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Capt. John Smith's Map of Virginia, 1612
Capt. John Smith’s Map of Virginia, 1612
Photo: Public Domain

Colonial and Post-Revolutionary America (approx. 1600-1800)



Articles concerning Colonial and Post-Revolutionary America, from approximately 1600 – 1800.




  • Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves 1807The ten sections of the 1807 act were designed to eliminate all American participation in the trade. Section 1 set the tone. After January 1, 1808, it would "not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such [person] ... as a slave, to be held to service or labour." The act provided an enormous penalty — up to $20,000 — for anyone building a ship for the trade or fitting out an existing ship to be used in the trade.
  • African Union SocietyWritten by Michael Barga. "In 1780, The African Union Society (AUS) was created in Newport, Rhode Island. While most blacks from Rhode Island were free by 1807, strong prejudice and oppression were present before and after that date. The AUS developed partly in response to these difficulties, as well as a forum for black cultural discussion. The society is considered one of the first formal organizations founded by free blacks in the United States."
  • Brief History of Government Charity in New York (1603 - 1900)This entry describes the history of legislative actions taken by the New York State Government for the poor in New York State from 1603 to 1900. Derived from the research of Linda S. Stuhler.
  • British Reforms and Colonial Resistance (1763-1766)British leaders also felt the need to tighten control over their empire. To be sure, laws regulating imperial trade and navigation had been on the books for generations, but American colonists were notorious for evading these regulations. They were even known to have traded with the French during the recently ended war. From the British point of view, it was only right that American colonists should pay their fair share of the costs for their own defense. If additional revenue could also be realized through stricter control of navigation and trade, so much the better. Thus the British began their attempts to reform the imperial system.
  • Brown Fellowship SocietyMutual aid societies were maintained by blacks throughout the United States. The goal of the groups was to provide much needed benefits to their communities that whites controlled and often withheld. In the south, it was particularly difficult to sustain a black organization of any kind since assemblies of non-whites were considered dangerous. Still, some southern cities, including Charleston, SC, stratified individuals by three race descriptions: white, black, and mulatto. Those considered mulattoes were sometimes able to avoid the most severe oppressive measures carried out by whites while having to adhere in the majority of ways. The Brown Fellowship Society (BFS) was a response to this three-race cultural environment of Charleston and came together in 1790. Those who joined usually considered themselves mulatto...
  • Colonial Expansion Heads SouthIn 1619, a Dutch ship brought some Africans to Jamestown. They had been kidnapped from their homes by African traders and sold to the ship's captain. He sold them to the Virginia settlers. Those first blacks may have been treated like indentured servants. Later, however, colonists decided to keep them as slaves so they would not have to continue paying for workers. Indians did not make good slaves because they could run away. Blacks could not. They had no place to go. Slowly, laws were approved in Virginia that made it legal to keep black people as slaves. By 1750, there were more Africans in Virginia than any other group.
  • Colonization of the U.S. (1600 - 1763)When the London Company sent out its first expedition to begin colonizing Virginia on December 20, 1606, it was by no means the first expedition to begin colonizing Virginia. In 1564, for example, French Protestants (Huguenots) built a colony near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. This intrusion did not go unnoticed by the Spanish, who had previously claimed the region. The next year, the Spanish established a military post at St. Augustine; Spanish troops soon wiped out the French interlopers residing but 40 miles away.
  • Declaration of Independence - July 4th, 1776The delegates wanted the world to understand what they were doing, and why. So they appointed a committee to write a document giving the reasons for their actions. One member of the committee was the Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. He had already written a report criticizing the British form of government. So the other committee members asked him to prepare the new document. They said he was the best writer in the group. They were right. It took him seventeen days to complete the document that the delegates approved on July fourth, 1776. It was America's Declaration of Independence.
  • Free African SocietyThe Free African Society’s legacy is acknowledged in Philadelphia at the site of the original Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church as “the forerunner of the first African-American churches in this city”. The contributions of the group during the yellow fever outbreak in 1793, as well as the racially charged dialogue that followed, acknowledge both the willingness of free blacks to serve the larger community and the difficulty in assuaging bigoted fears and suspicions at that time. Finally, the Free African Society provided the valuable social services of looking after the sick, the poor, the dead, the widowed, and the orphaned of their marginalized membership.
  • Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation (1775)Dunmore’s proclamation offered freedom only to those who would flee from rebel masters and serve the crown. Its purpose was strategic, to disable rebellion, rather than humanitarian, yet its effect was rather the reverse. White southerner colonists swung to oppose royal authority as it appeared that Dunmore and his “Damned, infernal, Diabolical” proclamation were inciting slave insurrection: nothing, it can be argued, so quickly lost the South for the crown. British officialdom, however, never repudiated the proclamation’s message and soon established an alliance with black Americans that brought thousands of escaped southern slaves to the side of the British forces operating in the south.
