Early American History Up To 1865

In the early 1600’s John Smith led an expedition to the new world accompanied by gentlemen from his homeland in order to establish a new settlement called Jamestown. They came ill prepared and did not have very many tools to guarantee their success, so when they first arrived

their task at hand proved to be very difficult. Aside from not having the necessary means for survival, the new settlers we constantly under attack or at constant odds with the Indians who inhabited the land when they arrived. The Algonquian Indians were headed by a fierce leader who was feared by his followers as well as some of the new immigrants to the country; his name was Powhatan.

Chief Powhatan was the type of chief that could make his subordinates tremble with just one look of disapproval. He was a fierce warrior and for decades, helped the Indians maintain sovereignty over their land. His successor and half brother Opechancanough took over the task of being the leader of the Algonquian people in the event on Chief Powhatan’s untimely death. He was also a great warrior and was actually responsible for taking John Smith captive in 1608 and bringing him before the chief for judgment. This is when it is said in history that the chief’s daughter Pocahontas intervened on his behalf. Her marriage to John Rolfe brought a period of peace to Jamestown which ended abruptly when chief Powhatan died in 1618. After the Indian Massacre in 1622, Chief Opechancanough gave up on peace with the settlers and instead resorted to force to regain their power in the land. They lost the fight ultimately and the chief was shot in the back by a solider who was guarding him.

Before Chief Opechancanough was killed, however, there was another significant war going on with other Indian settlements. In 1637, an armed conflict between Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies allied with various Indian tribes against the Pequot Indians took place and was called the Pequot War. The Pequot sought to aggressively extend their land and trade control through the Connecticut river valley while other colonies were interested in the same things. The conflict ended with the Pequot people being almost comepletely exterminated.

The Virginia colony was not totally free from uprisings after the Indian conflicts. In 1676 there was another unrest that is called Bacon’s Rebellion. It was led by colonist Nathan Bacon and was originated because of the taxes being imposed on citizens for the building of forts. Nathan Bacon was arrested for the disturbance but was released after his followers forced his freedom at gunpoint.

Further along in history, an African American inventor named Eli Whitney revolutionized the cotton industry in the South and actually helped the North win the Civil war. He invented the cotton gin and interchangeable parts and opened the door for a wave of technology that would change how the world operated. He was forced into litigation over his patents for his inventions, however, and in turn spent a lot of his profits from the inventions on court and lawyer fees.

Stephen F. Austin also a very important figure in the colonization of America especially in the South. He started off running the family business which was a store in their home town but eventually was appointed judge in Arkansas. He began a colony after his father’s death in 1821 in present Fort Bend County and was known for bringing the first settlers to Texas known as the “first 300”. Our state capitol is named for him.

Before we had the constitution as we know it today, there existed another document that governed us. It was called the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It provided for orderly settlement of the western United States, made new states in the union equal to the old ones, and provided that Congress agreed that everyone had full citizenship and access to all rights. It is also sometimes known as the “old constitution” .

Quock Walker was a slave who helped the state of Massachusetts take part in the first case that actually based the legality of slavery on the 1780 constitution. He sued his slave owner for assault and battery under the grounds that he was a freedman. He won fifty pounds from his case and was able to keep his freedom.