Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763

Rule Britannia! The English Empire,
Figure 4.1 Isaac Royall and his family, seen here in a 1741 portrait by Robert Feke, moved to Medford,
Massachusetts, from the West Indian island of Antigua, bringing their slaves with them. They were an affluent British
colonial family, proud of their success and the success of the British Empire.
Chapter Outline
4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies
4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire
4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution
4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment
4.5 Wars for Empire
The eighteenth century witnessed the birth of Great Britain (after the union of England and Scotland
in 1707) and the expansion of the British Empire. By the mid-1700s, Great Britain had developed into
a commercial and military powerhouse; its economic sway ranged from India, where the British East
India Company had gained control over both trade and territory, to the West African coast, where British
slave traders predominated, and to the British West Indies, whose lucrative sugar plantations, especially
in Barbados and Jamaica, provided windfall profits for British planters. Meanwhile, the population rose
dramatically in Britain’s North American colonies. In the early 1700s the population in the colonies had
reached 250,000. By 1750, however, over a million British migrants and African slaves had established a
near-continuous zone of settlement on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia.
During this period, the ties between Great Britain and the American colonies only grew stronger. AngloAmerican colonists considered themselves part of the British Empire in all ways: politically, militarily,
religiously (as Protestants), intellectually, and racially. The portrait of the Royall family (Figure 4.1)
exemplifies the colonial American gentry of the eighteenth century. Successful and well-to-do, they
display fashions, hairstyles, and furnishings that all speak to their identity as proud and loyal British
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 95
4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Analyze the causes and consequences of the Restoration
• Identify the Restoration colonies and their role in the expansion of the Empire
When Charles II ascended the throne in 1660, English subjects on both sides of the Atlantic celebrated
the restoration of the English monarchy after a decade of living without a king as a result of the English
Civil Wars. Charles II lost little time in strengthening England’s global power. From the 1660s to the 1680s,
Charles II added more possessions to England’s North American holdings by establishing the Restoration
colonies of New York and New Jersey (taking these areas from the Dutch) as well as Pennsylvania and
the Carolinas. In order to reap the greatest economic benefit from England’s overseas possessions, Charles
II enacted the mercantilist Navigation Acts, although many colonial merchants ignored them because
enforcement remained lax.
The chronicle of Charles II begins with his father, Charles I. Charles I ascended the English throne in
1625 and soon married a French Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, who was not well liked by English
Protestants because she openly practiced Catholicism during her husband’s reign. The most outspoken
Protestants, the Puritans, had a strong voice in Parliament in the 1620s, and they strongly opposed the
king’s marriage and his ties to Catholicism. When Parliament tried to contest his edicts, including the
king’s efforts to impose taxes without Parliament’s consent, Charles I suspended Parliament in 1629 and
ruled without one for the next eleven years.
The ensuing struggle between the king and Parliament led to the outbreak of war. The English Civil War
lasted from 1642 to 1649 and pitted the king and his Royalist supporters against Oliver Cromwell and
his Parliamentary forces. After years of fighting, the Parliamentary forces gained the upper hand, and in
Figure 4.2
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1649, they charged Charles I with treason and beheaded him. The monarchy was dissolved, and England
became a republic: a state without a king. Oliver Cromwell headed the new English Commonwealth, and
the period known as the English interregnum, or the time between kings, began.
Though Cromwell enjoyed widespread popularity at first, over time he appeared to many in England to
be taking on the powers of a military dictator. Dissatisfaction with Cromwell grew. When he died in 1658
and control passed to his son Richard, who lacked the political skills of his father, a majority of the English
people feared an alternate hereditary monarchy in the making. They had had enough and asked Charles II
to be king. In 1660, they welcomed the son of the executed king Charles I back to the throne to resume the
English monarchy and bring the interregnum to an end (Figure 4.3). The return of Charles II is known as
the Restoration.
Figure 4.3 The monarchy and Parliament fought for control of England during the seventeenth century. Though
Oliver Cromwell (a), shown here in a 1656 portrait by Samuel Cooper, appeared to offer England a better mode of
government, he assumed broad powers for himself and disregarded cherished English liberties established under
Magna Carta in 1215. As a result, the English people welcomed Charles II (b) back to the throne in 1660. This portrait
by John Michael Wright was painted ca. 1660–1665, soon after the new king gained the throne.
Charles II was committed to expanding England’s overseas possessions. His policies in the 1660s through
the 1680s established and supported the Restoration colonies: the Carolinas, New Jersey, New York, and
Pennsylvania. All the Restoration colonies started as proprietary colonies, that is, the king gave each
colony to a trusted individual, family, or group.
Charles II hoped to establish English control of the area between Virginia and Spanish Florida. To that end,
he issued a royal charter in 1663 to eight trusted and loyal supporters, each of whom was to be a feudalstyle proprietor of a region of the province of Carolina.
These proprietors did not relocate to the colonies, however. Instead, English plantation owners from the
tiny Caribbean island of Barbados, already a well-established English sugar colony fueled by slave labor,
migrated to the southern part of Carolina to settle there. In 1670, they established Charles Town (later
Charleston), named in honor of Charles II, at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers (Figure 4.4).
As the settlement around Charles Town grew, it began to produce livestock for export to the West Indies.
In the northern part of Carolina, settlers turned sap from pine trees into turpentine used to waterproof
wooden ships. Political disagreements between settlers in the northern and southern parts of Carolina
escalated in the 1710s through the 1720s and led to the creation, in 1729, of two colonies, North and South
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 97
Carolina. The southern part of Carolina had been producing rice and indigo (a plant that yields a dark blue
dye used by English royalty) since the 1700s, and South Carolina continued to depend on these main crops.
North Carolina continued to produce items for ships, especially turpentine and tar, and its population
increased as Virginians moved there to expand their tobacco holdings. Tobacco was the primary export of
both Virginia and North Carolina, which also traded in deerskins and slaves from Africa.
Figure 4.4 The port of colonial Charles Towne, depicted here on a 1733 map of North America, was the largest in
the South and played a significant role in the Atlantic slave trade.
Slavery developed quickly in the Carolinas, largely because so many of the early migrants came from
Barbados, where slavery was well established. By the end of the 1600s, a very wealthy class of rice planters
who relied on slaves had attained dominance in the southern part of the Carolinas, especially around
Charles Town. By 1715, South Carolina had a black majority because of the number of slaves in the colony.
The legal basis for slavery was established in the early 1700s as the Carolinas began to pass slave laws
based on the Barbados slave codes of the late 1600s. These laws reduced Africans to the status of property
to be bought and sold as other commodities.
Visit the Charleston Museum’s interactive exhibit The Walled City
( to learn more about the history of
As in other areas of English settlement, native peoples in the Carolinas suffered tremendously from
the introduction of European diseases. Despite the effects of disease, Indians in the area endured and,
following the pattern elsewhere in the colonies, grew dependent on European goods. Local Yamasee and
Creek tribes built up a trade deficit with the English, trading deerskins and captive slaves for European
guns. English settlers exacerbated tensions with local Indian tribes, especially the Yamasee, by expanding
their rice and tobacco fields into Indian lands. Worse still, English traders took native women captive as
payment for debts.
