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El Christopher Columbus


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El Christopher Columbus

Columbus, Christopher (Italian, Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish, Cristóbal Colón) (1451-1506), Italian-Spanish navigator who sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a route to Asia but achieved fame by making landfall, instead, in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. His father was a weaver, and it is believed that Christopher entered this trade as a young man. Information about the beginning of his seafaring career is uncertain, but the independent city-state of Genoa had a busy port, and he may have sailed as a commercial agent in his youth. In the mid-1470s he made his first trading voyage to the island of Khíos, in the Aegean Sea. In 1476 he sailed with a convoy bound for England. Legend has it that the fleet was attacked by pirates off the coast of Portugal, where Columbus's ship was sunk, but he swam to shore and took refuge in Lisbon. Settling there, where his brother Bartholomew Columbus was working as a cartographer, he was married in 1479 to the daughter of the governor of the island of Porto Santo. Diego Columbus, the only child of this marriage, was born in 1480.

Based on information acquired during his travels, and by reading and studying charts and maps, Christopher concluded that the Earth was 25 per cent smaller than was previously thought, and composed mostly of land. On the basis of these faulty beliefs, he decided that Asia could be reached quickly by sailing west. In 1484 he submitted his theories to John II, king of Portugal, petitioning him to finance a westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. His proposal was rejected by a royal maritime commission because of his miscalculations and because Portuguese ships were on the point of finding a sea route to Asia around Africa.

Soon after, Columbus moved to Spain, where his plans won the support of several influential people, and he secured an introduction, in 1486, to Isabella I, queen of Castile. About this time, Columbus, then a widower, met Beatriz Enriquez, who became his mistress and the mother of his second son, Ferdinand Columbus. In Spain, as in Portugal, a royal commission rejected his plan. Columbus continued to seek support, however, and in April 1492 his persistence was rewarded: Ferdinand V, king of Castile, and Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor the expedition. The signed contract stipulated that Columbus was to become viceroy of all territories he located; other rewards included a hereditary peerage and one-tenth of all precious metals found within his jurisdiction.

First voyage

The modest expedition consisted of the Santa María, a decked ship about 35 m (115 ft) long under his command, and the Pinta and the Niña, two small caravels, each about 15 m (50 ft) long, which were commanded by Martín Alonzo Pinzón and his brother Vicente Yáñez Pinzón. The fleet sailed from Palos, Spain, on August 3, 1492, carrying perhaps 90 men. Three days out, the mast of the Pinta was damaged, forcing a brief stop at the Canary Islands. On September 6 the three vessels again weighed anchor and sailed due west. Columbus maintained this course until October 7, when, at the suggestion of Martín Pinzón, it was altered to south-west. Meanwhile, the experienced crews grumbled about their foreign commander's failure to find his way, until signs appeared that they were approaching landfall.

Before dawn on October 12 land was sighted, and early in the morning the expedition landed on Guanahaní, an island in the Bahamas. Before an audience of uncomprehending natives, Columbus claimed that, by right of conquest, their island now belonged to Spain and renamed it San Salvador (“Holy Saviour”, although recent research has suggested this island may have been Samana Cay). Additional landings made during the next few weeks included the islands of Cuba, which Columbus named Juana, in honour of a Spanish princess, and Española, later corrupted to Hispaniola (now comprising the Dominican Republic and Haiti),all believed by Columbus to be in Asian waters.

In December, the Santa María was wrecked off the coast of Española. La Navidad, a makeshift fort, was built of materials salvaged from the vessel, and garrisoned with fewer than 40 men. The Niña, with Columbus in command, and the Pinta began the homeward voyage in January 1493. After storms drove the ships first to the Azores and then to Lisbon, Columbus arrived at Palos, Spain, in March. He was enthusiastically received by the Spanish monarchs, who confirmed the honours guaranteed by his contract. Additional honours followed, including a noble title.

Second voyage

Columbus planned immediately for a second expedition, with 17 vessels and about 1,500 men, which left Spain in September 1493. Landings were made on the islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Antigua.

On November 27 the vessels anchored off La Navidad, Spain, to discover that the fort had been destroyed and its men killed. Columbus abandoned the ruins, and near what is now Cape Isabella, Dominican Republic, he established the colony of Isabella, which became the first settlement of Europeans in the New World. Leaving the colony on an exploratory voyage in the spring of 1494, he surveyed the coast of Cuba, which he insisted was not an island but part of the Asian mainland, and looked over the island of Jamaica.

When Columbus returned to Isabella on September 29, he found that serious dissension had developed among the colonists, a number of whom were already en route to Spain to press their grievances. One of the major problems confronting Columbus was the hostility of the natives, whose initial friendliness had been alienated by the brutality of the Europeans. Columbus defeated the natives in battle in March 1495 and shipped a large number of them to Spain to sell as slaves. Queen Isabella objected, however, and the survivors were returned. A royal investigating commission arrived at Isabella in October 1495. Because this group was consistently critical of his policies, Columbus established a new capital named Santo Domingo, and sailed for Spain leaving Bartholomew in command. He reported directly to Ferdinand and Isabella, who dismissed the critical charges. The sovereigns promised to subsidize a new fleet, but since enthusiasm for the unproductive enterprise had waned, nearly two years elapsed before eight vessels were sent out.

Third and fourth voyage

Columbus set sail on his third voyage on May 30, 1498. His first landing, made on July 31, was the three-peaked island of Trinidad, named in honour of the Holy Trinity. He then sighted what is now Venezuela. After cruising along the coast he sailed into the Gulf of Paria. At the mouth of the Orinoco River he led a party ashore. In his logbook he wrote that he had found a “New World”, unknown as yet to Europeans. Columbus set sail again, encountering several additional islands, including Margarita Island, and then laid a course for Spain.

Arriving at Santo Domingo on August 31, Columbus found part of the colony in revolt against his brother. He placated the rebels and intensified efforts—fruitless, as it turned out—to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. He also expanded the colony's gold-panning operations. Meanwhile, his enemies in Spain had convinced the monarchs that Spain should have a new governor. In May 1499, the Crown removed Columbus and appointed Francisco de Bobadilla, who arrived on August 23, 1500, and promptly had Columbus and Bartholomew arrested, shackled in irons, and returned to Spain. Columbus insisted on wearing his chains until the queen removed them. The monarchs pardoned the brothers and rewarded them, but refused to restore Columbus to his post. Bobadilla, however, was replaced as governor by Nicolás de Ovando.

Although Columbus obtained royal support for a fourth voyage to continue his search for a westward passage to Asia, only four worm-eaten caravels were put at his disposal and he was forbidden to stop at Spain. The expedition sailed from Cádiz in May 1502. The ships were in desperate need of repair by the end of the speedy 21-day crossing. Columbus anchored off Santo Domingo, but he was denied permission to enter the harbour despite an approaching hurricane. The storm annihilated a homeward-bound fleet carrying his enemies, including Bobadilla. Only the ship with Columbus's gold on board arrived safely.

After completing makeshift repairs on his vessels, Columbus sailed the waters off Honduras, and then cruised south along the coast of Central America for nearly six months in search of the elusive westward passage. In January 1503 he landed in Panama and established a settlement there, but mutiny in the crew and trouble with the natives led to its abandonment. The expedition, reduced to two caravels, sailed for Spain, but the rotten ships foundered near Jamaica on June 23, 1503. Columbus sent to Spain for help, meanwhile forcing the natives to provide food for his men. Relief arrived after a lapse of nearly a year—a deliberate delay by Ovando. The stranded party embarked on June 28, 1504, for Santo Domingo, and then sailed for Spain, reaching Sanlúcar de Barrameda on November 7. Columbus would never sail again.

The final months of his life were marked by illness and vain attempts to secure restitution from King Ferdinand of all his privileges, even though by then Columbus was quite wealthy. He died on May 20, 1506, at Valladolid. His remains were later interred in Seville, then transferred to Santo Domingo, moved to Havana, Cuba, and finally returned to Seville in 1899. (Some historians think the bones removed from Santo Domingo were not his, so his remains may still be there.) Wherever Columbus rests, modern research has considerably diminished the heroic reputation he had gained by the 19th century, although his maritime skills continue to be celebrated. Columbus has a key role in the formation of America as we know it today.

