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Colonial Documents

The colonial history of the United States covers the history from the start of European settlement until 1776 when the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence as the United States of America during King George III's rule. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched major colonization programs in eastern North America. Several small early attempts—such as the English Lost Colony of Roanoke—often disappeared; everywhere the death rate of the first arrivals was very high. Nevertheless successful colonies were established. European settlers came from a variety of social and religious groups. Few aristocrats settled permanently, but a number of adventurers, soldiers, farmers, and tradesmen arrived to stake their claim in the New World.

Ethnic diversity was an American characteristic as the Dutch of New Netherland, the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden, the English Quakers of Pennsylvania, the English Puritans of New England, the English settlers of Jamestown, and the "worthy poor" of Georgia, came to the new continent and built colonies with distinctive social, religious, political and economic styles. Occasionally one colony took control of another (during wars between their European parents). owever, only in Nova Scotia (now part of Canada) did the conquerors expel the previous colonists. Most often they all lived side by side in peace. There were no major civil wars among the 13 colonies, and the two chief armed rebellions (in Virginia in 1676 and in New York in 1689-91) were short-lived failures. Wars between the French and the British—the French and Indian Wars and Father Rale's War -- were recurrent, and involved French-support for Wabanaki Confederacy attacks on the frontiers. By 1760 France was defeated and the British seized its colonies.

The four distinct regions were: New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake Bay Colonies (Upper South) and the Lower South. Some historians add a fifth region, the frontier, which was never separately organized.

This category offers documents from the period of North American colonization.