A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 4: “American Life in the Seventeenth Century”
~ 1607 – 1692 ~
The Unhealthy Chesapeake
Life in the American wilderness was harsh.
Diseases like malaria, dysentery, and typhoid killed many.
Few people lived to 40 or 50 years.
In the early days of colonies, women were so scarce that men fought over all of
Few people knew any grandparents.
A third of all brides in one Maryland county were already pregnant before the
Virginia, with 59,000 people, became the most populous colony.
The Tobacco Economy
The Chesapeake was very good for tobacco cultivation.
Chesapeake Bay exported 1.5 million pounds of tobacco yearly in the 1630s, and by
1700, that number had risen to 40 million pounds a year.
More availability led to falling prices, and farmers still grew more
Early on, most of the laborers were indentured servants.
(1) Life for them was hard, but there was hope at the end of seven years for
(2) Conditions were brutal, and in the later years, owners unwilling to free
their servants extended their contracts by years for small mistakes.
Frustrated Freemen and Bacon’s Rebellion
By the late 1600s, there were lots of free, poor, landless, single men frustrated by the lack
of money, land, work, and women (that’s nicely put).
In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led a few thousand of these men in a rebellion against the
These people wanted land and were resentful of Virginia governor William
Berkeley’s friendly policies toward the Indians.
Bacon’s men murderously attacked Indian settlements after Berkeley refused to
retaliate for a series of savage Indian attacks on the frontier.
Then, in the middle of his rebellion, Bacon suddenly died of disease, and Berkeley went
on the crush the uprising.
Still, Bacon’s legacy lived on, giving frustrated poor folks ideas to rebel, and
so a bit of paranoia went on for some time afterwards.