The Birth of America: From Before Columbus to the Revolution
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this provocative account of colonial America, William R. Polk explores the key events, individuals, and themes of this critical period. With vivid descriptions of the societies that people from Europe came from and with an emphasis on what they believed they were going to, Polk introduces the native Indians encountered in the New World and the black Africans who were brought across the Atlantic.
With insightful analysis, he also discusses the dual truths of colonial societies' "growing up" and "growing apart." As John Adams would point out to Thomas Jefferson, the long years that witnessed the formation of our national character and the growth of our spirit of independence were indeed the real revolution. That story forms the basis of The Birth of America. In addition to its discussion of the influence the British had on the colonies, The Birth of America covers the pivotal roles played by the Spanish, French, and Dutch in early America.
From the fearful crossing of the stormy Atlantic to the growth of the early settlements, to the French and Indian War and the unrest of the 1760s, William Polk brilliantly traces the progress of the colonies to the point where itwas no longer possible to recapture the past and the break with England was inevitable. America had been born.
London, General Clarke said that “with a Thousand British grenadiers, he would undertake to go from one end of America to the other, and geld all the Males, partly by force and partly by a little Coaxing.” In summary, no prudent Englishman believed that there was any significant possibility that “America,” a concept yet to be born, could survive apart from Britain. That it would try to fight Britain was, as one of Britain’s most distinguished officers, Major Patrick Ferguson, would later write,
of the Mob but Wilkes: Letter to Charles O’Hara in Thomas W. Copeland (ed.), The Correspondence of Edmund Burke (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), Vol. 1, 349; quoted in George Rudé, Wilkes and Liberty: A Social Study of 1763–1774 (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 46. on the brink of revolution: Rudé, Wilkes, 56. their English exemplars: Hiller B. Zobel, The Boston Massacre (New York: Norton, 1970), 179. must stand or fall together: William Palfrey to Wilkes, February 21,
Monts, Sieur de Moore, James Moravians Morgan, Lewis H. Mourning wars Mughal Empire mulattoes Mullin, Michael Murray, James Musa, emperor of Mali Muskhogean Muslims Na-Dene Narragansetts Narváez, Pánfilo Natick Indians Native Americans; in aftermath of French and Indian War; agriculture of; ancestry of; black slaves enlisted in fight against; British alliances with; clothing of; colonists’ justifications for actions toward; confederations of; cultural heritage lost by; diplomacy
society; but culturally, economically, and politically it was nonetheless sharp and painful. I will focus on England, but much of what I say is also applicable to France. The English middle and upper classes, who have bequeathed to us elegant furniture, exquisite silver, serene paintings, and graceful architecture, floated above a swamp of misery. “Swamp” is not just a metaphor: the narrow, nearly airless streets of English cities, particularly London, were also open sewers. The refuse of
of the heat the fire produced but also sucked streams of cold air through cracks or windows and doors. Water would freeze just a few feet away from a roaring fire, as I learned in my house in Harvard when the newly installed furnace broke down one winter day. That man of all talents, Benjamin Franklin, rushed into the American breach in 1740, when he came out with a new stove. Inspired by European models, he tinkered with them until he had a stove that was more efficient, was cheaper, and could