A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 5: “Colonial Society on the Eve of the Revolution”
~ 1700 – 1775 ~
Conquest by the Cradle
By 1775, Great Britain ruled 32 colonies in North America.
Only 13 of them revolted.
Canada and Jamaica were wealthier than the 13.
All of them were growing by leaps and bounds.
By 1775, the population numbered 2.5 million people.
The average age was 16 years.
Most of the population was densely cooped up east of the Alleghenies, though by
1775, some had slowly trickled into Tennessee and Kentucky.
About 90% of the people lived in rural areas.
A Mingling of the Races
Colonial America, though mostly English, had other races as well.
Germans accounted for about 6% of the population, or about 150,000 people
(1) Most were Protestant (primarily Lutheran) and were called
the Pennsylvania Dutch.
The Scots-Irish were about 7% of the population, with 175,000 people.
Over many decades, they had been transplanted to Northern Ireland, but they
had not found a home there (the already existing Irish Catholics resented the
Many of them reached America and became squatters, quarreling with both
Indians and white landowners.
They seemed to try to move as far from Britain as possible, trickling down to
Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
In 1764, the Scots-Irish led the armed march of the Paxton Boys.
They were very hotheaded.
Many eventually became American revolutionists.
About 5% of the multicolored population consisted of other European group, like
French Huguenots, Welsh, Dutch, Swedes, Jews, Irish, Swiss, and Scots
Americans were of all races and mixed bloods, so it was no wonder that other races
from other countries had a hard time classifying them.
The Structure of the Colonial Society
In contrast to contemporary Europe, America was a land of opportunity.
Anyone who was willing to work hard could easily go from rags to riches, and
poverty was scorned upon.
Class differences did emerge, as a small group of aristocrats (made up of the rich
farmers, lawyers, officials, clergymen) had much of the power.
Also, armed conflicts in the 1690s and 1700s enriched a number of merchant
princes in the New England and middle colonies.
War also created many widows and orphans who eventually became to charity.
In the South, the hugely rich plantation owners had lots of slaves.