There were 3 main groups of citizens in the colonial time period. They are The Landed Gentry, people with land property, The Middle Class and The Lower Class. The Landed Gentry was the most influential class. It was consisted of the rich and most educated, this class owned lands and had the right to vote. It was made up of merchants, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. They lived in large houses, and had elegant furniture. They had many servants and slaves. This class had been the most influential in the government. The middle class were mainly farmers, shop keepers and shoemakers, etc. Some owned land and had servants or slaves. In this class, both men and women worked toward a better life but only men could vote, and women were responsible for making goods. The last class is the Lower Class, these people were mainly servants, slaves, apprentices or sailors. People of this class are mainly illiterate and not owned properties. Many of them are jobless, non-of them were voters.
There are many kinds of servants and slaves at this period of time. The Indenture servants are servants of kids and women, ages from fifteen to twenty-four years old. They have to work for years to pay for their trip to America, they mainly looked for a better life and money for their family. Another kind of servants were the Redemptioners, they do not have money to pay for the trip to America. So they are required to work for years in America to pay for the trip, if they could not raise to amount of money required in a certain period of time, they would be sold away to another country. Slaves were also common at this time.
Slaves were black, they had little rights and often mistreated. The government set up the Slave Code to farther take away their rights, it is required for slaves to travel with owner’s permission or they will be harshly punished. Slaves were also harshly punished compared to whites if they committed a crime. They could be traded or sold to another other owners if desired by the owner. These slaves mainly work in Chesapeake and the Southern Colonies.
Feelings Toward Government
A governor, legislative council, executive council and legislative assembly governed the Americans. After the seven years war, Britain was in need of money to cover the cost of the war. Britain first pass four Intolerable Acts, they were the Navigational Act of 1764, Stamp Act of 1765, Quartering Act of 1765, and Townshend Act of 1767. The Navigational Act required trades to be carried on British vessel. The Stamp Act was the first tax the British Parliament lay on the colonies, it required tax to be pay for newspapers and legal documents. The Quartering Act required colonists to provide their homes for British soldiers. The Townshend Act required duties to be pay for tea, glass, paints and imported papers.
The colonists were frustrated at the British government because colonists were not represented in the British parliament. This frustration led to the Boston Massacre of 1770 and the Boston Tea Party of 1773. The Boston Tea Party was a protest against the Townshend Act. Angered colonist dumped tea into the Boston Harbor as a revenge. This would lead to an American Revolution where they declared themselves as an independent republic. All these troubles were cause by “taxation without representation”. The Americans were extremely furious at the British government thus creating a democratic American Republic.
The structure of a colonial house had 2 floors. Usually 2 rooms at the main floor which are located at the front and 1 room at the back. There are one or two chimneys in the house and were made of brick of stone.
Americans had little furnishing, they usually have some self-made tools, some cooking utensils, and a storage chest. Their mattresses were made of straw or cornhusks, and were hung on the ceiling to provide room for a baby bed underneath. The fireplace provided the family with heat, light and cooking capabilities, animal fat was used to keep the fire burning. Their tools consisted of woodworking tools, and iron pots. Their dishes were made of wood and two people had to share food on a plate. The wealthier family brought imported goods from Europe. These goods were elegant and had beautiful fabric.
Women had the responsibility for making clothes for the family. Clothes were mainly linen, wool or leather. Merchants with connections to Europe started to import clothes from Europe.
Men wore long linen shirts with wool breeches and leather shoes. For formal events, they wore a long vest and a jacket. In the winter, they wore leather leggings, wool mittens and an overcoat. White powdered wigs were very popular in the 1700s. Field workers wore straw hats for shade. Laborers and tradesmen wore caps.
Women wore dresses of linens and wools. Undergarments called shifts were popular. They also had head coverings that were wore all the time. They had long pinned hair. In the 1700s, high frameworks for the hair were common.
Most families had plenty of food. They had three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and supper. Breakfast consisted of mainly meat and cheese. Lunch was the main meal of the day, it consisted of a stew. Supper consisted of bread, cheese and leftover of the stew. Meat was heavily seasoned to cover up the taste of rotten meat. Plant foods are kept at the cellar. Corn is one of the most important foods for slaves and servants, there are two dishes of corn, hominy and succotash. Hominy is plain soft dried corn, and succotash is a mixture of corn and beans. The main meats were ham, bacon, pork, sheep and chicken. If the family hunts, they would have deer, turkey and squirrel. It was the job of women to make cheese from sheep and cow milk. Popular drinks include beer, ale, and cider, which are brewed at home, rich families imported wine.
Religion had a strong part in influencing people’s believes in political and social matters. The main religion was Anglican, others were Puritans, Quakers and Baptists. Some colonies had an established church, this church is the central religion of the colony. Colonists living in a colony with an established church were not allowed to practice other religions, they had no religious freedom. The established church also had a lot of power in the government, they usually receive tax from the legislature.
Sundays were a day of worship for the colony. The Blue Law was a law that made it illegal for stores to open on Sundays. Even the slaves had part of the day off. On Sundays, colonists were to meet at the church, they were seated accordingly by race, wealth and sex. It was like a public meeting where the whole town has to attend. Both before and after the meeting, the church was a center for gossips and news.
The colonists had many concerns. At the 1700s, sanitary conditions were bad due to the thousands of Americans rushing to a single town. It was a time of disease and sickness. The children died in an early age, the common sickness are yellow fever and cholera. At this period of time when religion was an important part of life, people were mislead to believe in witchcraft. Whenever there is a natural disaster, witches were to blame. Those accused of witchcraft were killed and burned without a trial. Over 150 were charged with witchcraft and killed.
Typical Day of A House Wife
Just before sunrise, the wife has to wake up before others. She has to make breakfast for slaves and family. She also had to supervise slaves and servants in their work. Then she has to prepare for the main meal of the day, lunch. It was usually a beef stew, she had to seasoned the beef and start cooking. Occasionally, she has to deliver the stew to her husband. At noon, she might listen to an interesting sermon gave out by a slave. It was the afternoon when she had the most free time, she would spend hours to make a new shirt for her husband. Then she would have to prepare for dinner that consisted of bread and the leftover stew. Later in the night, she might have to teach her daughter to sew and cook.