First paper currency is issued in the Colonies


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Year
1690
Month Day
December 10

On December 10, 1690, a failed attack on Quebec and subsequent near-mutiny force the Massachusetts Bay Colony to issue the first paper currency in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

France and Britain periodically attacked each other’s North American colonies throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. In 1690, during one such war, Governor William Phips of Britain’s Massachusetts Bay Colony made a promise he could not keep. After leading a successful invasion of the French colony of Arcadia, Phips decided to raid Quebec City, promising his volunteer troops half the loot in addition to their usual pay. Soldiers were typically paid in coins, but shortages of official currency in the colonies sometimes forced armies to temporarily issue IOUs—in one case, in the form of cut-up playing cards—which troops were allowed to exchange for goods and services until receiving their actual pay. Despite Phips’ grand promise, he failed to take the city, returning to Massachusetts with a damaged fleet and no treasure.

With a shortage of coins and nothing else to pay the troops with, Phips faced a potential mutiny. With no other option, on December 10th, 1690, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered the printing of a limited amount of government-backed, paper currency to pay the soldiers. A few months later, with tax season approaching, a law was passed removing the limit on how much currency could be printed, calling for the immediate printing of more, and permitting the use of paper currency for the payment of taxes.

The currency was initially unpopular for anything except paying taxes, and was phased out. Within a few years, however, paper currency would return to Massachusetts. The Bank of England began issuing banknotes in 1695, also to pay for war against the French, and they became increasingly common throughout the 18th Century. Paper money continued to stoke controversy throughout the early history of the United States, and it was tied to the value of gold for a surprisingly long time. It was not until 1973 that President Richard Nixon officially ended the international convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold.

READ MORE: How Did the Gold Standard Contribute to the Great Depression?

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New York adopts state constitution

Year
1777
Month Day
April 20

The first New York state constitution is formally adopted by the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York, meeting in the upstate town of Kingston, on April 20, 1777.

The constitution began by declaring the possibility of reconciliation between Britain and its former American colonies as remote and uncertain, thereby making the creation of a new New York government necessary for the preservation of internal peace, virtue and good order.

Three governmental branches were created by the new constitution: an executive branch, a judicial branch and a legislative branch. The constitution called for the election of a governor and 24 senators and identified eligible voters as men who were possessed of freeholds of the value of one hundred pounds, over and above all debts charged thereon. The constitution also called for the election of 70 assemblymen for 14 declared counties who were to be elected by male inhabitant of full age, who shall have personally resided within one of the counties of this State for six months immediately preceding the day of election… New York also guaranteed the right to trial by jury, which had been eroded under British rule.

Despite the New Yorkers’ stalwart efforts to erect a new government, they were an occupied people. The British had taken Brooklyn Heights on August 27, 1776; lower Manhattan fell soon after and was burned on September 21. The rest of New York City and Westchester County came under British control in October of that year.

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First European battle on American soil

Year
1565
Month Day
September 20

Spanish forces under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés capture the French Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline, near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. The French, commanded by Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, lost 135 men in the first instance of colonial warfare between European powers in America. Most of those killed were massacred on the order of Aviles, who allegedly had the slain hanged on trees beside the inscription “Not as Frenchmen, but as heretics.” Laudonniere and some 40 other Huguenots escaped.

In 1564, the French Huguenots (Protestants) had settled on the Banks of May, a strategic point on the Florida coast. King Philip II of Spain was disturbed by this challenge to Spanish authority in the New World and sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to Florida to expel the French heretics and establish a Spanish colony there. In early September 1565, Aviles founded San Augustin on the Florida coast, which would later grow into Saint Augustine–the oldest city in North America. Two weeks later, on September 20, he attacked and destroyed the French settlement of Fort Caroline.

The decisive French defeat encouraged France to refocus its colonial efforts in America far to the north, in what is now Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada.

READ MORE: 8 Things You May Not Know About St. Augustine, Florida

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Deerfield settlement razed in Queen Anne’s War


Year
1704
Month Day
February 29

Deerfield, a frontier settlement in western Massachusetts, is attacked by a French and Native American force. Some 100 men, women, and children were massacred as the town was burned to the ground.

The Deerfield raid was the bloodiest event of Queen Anne’s War, a conflict known to American historians as the second of the French and Indian Wars. The frontier conflict, named after the English monarch at the time, was to France and England a rather unimportant aspect of the War of the Spanish Succession. To settlers in America, however, the rivalry of the two powers in the colonies was a serious concern, as the fighting meant not only raids by the French or the British but also the horrors of Indian tribal warfare.

With the signing of the Peace of Utrecht in 1714, peace returned to the frontier. Thirty years later, it would be broken by the War of Austrian Succession, the third of the French and Indian Wars.

