The Birth and Government

of the

United States of America

Before the American Revolution

Ancient Times to 1775

Page 2


A milestone in American history is reached in 1565 when Spain established the first permanent European colony in North America at St. Augustine (Florida). The city still exists today and is the oldest city in the United States.

This began a wave of migration to the New World. There were several reasons many families risked their lives to colonize the New World. Some wanted better economic opportunities, others wanted political and religious freedom. Yet others trekked across the ocean for the sheer adventure of starting a new life in a far away place still mysterious to Europeans.

In 1607, a colonial expedition sponsored by the London Company landed in Jameston, Virginia. Unfortunately, by the end of the year starvation and disease reduced the original 105 settlers to just 32 survivors. Captain John Smith was captured by the Native American Chief Powhatan and was set to be executed. Captain Smith was saved from death by the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas. In January of 1608, 110 additional colonists arrive at Jamestown. In December, the first items of export trade are sent from Jamestown back to England and include lumber and iron ore.

Attempting to find a northeast passage to Asia, the Dutch East India Company sponsored a voyage of exploration by Henry Hudson. In 1610 Hudson became the European discoverer of Hudson Bay in northeast Canada.

Tobacco became an economic staple when Virginia colonists began harvesting it in 1609 and started to export it to Europe in 1616.. In 1613 a Dutch trading post was set up on lower Manhattan Island.


A landmark moment in American history is reached in 1619 when the first session of the first legislative assembly occurs as the Virginia House of Burgesses convenes in Jamestown. It consists of 22 burgesses representing 11 plantations. It is the birth of representative government in the New World.


Also in 1619, ironically the birth year of representative government, twenty Africans are brought by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, marking the beginning of slavery in Colonial America. Two hundred and thirty six years would pass before slavery came to an end in 1865.


On November 9, 1620 the Mayflower ship landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts with 101 colonists. They are commonly referred to as “the pilgrims.” Two days later, on November 11, the Mayflower Compact was signed by the 41 men. This document, or social contract, established a form of local government in which the colonists agreed to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good of the colony.

In 1621, with the aid of Squanto, an English speaking Native American Patuxet, one of the first peace pact treaties between colonists and Native Americans was signed between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe. After their first severe winter, Squanto contributed to the survival of the pilgrims by showing them his method of fertilizing their crops. He also showed them his techniques for finding fish.

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