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The outrages committed by traders, combined with the seemingly unstoppable expansion of English
settlement onto native land, led to the outbreak of the Yamasee War (1715–1718), an effort by a coalition of
local tribes to drive away the European invaders. This native effort to force the newcomers back across the
Atlantic nearly succeeded in annihilating the Carolina colonies. Only when the Cherokee allied themselves
with the English did the coalition’s goal of eliminating the English from the region falter. The Yamasee
War demonstrates the key role native peoples played in shaping the outcome of colonial struggles and,
perhaps most important, the disunity that existed between different native groups.
Charles II also set his sights on the Dutch colony of New Netherland. The English takeover of New
Netherland originated in the imperial rivalry between the Dutch and the English. During the Anglo-Dutch
wars of the 1650s and 1660s, the two powers attempted to gain commercial advantages in the Atlantic
World. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1664–1667), English forces gained control of the Dutch fur
trading colony of New Netherland, and in 1664, Charles II gave this colony (including present-day New
Jersey) to his brother James, Duke of York (later James II). The colony and city were renamed New York
in his honor. The Dutch in New York chafed under English rule. In 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch
War (1672–1674), the Dutch recaptured the colony. However, at the end of the conflict, the English had
regained control (Figure 4.5).
Figure 4.5 “View of New Amsterdam” (ca. 1665), a watercolor by Johannes Vingboons, was painted during the
Anglo-Dutch wars of the 1660s and 1670s. New Amsterdam was officially reincorporated as New York City in 1664,
but alternated under Dutch and English rule until 1674.
The Duke of York had no desire to govern locally or listen to the wishes of local colonists. It wasn’t
until 1683, therefore, almost 20 years after the English took control of the colony, that colonists were able
to convene a local representative legislature. The assembly’s 1683 Charter of Liberties and Privileges set
out the traditional rights of Englishmen, like the right to trial by jury and the right to representative
The English continued the Dutch patroonship system, granting large estates to a favored few families.
The largest of these estates, at 160,000 acres, was given to Robert Livingston in 1686. The Livingstons
and the other manorial families who controlled the Hudson River Valley formed a formidable political
and economic force. Eighteenth-century New York City, meanwhile, contained a variety of people and
religions—as well as Dutch and English people, it held French Protestants (Huguenots), Jews, Puritans,
Quakers, Anglicans, and a large population of slaves. As they did in other zones of colonization, native
peoples played a key role in shaping the history of colonial New York. After decades of war in the 1600s,
the powerful Five Nations of the Iroquois, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and
Seneca, successfully pursued a policy of neutrality with both the English and, to the north, the French in
Canada during the first half of the 1700s. This native policy meant that the Iroquois continued to live in
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 99
their own villages under their own government while enjoying the benefits of trade with both the French
and the English.
The Restoration colonies also included Pennsylvania, which became the geographic center of British
colonial America. Pennsylvania (which means “Penn’s Woods” in Latin) was created in 1681, when
Charles II bestowed the largest proprietary colony in the Americas on William Penn (Figure 4.6) to settle
the large debt he owed the Penn family. William Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn, had served the
English crown by helping take Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. The king personally owed the Admiral
money as well.
Figure 4.6 Charles II granted William Penn the land that eventually became the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in
order to settle a debt the English crown owed to Penn’s father.
Like early settlers of the New England colonies, Pennsylvania’s first colonists migrated mostly for religious
reasons. William Penn himself was a Quaker, a member of a new Protestant denomination called the
Society of Friends. George Fox had founded the Society of Friends in England in the late 1640s, having
grown dissatisfied with Puritanism and the idea of predestination. Rather, Fox and his followers stressed
that everyone had an “inner light” inside him or her, a spark of divinity. They gained the name Quakers
because they were said to quake when the inner light moved them. Quakers rejected the idea of worldly
rank, believing instead in a new and radical form of social equality. Their speech reflected this belief in
that they addressed all others as equals, using “thee” and “thou” rather than terms like “your lordship” or
“my lady” that were customary for privileged individuals of the hereditary elite.
The English crown persecuted Quakers in England, and colonial governments were equally harsh;
Massachusetts even executed several early Quakers who had gone to proselytize there. To avoid such
persecution, Quakers and their families at first created a community on the sugar island of Barbados.
Soon after its founding, however, Pennsylvania became the destination of choice. Quakers flocked to
Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey, where they could preach and practice their religion in peace. Unlike
New England, whose official religion was Puritanism, Pennsylvania did not establish an official church.
Indeed, the colony allowed a degree of religious tolerance found nowhere else in English America. To help
encourage immigration to his colony, Penn promised fifty acres of land to people who agreed to come to
Pennsylvania and completed their term of service. Not surprisingly, those seeking a better life came in
large numbers, so much so that Pennsylvania relied on indentured servants more than any other colony.
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One of the primary tenets of Quakerism is pacifism, leading William Penn to establish friendly
relationships with local native peoples. He formed a covenant of friendship with the Lenni Lenape
(Delaware) tribe, buying their land for a fair price instead of taking it by force. In 1701, he also signed a
treaty with the Susquehannocks to avoid war. Unlike other colonies, Pennsylvania did not experience war
on the frontier with native peoples during its early history.
As an important port city, Philadelphia grew rapidly. Quaker merchants there established contacts
throughout the Atlantic world and participated in the thriving African slave trade. Some Quakers, who
were deeply troubled by the contradiction between their belief in the “inner light” and the practice of
slavery, rejected the practice and engaged in efforts to abolish it altogether. Philadelphia also acted as a
magnet for immigrants, who came not only from England, but from all over Europe by the hundreds of
thousands. The city, and indeed all of Pennsylvania, appeared to be the best country for poor men and
women, many of whom arrived as servants and dreamed of owning land. A very few, like the fortunate
Benjamin Franklin, a runaway from Puritan Boston, did extraordinarily well. Other immigrant groups in
the colony, most notably Germans and Scotch-Irish (families from Scotland and England who had first
lived in Ireland before moving to British America), greatly improved their lot in Pennsylvania. Of course,
Africans imported into the colony to labor for white masters fared far worse.
John Wilson Offers Reward for Escaped Prisoners
The American Weekly Mercury, published by William Bradford, was Philadelphia’s first newspaper. This
advertisement from “John Wilson, Goaler” (jailer) offers a reward for anyone capturing several men who
escaped from the jail.
BROKE out of the Common Goal of Philadelphia, the 15th of this Instant February, 1721, the
following Persons:
John Palmer, also Plumly, alias Paine, Servant to Joseph Jones, run away and was lately
taken up at New-York. He is fully described in the American Mercury, Novem. 23, 1721. He
has a Cinnamon coloured Coat on, a middle sized fresh coloured Man. His Master will give a
Pistole Reward to any who Shall Secure him, besides what is here offered.
Daniel Oughtopay, A Dutchman, aged about 24 Years, Servant to Dr. Johnston in Amboy. He
is a thin Spare man, grey Drugget Waistcoat and Breeches and a light-coloured Coat on.
Ebenezor Mallary, a New-England, aged about 24 Years, is a middle-sized thin Man, having
on a Snuff colour’d Coat, and ordinary Ticking Waistcoat and Breeches. He has dark brown
strait Hair.
Matthew Dulany, an Irish Man, down-look’d Swarthy Complexion, and has on an Olivecoloured Cloth Coat and Waistcoat with Cloth Buttons.
John Flemming, an Irish Lad, aged about 18, belonging to Mr. Miranda, Merchant in this City.