  • National Expansion and Reform 1815 - 1880The small republic founded by George Washington's generation became the world's largest democracy. All adult, white males received the right to vote. With wider suffrage, politics became hotly contested. The period also saw the emergence--and demise--of a number of significant political parties, including the Democratic, the Whig, the American, the Free Soil, and the Republican Parties.Meanwhile, the young republic expanded geographically from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Stars and Stripes were raised over Texas, Oregon, California, and the Southwest. Expansion, however, proved to be a mixed blessing for Americans. While many white settlers found new opportunities to the West, their settlement displaced other groups including Indian tribes and Mexicans. In addition, territorial expansion gave African-American slavery a new lease on life and led to increasing conflict between North and South.
  • Naturalization Process in U.S.: Early HistoryWritten by Eilleen Bolger. The first naturalization act, passed by Congress on March 26, 1790, provided that any free, white, adult alien, male or female, who had resided within the limits and jurisdiction of the United States for a period of 2 years was eligible for citizenship.
  • Negro in Virginia (1940)Compiled by Workers of the Writers Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Virginia. Sponsored by the Hampton Institute.
  • Poor Relief and the AlmshouseWritten by Dr. David Wagner, University of Southern Maine. "Poorhouses (almshouses were simply the same thing with the old English word “alms” for charity used) started out rather small, sometimes in private homes, and at first were scattered in America. But in the 1820s, when America ceased being a completely agricultural society and began to receive more immigration, reformers such as Josiah Quincy in Massachusetts and John Yates in New York led a drive to build almshouses or poorhouses in every town and city. Their purposes were deeply steeped in a desire to not only save money but also to deter the 'undeserving poor.”"
  • Sampson, Deborah (1760-1827)For over two years, Deborah’s true sex had escaped detection. She had had close calls with both discovery and death: fainting on that first march to West Point, lying that she had had smallpox when the soldiers were culled for vaccination in the winter of 1782, receiving a revealing wound in June of 1781, and nearly drowning in the Croton River in December of that year. In the first half of 1783, she had taken a perilous trip through the snow to the frontiers of upstate New York, had been attacked by robbers, and had avoided bathing in the Hudson River with the rest of the troops. All this and more she had successfully navigated. She knew that unconsciousness was her greatest danger because then she could not rely on quick thinking to get her out of trouble. She also feared being in a hospital where she could be subjected to the unwanted probing of the doctor. Now both things that she had dreaded the most, even more than the prospect of death, had happened. Dr. Benjamin Binney did discover her secret, which he eventually made known in a letter to General Peterson on Deborah’s return to the army.
  • Social Insurance & Social Security Chronology: Part I -- 1600s -- 1800sThe following pages present a detailed historical chronology of the development of social insurance, with particular emphasis on Social Security. Items are included in this compilation on the basis of their significance for Social Security generally, their importance as precedents, their value in reflecting trends or issues, or their significance in Social Security Administration's administrative history. The information includes legislative events in Social Security and related programs. Our expectation is that this Chronology can be used as a reference tool and finding aid for important dates and events in Social Security's long history.
  • The American Revolution Era (1763 - 1783)Underneath the apparent calm of the early 1770s, many Americans continued to resent Britain's heavy-handed enforcement of the Navigation Acts and the continued presence of a standing army. Colonists continued to talk among themselves, through newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides, in colonial assemblies, and in such public places as coffee houses and taverns. In 1773, a new act of Parliament, the Tea Act, ended any semblance of calm.
  • The New Nation (1783 - 1815)After winning their independence, Americans continued to experiment with how to govern themselves under the Articles of Confederation. Over time, some influential groups--and these by no means reflected the sentiments of all Americans--found the Confederation government inadequate. Representatives of these groups came together in Philadelphia to explore the creation of yet another, newer form of government. The result was a new constitution. Not all Americans embraced this new Constitution, however, and ratification of the document produced many disagreements. Even so, the Constitution was ratified, and with a new constitution in place, Americans once again turned to George Washington for leadership, this time as President of the new republic.
  • Ward, Nancy or Nanye-hi - (1738-1822)Nanye-hi’s husband, with whom she had two children, was killed in a raid on the Creeks, the Cherokee’s land rivals, during the 1755 Battle of Taliwa. Nanye-hi fought by his side, chewing the lead bullets for his rifle to make them more pointed and deadly. When the enemy killed him, she rallied the Cherokee warriors, leading a charge that brought victory to the Cherokees. Because of her actions, the Cherokee clans chose her as Ghighau, or the "Beloved Woman.” In this powerful position, her opinion was influential in the tribal government because the Cherokees believed that the Great Spirit could speak through the Beloved Woman. As Beloved Woman, Nanye-hi headed the Women's Council, sat on the Council of Chiefs, and had complete power over prisoners.