Founded between 1607 (Virginia) and 1732 (Georgia), the thirteen British colonies in America experienced rapid population growth during the 18th century: from 250,000 to 1700, the total population reached 2.5 million inhabitants in 1775. This growth is linked to a very significant emigration and a demography clearly more dynamic than in Europe (lower mortality and higher birth rate).
The political regime adopted by the colonies is often the same: an English governor is appointed by the king or by the big landowners, he is helped by a board of directors. At the time of the first foundations, this governor directs the colonization and the organization of the territory. His powers will gradually expand: he approves each law, appoints judges, commands the militia and can dissolve the assembly. Each colony has a representative assembly which votes laws, budget and taxes, but of course, only landowners have the right to vote. The legislative power of the colonies, confirmed by the king, remains lower than that of the metropolis therefore, English laws take precedence over 'American' laws.
Agriculture was a decisive option taken by the colonists: they founded a peasant society unique in America during this period (there is no equivalent in French Canada or in Spanish America). The natural conditions lend themselves to the establishment of European food crops to which tobacco will be added. The tropical crops of sugar cane and cotton are established in the southern colonies. We are witnessing the creation of plantation agriculture based on the work of African black slaves.
The commercial development of the thirteen colonies is spectacular but remains subject to Great Britain which wants to keep control of all trade. Most of the imports come from England, Ireland and the British West Indies (Jamaica, Barbados). The exports take different destinations according to the nature of the products: the productions of the South (tobacco, cotton, sugar) arrive in the ports of England, while the colonies of the North which produce goods comparable to those of the metropolis, supply and feed the colonists and slaves of the English Antilles.
It was during the 18th century that the economic pattern diverged between the North, which adopted the behavior of an autonomous state having lost its colonial characteristics, and the South, which presented a tropical colonial economy completely dependent on the metropolis. This particular aspect of the foreign trade of the thirteen colonies is certainly one of the keys to understanding the rupture with Great Britain in 1775.
History of North Carolina.
From 1663 until 1665, the king of England, Charles II, conceded to a company of eight English nobles the colonies going from North Carolina to Florida, by granting them all powers of colonization and government and not limiting these concessions to the West.
The owner lords endeavored to attract colonists there by the lure of religious freedom and exemption from taxes, in any case, during the first years. They governed their province through a delegate, assisted by a council of twelve members, six of whom were appointed by that delegate and six by the settlers. The latter also received the right to appoint representatives, without the assent of which no tax could be established in the colony.
It was in 1669 that the first assembly of these representatives met.
L'année suivante, les propriétaires essayèrent d'appliquer une constitution rédigée par le philosophe Locke et qui établissait une sorte de régime féodal extrêmement compliqué, contre lequel les colons ne cessèrent de protester.
Ces démêlés continuels entre la population et les gouverneurs ajoutés à la détestable administration de ces derniers et aux luttes fréquentes avec les Indiens, retardèrent longtemps les progrès de la colonisation.
Finalement, les propriétaires vendirent à la couronne les droits qu'ils tenaient de la concession et la Caroline fut divisée en deux provinces royales, la Caroline du Nord et la Caroline du Sud.
La première ne comptait encore à cette époque que 13,000 habitants. Bientôt, les émigrants arrivèrent en grand nombre : Ecossais, Irlandais, protestants d'Angleterre et d'Allemagne, presbytériens, quakers, venant directement d'Europe ou des provinces britanniques déjà formées sur la partie septentrionale de la côte d'Amérique, Virginie, Pennsylvanie, New-York, Massachusetts.
Les nouveaux colons s'établissaient dans l'intérieur de la province, remontant les rivières et couvrant le pays de plantations disséminées jusqu'aux monts Appalaches.
En 1765, la Caroline du Nord se joignit aux autres colonies dans la résistance à l’impôt du timbre, et en 1771 éclata contre l'autorité royale une véritable insurrection, que le gouverneur Tryon réprima en battant un corps de milices caroliniennes à Alamance River.
En 1775, les habitants du comté de Mecklembourg déclarèrent leur indépendance, devançant ainsi d'une année la résolution da Congrès continental de Philadelphie.
La Caroline du Nord fut un des derniers parmi les treize Etats de l'Union primitive à accepter la constitution fédérale de 1787.