He has no Coat, a grey Drugget Waistcoat, and a narrow brim’d Hat on.
John Corbet, a Shropshire Man, a Runaway Servant from Alexander Faulkner of Maryland,
broke out on the 12th Instant. He has got a double-breasted Sailor’s Jacket on lined with red
Bays, pretends to be a Sailor, and once taught School at Josephs Collings’s in the Jerseys.
Whoever takes up and secures all, or any One of these Felons, shall have a Pistole Reward
for each of them and reasonable Charges, paid them by John Wilson, Goaler
—Advertisement from the American Weekly Mercury, 1722
What do the descriptions of the men tell you about life in colonial Philadelphia?
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 101
Browse a number of issues of the American Weekly Mercury
( that were digitized by New Jersey’s Stockton
University. Read through several to get a remarkable flavor of life in early eighteenthcentury Philadelphia.
Creating wealth for the Empire remained a primary goal, and in the second half of the seventeenth century,
especially during the Restoration, England attempted to gain better control of trade with the American
colonies. The mercantilist policies by which it tried to achieve this control are known as the Navigation
The 1651 Navigation Ordnance, a product of Cromwell’s England, required that only English ships carry
goods between England and the colonies, and that the captain and three-fourths of the crew had to be
English. The ordnance further listed “enumerated articles” that could be transported only to England or
to English colonies, including the most lucrative commodities like sugar and tobacco as well as indigo,
rice, molasses, and naval stores such as turpentine. All were valuable goods not produced in England or
in demand by the British navy. After ascending the throne, Charles II approved the 1660 Navigation Act,
which restated the 1651 act to ensure a monopoly on imports from the colonies.
Other Navigation Acts included the 1663 Staple Act and the 1673 Plantation Duties Act. The Staple Act
barred colonists from importing goods that had not been made in England, creating a profitable monopoly
for English exporters and manufacturers. The Plantation Duties Act taxed enumerated articles exported
from one colony to another, a measure aimed principally at New Englanders, who transported great
quantities of molasses from the West Indies, including smuggled molasses from French-held islands, to
make into rum.
In 1675, Charles II organized the Lords of Trade and Plantation, commonly known as the Lords of Trade,
an administrative body intended to create stronger ties between the colonial governments and the crown.
However, the 1696 Navigation Act created the Board of Trade, replacing the Lords of Trade. This act,
meant to strengthen enforcement of customs laws, also established vice-admiralty courts where the crown
could prosecute customs violators without a jury. Under this act, customs officials were empowered with
warrants known as “writs of assistance” to board and search vessels suspected of containing smuggled
Despite the Navigation Acts, however, Great Britain exercised lax control over the English colonies during
most of the eighteenth century because of the policies of Prime Minister Robert Walpole. During his long
term (1721–1742), Walpole governed according to his belief that commerce flourished best when it was not
encumbered with restrictions. Historians have described this lack of strict enforcement of the Navigation
Acts as salutary neglect. In addition, nothing prevented colonists from building their own fleet of ships
to engage in trade. New England especially benefited from both salutary neglect and a vibrant maritime
culture made possible by the scores of trading vessels built in the northern colonies. The case of the 1733
Molasses Act illustrates the weaknesses of British mercantilist policy. The 1733 act placed a sixpence-pergallon duty on raw sugar, rum, and molasses from Britain’s competitors, the French and the Dutch, in
order to give an advantage to British West Indian producers. Because the British did not enforce the 1733
law, however, New England mariners routinely smuggled these items from the French and Dutch West
Indies more cheaply than they could buy them on English islands.
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4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Identify the causes of the Glorious Revolution
• Explain the outcomes of the Glorious Revolution
During the brief rule of King James II, many in England feared the imposition of a Catholic absolute
monarchy by the man who modeled his rule on that of his French Catholic cousin, Louis XIV. Opposition
to James II, spearheaded by the English Whig party, overthrew the king in the Glorious Revolution of
1688–1689. This paved the way for the Protestant reign of William of Orange and his wife Mary (James’s
Protestant daughter).
King James II (Figure 4.7), the second son of Charles I, ascended the English throne in 1685 on the death of
his brother, Charles II. James then worked to model his rule on the reign of the French Catholic King Louis
XIV, his cousin. This meant centralizing English political strength around the throne, giving the monarchy
absolute power. Also like Louis XIV, James II practiced a strict and intolerant form of Roman Catholicism
after he converted from Protestantism in the late 1660s. He had a Catholic wife, and when they had a son,
the potential for a Catholic heir to the English throne became a threat to English Protestants. James also
worked to modernize the English army and navy. The fact that the king kept a standing army in times of
peace greatly alarmed the English, who believed that such a force would be used to crush their liberty. As
James’s strength grew, his opponents feared their king would turn England into a Catholic monarchy with
absolute power over her people.
Figure 4.7 James II (shown here in a painting ca. 1690) worked to centralize the English government. The Catholic
king of France, Louis XIV, provided a template for James’s policies.
In 1686, James II applied his concept of a centralized state to the colonies by creating an enormous
colony called the Dominion of New England. The Dominion included all the New England colonies
(Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Plymouth, Connecticut, New Haven, and Rhode Island) and in 1688 was
enlarged by the addition of New York and New Jersey. James placed in charge Sir Edmund Andros, a
former colonial governor of New York. Loyal to James II and his family, Andros had little sympathy for
New Englanders. His regime caused great uneasiness among New England Puritans when it called into
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 103
question the many land titles that did not acknowledge the king and imposed fees for their reconfirmation.
Andros also committed himself to enforcing the Navigation Acts, a move that threatened to disrupt the
region’s trade, which was based largely on smuggling.
In England, opponents of James II’s efforts to create a centralized Catholic state were known as Whigs. The
Whigs worked to depose James, and in late 1688 they succeeded, an event they celebrated as the Glorious
Revolution while James fled to the court of Louis XIV in France. William III (William of Orange) and his
wife Mary II ascended the throne in 1689.
The Glorious Revolution spilled over into the colonies. In 1689, Bostonians overthrew the government
of the Dominion of New England and jailed Sir Edmund Andros as well as other leaders of the regime
(Figure 4.8). The removal of Andros from power illustrates New England’s animosity toward the English
overlord who had, during his tenure, established Church of England worship in Puritan Boston and
vigorously enforced the Navigation Acts, to the chagrin of those in port towns. In New York, the same year
that Andros fell from power, Jacob Leisler led a group of Protestant New Yorkers against the dominion
government. Acting on his own authority, Leisler assumed the role of King William’s governor and
organized intercolonial military action independent of British authority. Leisler’s actions usurped the
crown’s prerogative and, as a result, he was tried for treason and executed. In 1691, England restored
control over the Province of New York.
Figure 4.8 This broadside, signed by several citizens, demands the surrender of Sir Edmund (spelled here
“Edmond”) Andros, James II’s hand-picked leader of the Dominion of New England.
The Glorious Revolution provided a shared experience for those who lived through the tumult of 1688
and 1689. Subsequent generations kept the memory of the Glorious Revolution alive as a heroic defense of
English liberty against a would-be tyrant.
