several decades before the colony’s stability was assured. Colonists experimented with different cash crops as well as grain and root crops for their own use, and gradually established a system of indentured servitude to supply the needed labor. Ship captains recruited young people, mostly boys and young men, but also some young women, as indentured servants, then sold the contracts to Virginia colonists. The fi rst Africans came to English North America in 1619, in a ship named the Jesus ; though in the early decades some Africans were indentured servants, most of them were permanent slaves. Native Americans were also enslaved in many southern colonies, but their numbers were soon dwarfed by those of Africans.

SOURCE 37 The transportation of children

As in the Caribbean, not every indentured servant came to North America voluntarily. The following is a letter from Sir Edwin Sandys of the Virginia Company requesting a member of the king’s Privy Council to give him the authority to coerce children to go to Virginia in 1620. These were children the government of the city of London had determined were “superfl uous”; many were probably orphans, but we know from other sources that poor children were also simply rounded up on the streets, and transported despite the objections of their parents. Sandys makes no mention of labor needs in Virginia in his letter, but frames it in terms of relieving a burden on the city and improving the character of young people he views as dangerous and shiftless. Right Honorable [Sir Robert Naughton of the King’s Privy Council]: Being unable to give my personal attendance upon the Lords [the Privy Council], I have presumed to address my suit in these few lines unto your Honor. The City of London have by act of their Common Council, appointed one hundred children out of their superfl uous multitude to be transported to Virginia; there to be bound apprentices for certain years, and afterward with very benefi cial conditions for the children. And have granted moreover a levy of fi ve hundred pounds among themselves for the appareling of those children, and toward their charges of transportation. Now it falleth out that among those children, sundry being ill disposed, and fi tter for any remote place than for this City, declare their unwillingness to go to Virginia, of whom the City is especially desirous to be disburdened, and in Virginia under severe masters they may be brought to goodness. But this City wanting authority to deliver, and the Virginia Company to transport, these persons against their wills, the burden is laid upon me, by humble suit unto the Lords to procure higher authority for the warranting thereof. May it please your Honor therefore, to vouchsafe unto us of the Company here, and to the whole plantation in Virginia, that noble favor, as to be a means unto their Lordships out of their accustomed goodness, and by their higher authority, to discharge both the City and our Company of this diffi culty, as their Lordships and your Honors in your wisdom shall fi nd most expedient. For whose health and prosperity our Company will always pray… (From Susan M. Kingsbury , ed., The Records of the Virginia Company of London: The Court Book, from the Manuscript in the Library of Congress, vol. III [ Washington: Government Printing offi ce , 1933], p. 259.) These earliest ventures were organized by various chartered companies and motivated primarily by the hope of wealth, but in 1620 a group of religious separatists called the Pilgrims established a colony at Plymouth far to the north of Jamestown. Over the next several decades, other colonies were established by groups unhappy with the religious situation in England, primarily Puritans – who set up Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Haven – but also Catholics, who established the colony of Maryland. Each of these colonies was chartered by the crown, which allowed the colony the right to make local laws, as long as these did not go against the laws of England. Many of them established some sort of assembly; in most colonies propertied males could vote for members in the assembly, though in Massachusetts only those men who were approved members of the church had the right to vote. In order to be full church members, men had to make a confession to the whole congregation describing their personal conversion experience. Women became church members independently through their own conversion experiences, though this did not give them political rights. Early French colonies in North America were just as tiny and tenuous as British colonies. France attempted to found colonies in Florida and Canada in the middle of the sixteenth century, but these were either taken over by the Spanish or immediately failed. The fi rst long-lasting French settlements were at Acadia and Quebec in the fi rst decade of the seventeenth century, owned by a series of noblemen who worked sporadically with merchant companies to try to encourage colonization, though they were not very successful. Both Quebec and Acadia were occupied by the English for short periods during the seventeenth century, and French explorers, fur-traders, and missionaries moved westward, founding forts, trading posts, and a few small missions along the coasts of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. These early French colonies were based on a single product – fur, especially beaver pelts destined to be made into hat felt, for such hats were the height of fashion in Europe. As in the Caribbean, other countries joined Spain, England, and France in founding colonies in North America. In 1609, the English explorer Henry Hudson led an expedition in northeastern North America sponsored by the VOC, and claimed various places where he landed for the company. Dutch fur-traders set up a few forts near present-day Albany, New York, and in 1623 the new Dutch West Indian Company persuaded the States General to declare the whole area a Dutch province, called New Netherland. In 1626 the WIC founded New Amsterdam on the southern tip of the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, primarily as a base to defend its fur-trading operations; this became the largest Dutch colonial settlement in North America, and attracted settlers from other parts of Europe. In 1638 Sweden established the fi rst of several colonies along the Delaware River, but in 1655 most of these were conquered by the Dutch, who saw them as a threat. Most of the Swedish colonists stayed, however, adding to the mixture of settlers in the Dutch colonies. In the 1660s, a second wave of colonies were founded, especially by England. English forces conquered New Netherland, including the settlement at New Amsterdam, renaming both New York, in honor of the younger brother of the newly restored King Charles II, James, duke of York. Colonies were founded in South Carolina and Georgia in 1670, to form a