Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Part 1: The History of US - The First century, 1600 - 1700

We are all immigrants? Maybe, but not during the colonization of this country, it's not until much later when a man would be able to come here of his own accord as a "freeman" and not as a "subject" of the King of England.

The first settlements, in what is now the USA, were actually Conquistadors, Soldiers and Explorers, early history shows the Chinese have records showing "trees of Red wood" around 498A.D. from the west coast, the Vikings landed around 1000A.D. on the north eastern coast of Canada and possibly as far south as modern day New England, later arrivals from Spain, Portugal, France and the Netherlands date to around 1513. The Spanish also laid claim to the entire west coast of what is now the USA in 1513; they did start colonies in St. Augustine, Florida as early as 1565 and New Mexico in 1598, while the French had their first colonies in South Carolina since 1562. In 1579 English Explorers also claimed the west coast of North America; The Russians laid claim to parts of the west coast, mostly from Northern California to Alaska, but not until around 1812.

The British didn’t begin to colonize the now USA until 1584, in what was called Virginia back then. This first colony failed. After Queen Elizabeth’s death, King James I established by Royal Charter, The London Company, in 1606 with the sole purpose of establishing colonial settlements in North America, the first being the Charter of Virginia in 1606. It wasn’t until 1607, when the Virginia colony of Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement founded by the London Company (later known as the Virginia Company).

In 1619, the Colony of Virginia started its first legislative assembly, known as the House of Burgesses. The Virginia Company decided to end its monopoly on land ownership believing the colonists would display greater initiative if they could gain ownership of land and would encourage private investment in the colony. The Virginia Company designed four large corporations termed cities to encompass the developed portions of the colony. The Virginia Company officials adopted English Common Law as the basis in the colony, replacing the British appointed Governor as the final voice on legal matters. The changes of 1619 also created a legislative body to be elected by the colonists that would meet once annually at Jamestown.

In 1619, a Dutch man-of-war entered the James River and landed on Virginia soil with twenty Africans for sale. Africans were used as indentured servants, serving a master for sevens years, then freed. They would now have to apply to become "denizens" (persons admitted to residence in a foreign country, through documented registration accepted by the Acts of the Royal Governor or Proprietor of the colony, with limited rights as compared to subjects), this practice was in use up to 1740. Colonial denizen (naturalization) prior to 1740 was strictly local in nature and the rights obtained did not extend to other colonies nor to the British Isles. If you moved to another colony, you would have to also become naturalized there. If an immigrant obtained his naturalization in England, however, the naturalization extended to all of the colonies and British Isles. Many became farmers themselves acquiring African servants for their own use. Though as greed came into play over the next few decades, there developed a worldwide desire for slavery, and planters in the New World who wanted a steady labor force could see the major benefits of slave labor. To accommodate the demand for slavery, Virginia adopted new laws in 1650, establishing that Africans arriving in new cargoes would be servants for life, as would their children and their children's children.

After 1618, the death of the Powhatan Chief and escalating hostilities between the confederacy of native tribes of Eastern Virginia and the colonists, the new Powhatan chief Opechancanough sought in vain to drive off the encroaching English. His large-scale attacks in 1622 and 1644 met strong reprisals by the English, resulting in the near elimination of the tribe. By 1646 the Powhatan Confederacy was largely destroyed, in part due to infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. By this time, the leaders of the colony were desperate for labor to develop the land.

The “Pilgrims” of 1620 and their landing at Plymouth Rock are probably the most noteworthy as taught in History classes in the USA. Most in this group were “Separatists ” because they demanded a complete separation from the State Church of England. They wanted to worship in a very simple manner without all of the ritual and symbols which were used in the Anglican Church. In their study of the Bible they had decided the original church in New Testament times had been a simple church and they wished to follow that example in their own worship. They believed there were so many changes needed to be made in the Anglican Church that it could not be accomplished to their satisfaction. Therefore, the only possibility for them was to "separate" completely from the state church. Their pastor, Richard Clyfton, had guided this religious community into a form of democratic self-governance. Various points of view were tolerated, but the will of the majority ruled in decision-making. They first went to Holland in 1608 after failed attempts to leave England in 1607 and settled in Leiden, Holland. They asked King James for a Royal Charter to allow them to establish a colony in the New World which was denied, but King James told them he would not try to stop them from settling abroad. The group finally succeeded in getting a Patent from the Virginia Company and was forced to agree to terms which indentured them for seven years before they would be free to own land or take profits for themselves.

Upon arriving off the coast of Cape Cod, even before the Mayflower anchored, there was a near mutiny. Some of the Leiden Separatists thought they could do as they pleased since they were, as they believed outside the bounds of English Law, thus they came up with what is known as The Mayflower Compact. The Compact was an agreement signed by all the men on board-including the indentured servants-promising to abide by laws that would be drawn up and agreed upon by all male members of the community. The women were not allowed to participate in the governing process. The Compact states that they would choose their own leaders and make their own laws. It also stated there was to be equal justice for all. This Compact became the constitution of the Plymouth Colony. It was the first document of American democracy to establish "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

From 1620 through 1732 other colonies were formed and settled by recruiters for financial backers of corporations in Britain and by other countries looking to make their claim here. The other Nations colonies eventually became acquired as the English colonies grew. As these other Nations colonies were acquired, those colonizers who refused to swear loyalty to the British crown were expelled from the territory or forced deeper into the western wilderness beyond the territory as claimed by England.

In June 1624, King James I assumed responsibility for the colony of Virginia after he dissolved the Virginia Company of London, thus the Virginia Colony became a Crown Colony. He ordered Virginia's leaders to make a record of the colony's inhabitants and their provisions. This census-known as the 1624/5 Muster-is the first comprehensive account of households in British North America. In addition, it is the only extant census for seventeenth-century Virginia. The 1624/5 Muster is a house-to-house survey that contains information about the location of households in Virginia, the individuals in each household and the ties that connected the colony's early residents to one another.

In 1634, the first counties were laid out to replace the old system of corporations and private plantations.

In 1639, the first law passed, was "an act to compel physicians and surgeons to declare on oath the value of their medicines."

In 1640, as the present Massachusetts Act goes back, with no substantial change to the origin of the system, it must be sought before that date, which narrows our enquiry (sic)to the few colonies settled before that time; and we must first examine the system of Virginia, the colony first settled.

In 1641, at the formation of The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, Virginia raised her protest against the continuance of slave traffic, but New England raised a voice of objection, and uniting her influence with that of South Carolina and Georgia secured the continuance of the slave trade for twenty years more, by Constitutional provision.

As you can see (bold above), many of our laws have been incorporated into the USA since its first English colonies were established by British Royal Charter to Corporations investing in the New World. This is but a small portion of how our Constitution and Laws came about. You may also note that the USA was formed by way of colonizers from Britain (Colonists are, as defined during the time, people who were to inhabit or populate an area based on the claims made by an exploring country, to somehow give credibility to the sending countries claimed territories and were nothing more than sharecroppers meant to benefit the Empire), as "subjects" of the British Empire. Even the Pilgrims of 1620 came over on a granted Patent as colonizers from the Virginia Company. It wouldn’t be until the Declaration of Independence and the separation claimed from Great Britain that the 13 Colonies become truly free independent and Sovereign States.

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