The Glorious Revolution led to the establishment of an English nation that limited the power of the king
and provided protections for English subjects. In October 1689, the same year that William and Mary
took the throne, the 1689 Bill of Rights established a constitutional monarchy. It stipulated Parliament’s
independence from the monarchy and protected certain of Parliament’s rights, such as the right to freedom
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of speech, the right to regular elections, and the right to petition the king. The 1689 Bill of Rights also
guaranteed certain rights to all English subjects, including trial by jury and habeas corpus (the requirement
that authorities bring an imprisoned person before a court to demonstrate the cause of the imprisonment).
John Locke (1632–1704), a doctor and educator who had lived in exile in Holland during the reign of James
II and returned to England after the Glorious Revolution, published his Two Treatises of Government in 1690.
In it, he argued that government was a form of contract between the leaders and the people, and that
representative government existed to protect “life, liberty and property.” Locke rejected the divine right of
kings and instead advocated for the central role of Parliament with a limited monarchy. Locke’s political
philosophy had an enormous impact on future generations of colonists and established the paramount
importance of representation in government.
Visit the Digital Locke Project ( to
John Locke’s writings. This digital collection contains over thirty of his philosophical
The Glorious Revolution also led to the English Toleration Act of 1689, a law passed by Parliament that
allowed for greater religious diversity in the Empire. This act granted religious tolerance to nonconformist
Trinitarian Protestants (those who believed in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost),
such as Baptists (those who advocated adult baptism) and Congregationalists (those who followed the
Puritans’ lead in creating independent churches). While the Church of England remained the official
state religious establishment, the Toleration Act gave much greater religious freedom to nonconformists.
However, this tolerance did not extend to Catholics, who were routinely excluded from political power.
The 1689 Toleration Act extended to the British colonies, where several colonies—Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, Delaware, and New Jersey—refused to allow the creation of an established colonial church, a major
step toward greater religious diversity.
4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Analyze the role slavery played in the history and economy of the British Empire
• Explain the effects of the 1739 Stono Rebellion and the 1741 New York Conspiracy
• Describe the consumer revolution and its effect on the life of the colonial gentry and
other settlers
Slavery formed a cornerstone of the British Empire in the eighteenth century. Every colony had slaves,
from the southern rice plantations in Charles Town, South Carolina, to the northern wharves of Boston.
Slavery was more than a labor system; it also influenced every aspect of colonial thought and culture. The
uneven relationship it engendered gave white colonists an exaggerated sense of their own status. English
liberty gained greater meaning and coherence for whites when they contrasted their status to that of the
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unfree class of black slaves in British America. African slavery provided whites in the colonies with a
shared racial bond and identity.
The transport of slaves to the American colonies accelerated in the second half of the seventeenth century.
In 1660, Charles II created the Royal African Company (Figure 4.9) to trade in slaves and African goods.
His brother, James II, led the company before ascending the throne. Under both these kings, the Royal
African Company enjoyed a monopoly to transport slaves to the English colonies. Between 1672 and 1713,
the company bought 125,000 captives on the African coast, losing 20 percent of them to death on the
Middle Passage, the journey from the African coast to the Americas.
Figure 4.9 The 1686 English guinea shows the logo of the Royal African Company, an elephant and castle, beneath
a bust of King James II. The coins were commonly called guineas because most British gold came from Guinea in
West Africa.
The Royal African Company’s monopoly ended in 1689 as a result of the Glorious Revolution. After that
date, many more English merchants engaged in the slave trade, greatly increasing the number of slaves
being transported. Africans who survived the brutal Middle Passage usually arrived in the West Indies,
often in Barbados. From there, they were transported to the mainland English colonies on company ships.
While merchants in London, Bristol, and Liverpool lined their pockets, Africans trafficked by the company
endured a nightmare of misery, privation, and dislocation.
Slaves strove to adapt to their new lives by forming new communities among themselves, often adhering
to traditional African customs and healing techniques. Indeed, the development of families and
communities formed the most important response to the trauma of being enslaved. Other slaves dealt
with the trauma of their situation by actively resisting their condition, whether by defying their masters or
running away. Runaway slaves formed what were called “maroon” communities, groups that successfully
resisted recapture and formed their own autonomous groups. The most prominent of these communities
lived in the interior of Jamaica, controlling the area and keeping the British away.
Slaves everywhere resisted their exploitation and attempted to gain freedom. They fully understood that
rebellions would bring about massive retaliation from whites and therefore had little chance of success.
Even so, rebellions occurred frequently. One notable uprising that became known as the Stono Rebellion
took place in South Carolina in September 1739. A literate slave named Jemmy led a large group of slaves
in an armed insurrection against white colonists, killing several before militia stopped them. The militia
suppressed the rebellion after a battle in which both slaves and militiamen were killed, and the remaining
slaves were executed or sold to the West Indies.
Jemmy is believed to have been taken from the Kingdom of Kongo, an area where the Portuguese had
introduced Catholicism. Other slaves in South Carolina may have had a similar background: Africaborn and familiar with whites. If so, this common background may have made it easier for Jemmy to
communicate with the other slaves, enabling them to work together to resist their enslavement even
though slaveholders labored to keep slaves from forging such communities.
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In the wake of the Stono Rebellion, South Carolina passed a new slave code in 1740 called An Act for the
Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and Other Slaves in the Province, also known as the Negro Act
of 1740. This law imposed new limits on slaves’ behavior, prohibiting slaves from assembling, growing
their own food, learning to write, and traveling freely.
Eighteenth-century New York City contained many different ethnic groups, and conflicts among them
created strain. In addition, one in five New Yorkers was a slave, and tensions ran high between slaves and
the free population, especially in the aftermath of the Stono Rebellion. These tensions burst forth in 1741.
That year, thirteen fires broke out in the city, one of which reduced the colony’s Fort George to ashes.
Ever fearful of an uprising among enslaved New Yorkers, the city’s whites spread rumors that the fires
were part of a massive slave revolt in which slaves would murder whites, burn the city, and take over the
colony. The Stono Rebellion was only a few years in the past, and throughout British America, fears of
similar incidents were still fresh. Searching for solutions, and convinced slaves were the principal danger,
nervous British authorities interrogated almost two hundred slaves and accused them of conspiracy.
Rumors that Roman Catholics had joined the suspected conspiracy and planned to murder Protestant
inhabitants of the city only added to the general hysteria. Very quickly, two hundred people were arrested,
including a large number of the city’s slave population.
After a quick series of trials at City Hall, known as the New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741, the
government executed seventeen New Yorkers. Thirteen black men were publicly burned at the stake, while
the others (including four whites) were hanged (Figure 4.10). Seventy slaves were sold to the West Indies.
Little evidence exists to prove that an elaborate conspiracy, like the one white New Yorkers imagined,
actually existed.
Figure 4.10 In the wake of a series of fires throughout New York City, rumors of a slave revolt led authorities to
convict and execute thirty people, including thirteen black men who were publicly burned at the stake.
The events of 1741 in New York City illustrate the racial divide in British America, where panic among
whites spurred great violence against and repression of the feared slave population. In the end, the
Conspiracy Trials furthered white dominance and power over enslaved New Yorkers.
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 107
View the map of New York in the 1740s ( at
the New York Public Library’s digital gallery, which allows you to zoom in and see
specific events. Look closely at numbers 55 and 56 just north of the city limits to see
illustrations depicting the executions.
