Settling the Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies later became the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Compare the culture of the Middle Colonies with that of other English colonies
- Much of the area captured by the British from the Dutch in 1664 became the Province of New York.
- The Duke of York and the King of England would later grant to others land which became the Provinces of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Delaware Colony later separated from Pennsylvania.
- The Middle Colonies flourished economically due to fertile soil, broad navigable rivers, and abundant forests.
- The Middle Colonies were the most ethnically and religiously diverse of the British colonies in North America, with settlers coming from all parts of Europe and a high degree of religious tolerance.
- Indentured servitude was especially common in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York in the 18th century, though fewer worked in agriculture.
- indentured servant: A debt bondage worker who is under contract of an employer for a specified period of time in exchange for transportation, food, drink, clothing, lodging, and other necessities.
- New England Confederation: A short-lived military alliance of the English colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven.
- New Netherland: The 17th-century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on the East Coast of North America.
Introduction: The Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies consisted of the middle region of the Thirteen Colonies of the British Empire in North America. In 1776, during the American Revolution, the Middle Colonies became independent of Britain as the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware.
Establishing the Colonies
Henry Hudson explored the Middle Colonies on a journey into the Hudson River and Delaware Bay in 1609. The Dutch soon claimed the land, and although the Swedes and the Dutch fought over the land in the 1630s, the Dutch ultimately claimed the land as New Netherland. In the 1660s, the English largely conquered this land, renaming the area New York after the Duke of York, James II. The colony’s land was periodically granted to various proprietors and split into the Province of New York and the Province of Pennsylvania.
James II later granted the land between the Hudson River and the Delaware River to two friends who had been loyal to him through the English Civil War. This land grant became the Province of New Jersey. In 1665, the Concession and Agreement was written to entice settlers to New Jersey. This document provided for religious freedom, no taxes without assembly approval, and a governor appointed by the proprietors. When one of the proprietors sold his share to the Quakers, this sale divided New Jersey into East Jersey and West Jersey; however, the border between the two remained disputed. From 1701 to 1765, colonists skirmished in the New York-New Jersey Line War over disputed colonial boundaries. In 1702, Queen Anne united West and East Jersey into one Royal Colony—the Province of New Jersey.
King Charles II granted the land for the Pennsylvania Colony to William Penn in 1681 as payment for a debt the crown owed his family. Penn wrote the Frame of Government of Pennsylvania, which called for religious tolerance towards many, including local American Indians and the Religious Society of Friends. As a proprietary colony, Penn governed Pennsylvania, yet its citizens were still subject to the English crown and laws. In 1704, Dutch land given to Penn by the Duke of York was separated and once again became part of the Delaware Colony. From 1692 to 1694, the revolution in England deprived Penn of the governance of his colony. The Pennsylvania Assembly took this opportunity to request expanded power for elected officials. Upon visiting the colony in 1669 and 1701, Penn eventually agreed to allow their Charter of Privileges to be added to the constitution.
Delaware changed hands between the Dutch and Swedes between 1631 and 1655. The Dutch maintained control of Delaware until 1664, when it was renamed New Castle after the Duke of York. A deputy of the Duke governed Delaware from 1664 to 1682. When William Penn received his land grant of Pennsylvania in 1681, he received the Delaware area from the Duke of York and dubbed it “The Three Lower Counties on the Delaware River.” In 1701, after he had troubles governing the ethnically diverse Delaware territory, Penn agreed to allow it a separate colonial assembly.
Economy of the Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies tended to mix aspects of the New England and Southern Colonies. Landholdings were generally farms of 40 to 160 acres, owned by the family that worked them. In New York’s Hudson Valley, however, the Dutch poltroons operated very large landed estates and rented land to tenant farmers. Indentured servitude was especially common in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York in the 18th century, though fewer worked in agriculture.
Unlike New England, the Middle Colonies had richer, less rocky soil, allowing the area to become a major exporter of wheat and other grains. Its large exports led to its constituent colonies becoming known as the Bread Basket Colonies. Pennsylvania became a leading exporter of wheat, corn, rye, hemp, and flax, making it the leading food producer in North America from 1725 to 1840. Broad navigable rivers like the Susquehanna, the Delaware, and the Hudson attracted diverse business, and New York and Philadelphia became important ports.