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Georgia enters the Union


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Year
1788
Month Day
January 02

Georgia votes to ratify the U.S. Constitution, becoming the fourth state in the modern United States. Named after King George II, Georgia was first settled by Europeans in 1733, when a group of British debtors led by English philanthropist James E. Oglethorpe traveled up the Savannah River and established Georgia’s first permanent settlement–the town of Savannah. In 1742, as part of a larger conflict between Spain and Great Britain, Oglethorpe defeated the Spanish on St. Simons Island in Georgia, effectively ending Spanish claims to the territory of Georgia.

Georgia, rich in export potential, was one of the most prosperous British colonies in America and was thus slower than the other colonies to resent the oppressive acts of the Parliament and King George III. However, by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Georgian Patriots had organized, and delegates were sent to the Second Continental Congress. During the war, Georgia was heavily divided between Loyalists and Patriots, and the British soon held most of the state. Savannah served as a key British base for their southern war operations, and the grim four-year British occupation won many Georgians over to the Patriot cause. In 1788, Georgia became the first southern state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

READ MORE: Interesting Facts About Georgia 

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Mayflower departs England

Year
1620
Month Day
September 16

On September 16, 1620, the Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists—half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs—had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.

READ MORE: What’s the Difference Between Puritans and Pilgrims? 

Thirty-five of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt. Ten years earlier, English persecution had led a group of Separatists to flee to Holland in search of religious freedom. However, many were dissatisfied with economic opportunities in the Netherlands, and under the direction of William Bradford they decided to immigrate to Virginia, where an English colony had been founded at Jamestown in 1607.

The Separatists won financial backing from a group of investors called the London Adventurers, who were promised a sizable share of the colony’s profits. Three dozen church members made their way back to England, where they were joined by about 70 entrepreneurs–enlisted by the London stock company to ensure the success of the enterprise. In August 1620, the Mayflower left Southampton with a smaller vessel–the Speedwell–but the latter proved unseaworthy and twice was forced to return to port. On September 16, the Mayflower left for America alone from Plymouth.

In a difficult Atlantic crossing, the 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. Along the way, the settlers formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law and the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on November 21 on the tip of Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts.

READ MORE: How the Mayflower Compact Laid a Foundation for American Democracy

After coming to anchor in Provincetown harbor, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent out to explore the area and find a location suitable for settlement. While they were gone, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine, aboard the Mayflower. He was the first English child born in New England. In mid-December, the explorers went ashore at a location across Cape Cod Bay where they found cleared fields and plentiful running water and named the site Plymouth.

The expedition returned to Provincetown, and on December 21 the Mayflower came to anchor in Plymouth harbor. Just after Christmas, the pilgrims began work on dwellings that would shelter them through their difficult first winter in America.

In the first year of settlement, half the colonists died of disease. In 1621, the health and economic condition of the colonists improved, and that autumn Governor William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to Plymouth to celebrate the bounty of that year’s harvest season. Plymouth soon secured treaties with most local Indian tribes, and the economy steadily grew, and more colonists were attracted to the settlement. By the mid 1640s, Plymouth’s population numbered 3,000 people, but by then the settlement had been overshadowed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, settled by Puritans in 1629.

The term “Pilgrim” was not used to describe the Plymouth colonists until the early 19th century and was derived from a manuscript in which Governor Bradford spoke of the “saints” who left Holland as “pilgrimes.” The orator Daniel Webster spoke of “Pilgrim Fathers” at a bicentennial celebration of Plymouth’s founding in 1820, and thereafter the term entered common usage.

READ MORE: Colonial America: New World Settlements

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The Boston Massacre


Year
1770
Month Day
March 05

On the cold, snowy night of March 5, 1770, a mob of American colonists gathers at the Customs House in Boston and begins taunting the British soldiers guarding the building. The protesters, who called themselves Patriots, were protesting the occupation of their city by British troops, who were sent to Boston in 1768 to enforce unpopular taxation measures passed by a British parliament that lacked American representation.

READ MORE: Did a Snowball Fight Start the American Revolution?

British Captain Thomas Preston, the commanding officer at the Customs House, ordered his men to fix their bayonets and join the guard outside the building. The colonists responded by throwing snowballs and other objects at the British regulars, and Private Hugh Montgomery was hit, leading him to discharge his rifle at the crowd. The other soldiers began firing a moment later, and when the smoke cleared, five colonists were dead or dying—Crispus Attucks, Patrick Carr, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick and James Caldwell—and three more were injured. Although it is unclear whether Crispus Attucks, an African American, was the first to fall as is commonly believed, the deaths of the five men are regarded by some historians as the first fatalities in the American Revolutionary War.

READ MORE: 8 Things We Know About Crispus Attucks

The British soldiers were put on trial, and patriots John Adams and Josiah Quincy agreed to defend the soldiers in a show of support of the colonial justice system. When the trial ended in December 1770, two British soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter and had their thumbs branded with an “M” for murder as punishment.

The Sons of Liberty, a Patriot group formed in 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act, advertised the “Boston Massacre” as a battle for American liberty and just cause for the removal of British troops from Boston. Patriot Paul Revere made a provocative engraving of the incident, depicting the British soldiers lining up like an organized army to suppress an idealized representation of the colonist uprising. Copies of the engraving were distributed throughout the colonies and helped reinforce negative American sentiments about British rule.

