Tensions in the American Colonies

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This paper examines briefly the conflicts that arose in the American colonies in the 17th and 18th Centuries. (3 pages; 1 source; MLA citation style)

I Introduction

The study of the American colonies is fascinating because it shows how a disparate group of people, working together, can create a nation. We tend to think of the colonies as just the original 13 states on the Eastern seaboard, but there were Spanish holdings in the West. They play an important part in explaining the tensions that existed in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

II Discussion

In the 17th Century, tension in the colonies arose from two principal factors: the interaction between the newcomers (and their religions) and the Native Americans; and the attempts to establish trade. In the 18th Century, much of the tension centered on the issue of slavery. For most of the time France, Spain and England were the principal movers in these conflicts.
In the 1600’s, the Spanish established colonies in the West, particularly in New Mexico. They were looking for the fabled “cities of gold,” and when it became clear that no such places existed, they began to try to convert the native population. In one particular instance, the people of Pueblo Acoma resisted, with the result that the Spanish conquered the town by force, killing 800 men, women and children. (Faragher, p. 52). In the Spanish colonies, the tension in these earliest days stemmed from religion.
In the French colonies things were much different. Although they had missionaries with them, they didn’t force conversion as the Spanish did; they saw it as an adjunct to native life. The French intermarried with the Native Americans and developed an extensive fur-trading system in the northeastern United States and Canada.
The English, on the other hand, who were also coming to North America, saw themselves as conquerors. Those who settled on the Chesapeake survived only because the Algonquian Confederacy, led by Powhatan, helped them through the first winter. But the settlers plundered food from the tribes, and in retaliation Powhatan decided to starve them out. By spring 1610 the Algonquians had reduced the number of settlers to 60; the rest were dead. But the English were committed to a protracted war against the Native Americans and resolved to stay; the tension here is a result of the English attitude that the natives were little better than slaves. (Faragher, p. 54-55).
In the 1700’s, the issue that caused tension in the colonies was slavery. In the Spanish holdings, slavery was condemned by the Catholic Church but remained in place because it was extremely profitable. In New Mexico, the Spanish were careful not to enslave Indians who had converted, but did use “heathen” tribes as slaves. In Florida, though, which was also a Spanish colony, conditions were almost benign, and any slave who escaped the English and came to Florida would be freed and given land, in exchange for helping to defend the colony.
In Louisiana, which was French, slavery was relatively unimportant until the end of the eighteenth century, and in the northern colonies, it was generally unimportant.
However, the tensions that were rising during this time were in part a cause of the American Revolution; when the country was established with slavery still a part of its fabric, the stage was set for the Civil War.

III Conclusion
Although the tensions manifested themselves differently in different parts of the country, religion and slavery seem to be the basic problems in the colonies at this time.

IV Reference
Faragher, John Mack, Buhle, Mari Jo, Czitrom, Daniel and Susan H. Armitage. Out of Many, Volume 1: To 1877. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

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