Abundant forests attracted the lumbering and shipbuilding industries to the Middle Colonies. In Pennsylvania, sawmills and gristmills were abundant, and the textile industry grew quickly. The colony also became a major producer of pig iron and its products, including the Pennsylvania long rifle and the Conestoga wagon. Other important industries included printing, publishing, and the related industry of papermaking. While the Middle Colonies had far more industry than the Southern Colonies, they still did not rival the industry of New England.
Demographics of the Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies were the most ethnically diverse British colonies in North America, with settlers coming from all parts of Europe—many as indentured servants. They were also the most religiously diverse part of the British Empire, with a high degree of tolerance. The Penn family was Quaker, and the Pennsylvania colony became a favorite destination for that group as well as German Lutherans, German Reformed, and numerous small sects such as Mennonites, Amish, and Moravians, as well as Scotch Irish Presbyterians. The Dutch Reformed were strong in upstate New York and New Jersey, and Congregationalists were important in Long Island.
From New Netherland to New York
The Dutch colony of New Netherland was taken by the British in the 17th century and later became the colonies of New York and New Jersey.
Describe the culture that developed in the New Netherland region and identify the events that lead to the establishment of the New York colony
- The American Indian tribes in the area that would be taken by Europeans as New Netherland included Algonquian, Mohawks, Mahican, Wecquaesgeek, Hackensack, Raritan, Canarsee, Tappan, and Minquas.
- New Netherland was originally settled by Henry Hudson in 1609, chartered in 1614, and made a province of the Dutch Republic in 1624.
- The settled areas claimed by the Dutch as New Netherland included what are now the states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, along with small outposts in present-day Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
- The British captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664 and again in 1674, when they named it New York.
- King James II granted the land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to two friends and named it New Jersey after the island of Jersey.
- Treaty of Westminster: The peace treaty that ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1674.
- New Amsterdam: The Dutch colonial settlement that later became New York.
- Second Anglo-Dutch War: Part of a series of four armed conflicts fought between England and the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries for control over the seas and trade routes.
New Netherland was the territory on the eastern coast of North America established by Henry Hudson in 1609. It encompassed parts of the later states of New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer, was hired by the Flemish Protestants running the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam to find a northeast passage to Asia. Turned back by the ice of the Arctic, Hudson sailed up the major river that would later bear his name.
Chartered in 1614, New Amsterdam was a colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. For the capital they chose the island of Manhattan, located at the mouth of the river explored by Hudson, which at that time was called the North River. New Netherland became a province of the Dutch Republic in 1624. For two centuries, New Netherland Dutch culture characterized the region, and their concepts of civil liberties and pluralism introduced in the province became mainstays of American political and social life.
The Iroquois and Algonquians
Seeking to enter the fur trade, the Dutch cultivated close relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois. The Algonquian Lenape people along the Lower Hudson were seasonally migrational. Collectively called River Indians by the Dutch, they were also known as the Wecquaesgeek, Hackensack, Raritan, Canarsee, and the Tappan. The Munsee inhabited the Hudson Valley highlands and northern New Jersey, while Minquas (called the Susquehannocks by the English) lived west of the Zuyd River along and beyond the Susquehanna River, which the Dutch regarded as their boundary with Virginia.
The Dutch, through their trade of manufactured goods with the Iroquois and Algonquians, presumed they had exclusive rights to farming, hunting, and fishing in the region. The American Indians, while willing to share the land with the Europeans, did not expect or intend to leave or give up access, however. Increasing encroachment by European settlers led to the early stages of violent conflict. Over the next few decades, wars with the American Indians erupted, as well as conflicts with the English.
Transfer to the English
Charles II of England set his sights on the Dutch colony of New Netherland. The English takeover of New Netherland originated in the imperial rivalry between the Dutch and the English. During the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 1650s and 1660s, the two powers attempted to gain commercial advantages in the Atlantic World. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1664–1667), English forces gained control of the Dutch fur trading colony of New Netherland, and in 1664, Charles II gave this colony (including present-day New Jersey) to his brother James, Duke of York (later James II). The colony and city were renamed New York in his honor. The Dutch in New York chafed under English rule. In 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–1674), the Dutch recaptured the colony; however, at the end of the conflict, the English had regained control.