Columbus's tomb in Seville Cathedral. It is borne by four statues of kings representing the Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Navarre

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus is the name of a painting by artist Salvador Dalí, begun in 1958 and finished in 1959. It is a huge canvas, over 14 feet tall and over 9 feet wide (410 x 284 cm; 161.4 x 111.8 in), one in a series of large paintings Dalí did during this era. (An article by an art critic which surveyed the history of painting, rather arbitrarily only dealing with very large canvases as master works, is said to have inspired Dalí to set a goal for himself of producing more oversized paintings than any other artist of note in history.)

The work was commissioned by United States millionaire industrialists, philanthropists and collectors of Dalí's works A. Reynolds Morse & Eleanor R. Morse to be hung in the lobby of their business office near Columbus Circle in New York City.

As the title implies, the painting deals with Christopher Columbus's first landing in the New World, but it depicts the event metaphorically rather than aiming at historical accuracy. Columbus is depicted not as a middle-aged mariner, but as an adolescent boy in a classical robe to symbolize America as a young continent with its best years ahead of it

Dalí, in a period of intense interest in Roman Catholic mysticism at the time*, symbolically portrayed Columbus bringing Christianity and the true church to a new world as a great and holy accomplishment.Gala Dalí, the painter's wife, whom he often depicted as the Virgin Mary, poses for role of The Blessed Virgin (or according to some commentators Saint Helena) on the banner in the right hand of Columbus.Dalí painted himself in the background as a kneeling monk holding a crucifix. Dalí's belief that Columbus was Catalonian is represented by the incorporation of the old Catalonian flag.

The painting contains numerous references to the works of Diego Velázquez, the Spanish painter who had died 300 years earlier, and who influenced both Dalí's painting and his moustache.

In the bottom center of the painting, on the beach a few steps in front of Columbus, is the bumpy and pockmarked brown sphere of a sea urchin with a curious halo-like ring around it. A story is told that Morse objected to this object on artistic grounds, and suggested that Dalí paint over it. Dalí insisted that it was an important element in the painting, and that Morse needed to contemplate it to understand. Morse reluctantly agreed, but never did think much about the sea urchin until 10 years later, when he was watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing on television, and he came to a sudden realization. He immediately telephoned Dalí to excitedly tell him that he now understood that the sea urchin represented other planets that young America would explore in the tradition of Columbus. Dalí replied curtly, 'Yes, of course. It took you this long to figure it out? Incredible! Now I must get back to work', and hung up on Morse.

The painting now hangs in the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida which provides a permanent home for the collection of A. Reynolds Morse & Eleanor R. Morse.

Colonial North America north of Rio Grande

Colonial America refers to the area now known as the eastern United States and parts of Canada from the time of European settlement to the time of the American Revolution. Starting in the late 16th century, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch began to colonize eastern North America. The first English attempts—notably the Lost Colony of Roanoke—ended in failure, but successful colonies were soon established. The colonists who came to the New World were by no means a homogeneous band, but they came from a variety of different social and religious groups who settled in different locations on the seaboard. The Dutch of New Netherland, the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, the Puritans of New England, the English settlers of Jamestown, and the 'worthy poor' of Georgia, and others—each group came to the new continent for different reasons and created colonies with distinct social, religious, political and economic structures.

Historians typically recognize four distinct regions in the lands that later became the eastern United States. Listed from north to south, they are: New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake Bay Colonies (Upper South) and the Lower South. Some historians add a fifth region, the frontier, as frontier regions from New England to Georgia resembled each other in certain respects. Other colonial regions of today's United States include Louisiana), and New Spain (including California, Florida and New Mexico) and Alaska.

Motives for colonization

The main colonizing regions of Europe were those where ocean-worthy ship building innovations and navigational technology and skills were developing, as well as an expanding population willing and able to establish themselves in foreign lands. The Spanish and Portuguese centuries-old experience of conquest and colonization during the Reconquista, coupled with new oceanic ship navigation skills (developed mainly in Italy), provided the tools, ability, and desire to colonize the New World. The English, French, and Dutch of northwest Europe were slower to start colonies in America. They had the ability to build ocean-worthy ships but did not have as strong a history of colonization in foreign lands as did Spain, although the English conquest and colonization of parts of Ireland played a role in the development of larger scale colonization efforts.

As the 'New Monarchs' began to forge nations, they acquired the degree of centralized wealth and power necessary to begin systematic attempts at exploration. Not all exploratory undertakings, however, were done by central governments. Charter companies and joint stock companies played a crucial role in exploration. Spain's experience during the Reconquista gave their American colonization efforts qualities of centralized governmental control, military conquest, and religious missionary efforts. In contrast, northwest Europe's experience with early capitalism (mercantilism) dating back to organizations like the Hanseatic League gave their colonization of America qualities of merchant-based investment and less government control.

England made its first successful efforts at the start of the 17th century for several reasons. During this era, English proto-nationalism and national assertiveness blossomed under the threat of Spanish invasion, assisted by a degree of Protestant militarism and adoration of Queen Elizabeth. At this time, however, there was no official attempt by the English government to create a colonial empire. Rather, the motivation behind the founding of colonies was piecemeal and variable. Practical considerations such as commercial enterprise, over-population and the desire for freedom of religion played their parts.

Spanish Colonies


Spain established a few small settlements in Florida, most of which were soon abandoned. The most important settlement was at St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565. It was never more than a fortress, and was repeatedly attacked and burned, with most residents killed or fled. Missionaries converted 26.000 natives by 1655, but a revolt in 1656 and an epidemic in 1659 proved devastating. Pirate attacks were unrelenting against small outposts and even St Augustine. The British and their colonies made war repeatedly. South Carolina launched large scale invasions in 1702 and 1704, which effectively destroyed the Spanish mission system. St Augustine survived, but English-allied Indians such as the Yamasee conducted slave raids throughout Florida, killing or enslaving most of the region's natives. St Augustine itself was captured in 1740. The British and Spanish had been enemies for many decades. The conflicts in Spanish Florida were one part of a larger, global struggle. In the mid-1700s, invading Seminoles killed off most of the remaining local Indians. Florida had about 3000 Spaniards when Britain took control 1763. Nearly all quickly left. Even though in 1783 control was restored to Spain, Spain sent no more settlers or missionaries. The US took control in 1819.

California (1765-1821)

Spanish explorers sailed along the coast of California from the early 1500s to the mid-1700s, but no settlements were established.

During the last quarter of the 18th century, the first European settlements were established in California. Reacting to interest by Russia and possibly Great Britain in the fur-bearing animals of the Pacific coast, Spain created a series of Catholic missions, accompanied by troops and ranches, along the southern and central coast of California. These missions were intended to demonstrate the claim of the Spanish Crown to modern-day California.

The first quarter of the 19th century continued the slow colonization of the southern and central California coast by Spanish missionaries, ranchers, and troops. By 1820, Spanish influence was marked by the chain of missions reaching from San Diego to just north of today's San Francisco Bay area, and extended inland approximately 25 to 50 miles from the missions. Outside of this zone, perhaps 200,000 to 250,000 Native Americans were continuing to lead traditional lives. The Adams-Onís Treaty, signed in 1819 set the northern boundary of the Spanish claims at the 42nd parallel, effectively creating today's northern boundary of California.

Father Junípero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, founded the mission chain, starting with San Diego de Alcalá in 1769. The California Missions comprised a series of outposts established to spread the Christianity among the local Native Americans, with the added benefit of confirming historic Spanish claims to the area. The missions introduced European technology, livestock and crops. The highway and missions have become for many a romantic symbol of an idyllic and peaceful past. The 'Mission Revival Style' was an architectural movement that drew its inspiration from this idealized view of California's past. The Spanish (and later the Mexicans) encouraged settlement of California with large land grants which were turned into ranchos, where cattle and sheep were raised. The Hispanic population reached aboutt 10,000 in the 1840s.

