THE PEOPLING OF AMERICA
Interpreting Primary Sources
So lamentable was our scarcity that we were constrained to eat dogs, cats, rats, snakes, toadstools, horsehides, and what not. One man out of the misery he endured, killing his wife, powdered her up to eat her, for which he was burned. Many besides fed on the corpses of dead men, and one who had gotten insatiable out of custom to that food could not be restrained until such time as he was executed for it.
--Journals of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1624, on life in Virginia during the Starving Times
Since I came out of the ship, I never ate anything but peas, and loblollie (that is water gruel) as for deer or venison I never saw any since I came into this land, there is indeed some fowl, but we are not allowed to go, and get it, but must work hard both early, and later for a mess of water gruel, and a mouthful of bread, and beef, a mouthful of bread for a penny loaf must serve for 4 men....
--Richard Frethorne, 1623
The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship which was then riding at anchor and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror when I was carried on board. I was immediately handled and tossed up to see if I were sound by some of the crew, and I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits and that they were going to kill me. Their complexions too, differing so much from ours, their long hair and the language they spoke (which was very different from any I had ever heard) united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country. When I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace or copper boiling and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted my fate; and quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted....
I was not long suffered to indulge in my grief; I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so that the loathesomeness of the stench and crowding together I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything. I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me; soon to my grief, two of the white men offered eatables, and on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast by the hands and laid me across the windlass, and tied my feet while the other flogged me severely.
In a little time after, amongst the poor chained men I found some of my own nation which in a small degree gave ease to my mind. I inquired of these what was to be done with us; they gave us to understand we were to be carried to these white people's country to work for them....The white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among my people such instances of brutal cruelty, and this not only shown toward us blacks but also to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast that he died in consequence of it; and they tossed him over the side as they would have done a brute....
--Olaudah Equiano, a slave, 1793
When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors in England, the real misery begins with the long voyage. For from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail eight, nine, ten or twelve weeks before they reach Philadelphia....But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of seasickness, fever, headache, heat, boils, constipation, scurvy, cancer, mouth rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply-salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably....
Among the healthy, impatience sometimes grows so great and cruel that one curses the other, or himself and the day of his birth and sometimes come near killing each other....Few women who give birth to children on the ship escape with their lives and many a mother is cast into the water with her child as soon as she is dead. Children from one to seven years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst, and sickness and then see them cast into the water. I saw such misery in no less than thirty-two children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea....
When the ships have landed at Philadelphia after their long voyage, no one is permitted to leave them except those who pay for their passage. The others, who cannot pay, must remain on board the ships till they are purchased and are released from the ships by their purchasers. The sick
always fare the worst, for the healthy are always preferred and purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for two or three weeks, and frequently die....
The sale of human beings in the market on board the ship is carried on thus: Every day people come from the city of Philadelphia and other places and go on board the newly-arrived ship that has brought and offers passengers for sale....When they come to an agreement, adult persons usually bind themselves in writing to serve from 3-6 years according to their age and strength. But very young people, from ten to fifteen years, must serve till they are twenty-one years old.
Many parents must sell and trade away their children like so many head of cattle, for if their children take the debt upon themselves, the parents can leave the ship free and unrestrained but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going it often happens
that such parents and children, after leaving the ship, do not see each other again for many years, perhaps no more in all their lives.
--Gottlieb Mittelberger, a German Redemptioner, 1750
Many of these slaves we transport from Guinea to America are prepossessed with the opinion that they are carried like sheep to the slaughter, and that Europeans are fond of their flesh; which notion so far prevails with some as to make them fall into a deep melancholy and despair, and to refuse all sustenance, tho' never so much compelled or even beaten to oblige them to take some nourishment....I have been necessitated sometimes to cause the teeth of these wretches to be broken, because they would not open their mouths, or be prevailed upon by any entreaties to feed themselves; and thus have forced some sustenance into their throats.
--John Barbot, 1682
Questions to think about:
1. Why do you think the Virginians were incapable of feeding themselves--when the Indians were able to grow corn, the woods were filled with game, and the rivers were covered with geese and filled with fish?
2. Why did these individuals migrated to the New World?
3. Describe their experiences in migrating to America.
4. What do these quotations tell us about colonial attitudes toward labor?
INTERPRETING STATISTICS: DEMOGRAPHIC CONDITIONS IN THE ENGLISH COLONIES
Starving times: Crude death rate first winter
638 490 (per thousand)
In 1607, the Susan Constant discharged l05 passengers; six months later, two-thirds were dead. Between l607 and l624, 6,000-10,000 colonists arrived; but only l,275 remained alive.
