Before Europeans settled in North America, natives roamed the land. In the southwestern U.S., maize was a significant food source that provided the natives with necessary nutrients; whereas, natives in the northwest and Great Plains hunted. The Native Americans’ lives were forever disturbed and altered when European influence first appeared. Through joint stock companies, many Europeans traveled to the U.S. in pursuit of gold, glory, and/or spreading Christianity. In effort to provide resources to the new colonies the Columbian Exchange began, which rampantly spread disease among the Indians. Due to the death of many natives through both disease and the Encomienda System, slave trade began around 1620.
The Spanish’s arrival inspired other European nations’ ventures to the New World; however, each country retained its own goals. For instance, the Spanish wanted to convert the natives and find gold, while the Dutch and French wanted to establish traded routes for furs and attain friendly relations with the natives. In contrast, the English wanted to establish new religious settlements in which families could prosper and survive on self-sustaining agriculture. The British and Spanish retained the most hostile relationships with the natives, an aspect demonstrated through the Bacon Rebellion – in which poor farmers slaughtered natives. The east coast was separated into three colonies: New England, Middle, and Southern. The Puritans lived in the homogeneous New England colonies, focused on religion. The Middle Colonies were diverse religiously and harvested various crops; whereas, the Southern colonies were more labor-intensive and prospered by selling tobacco, a cash crop that saved the Jamestown colony. Through trade, the natives were exposed to alcohol which resulted in many Native Americans becoming severe alcoholics. During this period, Mercantilist policies were revered and Salutatory Neglect, a British policy of self-rule, left the colonists satisfied.
By the culmination of the French and Indian War, French presence was removed from North America. The British began to dismiss their policy of Salutatory Neglect due to debts that they had accumulated over the war and British resentment grew in the U.S. In attempt to resist British control, colonists created the Stamp Act Congress, Committees of Correspondence, and the First Continental Congress; however, these efforts were unsuccessful. Thomas Paine published Common Sense during this tumultuous time, urging colonists to rebel against the British. Paine’s work in addition to enlightenment ideologies sprouted ideas of revolution in the colonies. The British continued to impose unpopular laws during this time such as the Homestead Act, Stamp Act, and Quartering Act, ultimately leading to the Boston Tea Party/Boston Massacre and the Revolutionary War. Despite a relatively weaker army, the colonists were victorious in war due to strong leadership/desire to win, knowledge about the land, and French aid. After the colonies’ victory, the first government – the Articles of Confederation – was established. It ultimately failed since the central government did not possess the ability to tax states. Eventually, the United States of America, the government we know today, formed and the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution. When George Washington left office, he detailed important political advice – warning of the destructiveness of political parties and foreign alliances. During this period, women were still virtually powerless and debate against state government versus the national government still lingered.