buffer between Virginia and the Spanish colonies in Florida, and to attempt the introduction of profi table subtropical crops, including indigo, tobacco, and rice. Georgia also served as a penal colony for the transportation of debtors, vagrants, and criminals. In 1682, William Penn (1644–1718), a prominent member of the Society of Friends – the Quakers – received a charter for what became Pennsylvania, which included the former New Sweden. Most of the new colonies, including Penn’s, were proprietary, meaning they were owned outright by a single person or group. Virginia had a governor appointed by the king, along with an elected assembly, and the New England colonies were largely controlled by their elected assemblies. Economically the mid-Atlantic and New England colonies depended on agriculture done by families, sometimes with the assistance of an indentured servant or two. Virginia was primarily settled by small farmers in the interior, though coastal merchants and larger landholders dominated the economy. Discontent among poorer farmers and indentured servants led to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676; the leaders of Virginia society saw importing more African slaves as a way of reducing the number of future rebels and lessening social tensions among white colonists by establishing a permanent, racially marked labor force. As we have seen, attempts by French chartered companies to encourage permanent settlements in North America were not very successful, and in 1663 Louis XIV brought all of New France under direct royal control. He appointed a governor-general to handle military matters, and an intendant similar to those he was appointing in France to handle administrative affairs. Each regional colony had its own governor and intendants , also put in position by the king. Some historians have, in fact, seen New France as a sort of laboratory for absolutism, where traditional noble privileges meant little, no guilds restricted trade or production, and commoners could advance more quickly through service to the monarch and their own skills. Louis XIV, or, more accurately, his fi nance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, recognized that increasing the population of New France was important if French holdings were to compete with the steadily growing English colonies. Most immigrants in the seventeenth century were unemployed young men from urban environments, who stayed briefl y and then either died or went back to France. The English colonies also attracted young single men, but also young single women in the colony who married these men, and young families, so that they grew from both immigration and natural increase. For a brief period in the 1660s the French crown directly recruited young women, mostly poor women from charity hospitals, and paid for their passage; about eight hundred of these fi lles du roi (daughters of the king) did immigrate, more than doubling the number of European women in the colony who were not nuns. Colbert stated explicitly, however, that “it would not be wise to depopulate the kingdom in order to populate Canada,” and so recommended instead that “the most useful way to achieve it would be to try to civilize the Algonquins, the Hurons, and the other Savages who have embraced Christianity; and to persuade them to come to settle in a commune with the French, to live with them, and educate their children in our mores and our customs.” 2 Thus offi cial policy in New France in the seventeenth century was one of the assimilation of Native Americans through francisation , through which they would be “made French.” The policy of francisation included intermarriage between French men and indigenous women, for the French hoped that such marriages would help the fur trade and strengthen ties between French and Native American communities and families. French fur-traders – called voyageurs or coureurs de bois (“runners of the woods”) – did frequently marry Native American women as they traveled further and further west, relying on their wives and their wives’ families for many things. In contrast to free people of color in the French Caribbean, however, very few Native Americans in New France were interested in adopting French culture or integrating into French society on French terms, and the policy was abandoned at the end of the seventeenth century. Intermarriage between French traders and Native American women continued, especially in central and western fur-trading areas where European women were, in fact, banned until the 1820s. Offi cials now worried, however, about the man adopting “savage” customs from his wife rather than expecting that she would become French through him. Jesuit missionaries set up communities for Christian converts, but lived slightly separate from them; they translated Christian materials into local languages, and, as in China, tried to explain Christian beliefs and practices in terms of native customs. Becoming Christian no longer required becoming French. British missionaries were far less active among native peoples than were French or Spanish Jesuits and Franciscans, and intermarriage with native people was never English policy. There were separate settlements for Indian Christians in New England: “praying towns” in which converts were expected to follow Christian mores in terms of marriage and behavior as well as worship and other religious practices. There were never very many of these, however, and the rapidly expanding European population of New England made the primary story of native–immigrant relations one of European appropriation of Native American land for new settlements, war, and the eventual expulsion of natives from many parts of New England. In the southern states there was little missionary activity and very few churches even for immigrants. Slaveowners often chose not to baptize their slaves, for they feared this might mean they would have to free them. In 1667, the Virginia assembly, called the House of Burgesses, passed a law stating that baptism did not change one’s condition of servitude, but many owners still refused to allow their slaves to be baptized. This was also true in the British Caribbean, whereas Catholic slaveowners in both the French and Spanish colonies were more likely to baptize their slaves, as the Code Noir enjoined. The eighteenth century brought further expansion and shuffl ing in French, British, and Spanish North American holdings. In 1699, the French founded Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi to prevent either the Spanish or the British from controlling trade from the interior, especially the furs that were being transported from the French Illinois colony. By 1750, Louisiana had a population of about four thousand Europeans, some of them unwilling transports from French prisons and cities, sent into what became known as “Louisiana slavery.” Others were Germans