The Duke of York never visited his colony, named New York in his honor, and exercised little direct control over it. He decided to administer his government through governors, councils, and other officers appointed by him. It wasn’t until 1683, almost 20 years after the English took control of the colony, that colonists were able to convene a local representative legislature. The assembly’s 1683 Charter of Liberties and Privileges set out the traditional rights of Englishmen, like the right to trial by jury and the right to representative government.
The English continued the Dutch patroonship system, granting large estates to a favored few families. The largest of these estates, at 160,000 acres, was given to Robert Livingston in 1686. The Livingstons and the other manorial families who controlled the Hudson River Valley formed a formidable political and economic force. Eighteenth-century New York City, meanwhile, contained a variety of people and religions—as well as Dutch and English people, and it held French Protestants (Huguenots), Jews, Puritans, Quakers, Anglicans, and a large population of slaves.
As they did in other zones of colonization, indigenous peoples played a key role in shaping the history of colonial New York. After decades of war in the 1600s, the powerful Five Nations of the Iroquois, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca, successfully pursued a policy of neutrality with both the English and, to the north, the French in Canada during the first half of the 1700s. This policy meant that the Iroquois continued to live in their own villages under their own government while enjoying the benefits of trade with both the French and the English.
The Dutch West India Company had introduced slavery in 1625. Although enslaved, the Africans had a few basic rights and families were usually kept intact. Admitted to the Dutch Reformed Church and married by its ministers, their children could be baptized. Slaves could testify in court, sign legal documents, and bring civil actions against whites. Some were permitted to work after hours earning wages equal to those paid to white workers. When the colony fell, the company freed all its slaves, establishing early on a nucleus of free blacks.
European colonization of New Jersey started soon after the 1609 exploration of its coast and bays by Henry Hudson. The original inhabitants of the area included the Hackensack, Tappan, and Acquackanonk tribes in the northeast, and the Raritan and Navesink tribes in the center of the state.
Soon after the English had gained control of New Netherland, James granted the land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to two friends who had been loyal to him through the English Civil War and named it New Jersey after the English Channel Island of Jersey. The two proprietors of New Jersey attempted to augment their colony’s population by granting sections of lands to settlers and by passing a document granting religious freedom to all inhabitants of New Jersey. In return for land, settlers paid annual fees known as quitrents. Land grants made in connection to the importation of slaves were another enticement for settlers.
After one of the proprietors sold part of the area to the Quakers, New Jersey was divided into East Jersey and West Jersey—two distinct provinces of the proprietary colony. The political division existed from 1674 to 1702. The border between the two sections reached the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Atlantic City. Much of the territory was quickly divided after 1675, leading to the distribution of land into large tracts that later led to real estate speculation and subdivision. In 1702, the two provinces were reunited under a royal, rather than a proprietary, governor. The governors of New York then ruled New Jersey, which infuriated the settlers of New Jersey, who accused the governor of showing favoritism to New York. In 1738, King George II appointed a separate governor for New Jersey.
Since the area’s settlement, New Jersey has been characterized by ethnic and religious diversity. New England Congregationalists settled alongside Scottish Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed migrants. While the majority of residents lived in towns with individual landholdings of 100 acres, a few rich proprietors owned vast estates. English Quakers and Anglicans owned large landholdings. Unlike Plymouth, Jamestown, and other colonies, New Jersey was populated by a secondary wave of immigrants who came from other colonies instead of those who migrated directly from Europe.
New Jersey remained agrarian and rural throughout the colonial era, and commercial farming developed only sporadically. Some townships emerged as important ports for shipping to New York and Philadelphia. The colony’s fertile lands and tolerant religious policy drew more settlers, and New Jersey boasted a population of 120,000 by 1775.
Pennsylvania and Delaware
William Penn founded the Pennsylvania Colony in 1681 and brought over Quaker dissidents from England, Wales, the Netherlands, and France.
Examine the religious and social factors that shaped the establishment of the Pennsylvania and Delaware colony
- William Penn founded the Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, in British America in 1681 by royal charter.