British Americans’ reliance on indentured servitude and slavery to meet the demand for colonial labor
helped give rise to a wealthy colonial class—the gentry—in the Chesapeake tobacco colonies and
elsewhere. To be “genteel,” that is, a member of the gentry, meant to be refined, free of all rudeness.
The British American gentry modeled themselves on the English aristocracy, who embodied the ideal of
refinement and gentility. They built elaborate mansions to advertise their status and power. William Byrd
II of Westover, Virginia, exemplifies the colonial gentry; a wealthy planter and slaveholder, he is known
for founding Richmond and for his diaries documenting the life of a gentleman planter (Figure 4.11).
Figure 4.11 This painting by Hans Hysing, ca. 1724, depicts William Byrd II. Byrd was a wealthy gentleman planter
in Virginia and a member of the colonial gentry.
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William Byrd’s Secret Diary
The diary of William Byrd, a Virginia planter, provides a unique way to better understand colonial life on a
plantation (Figure 4.12). What does it show about daily life for a gentleman planter? What does it show
about slavery?
August 27, 1709
I rose at 5 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Josephus. I said my
prayers and ate milk for breakfast. I danced my dance. I had like to have whipped my maid
Anaka for her laziness but I forgave her. I read a little geometry. I denied my man G-r-l to
go to a horse race because there was nothing but swearing and drinking there. I ate roast
mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I played at piquet with my own wife and made her out of
humor by cheating her. I read some Greek in Homer. Then I walked about the plantation. I
lent John H-ch £7 [7 English pounds] in his distress. I said my prayers and had good health,
good thoughts, and good humor, thanks be to God Almighty.
September 6, 1709
About one o’clock this morning my wife was happily delivered of a son, thanks be to God
Almighty. I was awake in a blink and rose and my cousin Harrison met me on the stairs and
told me it was a boy. We drank some French wine and went to bed again and rose at 7 o’clock.
I read a chapter in Hebrew and then drank chocolate with the women for breakfast. I returned
God humble thanks for so great a blessing and recommended my young son to His divine
protection. . . .
September 15, 1710
I rose at 5 o’clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Thucydides. I said my
prayers and ate milk and pears for breakfast. About 7 o’clock the negro boy [or Betty] that ran
away was brought home. My wife against my will caused little Jenny to be burned with a hot
iron, for which I quarreled with her. . . .
Figure 4.12 This photograph shows the view down the stairway from the third floor of Westover
Plantation, home of William Byrd II. What does this image suggest about the lifestyle of the
inhabitants—masters and servants—of this house?
One of the ways in which the gentry set themselves apart from others was through their purchase,
consumption, and display of goods. An increased supply of consumer goods from England that became
available in the eighteenth century led to a phenomenon called the consumer revolution. These products
linked the colonies to Great Britain in real and tangible ways. Indeed, along with the colonial gentry,
ordinary settlers in the colonies also participated in the frenzy of consumer spending on goods from Great
Britain. Tea, for example, came to be regarded as the drink of the Empire, with or without fashionable tea
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 109
The consumer revolution also made printed materials more widely available. Before 1680, for instance, no
newspapers had been printed in colonial America. In the eighteenth century, however, a flood of journals,
books, pamphlets, and other publications became available to readers on both sides of the Atlantic. This
shared trove of printed matter linked members of the Empire by creating a community of shared tastes
and ideas.
Cato’s Letters, by Englishmen John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, was one popular series of 144
pamphlets. These Whig circulars were published between 1720 and 1723 and emphasized the glory of
England, especially its commitment to liberty. However, the pamphlets cautioned readers to be ever
vigilant and on the lookout for attacks upon that liberty. Indeed, Cato’s Letters suggested that there were
constant efforts to undermine and destroy it.
Another very popular publication was the English gentlemen’s magazine the Spectator, published between
1711 and 1714. In each issue, “Mr. Spectator” observed and commented on the world around him. What
made the Spectator so wildly popular was its style; the essays were meant to persuade, and to cultivate
among readers a refined set of behaviors, rejecting deceit and intolerance and focusing instead on the
polishing of genteel taste and manners.
Novels, a new type of literature, made their first appearance in the eighteenth century and proved very
popular in the British Atlantic. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Or, Virtue
Rewarded found large and receptive audiences. Reading also allowed female readers the opportunity to
interpret what they read without depending on a male authority to tell them what to think. Few women
beyond the colonial gentry, however, had access to novels.
4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Explain the significance of the Great Awakening
• Describe the genesis, central ideas, and effects of the Enlightenment in British North
Two major cultural movements further strengthened Anglo-American colonists’ connection to Great
Britain: the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment. Both movements began in Europe, but they
advocated very different ideas: the Great Awakening promoted a fervent, emotional religiosity, while the
Enlightenment encouraged the pursuit of reason in all things. On both sides of the Atlantic, British subjects
grappled with these new ideas.
During the eighteenth century, the British Atlantic experienced an outburst of Protestant revivalism
known as the First Great Awakening. (A Second Great Awakening would take place in the 1800s.)
During the First Great Awakening, evangelists came from the ranks of several Protestant denominations:
Congregationalists, Anglicans (members of the Church of England), and Presbyterians. They rejected what
appeared to be sterile, formal modes of worship in favor of a vigorous emotional religiosity. Whereas
Martin Luther and John Calvin had preached a doctrine of predestination and close reading of scripture,
new evangelical ministers spread a message of personal and experiential faith that rose above mere book
learning. Individuals could bring about their own salvation by accepting Christ, an especially welcome
message for those who had felt excluded by traditional Protestantism: women, the young, and people at
the lower end of the social spectrum.
The Great Awakening caused a split between those who followed the evangelical message (the “New
Lights”) and those who rejected it (the “Old Lights”). The elite ministers in British America were firmly
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Old Lights, and they censured the new revivalism as chaos. Indeed, the revivals did sometimes lead to
excess. In one notorious incident in 1743, an influential New Light minister named James Davenport urged
his listeners to burn books. The next day, he told them to burn their clothes as a sign of their casting off the
sinful trappings of the world. He then took off his own pants and threw them into the fire, but a woman
saved them and tossed them back to Davenport, telling him he had gone too far.
Another outburst of Protestant revivalism began in New Jersey, led by a minister of the Dutch Reformed
Church named Theodorus Frelinghuysen. Frelinghuysen’s example inspired other ministers, including
Gilbert Tennent, a Presbyterian. Tennant helped to spark a Presbyterian revival in the Middle Colonies
(Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey), in part by founding a seminary to train other evangelical
clergyman. New Lights also founded colleges in Rhode Island and New Hampshire that would later
become Brown University and Dartmouth College.
In Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards led still another explosion of evangelical fervor.
Edwards’s best-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” used powerful word imagery
to describe the terrors of hell and the possibilities of avoiding damnation by personal conversion (Figure
4.13). One passage reads: “The wrath of God burns against them [sinners], their damnation don’t slumber,
the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the flames do
now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth
under them.” Edwards’s revival spread along the Connecticut River Valley, and news of the event spread
rapidly through the frequent reprinting of his famous sermon.
Figure 4.13 This image shows the frontispiece of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, A Sermon Preached at
Enfield, July 8, 1741 by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was an evangelical preacher who led a Protestant revival in
New England. This was his most famous sermon, the text of which was reprinted often and distributed widely.
The foremost evangelical of the Great Awakening was an Anglican minister named George Whitefield.