attracted by brochures produced by fi nancier John Law, whose investment schemes for spectacular profi ts involved recruiting thousands of new residents to French colonies in the Americas. About fi ve thousand of Louisiana’s residents were African slaves, growing tobacco, indigo, and rice. In the late 1750s, these groups were joined by French colonists from Acadia (now part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia) deported by the British after they conquered the area. Though the number of Acadians who came to Louisiana was probably only somewhat over a thousand, their story became an essential part of Louisiana culture, and many residents with no ties to this group also came to think of themselves as “Cajun.” The conquest of Acadia was only one part of British expansion into French territory. By 1750, the valley of the St. Lawrence River was fi lled with French farms that exported grain to the Caribbean, and the port town of Louisbourg on Ile Royale (now Cape Breton Island, part of Nova Scotia) was a thriving center for trade in fi sh from the Grand Banks and products from around the world. The entire population of New France, however, probably included only about 100,000 Europeans and Africans, while the British North American colonies had at least one and a half million inhabitants, and perhaps as many as two million. The northern British colonies had developed extensive craft industries in ship-building, pottery, and iron goods, and three towns with populations of more than ten thousand: Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. New Englanders helped British troops and the British navy take Louisbourg in 1745, a small American skirmish that was part of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–8). The terms of the peace treaty returned Louisbourg to France, but tensions between French and British settlers continued, spreading into the Ohio River valley. In 1754, the young George Washington led a small contingent of troops against French forces in western Pennsylvania in the fi rst battle of what came to be known in the United States as the French and Indian War (1754–63). British forces widened their attacks on New France, and North America became one battleground in the war known more widely as the Seven Years War (1756–63). Louisbourg fell again, as did Quebec, and at the end of the war France was required to cede Louisiana to Spain and the rest of its North American holdings, other than two tiny islands, to Britain. The Seven Years War left Britain in control of most of eastern North America, with King George III and his ministers deciding that ties between Britain and what had become its most valuable colonial possession should be strengthened, and that the colonies should provide a fairer share (to British eyes) of the revenue needed to run an empire. The government decided to enforce demands for revenue and other acts previously left unenforced, and set new taxes on sugar, the stamps required for offi cial documents, and other goods. These measures met increased resistance, and led to colonial challenges to British authority, fi rst as protests, boycotts, mob violence, organizing, speeches, pamphlets, and essays, and then military action. Fighting began in 1775, and eventually involved white settlers, black slaves, and Native American groups on both sides, along with British troops and Germans hired by the British. France entered the war on the side of the Americans, fi rst with money and supplies and then with soldiers and ships. Spain was allied with France, which made every British colony in the Caribbean vulnerable, and British supply lines were long and stretched thin. Many other European states, including Russia under Catherine the Great, formed a League of Armed Neutrality, which worked against British interests, blocking them from being able to substitute Baltic wood and tar for American, thus hindering ship repair and maintenance. The colonies began the war with militia that were used to serving for a relatively short term of service, but by the end at least some of these troops had been turned into skilled, disciplined soldiers, similar to those fi ghting for European generals. In fact, some of the American offi cers were European generals, either veterans of the British army or continental military offi cers attracted to the fi ght. In 1781, a large British army was forced to surrender by French and American forces supported by French ships, and fi ghting in North America died down. Fighting continued in the Caribbean, and British and French troops were still fi ghting halfway around the world in India when the peace treaty confi rming the independence of the thirteen colonies was signed in 1783. Loyalists streamed to other British colonies, especially several of the provinces in Canada, and British islands in the Caribbean. Britain could no longer send prisoners to North America as indentured servants, and a few years later the country established the fi rst penal colony in Australia. The Seven Years War, the War of American Independence, and the numerous other wars discussed in chapter 9 often involved formal naval battles on the Atlantic as well as land fi ghting in the Americas, especially in frontier and border areas. War disrupted connections around and across the Atlantic, but also increased those connections and made them more complex, as political exiles sought new places to live, religious refugees founded places where they could worship more freely, former indentured servants settled in lands newly appropriated from indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples moved deeper inland, and slaves were purchased in ever greater numbers to replace those killed by warfare as well as the millions who died from the normal working conditions on plantations. All of these people carried customs, languages, stories, religious beliefs, food preferences, music, kinship structures, funerary practices, and many other aspects of their cultures with them. For some, their cultural traditions were silenced or suppressed, but in many places they existed side by side with those from elsewhere, were given new meanings as people coped with their new environment, or were transformed into entirely new hybrid forms. West Africans, for example, carried their religion, called Vodun, to the New World, where it blended with the religious traditions of people from other parts of Africa, and a few elements of popular Christianity, especially the veneration of saints, to form related, but new, religions including Vodou in Haiti and Lukumi in Cuba. Traditions offi cially suppressed or ignored, especially those of indigenous or enslaved peoples, were sometimes incorporated into more approved forms; Caribbean and Brazilian Christianity, for example, was shaped by African customs and beliefs, just as Mexican Christianity was shaped by indigenous practices and ideas.