French Colonies

New France was the area colonized by France from the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River, by Jacques Cartier in 1534, to the cession of New France to the Britain in 1763. At its peak in 1712, the territory of New France extended from Newfoundland to Lake Superior and from the Hudson Bay to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The territory was then divided in five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. About 16,000 French settlers came, and concentrated in villages along the St. Lawrence River. The area around New Orleans and west of the Mississippi passed to Spain, which ceded it to France in 1803, allowing France to sell it as the Louisiana Purchase to the United States.

English Colonies

Chesapeake Bay area


The first successful English colony was Jamestown, established in 1607, on a small river near Chesapeake Bay. The venture was financed and coordinated by the London Virginia Company, a joint stock company looking for gold. Its first years were extremely difficult, with very high death rates from disease and starvation, wars with local Indians, and little gold. The colony barely survived, by turning to tobacco as a cash crop. By the late 17th century Virginia's export economy was largely based on tobacco, and new, richer settlers came in to take up large portions of land, build large plantations and import indentured servants and slaves. In 1676 Bacon's Rebellion occurred, but was suppressed by royal officials. After Bacon's Rebellion, African slaves were rapidly replacing English indentured servants as Virginia's main labor force.

The colonial assembly that had governed the colony since its establishment was dissolved but was reinstated in 1630. It shared power with a royally appointed governor. On a more local level, governmental power was invested in county courts, also not elected. As cash crop producers, Chesapeake plantations were heavily dependent on trade. With easy navigation by river, few towns and no cities developed; planters shipped directly to Britain. High death rates and a very young population profile characterized the colony during its first decades.

New England

The Pilgrims were a small Protestant sect based in England and the Netherlands. One group sailed on the Mayflower and briefly landed in New York before their eventual settling in Massachusetts. After drawing up the Mayflower Compact by which they gave themselves broad powers of self-governance. They established the small Plymouth Colony in 1620 and later merged with the Massachusetts Bay colony. William Bradford was the main leader.


The Puritans, a much larger group than the Pilgrims, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 with 400 settlers. This group was the Puritans who sought to reform the Church of England by creating a new, pure church in the New World. Within two years, an additional 2,000 arrived. The Puritans created a deeply religious, socially tight-knit and politically innovative culture that still lingers on in the modern United States. They hoped this new land would serve as a 'redeemer nation.' Seeking the true religion, they fled England and in America created a 'nation of saints' or the 'City upon a Hill,' an intensely religious, thoroughly righteous community designed to be an example for all of Europe. Roger Williams, who preached religious toleration, separation of Church and State, and a complete break with the Church of England, was banished and founded Rhode Island Colony, which became a haven for other religious refugees from the Puritan community. Anne Hutchinson, a preacher of Antinomianism likewise was exiled to Rhode Island.

Economically, Puritan New England fulfilled the expectations of its founders. Unlike the cash-crop oriented plantations of the Chesapeake region, the Puritan economy was based on the efforts of individual farmers, who harvested enough crops to feed themselves and their families and to trade for goods they could not produce themselves. There was a generally higher economic standing and standard of living in New England than in the Chesapeake. On the other hand, town leaders in New England could literally rent out the town's impoverished families for a year to anyone who could afford to board them, as a form of alms and as a form of cheap labor. Along with farming growth, New England became an important mercantile and shipbuilding center, often serving as the hub for trading between the South and Europe.


The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina. It was a private venture, financed by a group of English Lords Proprietors, who obtained a Royal Charter to the Carolinas in 1663, hoping that a new colony in the south would become profitable like that of Jamestown. Carolina was not settled until 1670, and even then the first attempt failed because there was no incentive for emigration to the south. However, eventually the Lords combined their remaining capital and financed a settlement mission to the area led by John West. The expedition located fertile and defensible ground at what was to become Charleston (originally Charles Town for Charles II of England), thus beginning the English colonization of the mainland. The original settlers in South Carolina established a lucrative trade in provisions, deerskins and Indian captives with the Caribbean islands. They came mainly from the English colony of Barbados and brought African slaves with them. Barbados, as a wealthy sugarcane plantation island, was one of the early English colonies to large numbers of Africans in plantation style agriculture. The cultivation of rice was introduced during the 1690s via Africans from the rice-growing regions of West Africa. North Carolina remained a frontier through the early colonial period.

At first, South Carolina was politically divided. Its ethnic makeup included the original settlers, a group of rich, slave-owning English settlers from the island of Barbados; and Huguenots, a French-speaking community of Protestants. Nearly continuous frontier warfare during the era of King William's War and Queen Anne's War drove economic and political wedges between merchants and planters. The disaster of the Yamasee War, in 1715, set off a decade of political turmoil. By 1729, the proprietary government had collapsed, and the Proprietors sold both colonies back to the British crown.


James Oglethorpe, an 18th century British Member of Parliament, established Georgia Colony as a common solution to two problems. At that time, tension between Spain and Great Britain was high, and the British feared that Spanish Florida was threatening the British Carolinas. Oglethorpe decided to establish a colony in the contested border region of Georgia and populate it with debtors who would otherwise have been imprisoned according to standard British practice. This plan would both rid Great Britain of its undesirable elements and provide her with a base from which to attack Florida. The first colonists arrived in 1733.

Georgia was established on strict moralistic principles. Slavery was forbidden, as was alcohol and other forms of supposed immorality. However, the reality of the colony was far from ideal. The colonists were unhappy about the puritanical lifestyle and complained that their colony could not compete economically with the Carolina rice plantations. Georgia initially failed to prosper, but eventually the restrictions were lifted, slavery was allowed, and it became as prosperous as the Carolinas.

Unification of the British colonies

A common defense

One event that reminded colonists of their shared identity as British subjects was the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) in Europe. This conflict spilled over into the colonies, where it was known as 'King George's War'; most of the fighting took place in Europe, British colonial troops attacked French Canada.

At the Albany Congress of 1754, Benjamin Franklin proposed that the colonies be united by a Grand Council overseeing a common policy for defense, expansion, and Indian affairs. While the plan was thwarted by colonial legislatures and King George II, it was an early indication that the British colonies of North America were headed towards unification. This enabled former Whigs in Britain to become Tories and former Tories in the colonies to become Whigs.

Great Awakening

One event that began to unify the religious background of the colonies was the Great Awakening, a Protestant revival movement that took place in the 1730s and 1740s. It began with Jonathan Edwards, a Massachusetts preacher who sought to return to the Pilgrims' strict Calvinist roots and to reawaken the 'Fear of God'. Edwards was a powerful speaker and attracted a large following with sermons such as 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God'. English preacher George Whitefield and other itinerant preachers continued the movement, traveling across the colonies and preaching in a dramatic and emotional style.

Followers of Edwards and other preachers of similar religiosity called themselves the 'New Lights,' as contrasted with the 'Old Lights', who disapproved of their movement. To promote their viewpoints, the two sides established academies and colleges including Princeton and Williams College. The Great Awakening has been called the first truly 'American' event, and as such represented at least a small step towards the unification of the colonies.

A similar pietistic movement took place among some of the German and Dutch Lutherans, leading to internal dvisions. By the 1770s the Baptists were growing rapidly both in the north (where they founded Brown University, and in the South where they challenged the previously unquestioned moral authority of the Anglican establishment.

French and Indian War

The French and Indian War (1754-1763) was the American extension of the general European conflict known as the Seven Years' War.

The war is called the French and Indian because the Iroquois confederacy—which had been playing the British and the French against each other successfully for decades—saw that Britain was gaining more control and sided entirely with the French. The move did not succeed, and the French were defeated anyway. In the Treaty of Paris (1763), France surrendered its vast North American empire to Britain.