Elle comptait alors, d'après le recensement de 1790, près de 400,000 habitants, dont 288,000 Blancs et 100,000 esclaves, le reste composé de Noirs libres. La population s'augmenta lentement pendant la première moitié du XIXe siècle, sous le régime de l'esclavage. Elle s'élevait en 1850 à 860,000 habitants, et à 992,000, dont 331,000 esclaves, en 1860, au moment où éclata la guerre de sécession.
De 1860 à 1870, période de ruine et de dépopulation pour tous les Etats du Sud, l'augmentation fut plus lente encore, mais en 1880 était atteint le chiffre de 1,400,000 habitants. Ce chiffre comprenait 867,000 Blancs et 533,000 Noirs.
Until the middle of the XVII century, Americans still considered themselves English of America.
From Georgia to Massachusetts, they are not aware of belonging to one and the same society. However, the 13 colonies discover that they may have common interests.
Besides, why should the English colonists from North America renounce the benefits of the empire? Admittedly, they left the British Isles to make a fortune on the other side of the Atlantic or to escape the discrimination suffered by religious dissidents. From Georgia to Massachusetts, via Virginia and New York, they are not aware of belonging to one and the same company.
The planters of the South, who live from the cultivation of tobacco, indigo and more and more cotton, are lovers of good wines and gallant parties. Anglicans, therefore subject to the moral and religious authority of the King of England, they care little for the salvation of their soul.
The merchants of the North, they trade with Europe and the Antilles. They are the heirs of the austere puritans, trapped in the work ethic. In the West, that is to say between the ocean and the Appalachians, the pioneers face 'the Indian danger' and hate the gentlemen and the capitalists of the low country. But all of them have a sentimental attachment to England. Culture, language, history unite them with the old country. And even the Germans, the Dutch, the Swedes who also chose to settle in America know that the British Empire protects them. In the middle of the 18th century, the Americans were therefore English from America and they wanted to remain so.
Especially since the hereditary enemy has just been defeated.
Indeed, at the end of the Seven Years' War, which is called here the war against the Indians and the French (1754-1763), France lost Canada. It no longer threatens the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region. Its allies, the Algonquin, Iroquois or Sioux Indians, were pushed back to the other side of the Appalachians. A vast territory is now open to colonization. Planters dream of new and fertile land; merchants and pioneers, good deals they will make in the West.
The Treaty of Paris of 1763 which ended the war and reconciled, after three years of negotiations, France and Great Britain allowed the latter, all powerful on the territory, to impose new laws on the colonists in order to contain the land appetites of the latter.
The Proclamation of October 7, 1763 created an Indian Territory west of the Appalachians. 'The Indian nations or tribes [...] must not be ill-treated or disturbed in our territories which have not been yielded to us or bought by us are reserved for them as hunting grounds. And to dispel any misunderstanding, the Proclamation specifies: 'We formally forbid all our beloved subjects under penalty of causing us displeasure to buy, colonize or take the lands thus reserved without having obtained a special authorization. '
Of course, the settlers shout loudly.
While they valiantly fought the French, as did George Washington in particular and that before that, the king had promised and encouraged the expansion towards the West, here is an authoritarian measure, not to say, tyrannical, prevents them from taking advantage of victory! Especially since this measure will obviously benefit traders in the metropolis, close to power, eager to gain, safe from the dangers of these distant lands.
And it gets worse. The war was expensive. England, which wars in the Indies as in the New World, needs money. How to find new resources? The Sugar Act (April 5, 1764) responds to the emergency. The duties on foreign molasses are doubled; non-British textiles, coffee and indigo are also subject to higher tariffs. To avoid fraud, offenders will be systematically chased. And since these taxes are not enough to fill the royal coffers, another tax will be imposed the following year: The tax on the stamp: 'For each skin or piece of vellum or parchment, for each sheet or piece of paper, on which will be written, written or printed a declaration, a request, a defense, a counter-attack, an objection or any other form of argument [...] a stamp duty of 3 pence 'will be collected. And of course, the application of the measure will not support any exception or indulgence.
This additional tax sets fire to the powder.
The metropolis may say that these taxes are necessary to defend the colonies, the colonists are not convinced. They know that this money is intended for the interests of the empire and not for the survival of the colonies as much as from the beginning, they have nobody to represent them in the Parliament when the laws are voted.
