The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis



The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis


The following texts are the property of their respective authors and we thank them for giving us the opportunity to share for free to students, teachers and users of the Web their texts will used only for illustrative educational and scientific purposes only.


All the information in our site are given for nonprofit educational purposes

The information of medicine and health contained in the site are of a general nature and purpose which is purely informative and for this reason may not replace in any case, the council of a doctor or a qualified entity legally to the profession.



The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis

The National Experience: A History of the United States Outline


Chapter 3: The First American Way of Life

  • Americans always dealt with how to live for themselves, for the outside world and with each other

                      1. Tobacco, rice, fur, fish; 2. The Navigation Acts

  • For the third, some, such as William Blackstone, were hermits and lived alone


Patterns of Existence

  • Each generation lived differently, but the first was the most radical
  • Toward the end of the colonies there were 4 different ways of life

                      Southern plantation, New England town, individual farm, city

The Plantation

  • Plantations became colonies centered on 1 crop for income

                      VA/MD: tobacco; SC: rice/indigo; West Indies: sugar

  • The word plantation eventually became to imply land where slaves worked
  • Slavery, virtually unknown in England, started in the US in Virginia, where it was the settlers’ most original, effective and oppressive idea for living in the Americas


  • Slavery started when Virginians first needed labor in the 1620s
  • Most gathered indentured servants because their lifespan was less than the maximum 7 years in service, and they were cheaper than slaves from Africa
  • The death rate, mostly of men, was comparable Europe’s during the plague


  • Tobacco prices fell in the 1640s and ‘50s, though Virginians kept importing them as they were cheap, and people started living longer, making them more profit
  • The South became full of plantations, and slaves, as masters became wealthier and freedmen, or ex-servant, themselves went into business


  • This cycle of opportunity and profit ceased turning after 1660
  • More labor meant more tobacco, which became in higher supply than demand when the N. Acts restricted its market, thus lowering its price
  • Production became more expensive when the best land, on the exterior with rivers to transport good, were taken up by the 1670s
  • VA and MD became full of wandering freedmen, mostly young, single and armed
  • Gov. William Berkeley distrusted these men and in 1673 was worried they would betray him when fighting the Dutch to get better land if it re-aligned to Holland


  • Nathaniel Bacon led Bacon’s Rebellion, the largest before the Revolution in 1676 in Jamestown, with servants, slaves and freedmen participating
  • Although the rebellion died down shortly after Bacon and the remainders persecuted to prevent more, the causes, and wandering freedmen, remained


  • As the death rate declined, slaves became more popular, profitable and were considered less dangerous than servants, as no rebellion of theirs reached Bacon’s
  • Slaves were completely overpowered

                      No rights, harsh punishments, unarmed, revealed by race

  • As slaves became more popular, there were less angry servants who would start their own plantations with their own slaves


  • English thought slavery was the most personal form of degradation yet were very tolerant of it put on Indians or blacks, more so than other Europeans
  • White’s enslavement of other races was their most common relationship and their superiority was legally recognized


  • Slaves in the South were worked to death less and their numbers increased naturally by raising children under better circumstances than in the West Indies
  • Although children were considered property that could be sold and bought, slave families could spend time together as a family

                      Had alone time, gardens for food and free time after finishing tasks

  • As more slaves spoke a common language, English, they gained more power and could escape longer
  • Masters started treating them better to make their slaves more cooperative


  • The US received a small percentage of imported slaves, but those slaves produced many children, many with non-Africans
  • The strain of blacks-whites relationship depended on the environment

                      Tobacco plantations with maximum 100 slaves, rice with 30

  • The plantation itself was like a community, especially when by a river
  • The master’s manor would be surrounded by attendant buildings and slave barns


  • Slaves worked in the field or house, making the plantation largely self-sufficient

                      White or black artisans, carpenters, blacksmiths, tailor, cobbler

  • The river connected the plantation with others and London, making it very social
  • The wealthiest planter often directed and helped out smaller farmers, who in turn would usually vote for him in the assembly out of respect


  • These men were active in the community and learned how to deal with people
  • Everyone started to value their own freedom as more learned of slavery

The New England Town

  • The New England town was built by Puritanism and past experience in England

                      Boroughs, villages and parishes

  • Boroughs were allowed to send 2 to Parliament, elected by freemen/burgesses, in addition to a mayor and council of alderman for local affairs-often very powerful


  • Villages were a cluster of houses who shared the land and farming duties in an open field system, later giving way to individual farms


  • Parishes incorporated everyone and were originally an area served by a single church but became a small government of itself
  • There were 10-20 vestrymen or 2-3 church wardens who held the power