The French and Indian war took on a new significance for the North American colonists in Great Britain when William Pitt the elder decided that it was necessary to win the war against France at all costs. For the first time, North America was one of the main theatres of what could be termed a 'world war'. During the war, the British Colonies (including the thirteen colonies, which would later become the basis of the United States) position as part of the British Empire was made truly apparent, as British military and civilian officials took on an increased presence in the lives of Americans. The war also increased a sense of American unity in other ways. It caused men, who might normally have never left their colonies, to travel across the continent, fighting alongside men from decidedly different, yet still 'American,' backgrounds. Throughout the course of the war, British officers trained American ones (most notably George Washington) for battle which would later benefit the American Revolution. Also, state legislatures and officials had to cooperate intensively, for arguably the first time, in pursuit of the continent-wide military effort.

The British and colonists triumphed jointly over a common foe. The colonists' loyalty to the mother country was stronger than ever before. However, a disunity was beginning to form. British Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder had decided to wage the war in the colonies with the use of troops from the colonies and tax funds from Britain itself. This was a successful wartime strategy, but after the war was over, each side believed that it had borne a greater burden than the other. The British populace, the most heavily taxed of any in Europe, pointed out angrily that the colonists paid little to the royal coffers. The colonists replied that their sons had fought and died in a war that served European interests more than their own. The British answered that the colonists' poor discipline made them inferior soldiers anyway. This dispute was a link in the chain of events that soon brought about the American Revolution.

Ties to the British Empire

Although the colonies were very different from one another, they were still a part of the British empire in more than just name.Socially, the colonial elite of Boston, New York, Charleston, and Philadelphia saw their identity as British. Although many had never been to England, they imitated British styles of dress, dance, and etiquette. This social upper echelon built its mansions in the Georgian style, copied the furniture designs of Thomas Chippendale, and participated in the intellectual currents of Europe, such as Enlightenment. To many of their inhabitants, the seaport cities of colonial America were truly British cities.Many of the political structures of the colonies drew upon various English political traditions, most notably the Commonwealthmen and the Whig traditions. Many Americans at the time saw the colonies' systems of governance as modeled after the British constitution of the time, with the king corresponding to the governor, the House of Commons to the colonial assembly, and the House of Lords to the Governor's council. The codes of law of the colonies were often drawn directly from English law; indeed, English common law survives not only in Canada, but even in the modern United States. Eventually, it was a dispute over the meaning of some of these political ideals, especially political representation, and a growing unity among the new generations that led to the American Revolution.

Another point on which the colonies found themselves more similar than different was the booming import of British goods. The British economy had begun to grow rapidly at the end of the 17th century, and by the mid-18th century, small factories in Britain were producing much more than the nation could consume. Finding a market for their goods in the British colonies of North America, Britain increased her exports to that region by 360% between 1740 and 1770. Because British merchants offered generous credit to their customers, Americans began buying staggering amounts of English goods. From Nova Scotia to Florida, all British subjects bought similar products, creating and Anglicanizing a sort of common identity.

Life in Colonial America

New England

When settling New England, the Puritans created self-governing communities of religious congregations of farmers, or yeoman, and their families. High-level politicians gave out plots of land to male settlers, or proprietors, who then divided the land amongst themselves. Large portions were usually given to men of higher social standing, but every white man had enough land to support a family. Also important was the fact that every white man had a voice in the town meeting. The town meeting levied taxes, built roads, and elected officials to manage town affairs.

The Congregational Church, the church the Puritans founded, was not automatically joined by all New England residents because of Puritan beliefs that God singled out only a few specific people for salvation. Instead, membership was limited to those who could convincingly 'test' before members of the church that they had been saved. They were known as 'the elect' or 'Saints' and made up less than 40% of the population of New England.

long-term economic growthFarm life

A majority of New England residents were small farmers. Within these small farm families, and English families as well, men had complete power over the property and his wife. When married, English women lost their maiden name and personal identity, meaning they could not own property, file lawsuits, or participate in political life, even when widowed. The role of wives was to raise and nurture healthy children and support their husbands. Most women carried out these duties. In the mid-18th century, women usually married in their early 20s and had 6 to 8 children, most of whom survived to adulthood. Farm women provided most of the materials needed by the rest of the family which includes spinning yarn from wool and knitting sweaters and stockings, making candles and soap, and churning milk into butter.

Most New England parents tried to help their sons establish farms of their own. When sons married, fathers gave them gifts of land, livestock, or farming equipment; daughters received household goods, farm animals, and/or cash. Arranged marriages were very unusual; normally, children chose their own spouses from within a circle of suitable acquaintances who shared their religion and social standing. Parents retained veto power over their children's marriages.

New England farming families generally lived in wooden houses because of the abundance of trees. A typical New England farmhouse was one-and-a-half stories tall and had a strong frame (usually made of large square timbers) that was covered by wooden clapboard siding. A large chimney stood in the middle of the house that provided cooking facilities and warmth during the winter. One side of the ground floor contained a hall, a general-purpose room where the family worked and ate meals. Adjacent to the hall was the parlor, a room used to entertain guests that contained the family's best furnishings and the parent's bed. Children slept in a loft above, while the kitchen was either part of the hall or was located in a shed along the back of the house. Because colonial families were large, these small dwellings had much activity and there was little privacy.

By the middle of the 18th century, this way of life was facing a crisis as the region's population had nearly doubled each generation—from 100,000 in 1700 to 200,000 in 1725, to 350,000 by 1750—because farm households had many children, and most people lived until they were 60 years old. As colonists in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island continued to subdivide their land between farmers, the farms became too small to support single families. This overpopulation threatened the New England ideal of a society of independent yeoman farmers.

Some farmers obtained land grants to create farms in undeveloped land in Massachusetts and Connecticut or bought plots of land from speculators in New Hampshire and what later became Vermont. Other farmers became agricultural innovators. They planted nutritious English grass such as red clover and timothy-grass, which provided more feed for livestock, and potatoes, which provided a high production rate that was an advantage for small farms. Families increased their productivity by exchanging goods and labors with each other. They loaned livestock and grazing land to one another and worked together to spin yarn, sew quilts, and shuck corn. Migration, agricultural innovation, and economic cooperation were creative measures that preserved New England's yeoman society until the 19th century.

Town life

By 1750, a variety of artisans, shopkeepers, and merchants provided services to the growing farming population. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and furniture makers set up shops in rural villages. There they built and repaired goods needed by farm families. Stores selling English manufactures such as cloth, iron utensils, and window glass as well as West Indian products like sugar and molasses were set up by traders. The storekeepers of these shops sold their imported goods in exchange for crops and other local products including shingles, potash, and barrel staves. These local goods were shipped to towns and cities all along the Atlantic Coast. Enterprising men set up stables and taverns along wagon roads to service this transportation system.

After these products had been delivered to port towns such as Boston and Salem in Massachusetts, New Haven in Connecticut, and Newport and Providence in Rhode Island, merchants then exported them to the West Indies where they were traded for molasses, sugar, gold coins, and bills of exchange (credit slips). They carried the West Indian products to New England factories where the raw sugar was turned into granulated and sugar and the molasses distilled into rum. The gold and credit slips were sent to England where they were exchanged for manufactures, which were shipped back to the colonies and sold along with the sugar and rum to farmers.

Other New England merchants took advantage of the rich fishing areas along the Atlantic Coast and financed a large fishing fleet, transporting its catch of mackerel and cod to the West Indies and Europe. Some merchants exploited the vast amounts of timber along the coasts and rivers of northern New England. They funded sawmills that supplied cheap wood for houses and shipbuilding. Hundreds of New England shipwrights built oceangoing ships, which they sold to British and American merchants.

Many merchants became very wealthy by providing their goods to the agricultural population and ended up dominating the society of sea port cities. Unlike yeoman farmhouses, these merchants resembled the lifestyle of that of the upper class of England living in elegant two-and-a-half story houses designed the new Georgian style. These Georgian houses had a symmetrical façade with equal numbers of windows on both sides of the central door. The interior consisted of a passageway down the middle of the house with specialized rooms such as a library, dining room, formal parlour, and master bedroom off the sides. Unlike the multi-purpose halls and parlours of the yeoman houses, each of these rooms served a separate purpose. In a Georgian house, men mainly used certain rooms, such as the library, while women mostly used the kitchen. These houses contained bedrooms on the second floor that provided privacy to parents and children.