Parliament took the risk of a rebellion and maintained the taxes as much for financial need as to keep the settlers under its authority. Otherwise, it would be the start of an independent political system that would reject illegality, arbitrariness, therefore tyranny, when in truth, the only thing that still keeps the settlers under the British yoke is their loyalty. and their loyalty to the crown.
This does not prevent some protesters from protesting violently and forming either a small group of resistances, called 'regulators' or defense associations baptized: 'The Sons of Liberty'.
The stamp tax was repealed in March 1766. The colonists won the victory. Along the way, they discovered that the thirteen colonies could have common interests. Would western planters, traders and pioneers consider sharing the same future? Perhaps.
One might think, however, that on both sides of the Atlantic, we understood that we should not go too far, that we had learned the lessons of the crisis of 1765. Error. The same causes have the same effects.
New Prime Minister William Pitt faces the same situation as his predecessors: money is short. Once again, the government is looking for new revenue. Tax the metropolis, yes of course, provided that the colonies assume their responsibilities and do not look like a tax haven.
New taxes on the importation of glass, lead, painters of tea and paper were voted in 1767. The worst is that these taxes are not even enough to replenish the coffers of the kingdom, and yet in America , we cry out against injustice, with the same arguments as two years earlier. This time, the settlers know what to do, what to write, what to claim. Pamphlets, newspaper articles, boycotts of English goods, political proceedings, these are the most effective weapons. Benjamin Franklin himself, who belongs to the camp of moderates, does not hesitate to maintain that the colonies have the same rights as the Scots. In his eyes, the legislative assemblies of the colonies have the same freedoms as the Parliament of London. This in no way limits allegiance to the Crown.
Boston becomes the main center of resistance. Certainly, Virginia produces a significant part of American wealth, but it is made up of plantations, distant from each other. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, the tradition of popular assemblies which practice relative direct democracy survives, and the colony's legislative assembly is populated by eloquent lawyers, always ready to make fiery speeches. The Sons of Liberty are once again at the forefront of combat. Correspondence committees circulate information and protests from one colony to another. Faced with the common enemy, the colonists learned to make common cause.
Politicians fail to avoid violence. Inevitably, incidents broke out, which pitted settlers against the royal troops. They are not of extreme gravity, but, brought back from one colony to another, deliberately exaggerated, they mark the spirits.
The worst happened on April 19, 1775. In Lexington, very close to Boston, militiamen - colonists in arms - faced the royal troops. The confrontation degenerates into a real battle that continues in the city of Concord. It is the beginning of an insurrection.
Le 10 mai, un deuxième Congrès continental se réunit à Philadelphie. Il prépare la guerre. Thomas Paine, un immigrant anglais récemment débarqué en Amérique, publie en janvier 1776 son pamphlet qui a pour titre : Le Sens commun. Il appelle à l'indépendance des colonies, dénonce la tyrannie du roi George III, proclame : « En Amérique, la loi est souveraine. »
L'une après l'autre, les colonies se rallient à l'idée de l'indépendance. Un comité, dans lequel siègent Thomas Jefferson et Benjamin Franklin, est chargé de rédiger une déclaration solennelle, qui est finalement adoptée le 4 juillet. Un deuxième comité élabore un projet de traité qui sera proposé à la France - l'ennemi héréditaire de l'Angleterre. Un troisième comité tâche de définir une constitution commune aux nouveaux États.
It is not a national revolution. Colonies, which have become states, decide to unite. They do not yet form a nation. It will be necessary to wait more than 80 years, and the consequences of the American Civil War 1861-1865, before we can justify the hyphen which links the word States and the word United. Nor is it a social revolution that would pit the American 'damned of the earth' against the wealthy merchants of England. As for the black slaves who toil in the fields of the South and in the workshops of the North, they are not intended to regain freedom nor to benefit from the rights identical to those of the Whites. It is above all an English revolution. Americans remain English. They defend English liberties, as they understand them. In their eyes, England has ceased to respect its own principles. Independence keeps them on the other side of the Atlantic. In a word, the Americans of 1776 consider that they are more English than the English. They save the soul of England by separating from the metropolis. This is why they took power.
By Valérie Gay-Corajoud