                      Took care of church, poor, children, taxes and was sometimes a jury

  • New England towns combined all 3 communities but modified them as they liked
  • Puritans got together at Church like a town and covered the same amount of land
  • Notably, the Church and officials had no political power and focused on religion


  • The towns were created by the colony’s General Court, or legislature
  • They would give proprietor’s land that was run like a village, with some land reserved for buildings, and each man receiving scattered parcels of land
  • Most land was undistributed-called commons-and controlled by the proprietors to sell or grant to the anticipated new settlers, or became private property
  • Proprietors control of the commons did not guarantee control in the government
  • Town meetings met to discuss town and citizen affairs, elect officials and representatives for the colonial assembly
  • For the most part, voting was done by freemen-church members and other free males approved by the freemen, though they could not vote for the representatives


  • At first, there were no conflicts of interest between the proprietors, since most members were proprietors, and everyone felt a strong sense of community
  • Conflicts arose by the early 1700s, when many left to find more land, the remaining commons were argued over and religious problems started


  • New, less closely knit towns were being formed with the govt. more interested in real estate, proprietors in private profit and settlers in consolidated land
  • Despite these issues, the towns remained friendly and citizens good-natured
  • Everyone attended Church, though few were “members” (and became increasingly female), and had a say in the minister (who’s salary was their taxes)


  • Men also met to train for the militia, very important in new frontier towns susceptible to Indians, while in older towns men met at the tavern for a drink
  • New Englanders were close with each other, yet independent enough to be satisfied there


The Farm

  • Most colonists south of New England cultivated land like Europeans but were more distanced from each other


  • American farms were larger and took longer to cultivate, which isolated farmers

                      Plot would be cleared, planted until infertile, abandoned while the farmers                              moved on, and would eventually reforest

  • This technique got the most crop for the least labor, but Europeans disliked it


  • Many farms became tenants
  • Speculators would buy land when it was cheap in the back country then sell it or rent it out for a higher price to profit from the increasing population
  • New England’s population grew, despite many diseases, from families arriving, more children and living longer
  • The South’s population only soared in the 1700s when more women, immigrants and slaves came and the death rare lowered


  • While most southern immigrants were slaves, middle colonies got a lot of immigrants from North Ireland and Germany who would become farmers
  • Farmers met at taverns to buy goods and became wealthier, yet had almost not organized community
  • Anglican churches attempted parishes but people were too sparse and many were not Anglican, as branches such as Baptists and Presbyterians sent missionaries


  • Colonial farmers would rely on the county court to meet with each other, which was the most crucial form of govt. and found everywhere


  • Family life was very important as what couldn’t be found in the community had to be found at home

                      School, hospital, church

  • Many homes were populated with grandparents, parents and many children, though most would leave for their own farms
  • The farmer’s self-sufficiency was the typical American way of life in the 1700s, though many eventually migrated to similar places


The City

  • Cities were dramatically different from the farms and for many farmers were just temptation and extravagance


  • Merchants were essential
  • They traded corn, cattle, etc. for molasses to make rum from the West Indies, sometimes slaves, and furs and skins for masts, wool and hardware from England
  • Ship makers, instrument makers, retail traders, millers and coopers relied on them


  • Many other jobs relied solely on other people nearby, like teachers or craftsmen
  • Problems unique to the city included theft, vice, filth, traffic, fires and poverty, which would rise when trade was bad because so many jobs depended on it


  • In Boston, NY and Newport they controlled officials responsible for them but had no say in Charleston or Philadelphia, and relied on volunteers anyway for help
  • Cities grew larger than English ones, except London
  • Boston was first at the top for shipping in the NE but declined from competition


  • NY served farmers in the Hudson Valley, NJ and CT while Philadelphia became one of the largest English speaking cities, serving PA, DE and the south
  • When wheat farmers needed an outlet and sold grain to merchants in the 1760s and ‘70s, Charleston and Norfolk and other southern cities sprung up
  • City goers were well in touch with England and the world, and despite making up a small percentage, they were the most influential and informed Americans


The Emerging American Mind

  • Until the mid-1700s, most thought of America simply as a place


  • Most Americans thought of themselves as English/British, though they adapted that heritage differently for each region
  • Some ideas became unique in America, paving the way for American nationalism

Responsible Representative Government

  • English representative govt. came to America and changed once there, starting in the Middle Ages with the House of Common


  • The House’s problems started when virtually abandoned boroughs still sent reps. while newer more populous towns would not
  • Few were allowed to vote, and even then they were mainly meaningless since reps. would be predetermined by themselves, until these elite were divided
  • The House defended this by saying each member reps. the country, not 1 area


  • Colonial assemblies were more representative since more could vote, although some still did not, and had a better time keeping up with expansion than England
  • American assemblymen represented the people who chose him and put them first