Like many evangelical ministers, Whitefield was itinerant, traveling the countryside instead of having his
own church and congregation. Between 1739 and 1740, he electrified colonial listeners with his brilliant
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 111
Two Opposing Views of George Whitefield
Not everyone embraced George Whitefield and other New Lights. Many established Old Lights decried
the way the new evangelical religions appealed to people’s passions, rather than to traditional religious
values. The two illustrations below present two very different visions of George Whitefield (Figure 4.14).
Figure 4.14 In the 1774 portrait of George Whitefield by engraver Elisha Gallaudet (a), Whitefield
appears with a gentle expression on his face. Although his hands are raised in exultation or entreaty, he
does not look particularly roused or rousing. In the 1763 British political cartoon to the right, “Dr.
Squintum’s Exaltation or the Reformation” (b), Whitefield’s hands are raised in a similar position, but
there the similarities end.
Compare the two images above. On the left is an illustration for Whitefield’s memoirs, while on the right
is a cartoon satirizing the circus-like atmosphere that his preaching seemed to attract (Dr. Squintum was
a nickname for Whitefield, who was cross-eyed). How do these two artists portray the same man? What
emotions are the illustration for his memoirs intended to evoke? What details can you find in the cartoon
that indicate the artist’s distaste for the preacher?
The Great Awakening saw the rise of several Protestant denominations, including Methodists,
Presbyterians, and Baptists (who emphasized adult baptism of converted Christians rather than infant
baptism). These new churches gained converts and competed with older Protestant groups like Anglicans
(members of the Church of England), Congregationalists (the heirs of Puritanism in America), and
Quakers. The influence of these older Protestant groups, such as the New England Congregationalists,
declined because of the Great Awakening. Nonetheless, the Great Awakening touched the lives of
thousands on both sides of the Atlantic and provided a shared experience in the eighteenth-century British
The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, was an intellectual and cultural movement in the eighteenth
century that emphasized reason over superstition and science over blind faith. Using the power of
the press, Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Voltaire questioned accepted
knowledge and spread new ideas about openness, investigation, and religious tolerance throughout
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Europe and the Americas. Many consider the Enlightenment a major turning point in Western civilization,
an age of light replacing an age of darkness.
Several ideas dominated Enlightenment thought, including rationalism, empiricism, progressivism, and
cosmopolitanism. Rationalism is the idea that humans are capable of using their faculty of reason to
gain knowledge. This was a sharp turn away from the prevailing idea that people needed to rely on
scripture or church authorities for knowledge. Empiricism promotes the idea that knowledge comes from
experience and observation of the world. Progressivism is the belief that through their powers of reason
and observation, humans could make unlimited, linear progress over time; this belief was especially
important as a response to the carnage and upheaval of the English Civil Wars in the seventeenth century.
Finally, cosmopolitanism reflected Enlightenment thinkers’ view of themselves as citizens of the world
and actively engaged in it, as opposed to being provincial and close-minded. In all, Enlightenment thinkers
endeavored to be ruled by reason, not prejudice.
The Freemasons were a fraternal society that advocated Enlightenment principles of inquiry and tolerance.
Freemasonry originated in London coffeehouses in the early eighteenth century, and Masonic lodges (local
units) soon spread throughout Europe and the British colonies. One prominent Freemason, Benjamin
Franklin, stands as the embodiment of the Enlightenment in British America (Figure 4.15). Born in
Boston in 1706 to a large Puritan family, Franklin loved to read, although he found little beyond religious
publications in his father’s house. In 1718 he was apprenticed to his brother to work in a print shop, where
he learned how to be a good writer by copying the style he found in the Spectator, which his brother
printed. At the age of seventeen, the independent-minded Franklin ran away, eventually ending up in
Quaker Philadelphia. There he began publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette in the late 1720s, and in 1732 he
started his annual publication Poor Richard: An Almanack, in which he gave readers much practical advice,
such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Figure 4.15 In this 1748 portrait by Robert Feke, a forty-year-old Franklin wears a stylish British wig, as befitted a
proud and loyal member of the British Empire.
Franklin subscribed to deism, an Enlightenment-era belief in a God who created, but has no continuing
involvement in, the world and the events within it. Deists also advanced the belief that personal
morality—an individual’s moral compass, leading to good works and actions—is more important than
strict church doctrines. Franklin’s deism guided his many philanthropic projects. In 1731, he established
a reading library that became the Library Company of Philadelphia. In 1743, he founded the American
Philosophical Society to encourage the spirit of inquiry. In 1749, he provided the foundation for the
University of Pennsylvania, and in 1751, he helped found Pennsylvania Hospital.
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 113
His career as a printer made Franklin wealthy and well-respected. When he retired in 1748, he devoted
himself to politics and scientific experiments. His most famous work, on electricity, exemplified
Enlightenment principles. Franklin observed that lightning strikes tended to hit metal objects and reasoned
that he could therefore direct lightning through the placement of metal objects during an electrical storm.
He used this knowledge to advocate the use of lightning rods: metal poles connected to wires directing
lightning’s electrical charge into the ground and saving wooden homes in cities like Philadelphia from
catastrophic fires. He published his findings in 1751, in Experiments and Observations on Electricity.
Franklin also wrote of his “rags to riches” tale, his Memoir, in the 1770s and 1780s. This story laid the
foundation for the American Dream of upward social mobility.
Visit the Worldly Ways section ( of PBS’s
Benjamin Franklin site to see an interactive map showing Franklin’s overseas travels
and his influence around the world. His diplomatic, political, scientific, and business
achievements had great effects in many countries.
The reach of Enlightenment thought was both broad and deep. In the 1730s, it even prompted the founding
of a new colony. Having witnessed the terrible conditions of debtors’ prison, as well as the results of
releasing penniless debtors onto the streets of London, James Oglethorpe, a member of Parliament and
advocate of social reform, petitioned King George II for a charter to start a new colony. George II,
understanding the strategic advantage of a British colony standing as a buffer between South Carolina
and Spanish Florida, granted the charter to Oglethorpe and twenty like-minded proprietors in 1732.
Oglethorpe led the settlement of the colony, which was called Georgia in honor of the king. In 1733, he
and 113 immigrants arrived on the ship Anne. Over the next decade, Parliament funded the migration of
twenty-five hundred settlers, making Georgia the only government-funded colonial project.
Oglethorpe’s vision for Georgia followed the ideals of the Age of Reason, seeing it as a place for England’s
“worthy poor” to start anew. To encourage industry, he gave each male immigrant fifty acres of land,
tools, and a year’s worth of supplies. In Savannah, the Oglethorpe Plan provided for a utopia: “an agrarian
model of sustenance while sustaining egalitarian values holding all men as equal.”
Oglethorpe’s vision called for alcohol and slavery to be banned. However, colonists who relocated from
other colonies, especially South Carolina, disregarded these prohibitions. Despite its proprietors’ early
vision of a colony guided by Enlightenment ideals and free of slavery, by the 1750s, Georgia was
producing quantities of rice grown and harvested by slaves.
4.5 Wars for Empire
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the wars for empire
• Analyze the significance of these conflicts
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Wars for empire composed a final link connecting the Atlantic sides of the British Empire. Great Britain
fought four separate wars against Catholic France from the late 1600s to the mid-1700s. Another war,
the War of Jenkins’ Ear, pitted Britain against Spain. These conflicts for control of North America also
helped colonists forge important alliances with native peoples, as different tribes aligned themselves with
different European powers.