Culture and education

Elementary education was widespread in New England. Early Puritan settlers believed it was necessary to study the Bible, so children were taught to read at an early age. It was also required that each town pay for a primary school. Most boys in England had some form of formal education on account of this law. About 10 percent enjoyed secondary schooling and funded grammar schools in larger towns. Most boys learned skills from their fathers on the farm or as apprentices to artisans. Few girls attended formal schools, but most were able to get some education at home or at so-called 'Dame schools' where women taught basic reading and writing skills in their own houses. By 1750, nearly 90% of New England's women and almost all of its men could read and write. Many churches in New England established colleges to train ministers while Puritans founded many places of higher learning such as Harvard College in 1636 and Yale College in 1701. Later, Baptists founded Rhode Island College (near Brown University) in 1764 and a Congregationlist minister established Dartmouth College in 1769. Few people (no women and a small number of men) attended college, making higher education available only for wealthy merchant families.

New England produced many great literary works. In fact, more works were created in New England than all of the colonies combined. Most of these works were histories, sermons, and personal journals and were written by ministers or inspired by religious beliefs. Cotton Mather, a Boston minister published Magnalia Christi Americana (The Great Works of Christ in America, 1702), while revivalist Jonathan Edwards wrote his philosophical work, A Careful and Strict Enquiry IntoNotions ofFreedom of Will (1754). Most music had a religious theme as well and was mainly the singing of Psalms. Because of New England's deep religious beliefs, artistic works that were not very religious or too 'worldly' were banned. These endeavors included drama and other types of plays.

Mid-Atlantic Region

A map of New York City (then New Amsterdam) in 1660Unlike New England, the Mid-Atlantic Region gained much of its population from new immigration, and by 1750, the combined populations of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had reached nearly 300,000 people. By 1750, about 60,000 Scots-Irish and 50,000 Germans came to live in British North America, many of them settling in the Mid-Atlantic Region. William Penn, the man who founded the colony of Pennsylvania in 1682, attracted an influx of immigrants with his policies of religious liberty and freehold ownership. 'Freehold' meant that farmers owned their land free and clear of leases. The first major influx of immigrants came mainly from Ireland and consisted of Scots-Irish Presbyterians and some Irish Catholics. The second major immigration came with Germans trying to escape the religious conflicts and declining economic opportunities in Germany and Switzerland.

Ways of life

Much of the architecture of the Middle Colonies reflects the diversity of its peoples. In Albany and New York City, a majority of the buildings were Dutch style with brick exteriors and high gables at each end while many Dutch churches were shaped liked an octagon. Using cut stone to build their houses, German and Welsh settlers in Pennsylvania followed the way of their homeland and completely ignored the plethora of timber in the area. An example of this would be Germantown, Pennsylvania where 80 percent of the buildings in the town were made entirely of stone. On the other hand, the Scots-Irish took advantage of America's ample supply of timber and constructed sturdy log cabins.

Ethnic cultures also effected the styles of furniture. Rural Quakers preferred simple designs in furnishings such as tables, chairs, chests and shunned elaborate decorations. However, some urban Quakers had much more elaborate furniture. The city of Philadelphia became a major center of furniture-making because of its massive wealth from Quaker and British merchants. Philadelphian cabinet makers built elegant desks and highboys. German artisans created intricate carved designs on their chests and other furniture with painted scenes of flowers and birds. German potters also crafted a large array of jugs, pots, and plates, of both elegant and traditional design.

There were ethnic differences in the treatment of women. Among Puritan settlers in New England, wives almost never worked in the fields with their husbands. In German communities in Pennsylvania, however, many women worked in fields and stables. German and Dutch immigrants granted women more control over property, which was not permitted in the local English law. Unlike English colonial wives, German and Dutch wives owned their own clothes and other items and were also given the ability to write wills disposing of the property brought into the marriage.


Ethnicity made a difference in agricultural practice. As an example, German farmers generally preferred oxen rather than horses to pull their plows and Scots-Irish made a farming economy based on hogs and corn. In Ireland, Scots-Irish farmed intensively, working small pieces of land trying to get the largest possible production-rate from their crops. In the American colonies, Scots-Irish focused on mixed-farming. Using this technique, they grew corn for human consumption and as feed for hogs and other livestock. Many improvement-minded farmers of all different backgrounds began using new agricultural practices to raise their output. During the 1750s, these agricultural innovators replaced the hand sickles and scythes used to harvest hay, wheat, and barley with the cradle scythe, a tool with wooden fingers that arranged the stalks of grain for easy collection. This tool was able to triple the amount of work down by farmers in one day. Farmers also began fertilizing their fields with dung and lime and rotating their crops to keep the soil fertile.

Before 1720, most colonists in the mid-Atlantic region worked with small-scale farming and paid for imported manufactures by supplying the West Indies with corn and flour. In New York, a fur-pelt export trade to Europe flourished adding additional wealth to the region. After 1720, mid-Atlantic farming stimulated with the international demand for wheat. A massive population explosion in Europe brought wheat prices up. By 1770, a bushel of wheat cost twice as much as it did in 1720. Farmers also expanded their production of flaxseed and corn since flax was a high demand in the Irish linen industry and a demand for corn existed in the West Indies.

Some immigrants who just arrived purchased farms and shared in this export wealth, but many poor German and Scots-Irish immigrants were forced to work as agricultural wage laborers. Merchants and artisans also hired these homeless workers for a domestic system for the manufacture of cloth and other goods. Merchants often bought wool and flax from farmers and employed newly-arrived immigrants, who had been textile workers in Ireland and Germany, to work in their homes spinning the materials into yarn and cloth. Large farmers and merchants became wealthy, while farmers with smaller farms and artisans only made enough for subsistence. The Mid-Atlantic region, by 1750, was divided by both ethnic background and wealth.


Seaports, which expanded from wheat trade, had more social classes than anywhere else in the Middle Colonies. By 1750, the population of Philadelphia had reached 25,000, New York 15,000, and the port of Baltimore 7,000. Merchants dominated seaport society and about 40 merchants controlled half of Philadelphia's trade. Wealthy merchants in Philadelphia and New York, like their counterparts in New England, built elegant Georgian-style mansions.

Shopkeepers, artisans, shipwrights, butchers, coopers, seamstresses, cobblers, bakers, carpenters, masons, and many other specialized professions, made up the middle class of seaport society. Wives and husbands often worked as a team and taught their children their crafts to pass it on through the family. Many of these artisans and traders made enough money to create a modest life.

Laborers stood at the bottom of seaport society. These poor people worked on the docks unloading inbound vessels and loading outbound vessels with wheat, corn, and flaxseed. Many of these were African American; some were free while others were enslaved. In 1750, blacks made up about 10 percent of the population of New York and Philadelphia. Hundreds of seamen, some who were African American, worked as sailors on merchant ships.

Southern Colonies

The Southern Colonies were mainly dominated by the wealthy slave-owning planters in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. These planters owned massive estates that were worked by African slaves. Of the 650,000 inhabitants of the South in 1750, about 250,000 or 40 percent, were slaves. Planters used their wealth to dominate the local tenants and yeoman farmers. At election time, they gave these farmers gifts of rum and promised to lower taxes to take control of colonial legislatures.


Beginning in the 1720s, after many years being poorly educated, hunting deer on foot, getting drunk, and gambling, the next generation of planters began to construct large Georgian-style mansions, wear bright red attire, and hunt deer from horseback. Wealthy women in the Southern colonies shared in the British culture. They read British magazines, wore fashionable clothing of British design, and served an elaborate afternoon tea.

Once women were married, they supervised the household slaves and put on elaborate dinners and festive balls. These efforts were the most successful in South Carolina, where wealthy rice planters lived in townhouses in Charleston, a busy port city. Active social seasons also existed in towns, such as Annapolis, Maryland, and on tobacco plantations along the James River in Virginia.


