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slaves; every colony had some, but by far the larger part were owned south of the Potomac. This population was nearly all east of the Alleghanies. West of those mountains the country was really a howling wilderness. The majority of the colonists - especially in Virginia and New England — were English or of English descent. Next in number came the Germans in Pennsylvania, the Dutch in New York, the Irish and Scotch-Irish 3 who had settled to some extent in all of the colonies, and finally, the descendants of the Huguenots, or French Protestants, most numerous in South Carolina.
147. Language; Religion; Social Rank; Cities; Trade. -Nearly all of the colonists spoke English, and nearly all were Protestants. Most of them had sprung from the same social class in the mother-country. A witty Frenchman of that day said that the people of England reminded him of a barrel of their own beer
— froth on the top, dregs at the bottom, but clear and sound in the middle. It was from that energetic, industrious, self-respecting middle class that the greater part of the emigrants to this country
In none of the colonies was there a titled aristocracy holding land, and established by law as in Europe. In Virginia, however, the great plantations were usually handed down to the eldest son after the English fashion. America had men of intelligence and wealth, but no lords; she had learned and influential clergymen, but no bishops.
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston were the chief cities, yet even Philadelphia, then the largest, had only about twenty thousand inhabitants, and not one of these cities published a daily paper and did not until more than twenty years later.6
1 See Note 1, page 120.
2 See Paragraph 61. 3 See Paragraph 94.
4 See Paragraph 117. 5 The greatest number of Catholics were in Maryland; there they may have constituted a fifteenth of the population.
6 The Boston News Letter, 1704 (weekly), was the first regular newspaper published in America. The American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, 1784, is said to have been the first daily,
GOVERNMENT OF THE COLONIES.
The foreign trade of the country was prosperous. The South exported tobacco, rice, indigo, tar, and turpentine; the North, fish, lumber, furs, and iron. New England built and sold so many sailing-vessels that the ship-carpenters of Great Britain complained that the Americans were ruining their business. Manufactories were comparatively few. England treated her colonies in a broader and more generous spirit than any other nation in Europe, but she wished, so far as practicable, to compel the Americans to buy all their goods from her. On this account she refused to let them make so much as a yard of fine woollen cloth, an iron pot, or print a New Testament. The people of this country did not openly dispute this right, or supposed right, of the mother-country to restrict their trade; but they smuggled goods, especially tea and other luxuries, from Europe; and the British custom-house officers pretty generally winked at the landing of such articles.
148. Government of the Colonies; Law; Unity of the People. — The colonies did not all have the same form of government. Connecticut and Rhode Island held charters, by which they practically managed their own affairs in their own way with
out interference of any sort. Eight of the remaining colonies 2 | were under a governor appointed by the king; the three others,
Pennsylvania with Delaware, and Maryland were governed by their proprietors,' the descendants of William Penn and of Lord Baltimore.
All the colonies had legislative assemblies elected by the people; by means of these assemblies they levied their own taxes and had the chief voice in making their own laws. In New England all matters of public interest were openly and fearlessly discussed in town-meeting; in Virginia, county meetings were held occasionally for the same purpose. Every white man had the right to trial by jury and to the protection given by the common law of England.
1 See Note 3, page 24.
2 Massachusetts had a charter, but could make only such laws as her governor, appointed by the king, saw fit to approve.
3 See Paragraph 122. 4 Proprietors: those to whom the land was originally granted.
5 The laws enacted by the colonial assemblies required the governor's approval, except in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where the people elected the governor and could legislate, if they chose, without his consent,
The colonists, though loyal to the king, were full of sturdy independence of character. In 1775 some of them adopted a flag on which was a rattlesnake coiled ready to strike, and the words, “DON'T TREAD ON ME”; but they might have hoisted such colors just as well a dozen years before, for that flag expressed what their real spirit had always been. Though there was but little communication between the colonies, yet they were essentially one people, — they spoke the same language, they appealed for justice to the same general law, they held, with some few exceptions, the same religion.