READ MORE: 7 Events That Led to the American Revolution

In April 1775, the American Revolution began when British troops from Boston skirmished with American militiamen at the battles of Lexington and Concord. The British troops were under orders to capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington and to confiscate the Patriot arsenal at Concord. Neither missions were accomplished because of Paul Revere and William Dawes, who rode ahead of the British, warning Adams and Hancock and rousing the Patriot minutemen. 

Eleven months later, in March 1776, British forces had to evacuate Boston following American General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights. This bloodless liberation of Boston brought an end to the hated eight-year British occupation of the city. For the victory, General Washington, commander of the Continental Army, was presented with the first medal ever awarded by the Continental Congress. It would be more than five years before the Revolutionary War came to an end with British General Charles Cornwallis’ surrender to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia.

READ MORE: Revolutionary War – Timeline, Facts & Battles

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Pequot massacres begin

Year
1637
Month Day
May 26

During the Pequot War, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

As the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay spread further into Connecticut, they came into increasing conflict with the Pequots, a war-like tribe centered on the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. By the spring of 1637, 13 English colonists and traders had been killed by the Pequot, and Massachusetts Bay Governor John Endecott organized a large military force to punish the Indians. On April 23, 200 Pequot warriors responded defiantly to the colonial mobilization by attacking a Connecticut settlement, killing six men and three women and taking two girls away.

On May 26, 1637, two hours before dawn, the Puritans and their Indian allies marched on the Pequot village at Mystic, slaughtering all but a handful of its inhabitants. On June 5, Captain Mason attacked another Pequot village, this one near present-day Stonington, and again the Indian inhabitants were defeated and massacred. On July 28, a third attack and massacre occurred near present-day Fairfield, and the Pequot War came to an end. Most of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery, though a handful escaped to join other southern New England tribes.

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King Philip’s War begins

Year
1675
Month Day
June 24

In colonial New England, King Philip’s War begins when a band of Wampanoag warriors raid the border settlement of Swansee, Massachusetts, and massacre the English colonists there.

In the early 1670s, 50 years of peace between the Plymouth colony and the local Wampanoag Indians began to deteriorate when the rapidly expanding settlement forced land sales on the tribe. Reacting to increasing Native American hostility, the English met with King Philip, chief of the Wampanoag, and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. The Wampanoag did so, but in 1675 a Christian Native American who had been acting as an informer to the English was murdered, and three Wampanoag were tried and executed for the crime.

King Philip responded by ordering the attack on Swansee on June 24, which set off a series of Wampanoag raids in which several settlements were destroyed and scores of colonists massacred. The colonists retaliated by destroying a number of Indian villages. The destruction of a Narragansett village by the English brought the Narragansett into the conflict on the side of King Philip, and within a few months several other tribes and all the New England colonies were involved. In early 1676, the Narragansett were defeated and their chief killed, while the Wampanoag and their other allies were gradually subdued. King Philip’s wife and son were captured, and on August 12, 1676, after his secret headquarters in Mount Hope, Rhode Island, was discovered, Philip was assassinated by a Native American in the service of the English. The English drew and quartered Philip’s body and publicly displayed his head on a stake in Plymouth.

King Philip’s War, which was extremely costly to the colonists of southern New England, ended the Native American presence in the region and inaugurated a period of unimpeded colonial expansion.

READ MORE: American-Indian Wars: Timeline, Battles & Summary

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The French and Indian War ends


Year
1763
Month Day
February 10

The Seven Years’ War, a global conflict known in America as the French and Indian War, ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris by France, Great Britain and Spain.

In the early 1750s, France’s expansion into the Ohio River valley repeatedly brought the country into armed conflict with the British colonies. In 1756, the British formally declared war against France.

READ MORE: How 22-Year-Old George Washington Inadvertently Sparked a World War

In the first year of the war, the British suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the French and their broad network of Native American alliances. However, in 1757, British Prime Minister William Pitt (the older) recognized the potential of imperial expansion that would come out of victory against the French and borrowed heavily to fund an expanded war effort. Pitt financed Prussia’s struggle against France and her allies in Europe and reimbursed the colonies for the raising of armies in North America. By 1760, the French had been expelled from Canada, and by 1763 all of France’s allies in Europe had either made a separate peace with Prussia or had been defeated. In addition, Spanish attempts to aid France in the Americas had failed, and France also suffered defeats against British forces in India.

The Seven Years’ War ended with the signing of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in February 1763. In the Treaty of Paris, France lost all claims to Canada and gave Louisiana to Spain, while Britain received Spanish Florida, Upper Canada, and various French holdings overseas. The treaty ensured the colonial and maritime supremacy of Britain and strengthened the 13 American colonies by removing their European rivals to the north and the south. Fifteen years later, French bitterness over the loss of most of their colonial empire contributed to their intervention in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots.

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