Slavery, social institution defined by law and custom as the most absolute involuntary form of human servitude. The definitive characteristics of slaves are as follows: their labour or services are obtained through force; their physical beings are regarded as the property of another person, their owner; and they are entirely subject to their owner's will. Since earliest times slaves have been legally defined as things; therefore, they could, among other possibilities, be bought, sold, traded, given as gifts, or pledged for a debt by their owner, usually without any recourse to personal or legal objection or restraint. There are often ethnic differences between slave-holders and slaves, and the fact of slavery is often founded upon a strong racially prejudiced belief that the ethnic group to which the slave-holder belongs is “superior” to that of the slaves. Enslavement of members of the owner's own ethnic group is very rare, with 17th-and 18th-century Russia being one of the few exceptions.

The practice of slavery dates to prehistoric times, although its institutionalization probably first occurred when agricultural advances first made possible more highly organized societies. Slaves were needed for various specialized functions in these societies and were obtained either through raids or conquests of other peoples, or within the society itself, when some people sold themselves or their family members to pay debts or were enslaved as punishment for crimes.

Indentured servitude

Some historians, notably Edmund Morgan, have suggested that indentured servants provided a model for slavery in 17th century Virginia. In theory, indentured servants sold their labor voluntarily for a period of years (typically four to seven), after which they would be freed with 'freedom dues' of cash, clothing, tools, and/or land. In practice, indentured servitude was a violent system; some English men and women (felons and those who were kidnapped) were compelled to become indentured servants, and in the early 17th century, many indentured servants did not live long enough to be freed. The principal significance of indentured servitude, Morgan argues, is that it accustomed 17th century Virginia planters to use physical violence (including beating and rape) to compel workers to work. This set a precedent for the violence of African chattel slavery, which the British colonies first adopted on a large scale in the 1660s and 1670s.

Slavery amongst Native American tribes

Another view on early colonial slavery is that of historian Alan Gallay. His book on the Indian slave trade describes the flourishing trade during the 1600s in Virginia, South Carolina, and elsewhere in America. Indian tribes had practiced a form of slavery since prehistoric times, sometimes for the purpose of ritualized torture and sacrifice, and sometimes for assimilating other tribes. The way in which Indians treated war captives was witnessed and eventually emulated by European colonists, especially the practice of scalping.

This view is considered inaccurate by many modern historians because of the nature of American Indian slavery. In North America , among the Native Americans, slavery was more a 'right of passage' or system of assimilating outside individuals into groups rather then a property or ownership right. Richard White, in 'The Middle Ground' gives a clear explanation of the complex social relationships between American Indian groups and the early empires, including 'slave' culture and scalping.

Another valuable explanation of the use of Negroes slaves as opposed to American Indians comes from an unlikely source. Ulrich Phillips argues that black people made better slaves for several reasons, and were therefore the best answer to the labor shortage in the New World. American Indian slaves were familiar with the environment, and would often escape with success into local groups. Black slaves had much more difficulty surviving in far different world once they escaped, this often acted as a barrier. Also, early colonial America depended heavily on the sugar trade, which lead to Malaria, a disease the Africans were far less susceptible to then European slaves. Black people also easily stood out. Phillips also suggested that there was something inherently valuable for slavery in the Negro race. These racist beliefs have long been abandoned, but some historians still value his economic arguments which suggest that the choice was made more for efficiency.

The first African slaves

Until the early 1700s, African slaves were difficult to acquire in the colonies that became the United States, as most were sold in the West Indies. One of the first major establishments of African slavery in these colonies occurred with the founding of Charles Town and South Carolina in 1670. The colony was founded mainly by planters from the overpopulated sugar island colony of Barbados, who brought relatively large numbers of African slaves from that island. For several decades it was still difficult to acquire African slaves north of the Caribbean. To meet labor needs, colonists had practiced Indian slavery for some time. The Carolinians transformed the Indian slave trade during the late 1600s and early 1700s by treating slaves as a trade commodity to be exported, mainly to the West Indies. Alan Gallay estimates that between 1670 and 1715, between 24,000 and 51,000 Indian slaves were exported from South Carolina — much more than the number of Africans imported to the colonies of the future United States during the same period.

The first African slaves arrived in present day United States as part of the San Miguel de Gualdape colony (most likely located in the Winyah Bay area of present-day South Carolina), founded by Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón in 1526. The ill-fated colony was almost immediately disrupted by a fight over leadership, during which the slaves revolted and fled the colony to seek refuge among local Native Americans. De'Ayllón and many of the colonists died shortly afterwards of an epidemic, and the colony was abandoned, leaving the escaped slaves behind on North American soil. In 1565, the colony of Saint Augustine in Florida became the first permanent European settlement in North America, and included an unknown number of African slaves.

The first Africans to be brought to English North America landed in Virginia in 1619. These individuals appear to have been treated as indentured servants, and a significant number of African slaves even won their freedom through fulfilling a work contract or for converting to Christianity. A few successful free men of color, such as Anthony Johnson, acquired slaves or indentured servants themselves. To many historians, notably Edmund Morgan, this evidence suggests that racial attitudes were much more flexible in 17th century Virginia than they would subsequently become.

The development of slavery in 17th-century America

The meaning of slavery hardened in the second half of the 17th century, and imported Africans' prospects grew increasingly dim. During the second half of the 17th century, the British economy improved and the supply of British indentured servants declined, as poor Britons had better economic opportunities at home. At the same time, Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 led planters to worry about the prospective dangers of creating a large class of restless, landless, and relatively poor white men (most of them former indentured servants). Wealthy Virginia and Maryland planters began to buy slaves in preference to indentured servants during the 1660s and 1670s, and poorer planters followed suit by c.1700. (Slaves cost more than servants, so initially only the wealthy could invest in slaves.) The first British colonists in Carolina introduced African slavery into the colony in 1670, the year the colony was founded, and slavery spread rapidly throughout the Southern colonies. Slaves might also be beaten to death and killed if they ran away. Northerners also purchased slaves, though on a much smaller scale. Northern slaves typically dwelled in towns and worked as artisans and artisans' assistants, sailors and longshoremen, and domestic servants.

Curiously, chattel slavery developed in British North America before the legal apparatus that supported slavery did. During the late 17th century and early 18th century, harsh new slave codes limited the rights of African slaves and cut off their avenues to freedom. For example, a 1691 Virginia law prohibited slaveholders from emancipating slaves unless they paid for the freedmen's transportation out of Virginia.[7] Virginia criminalized interracial marriage in 1705, and subsequent laws abolished blacks' rights to vote, hold office, and bear arms.The first full-scale slave code in British North America was South Carolina's (1696), which was modeled on the Barbados slave code of 1661 and was updated and expanded regularly throughout the 18th century.

The Atlantic slave trade to North America

Only a fraction of the enslaved Africans brought to the New World ended up in British North America-- perhaps 5%. The vast majority of slaves shipped across the Atlantic were sent to the Caribbean sugar colonies, Brazil, or Spanish America. Throughout the Americas, but especially in the Caribbean, tropical disease took a large toll on their population and required large numbers of replacements. Many Africans had a limited natural immunity to yellow fever and malaria, but malnutrition, poor housing and inadequate clothing allowances, and overwork contributed to a high mortality rate.

In British North America the slave population rapidly repopulated themselves, where in the Caribbean they did not. The lack of proper nourishment, poor health, and depressed sexuality are possible reasons. Of the small population of babies that were born to slaves in the Caribbean, only about 1/4 survived miserable conditions on a sugar plantation.

It was not only the major colonial powers in Europe such as France, England, the Netherlands or Portugal that were involved in the transatlantic person trade. Small countries, such as Sweden or Denmark, tried to get into this lucrative business. For more information about this, see The Swedish slave trade.

California Gold Rush

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill. As news of the discovery spread, some 300,000 people came to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

These early gold-seekers, called 'forty-niners,' traveled to California by sailing ship and in covered wagons across the continent, often facing substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly-arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush also attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia. At first, the prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning, and later developed more sophisticated methods of gold recovery that were adopted around the world. Gold worth billions of today's dollars was recovered, leading to great wealth for a few; many, however, returned home with little more than they started with.