149. Life among the Farmers. -Few of the colonists were very rich; fewer still were miserably poor. The mass of the people
lived simply but comfortably. The farm-houses were generally built of huge timbers covered with rough, unpainted clapboards, often with the upper story projecting so that in case of an attack by Indians, the owner could fire down on the savages and give them a reception they would remember. Usually the centre of such houses was tak
en up by an immense open By the Fireside.
fireplace, so big that it was a fair question whether the chimney was built for the house or the house for the chimney. On a snapping cold night there was no more cheerful sight than such a fireplace piled up with blazing
LIFE IN THE CITIES.
logs, round which our forefathers and their sturdy families sat contentedly, watching the flames as they leaped up the chimney. But these roaring fires meant work. During the day the woodchopper seemed to hear them forever crying “more, more," and if by ill-chance they went out at night, there were no matches to rekindle them. That had to be done by striking a spark with flint and steel, catching it on a bit of old half-burnt rag, and then blowing that spark to a flame. If we are tempted to envy our ancestors their cosy winter evenings, probably few envy them their winter mornings in case the fire failed to keep over.
The cooking was done either over or before these open fires, or in huge brick ovens. The food was very simple, - often nothing more than mush and molasses for breakfast, – but there was plenty of it, and no lack of healthy appetite.
The farmer bought little at the store. He raised his own food; his sheep furnished wool, and his wife and daughters spun and wove it into stout “homespun” cloth. In such households there were few idle days, but many happy ones; and for recreation the young people had sleighing parties, husking-bees,' general-trainings, and other merry-makings.
150. Life in the Cities, and on the Great Virginia Plantations. In the cities and large towns, and on the great plantations at the South, there was a good deal of luxury. The rich lived in stately mansions, furnished with solid oak and mahogany imported from England. Their tables shone with silver plate, and sparkled with costly wines. They owned their servants instead of hiring them. Gentlemen,
The Good Old Times.
1 Husking-bees: at these gatherings the young people met to husk corn; there was usually quite as much fun as work on such occasions.
2 General-trainings: meetings for military drill. They occurred once or twice a year, and were regarded as holidays.
when in full-dress, wore three-cornered cocked hats, long velvet coats, lace ruffles at their wrists, knee breeches," white silk stockings, and shoes with silver buckles. They kept their hair long, powdered it white, and tied it back in a twist or queue with a black silk ribbon. Ladies wore gowns of brocade: and rich silk almost stiff enough to stand alone. They also powdered their hair, so that all people of fashion, whether young or old, looked stately and venerable. In general, life moved in somewhat the same stately way: there was no hurrying to catch trains, no flashing of telegrams from one end of the country to the other, no newsboy shouting daily papers, no instantaneous photographs, no pushing and hustling in overcrowded streets. On Sunday every one, or practically every one, went to church ; and, in New England, if a man was absent more than once without some very good reason, he was in great danger of making the acquaintance of the whipping-post.
151. Travel; Letters; Hospitality ; Severe Laws. - People seldom travelled. When they did, they generally preferred going by water if possible, in order to avoid the bad roads. But as such travelling was wholly in sailing-vessels, the time when a man reached his destination depended altogether on the wind, and the wind made no promises. Knowing this fact, some chose to go by land. To accommodate these venturesome people a lumbering covered-wagon ran once a week between New York
and Philadelphia, travelling at the rate of about three miles an hour. Later (1766), an enterprising individual put on a wagon which actu
ally made the trip of ninety miles The "Flying Machine."
in two days. On account of its speed it was advertised as the “Flying Machine"; the cheaper
i Knee breeches: breeches coming down to the knees; before the introduction of trousers they were worn by men of all classes.
2 Brocade: cloth or stuff richly embroidered with raised flowers or other figures in silk or gold and silver thread.