  • They were watched much more closely than in England

Clergy and Laity

  • Americans wanted the clergymen to serve, not rule them like the Anglican Church


  • Raising taxes to support itself in some states was the most political power the Church would have
  • Ministers were highly respected but had no secular power for Puritans


  • Anglican Americans never got a bishop, so while the North constantly asked for them, clergymen in the South came and went as no bishop authorizes their status
  • The Anglican church didn’t send a bishop probably because Anglicans were in the minority of a diverse group of sects, making it harder to one dominate the others


The Great Awakening

  • In the 1740s, George Whitefield combined Calvinism with entertainment, acting out Hell and scaring people into conversion, creating the Great Awakening


  • This technique of dramatization for conversion was imitated by many

                      Gilbert Tennant, John Davenport

  • It affected all classes, particularly from Jonathan Edwards, who made it academic
  • He emphasized the emotional aspect of God with a stricter Calvinist doctrine


  • Many ministers disapproved of this movement, while people would oust their old ministers for this who preached more extreme beliefs and were more exclusive
  • When the hype died down, all denominations, esp. Calvinists-split
  • Old Lights were against the revival and questioned the Calvinist doctrine, making the road for Unitarianism, Universalism and deism


  • New Lights decided their minister had to be saved himself, but often kicked them out when many decided their religious intellect to be a bad thing
  • Eventually, the Awakening became the New Divinity when Edwards’ beliefs were examined closely and twisted in ways only the clergy could understand


  • Americans abandoned these clergymen, deciding they weren’t serving them, and shopped around for a denomination that suited them in the variety in America


  • Americans were better educated and less in awe of govt./church than Europeans


  • Most Protestants in NE felt obligated to read the Bible and to teach children to do so, thus having a higher literacy rate,
  • Most rates, amongst free males, not including slaves, were higher than England
  • By the mid-1700s, almost every colony had a printing press, used actively for newspapers for abroad and other colonies, essays, literature, pamphlets, etc.


  • Harvard was founded in 1636 and included the liberal arts along with theology
  • Many other, similar colleges (Yale) were founded and attended by men of all different backgrounds-wealthy and farmers


  • The witchcraft hysteria started not due to lack of education but because most educated people believed it, and was less so than in Europe

The Enlightenment

  • During the 15/1600s, people like Galileo and Newton started reexamining the universe and decided reason was the key to understanding it, convincing many


  • In doing so, they began seeing God as reasonable and passive, who created the universe and let it run by itself
  • The 1700s were called the Age of Reason
  • John Locke’s An Essay Concerning the Human Understanding concluded that knowledge came from opening the human mind to the world


  • Locke believed God gave humans sets of rules, but they had to enforce them
  • The govt. should be condemned if it did not protect people’s natural rights:

                      Life, liberty, property

  • Locke diminished absolute govt. and supported free trade, speech and thought
  • With reason, people thought the world would start to make sense and cease its mysteries and sins


  • The Enlightenment, another name, had profound impacts on Americans and was welcomed by many, from students to high society
  • Many became scientists themselves, recording American wildlife and astronomy and setting land marks in discovery

                      Mather and Boylston inoculated against smallpox, Rittenhouse replicated                               solar system

  • The Enlightenment meant more to Americans than Europeans as they always had new situations which could be solved by reason


  • Benjamin Franklin best represented the Enlightenment as a typical American who was successful in all endeavors from printing to inventing to experimenting
  • Franklin’s insistence on finding results was as strong as Americans insisting their govts. And churches did what they expected


Social Structure

  • By the mid-1700s, status was less impressive in America than Europe
  • Franklin himself warned Americans looked more at skills than status


  • Europeans felt God made people unequal and the wealthy were given dignity and political power
  • American aristocrats had to fight to stay on top of the class system, and could lose their govt. power if they did not please the people


  • Both ends of the ladder had fewer rights than in Europe, as slavery was virtually nonexistent in Europe, and American slaves had no way of moving up
  • The average American was still better off, enjoying political/economic independence, from land ownership, and were armed to give themselves a muscle


  • In the 1700s, Americans started differing from English/Europeans and became more alike
  • In general (unless slaves), they were better educated, had more control over the authorities and lives and used various tools to get what they wanted


Source :

Web site link to visit:

Google key word : The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis file type : doc

Author : not indicated on the source document of the above text

If you are the author of the text above and you not agree to share your knowledge for teaching, research, scholarship (for fair use as indicated in the United States copyrigh low) please send us an e-mail and we will remove your text quickly.


The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis


If you want to quickly find the pages about a particular topic as The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis use the following search engine:




The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis


Please visit our home page Terms of service and privacy page




The First American Way of Life summary study guide analysis