The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a tiny hamlet of tents to a boomtown, and roads, churches, schools and other towns were built. A system of laws and a government were created, leading to the admission of California as a state in 1850. New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service and railroads were built. The business of agriculture, California's next major growth field, was started on a wide scale throughout the state. However, the Gold Rush also had negative effects: Native Americans were attacked and pushed off traditional lands, and gold mining caused environmental harm.

The Gold Rush started at Sutter's Saw Mill, near Coloma, on January 24, 1848. James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found pieces of shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter, along the American River. Marshall quietly brought what he found to Sutter, and the two of them privately tested the findings. The tests showed Marshall's particles to be gold. Sutter was dismayed by this, and wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies,Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting 'Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!'

On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report that there was a gold rush in California; on December 5, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress.Soon, waves of immigrants from around the world, later called the 'forty-niners,' invaded the Gold Country of California or 'Mother Lode.' As Sutter had feared, he was ruined; his workers left in search of gold, and squatters invaded his land and stole his crops and cattle.

San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned of the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses whose owners joined the Gold Rush, but it then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco exploded from perhaps 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850.As with many boomtowns, the sudden influx of people strained the infrastructure of San Francisco and other towns near the goldfields. People lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.

In what has been referred to as the 'first world-class gold rush,' there was no easy way to get to California; forty-niners faced hardship and often death on the way to the gold fields. At first, most Argonauts, as they were also known, traveled by sea. From the East Coast, a sailing voyage around the tip of South America would take five to eight months,and cover some 18,000 nauticalmiles (33,000 km). An alternative route was to sail to the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama, to take canoes and mules for a week through the jungle, and then on the Pacific side, to wait for a ship sailing for San Francisco.Eventually, most gold-seekers took the overland route across the continental United States, particularly along the California Trail.Each of these routes had its own deadly hazards, from shipwreck to typhoid fever to cholera.

To meet the demands of the new arrivals, ships bearing goods from around the world—porcelain and silk from China, ale from Scotland—poured into San Francisco as well.Upon reaching San Francisco, ship captains found that their crews deserted and went to the gold fields. The wharves and docks of San Francisco became a forest of masts, as hundreds of ships were abandoned. Enterprising San Franciscans then took over these abandoned ships and turned them into warehouses, stores, taverns, hotels, and one into a jail.Many of these ships were later destroyed and used for landfill to create more buildable land in the boomtown.

Within a few years, there was an important but lesser-known surge of prospectors into far Northern California, specifically into present-day Siskiyou, Shasta and Trinity Counties.Discovery of gold nuggets at the site of present-day Yreka in 1851 brought thousands of gold-seekers up the Siskiyou Trail and throughout California's northern counties.[21] Settlements of the Gold Rush era, such as Portuguese Flat on the Sacramento River, sprang into existence and then faded. The Gold Rush town of Weaverville on the Trinity River today retains the oldest continuously-used Taoist temple in California, a legacy of Chinese miners who came. While there are not many Gold Rush era ghost towns still in existence, the well-preserved remains of the once-bustling town of Shasta is a California State Historic Park in Northern California.

Gold was also discovered in Southern California but on a much smaller scale. The first discovery of gold, at Rancho San Francisco in the mountains north of present-day Los Angeles, had been in 1842, six years before Marshall's discovery, while California was still part of Mexico.However, these first deposits, and later discoveries in Southern California mountains, attracted little notice and were of limited consequence economically.

By 1850, most of the easily accessible gold had been collected, and attention turned to the task of extracting the gold from more difficult locations. Faced with gold that was increasingly difficult to retrieve, Americans began to drive out foreigners to get at the most accessible gold that remained. The new California State Legislature passed a foreign miners tax of twenty dollars per month, and American prospectors began organized attacks on foreign miners, particularly Latin Americans and Chinese.In addition, the huge numbers of newcomers were driving Native Americans out of their traditional hunting, fishing and food gathering areas. To protect their homes and livelihood, Native Americans responded by attacking the miners. This provoked counter-attacks by miners on native villages. The Native Americans, out-gunned, were often slaughtered.Those who escaped the massacres were many times unable to survive without access to their food-gathering areas, and they starved to death. Novelist and poet Joaquin Miller vividly captured one such attack in his semi-autobiographical work, Life Amongst the Modocs.

Gold Rush

The first people to rush to the gold fields, beginning in the spring of 1848, were the residents of California themselves—primarily Americans and Europeans living in Northern California, along with Native Americans and some Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians).

Word of the Gold Rush spread slowly at first. The earliest gold-seekers to arrive in California during 1848 were people who lived near California, or people who heard the news from ships on the fastest sailing routes from California. The first large group of Americans to arrive were several thousand Oregonians who came down the Siskiyou Trail.Next came people from Hawaii, by ship, and several thousand Latin Americans, including people from Mexico, from Peru and from as far away as Chile,both by ship and overland.By the end of 1848, some 6,000 Argonauts had come to California.Only a small number (probably fewer than 500) traveled overland from the United States that year.Some of these 'forty-eighters,' as these very earliest gold-seekers were also sometimes called, were able to collect large amounts of easily accessible gold—in some cases, thousands of dollars worth each day.Even ordinary prospectors averaged daily gold finds worth ten to fifteen times the daily wage of a laborer on the East Coast. A person could work for six months in the goldfields and find the equivalent of six years' wages back home.

By the beginning of 1849, word of the Gold Rush had spread around the world, and an overwhelming number of gold-seekers and merchants began to arrive from virtually every continent. The largest group of forty-niners in 1849 were Americans, arriving by the tens of thousands overland across the continent and along various sailing routes.(The name 'forty-niner' was derived from the year 1849). Australians and New Zealanders picked up the news from ships carrying Hawaiian newspapers, and thousands, infected with 'gold fever,' boarded ships for California.Forty-niners came from Latin America, particularly from the Mexican mining districts near Sonora.Gold-seekers and merchants from Asia, primarily from China,began arriving in 1849, at first in modest numbers to 'Gold Mountain,' the name given to California in Chinese. The first immigrants from Europe, reeling from the effects of the Revolutions of 1848 and with a longer distance to travel, began arriving in late 1849, mostly from France,with some Germans, Italians, and Britons.

It is estimated that almost 90,000 people arrived in California in 1849—about half by land and half by sea.Of these, perhaps 50,000 to 60,000 were Americans, and the rest were from other countries.By 1855, it is estimated at least 300,000 gold-seekers, merchants, and other immigrants had arrived in California from around the world.The largest group continued to be Americans, but there were tens of thousands each of Mexicans, Chinese, French, and Latin Americans,together with many smaller groups of miners, such as Filipinos and Basques.A modest number of miners of African ancestry (probably less than 4,000) had come from the Southern States, the Caribbean and Brazil.

Legal rights

When the Gold Rush began, California was a peculiarly lawless place. On the day when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, California was still technically part of Mexico, under American military occupation as the result of the Mexican-American War. With the signing of the treaty ending the war on February 2, 1848, California became a possession of the United States, but it was not a formal 'territory' and did not become a state until September 9, 1850. California existed in the unusual condition of a region under military control. There was no civil legislature, executive or judicial body for the entire region.Local residents operated under a confusing and changing mixture of Mexican rules, American principles, and personal dictates.

While the treaty ending the Mexican-American War obliged the United States to honor Mexican land grants,almost all of the goldfields were outside those grants. Instead, the goldfields were primarily on 'public land,' meaning land formally owned by the United States government.However, there were no legal rules yet in place, and no practical enforcement mechanisms.