Generations of British colonists grew up during a time when much of North America, especially the
Northeast, engaged in war. Colonists knew war firsthand. In the eighteenth century, fighting was seasonal.
Armies mobilized in the spring, fought in the summer, and retired to winter quarters in the fall. The British
army imposed harsh discipline on its soldiers, who were drawn from the poorer classes, to ensure they
did not step out of line during engagements. If they did, their officers would kill them. On the battlefield,
armies dressed in bright uniforms to advertise their bravery and lack of fear. They stood in tight formation
and exchanged volleys with the enemy. They often feared their officers more than the enemy.
Read the diary of a provincial soldier who fought in the French and Indian War on the
Captain David Perry Web Site ( hosted by
Rootsweb. David Perry’s journal, which includes a description of the 1758 campaign,
provides a glimpse of warfare in the eighteenth century.
Most imperial conflicts had both American and European fronts, leaving us with two names for each war.
For instance, King William’s War (1688–1697) is also known as the War of the League of Augsburg. In
America, the bulk of the fighting in this conflict took place between New England and New France. The
war proved inconclusive, with no clear victor (Figure 4.16).
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Figure 4.16 This map shows the French and British armies’ movements during King William’s War, in which there
was no clear victor.
Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713) is also known as the War of Spanish Succession. England fought against
both Spain and France over who would ascend the Spanish throne after the last of the Hapsburg rulers
died. In North America, fighting took place in Florida, New England, and New France. In Canada, the
French prevailed but lost Acadia and Newfoundland; however, the victory was again not decisive because
the English failed to take Quebec, which would have given them control of Canada.
This conflict is best remembered in the United States for the French and Indian raid against Deerfield,
Massachusetts, in 1704. A small French force, combined with a native group made up of Catholic Mohawks
and Abenaki (Pocumtucs), attacked the frontier outpost of Deerfield, killing scores and taking 112
prisoners. Among the captives was the seven-year-old daughter of Deerfield’s minister John Williams,
named Eunice. She was held by the Mohawks for years as her family tried to get her back, and became
assimilated into the tribe. To the horror of the Puritan leaders, when she grew up Eunice married a
Mohawk and refused to return to New England.
In North America, possession of Georgia and trade with the interior was the focus of the War of Jenkins’
Ear (1739–1742), a conflict between Britain and Spain over contested claims to the land occupied by the
fledgling colony between South Carolina and Florida. The war got its name from an incident in 1731 in
which a Spanish Coast Guard captain severed the ear of British captain Robert Jenkins as punishment for
raiding Spanish ships in Panama. Jenkins fueled the growing animosity between England and Spain by
presenting his ear to Parliament and stirring up British public outrage. More than anything else, the War
of Jenkins’ Ear disrupted the Atlantic trade, a situation that hurt both Spain and Britain and was a major
reason the war came to a close in 1742. Georgia, founded six years earlier, remained British and a buffer
against Spanish Florida.
King George’s War (1744–1748), known in Europe as the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748), was
fought in the northern colonies and New France. In 1745, the British took the massive French fortress at
Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (Figure 4.17). However, three years later, under the terms
of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Britain relinquished control of the fortress to the French. Once again, war
resulted in an incomplete victory for both Britain and France.
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Figure 4.17 In this 1747 painting by J. Stevens, View of the landing of the New England forces in ye expedition
against Cape Breton, British forces land on the island of Cape Breton to capture Fort Louisbourg.
The final imperial war, the French and Indian War (1754–1763), known as the Seven Years’ War in Europe,
proved to be the decisive contest between Britain and France in America. It began over rival claims along
the frontier in present-day western Pennsylvania. Well-connected planters from Virginia faced stagnant
tobacco prices and hoped expanding into these western lands would stabilize their wealth and status.
Some of them established the Ohio Company of Virginia in 1748, and the British crown granted the
company half a million acres in 1749. However, the French also claimed the lands of the Ohio Company,
and to protect the region they established Fort Duquesne in 1754, where the Ohio, Monongahela, and
Allegheny Rivers met.
The war began in May 1754 because of these competing claims between Britain and France. Twenty-twoyear-old Virginian George Washington, a surveyor whose family helped to found the Ohio Company, gave
the command to fire on French soldiers near present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. This incident on the
Pennsylvania frontier proved to be a decisive event that led to imperial war. For the next decade, fighting
took place along the frontier of New France and British America from Virginia to Maine. The war also
spread to Europe as France and Britain looked to gain supremacy in the Atlantic World.
The British fared poorly in the first years of the war. In 1754, the French and their native allies forced
Washington to surrender at Fort Necessity, a hastily built fort constructed after his attack on the French.
In 1755, Britain dispatched General Edward Braddock to the colonies to take Fort Duquesne. The French,
aided by the Potawotomis, Ottawas, Shawnees, and Delawares, ambushed the fifteen hundred British
soldiers and Virginia militia who marched to the fort. The attack sent panic through the British force,
and hundreds of British soldiers and militiamen died, including General Braddock. The campaign of 1755
proved to be a disaster for the British. In fact, the only British victory that year was the capture of Nova
Scotia. In 1756 and 1757, Britain suffered further defeats with the fall of Fort Oswego and Fort William
Henry (Figure 4.18).
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Figure 4.18 This schematic map depicts the events of the French and Indian War. Note the scarcity of British
The war began to turn in favor of the British in 1758, due in large part to the efforts of William Pitt,
a very popular member of Parliament. Pitt pledged huge sums of money and resources to defeating
the hated Catholic French, and Great Britain spent part of the money on bounties paid to new young
recruits in the colonies, helping invigorate the British forces. In 1758, the Iroquois, Delaware, and Shawnee
signed the Treaty of Easton, aligning themselves with the British in return for some contested land around
Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 1759, the British took Quebec, and in 1760, Montreal. The French empire in
North America had crumbled.
The war continued until 1763, when the French signed the Treaty of Paris. This treaty signaled a dramatic
reversal of fortune for France. Indeed, New France, which had been founded in the early 1600s, ceased
to exist. The British Empire had now gained mastery over North America. The Empire not only gained
New France under the treaty; it also acquired French sugar islands in the West Indies, French trading
posts in India, and French-held posts on the west coast of Africa. Great Britain’s victory in the French and
Indian War meant that it had become a truly global empire. British colonists joyously celebrated, singing
the refrain of “Rule, Britannia! / Britannia, rule the waves! / Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!”
In the American colonies, ties with Great Britain were closer than ever. Professional British soldiers had
fought alongside Anglo-American militiamen, forging a greater sense of shared identity. With Great
Britain’s victory, colonial pride ran high as colonists celebrated their identity as British subjects.
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This last of the wars for empire, however, also sowed the seeds of trouble. The war led Great Britain deeply
into debt, and in the 1760s and 1770s, efforts to deal with the debt through imperial reforms would have
the unintended consequence of causing stress and strain that threatened to tear the Empire apart.