Child Mortality in New England
180-200 of every l,000 died first year
35-40 percent failed to reach adulthood
Death rate for infants in Salem, Mass. (per thousand)
17th century 18th century
Girls 313 178
Boys 202 105
Causes of death in New England
Epidemic diseases--smallpox, diphtheria, pneumonia, measles, scarlet fever--killed 30 per l,000 during mid-l8th century; tuberculosis killed 20 percent
Comparative death rates
Jamestown, after l630 40-50 per thousand
French and English villages 40 per thousand
New England 24-26 per thousand
1.5-2 percent death rate per pregnancy
Average Life Expectancy at Age 20 During the Seventeenth Century
Married Women in Middlesex County, Virginia 39
Married Men in Middlesex County, Virginia 48
Women in Andover, Massachusetts 62
Men in Andover, Massachusetts 64
Women in Plymouth, Massachusetts 62
Men in Plymouth, Massachusetts 69
Growth of the Colonial Population
1640 26,634 26,037 596
1670 111,935 107,400 4,535
1700 250,888 223,071 27,817
1740 905,563 755,539 150,024
1770 2,148,076 1,688,254 459,822
Questions to think about:
1. How did life expectancy in the Northern and Chesapeake colonies compare? What implications might this have upon the nature of family life in the two regions?
2. What factors may have contributed to the discrepancy in life expectancy in the two regions?
3. Why might women have had a shorter life expectancy than men?
Declining Mortality, 1780-1820
Total population 28 per thousand 20 per thousand
Infants 180-200 per thousand 140-160 per thousand
Population growth rate 3.5 percent
Doubling time 20-25 years
Average number of children per family 7-8 surviving children
New England in the early 18th century
men 98 percent
women 93 percent
women at end of the l8th century 78 percent
Average age of marriage for women
New England 20
Proportion of families with 6 or more surviving children
pre-1700 75 percent
Questions to think about:
1. How does the growth of the colonial population compare to the growth of the American population today?
2. What were the major contributors to the growth of the colonial population?
3. What factors may have contributed to the decline in fertility after 1800?
INTERPRETING STATISTICS: THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN SLAVERY
Slave Imports into the Americas, 1500-1870
Area Number Proportion Proportion of black population
of imports in the Americas in 1825
British North America 523,000 6 percent 25 percent
Spanish America 1,687,000
British Caribbean 2,443,000 17 percent 10 percent
French Caribbean 1,655,000
Dutch Caribbean 500,000
Danish Caribbean 50,000
Old World 297,000
Slave Population in the Colonies, 1650-1770
North South Total
1650 880 720 1,600
1670 1,125 3,410 4,535
1690 3,340 13,389 16,729
1710 8,303 36,563 44,866
1730 17,323 73,698 91,021
1750 30,222 206,198 236,420
1770 48,460 411,362 459,822
Origin of Slaves arriving in Virginia
British West Indies 2,399 4,983
Africa 1,892 32,314
British North America 101 1,417
Total 4,528 39,679
Slave Mortality during the Middle Passage
Years Slave Trading Total Number Mortality Rate
Nation of Slave Deaths
1680-1688 English 60,783 23.6
1715-1775 French 35,927 14.9
1795-1811 Portuguese 162,225 9.3
Questions to think about:
1. How many slaves were imported into the American colonies and the United States?
2. Which country imported the greatest number of slaves?
3. Construct an explanation of why the United States, which imported a relatively small number of slaves from Africa, had by far the largest black population in the New World by l820?
4. During which period did the American slave population grow most rapidly?
5. How likely was a slave to die during the "middle passage" from Africa to the Americas?
CHRONOLOGY: FOUNDING OF THE AMERICAN COLONIES
Date Colony Founders
1607 Virginia London Company Established 1st assembly in 1619
Royal colony after 1624
1620 Plymouth William Bradford Became part of Massachusetts in 1691
1623 New Hampshire Puritans Royal colony after 1680
1626 New Netherlands Dutch West India Co. East and West Jersey united and become
a royal colony in 1702
New York a proprietary colony 1664-85
and becomes a royal colony in 1685
1630 Massachusetts Bay John Winthrop and Royal colony after 1691
1634 Maryland George Calvert Toleration Act of 1649 guaranteed religious
freedom to Protestants and Catholics
Proprietary colony from 1632-91; a royal
colony from 1691
1636 Rhode Island Roger Williams Royal colony after 1663
1636 Connecticut Thomas Hooker and Fundamental Orders of 1639 was the first
Puritans written constitution in the colonies
1638 New Sweden Swedes Part of Pennsylvania until 1776
1650 North Carolina 8 proprietors Royal colony after 1729
1670 South Carolina 8 proprietors Royal colony after 1729
1682 Pennsylvania William Penn
1733 Georgia James Oglethorpe Only colony to attempt to prohibit slavery
Royal colony after 1754