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EARLY CHALLENGES TO THE NEW COLONIES

The early days of the colonies were far from smooth sailing. Settlers had problems with American Indians, autocratic English government, diseases, slavery, the economy, and even witchcraft. The following sections summarize topics that may come up on the AP exam.

American Indian troubles

American Indians resented being driven off their land, and they fought back from time to time with counter attacks. Shortly before the Pilgrims arrived, an epidemic swept through the New England coastal tribes and wiped out three-quarters of the native people. With no strength to repel even the weak Pilgrim settlement, the local American Indians were friendly. Squanto (1620), who had been kidnapped by an English ship's captain years before, greeted the Pilgrims in perfect English, asked them if they brought any beer, and helped them through to the first Thanksgiving.

As the settlers pushed the American Indians off their land over the next 50 years, the son of the chief who had welcomed the Pilgrims lost his patience. The settlers called him King Philip because they couldn't be bothered to learn his American Indian name, Metacom. Backed by an alliance of fed-up American Indians, he launched King Philip's War (1675). By the time the war ended a year later, King Philip's forces had attacked 52 towns. The settlers responded with a brutal massacre of Indian men, women, and children. One out of ten settlers of military age was a casualty; families were sometimes carried off by American Indians. Even Plymouth itself, site of the Pilgrims' landing, fell victim.

Bacon's Rebellion of 1676, an uprising of white settlers against American Indians, had tied down the Virginia government, the only other significant English presence in North America. Canada was still mostly French and rooting for the Indians. The New England colonies had to defend themselves on their own.

In the end, the settlers fought together under the direction of the New England Confederation (1643) and held on. In the south, the first capital of Virginia, Jamestown, was burned in 1676, but the government eventually regained control. Although nightmare fears of Indian attacks lasted for years, actual Indian power in New England ended with the death of Metacom. For the first time, settlers in separate colonies began to think of themselves as Americans.

 
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