The benefit to the forty-niners was that the gold was 'free for the taking.' In the goldfields, there was no private property, no licensing fees, and no taxes.The forty-niners resorted to making up their own codes and setting up their own local enforcement. The miners essentially adopted Mexican mining law existing in California. The rules provided that a 'claim' could be 'staked' by a prospector, but that claim was valid only as long as it was being actively worked.Miners worked at a claim only long enough to determine its potential. If a claim was deemed as low-value—as most were—miners would abandon the site in search for legendary bonanza sites. In the case where a claim was abandoned or not worked upon, other miners would 'claim-jump' the land. 'Claim-jumping' means that a miner began work on a previously claimed site. Disputes were sometimes handled personally and violently, and were sometimes addressed by groups of prospectors acting as arbitrators.

The rules of mining claims adopted by the forty-niners spread with each new mining rush throughout the western United States. The U.S. Congress finally legalized the practice in the 'Chaffee laws' of 1866.

Development of gold recovery techniques

Because the gold in the California gravel beds was so richly concentrated, the early forty-niners simply panned for gold in California's rivers and streams, a form of placer mining. However, panning cannot be done on a large scale, and industrious miners and groups of miners graduated to placer mining 'cradles' and 'rockers' or 'long-toms'to process larger volumes of gravel.In the most complex placer mining, groups of prospectors would divert the water from an entire river into a sluice alongside the river, and then dig for gold in the newly-exposed river bottom.Modern estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey are that some 12 million ounces (370 t) of gold were removed in the first five years of the Gold Rush (worth approximately US$7.2 billion at November 2006 prices).

In the next stage, by 1853, the first hydraulic mining was used on ancient gold-bearing gravel beds that were on hillsides and bluffs in the gold fields.In hydraulic mining (which was invented in California at this time), a high-pressure hose directs a powerful stream of water at gold-bearing gravel beds. The loosened gravel and gold then pass over sluices, with the gold settling to the bottom where it is collected. By the mid-1880s, it is estimated that 11 million ounces (340 t) of gold (worth approximately US$6.6 billion at November 2006 prices) had been recovered via 'hydraulicking.'

A byproduct of this method of extraction was that large amounts of gravel and silt, in addition to heavy metals and other pollutants, went into streams and rivers.Many areas still bear the scars of hydraulic mining since the resulting exposed earth and downstream gravel deposits are unable to support plant life.

After the Gold Rush had concluded, gold recovery operations continued. The final stage to recover loose gold was to prospect for gold that had slowly washed down into the flat river bottoms and sandbars of California's Central Valley and other gold-bearing areas of California (such as Scott Valley in Siskiyou County). By the late 1890s, dredging technology (which was also invented in California) had become economical,and it is estimated that more than 20 million ounces (620 t) were recovered by dredging (worth approximately US$12 billion at November 2006 prices).

Both during the Gold Rush and in the decades that followed, gold-seekers also engaged in 'hard-rock' mining, that is, extracting the gold directly from the rock that contained it (typically quartz), usually by digging and blasting to follow and remove veins of the gold-bearing quartz.Once the gold-bearing rocks were brought to the surface, the rocks were crushed, and the gold was separated out (using moving water), or leached out, typically by using arsenic or mercury (another source of environmental contamination).Eventually, hard-rock mining wound up being the single largest source of gold produced in the Gold Country.


Although the conventional wisdom is that merchants made more money than miners during the Gold Rush, the reality is perhaps more complex. There were certainly merchants who profited handsomely. The wealthiest man in California during the early years of the Gold Rush was Samuel Brannan, the tireless self-promoter, shopkeeper and newspaper publisher.Brannan alertly opened the first supply stores in Sacramento, Coloma, and other spots in the gold fields. Just as the Gold Rush began, he purchased all the prospecting supplies available in San Francisco and re-sold them at a substantial profit.However, substantial money was made by gold-seekers as well. For example, within a few months, one small group of prospectors, working on the Feather River in 1848, retrieved a sum of gold worth more than $1.5 million by 2006 prices.

On average, many early gold-seekers did perhaps make a modest profit, after all expenses were taken into account. Most, however, especially those arriving later, made little or wound up losing money.Similarly, many unlucky merchants set up in settlements that disappeared, or were wiped out in one of the calamitous fires that swept the towns springing up.Other businessmen, through good fortune and hard work, reaped great rewards in retail, shipping, entertainment, lodging,or transportation.

By 1855, the economic climate had changed dramatically. Gold could be retrieved profitably from the goldfields only by medium to large groups of workers, either in partnerships or as employees.By the mid-1850s, it was the owners of these gold-mining companies who made the money. Similarly, the population of California had grown so large and so fast, and the economic base had started to diversify enough, that money could be made in a wide variety of conventional businesses.

Path of the gold

Once the gold was recovered, there were many paths the gold itself took. First, much of the gold was used locally to purchase food, supplies and lodging for the miners. These transactions often took place using the recently recovered gold, carefully weighed out.These merchants and vendors, in turn, used the gold to purchase supplies from ship captains or packers bringing goods to California.The gold then left California aboard ships or mules to go to the makers of the goods from around the world. A second path was the Argonauts themselves who, having personally acquired a sufficient amount, sent the gold home, or returned home taking with them their hard-earned 'diggings.' For example, one estimate is that some US$80 million worth of California gold was sent to France by French prospectors and merchants.As the Gold Rush progressed, local banks and gold dealers issued 'banknotes' or 'drafts'—locally accepted paper currency—in exchange for gold,and private mints created private gold coins.With the building of the San Francisco Mint in 1854, gold bullion was turned into official United States gold coins for circulation.The gold was also sent by California banks to U.S. national banks in exchange for national paper currency to be used in the booming California economy.


Immediate effects

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of new people within a few years, compared to a population of some 15,000 Europeans and Californios beforehand, had many dramatic effects.

First, the human and environmental costs of the Gold Rush were substantial. Native Americans became the victims of disease, starvation and genocidal attacks;the Native American population, estimated at 150,000 in 1845, was less than 30,000 by 1870.Explicitly racist attacks and laws sought to drive out Chinese and Latin American immigrants.The toll on the American immigrants could be severe as well: one in twelve forty-niners perished, as the death and crime rates during the Gold Rush were extraordinarily high, and the resulting vigilantism also took its toll.In addition, the environment suffered as gravel, silt and toxic chemicals from prospecting operations killed fish and destroyed habitats.

However, the Gold Rush propelled California from a sleepy, little-known backwater to a center of the global imagination and the destination of hundreds of thousands of people. The new immigrants often showed remarkable inventiveness and civic-mindedness. For example, in the midst of the Gold Rush, towns and cities were chartered, a state constitutional convention was convened, a state constitution written, elections held, and representatives sent to Washington, D.C. to negotiate the admission of California as a state.Large-scale agriculture (California's second 'Gold Rush'began during this time.Roads, schools, churches,and civic organizations quickly came into existence.The vast majority of the immigrants were Americans. Pressure grew for better communications and political connections to the rest of the United States, leading to statehood for California on September 9, 1850, in the Compromise of 1850 as the 31st state of the United States.

The Gold Rush wealth and population increase led to significantly improved transportation between California and the East Coast. The Panama Railway, spanning the Isthmus of Panama, was finished in 1855.Steamships, including those owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, began regular service from San Francisco to Panama, where passengers, goods and mail would take the train across the Isthmus and board steamships headed to the East Coast. One ill-fated journey, that of the S.S. Central America, ended in disaster as the ship sank in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas in 1857, with an estimated three tons of California gold aboard.

Within a few years after the end of the Gold Rush, in 1863, the groundbreaking ceremony for the western leg of the First Transcontinental Railroad was held in Sacramento. The line's completion, some six years later, financed in part with Gold Rush money,united California with the central and eastern United States. Travel that had taken weeks or even months could now be accomplished in days.

The Gold Rush stimulated economies around the world as well. Farmers in Chile, Australia, and Hawaii found a huge new market for their food; British manufactured goods were in high demand; clothing and even pre-fabricated houses arrived from China.The return of large amounts of California gold to pay for these goods raised prices and stimulated investment and the creation of jobs around the world.Australian prospector, Edward Hargraves, noting similarities between the geography of California and his home, returned to Australia to discover gold and spark the Australian gold rushes.


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-Microsoft Encarta 2002


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