American Life in the 17th Century

American Life in the 17th Century - American Life in the...

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American Life in the 17 th Century I. The Unhealthy Chesapeake a. Life Expectancy i. Starvation, Indians, and diseases such as malaria, dysentery, and typhoid cut 10 years off the life expectancy of newcomers from England ii. The majority of immigrants were single men in their late teens and early 20s iii. Half the people born in MD or VA didn’t see their 20 th birthday iv. Men outnumbered women by 6 to 1 1. As a result, eligible women didn’t remain single for long and had trouble finding women 2. Most couples lost their partner within 7 years v. It would take until the end of the 17 th century for the population of the Chesapeake to grow on the basis of its birthrate 1. VA had the most with 59,000 II. The Tobacco Economy a. Tobacco i. Intense tobacco cultivation quickly exhausted the soil. As a result: 1. People went in search for new land a. People ran into the Indians ii. By 1700, nearly 40 million pounds were being shipped out of the Chesapeake Bay b. Laborers i. It didn’t come from: 1. Families – They reproduced too slowly 2. Indians – Died too quickly 3. Slaves – Cost too much ii. England still had a “surplus” of displaced farmers, desperate for employment. Many became indentured servants – agreeing to work for nothing in exchange for passage to the colonies. Eventually, they would receive “freedom dues”: 1. A few barrels of corn 2. A suit of clothes 3. A small piece of land iii. VA and MD employed the “headright” system. Under its terms, whoever paid the passage of a laborer received the right to acquire 50 acres of land iv. By 1700, 100,000 indentured servants came to the region (3/4 of all European immigrants to the area)
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v. In the 1700s, as prime land became scarcer, masters became increasingly resistant to include land grants in “freedom dues.” Even after formal freedom was granted, poor free workers often had little choice but to hire themselves out for pitifully low wages to their former masters III. Frustrated Freeman and Bacon’s Rebellion a. Poor Freemen i. By the end of the 17 th century, there were many men who were frustrated by the fact that they couldn’t find a woman and couldn’t acquire any land ii. Many drifted around or moved west iii. Shocked at the number of these people and thinking that they had little intelligence or interest in the country, the VA assembly disfranchised them b. Governor William Berkeley & Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion i. 1676 – 1,000 Virginians, led by Nathaniel Bacon (who was a planter) revolted ii. They revolted because the governor of VA, William Berkeley, would do nothing about the Indian attacks that were happening out west 1. Berkeley didn’t want to do anything because he monopolized the fur trade with the Indians iii. Not only did the revolt put down the Indians, but they also chased Berkeley from Jamestown and torched the capital iv. When Bacon died of disease, the rebellion was put down by the governor c. Aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion i. Bacon had ignited the smoldering unhappiness of landless former servants ii.
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