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 119
Dominion of New England
English interregnum
First Great Awakening
French and Indian War
Glorious Revolution
Navigation Acts
proprietary colonies
Restoration colonies
salutary neglect
Key Terms
an Enlightenment-era belief in the existence of a supreme being—specifically, a creator who does
not intervene in the universe—representing a rejection of the belief in a supernatural deity who interacts
with humankind
James II’s consolidated New England colony, made up of all the colonies
from New Haven to Massachusetts and later New York and New Jersey
the period from 1649 to 1660 when England had no king
an eighteenth-century intellectual and cultural movement that emphasized reason and
science over superstition, religion, and tradition
an eighteenth-century Protestant revival that emphasized individual,
experiential faith over church doctrine and the close study of scripture
a fraternal society founded in the early eighteenth century that advocated Enlightenment
principles of inquiry and tolerance
the last eighteenth-century imperial struggle between Great Britain and France,
leading to a decisive British victory; this war lasted from 1754 to 1763 and was also called the Seven
Years’ War
the overthrow of James II in 1688
a series of English mercantilist laws enacted between 1651 and 1696 in order to control
trade with the colonies
Protestants who did not conform to the doctrines or practices of the Church of England
colonies granted by the king to a trusted individual, family, or group
the colonies King Charles II established or supported during the Restoration (the
Carolinas, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)
the laxness with which the English crown enforced the Navigation Acts in the
eighteenth century
4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies
After the English Civil War and interregnum, England began to fashion a stronger and larger empire in
North America. In addition to wresting control of New York and New Jersey from the Dutch, Charles
II established the Carolinas and Pennsylvania as proprietary colonies. Each of these colonies added
immensely to the Empire, supplying goods not produced in England, such as rice and indigo. The
Restoration colonies also contributed to the rise in population in English America as many thousands
of Europeans made their way to the colonies. Their numbers were further augmented by the forced
migration of African slaves. Starting in 1651, England pursued mercantilist policies through a series of
Navigation Acts designed to make the most of England’s overseas possessions. Nonetheless, without
proper enforcement of Parliament’s acts and with nothing to prevent colonial traders from commanding
their own fleets of ships, the Navigation Acts did not control trade as intended.
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4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire
The threat of a Catholic absolute monarchy prompted not only the overthrow of James II but also the
adoption of laws and policies that changed English government. The Glorious Revolution restored a
Protestant monarchy and at the same time limited its power by means of the 1689 Bill of Rights. Those
who lived through the events preserved the memory of the Glorious Revolution and the defense of liberty
that it represented. Meanwhile, thinkers such as John Locke provided new models and inspirations for the
evolving concept of government.
4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the expansion of slavery in the American colonies from
South Carolina to Boston. The institution of slavery created a false sense of superiority in whites, while
simultaneously fueling fears of slave revolt. White response to such revolts, or even the threat of them,
led to gross overreactions and further constraints on slaves’ activities. The development of the Atlantic
economy also allowed colonists access to more British goods than ever before. The buying habits of both
commoners and the rising colonial gentry fueled the consumer revolution, creating even stronger ties with
Great Britain by means of a shared community of taste and ideas.
4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment
The eighteenth century saw a host of social, religious, and intellectual changes across the British Empire.
While the Great Awakening emphasized vigorously emotional religiosity, the Enlightenment promoted
the power of reason and scientific observation. Both movements had lasting impacts on the colonies. The
beliefs of the New Lights of the First Great Awakening competed with the religions of the first colonists,
and the religious fervor in Great Britain and her North American colonies bound the eighteenth-century
British Atlantic together in a shared, common experience. The British colonist Benjamin Franklin gained
fame on both sides of the Atlantic as a printer, publisher, and scientist. He embodied Enlightenment
ideals in the British Atlantic with his scientific experiments and philanthropic endeavors. Enlightenment
principles even guided the founding of the colony of Georgia, although those principles could not stand
up to the realities of colonial life, and slavery soon took hold in the colony.
4.5 Wars for Empire
From 1688 to 1763, Great Britain engaged in almost continuous power struggles with France and Spain.
Most of these conflicts originated in Europe, but their engagements spilled over into the colonies. For
almost eighty years, Great Britain and France fought for control of eastern North America. During most of
that time, neither force was able to win a decisive victory, though each side saw occasional successes with
the crucial help of native peoples. It was not until halfway through the French and Indian War (1754–1763),
when Great Britain swelled its troops with more volunteers and native allies, that the balance of power
shifted toward the British. With the 1763 Treaty of Paris, New France was eliminated, and Great Britain
gained control of all the lands north of Florida and east of the Mississippi. British subjects on both sides of
the Atlantic rejoiced.
Review Questions
1. To what does the term “Restoration” refer?
A. the restoration of New York to English
B. the restoration of Catholicism as the official
religion of England
C. the restoration of Charles II to the English
D. the restoration of Parliamentary power in
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 121
2. What was the predominant religion in
A. Quakerism
B. Puritanism
C. Catholicism
D. Protestantism
3. What sorts of labor systems were used in the
Restoration colonies?
4. Which of the following represents a concern
that those in England and her colonies maintained
about James II?
A. that he would promote the spread of
B. that he would reduce the size of the British
army and navy, leaving England and her
colonies vulnerable to attack
C. that he would advocate for Parliament’s
independence from the monarchy
D. that he would institute a Catholic absolute
5. What was the Dominion of New England?
A. James II’s overthrow of the New England
colonial governments
B. the consolidated New England colony
James II created
C. Governor Edmund Andros’s colonial
government in New York
D. the excise taxes New England colonists had
to pay to James II
6. What was the outcome of the Glorious
7. The Negro Act of 1740 was a reaction to
A. fears of a slave conspiracy in the setting of
thirteen fires in New York City
B. the Stono Rebellion
C. the Royal African Company’s monopoly
D. the growing power of maroon communities
8. What was the “conspiracy” of the New York
Conspiracy Trials of 1741?
A. American patriots conspiring to overthrow
the royal government
B. indentured servants conspiring to
overthrow their masters
C. slaves conspiring to burn down the city and
take control
D. Protestants conspiring to murder Catholics
9. What was the First Great Awakening?
A. a cultural and intellectual movement that
emphasized reason and science over
superstition and religion
B. a Protestant revival that emphasized
emotional, experiential faith over book
C. a cultural shift that promoted Christianity
among slave communities
D. the birth of an American identity, promoted
by Benjamin Franklin
10. Which of the following is not a tenet of the
A. atheism
B. empiricism
C. progressivism
D. rationalism
11. Who were the Freemasons, and why were
they significant?
12. What was the primary goal of Britain’s wars
for empire from 1688 to 1763?
A. control of North America
B. control of American Indians
C. greater power in Europe and the world
D. defeat of Catholicism
13. Who were the main combatants in the French
and Indian War?
A. France against Indians
B. Great Britain against Indians
C. Great Britain against France
D. Great Britain against the French and their
Indian allies
14. What prompted the French and Indian War?
Critical Thinking Questions
15. How did Pennsylvania’s Quaker beginnings distinguish it from other colonies in British America?
122 Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763
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16. What were the effects of the consumer revolution on the colonies?
17. How did the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening offer opposing outlooks to British
Americans? What similarities were there between the two schools of thought?
18. What was the impact of the wars for empire in North America, Europe, and the world?
19. What role did Indians play in the wars for empire?
20. What shared experiences, intellectual currents, and cultural elements drew together British subjects
on both sides of the Atlantic during this period? How did these experiences, ideas, and goods serve to
strengthen those bonds?
Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763 123
124 Chapter 4 Rule Britannia! The English Empire, 1660–1763
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