- The land comprising Delaware was first controlled by the Swedish, then the Dutch, and finally the British in Pennsylvania.
- The Lenape and Susquehanna occupied the land prior to colonization.
- The Charter of Privileges mandated fair dealings with American Indians. Quakers initially interacted respectfully with the Lenape and Susquehanna; however, future quests for land by the British government led to violence and hostility.
- Quakers were the primary settlers of Pennsylvania. The Charter of Privileges extended religious freedom to all monotheists, and the government was initially open to all Christians.
- Quakers: Members of the Religious Society of Friends, also called the Friends’ Church.
- William Penn: An English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony, and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Lower Counties: Another term for Delaware Colony in the North American Middle Colonies from 1682 until 1776.
The Establishment of Pennsylvania and Delaware
In 1681, William Penn founded the Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, in British America by royal charter. Penn received the charter for Pennsylvania from Charles II and brought over Quaker dissidents from England, Wales, the Netherlands, and France. The colonial government, established in 1682 by Penn’s Frame of Government, consisted of an appointed governor, the proprietor, a Provincial Council, and a larger General Assembly.
Between 1669 and 1672, Delaware was an incorporated county under the Province of Maryland. The Mason-Dixon line is said to have legally resolved vague outlines between Maryland and Pennsylvania and awarded Delaware to Pennsylvania. Delaware Colony became a region of the Province of Pennsylvania, although never legally a separate colony. From 1682 until 1776, it was part of the Penn proprietorship and was known as the Lower Counties. In 1701, it gained a separate assembly from the three upper counties but continued to have the same governor as the rest of Pennsylvania. Delaware, however, would eventually prove too independent, leading to the ultimate separation from Pennsylvania and unique pioneer status as America’s first state, tied to neither province’s destiny.
William Penn had asked for and later received the lands of Delaware from the Duke of York. Penn had a hard time governing Delaware because the economy and geology were largely the same as that of the Chesapeake, rather than that of his Pennsylvania territory. He attempted to merge the governments of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Representatives from both areas clashed and, in 1701, Penn agreed to two separate assemblies. Delawareans would meet in New Castle and Pennsylvanians would gather in Philadelphia. Delaware continued to be a melting pot of sorts and was home to Swedes, Finns, Dutch, and French, in addition to the English, who constituted the dominant culture.
American Indian Relations
The Charter of Privileges
The Charter of Privileges mandated fair dealings with American Indians. This led to significantly better relations with the local tribes such as the Lenape and Susquehanna than most other colonies had. The Quakers had previously treated American Indians with respect, bought land from them voluntarily, and even had representation of American Indians on juries. The Quakers also refused to provide any assistance to New England’s Indian wars.
Lost Trust and Land Disputes
In 1737, the Colony spent a great deal of its political goodwill with the native Lenape in pursuit of more land. The colonial administrators claimed that they had a deed dating to the 1680s, in which the Lenape-Delaware had promised to sell a portion of land beginning between the junction of the Delaware River and Lehigh River, near present Wrightstown, Pennsylvania. The document was most likely a forgery; nonetheless, the Provincial Secretary set in motion a plan to grab as much land as possible. In the end, the Penns gained 1,200,000 acres of land in what is now northeastern Pennsylvania, an area roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island. The Lenape tribe fought for the next 19 years to have the treaty annulled but was forced into the Shamokin and Wyoming Valleys, which were already overcrowded with other displaced tribes.
George Fox had founded the Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) in England in the late 1640s, having grown dissatisfied with Puritanism and the idea of predestination. Rather, Fox and his followers stressed that everyone had an “inner light” inside him or her—a spark of divinity. They gained the name Quakers because they were said to quake when the inner light moved them. Quakers rejected the idea of worldly rank, believing instead in a new and radical form of social equality. Their speech reflected this belief in that they addressed all others as equals, using “thee” and “thou” rather than terms like “your lordship” or “my lady” that were customary for privileged individuals of the hereditary elite.
The “Holy Experiment” was an attempt by the Religious Society of Friends to establish a community in Pennsylvania. William Penn and his fellow Quakers imprinted their religious values on the early Pennsylvanian government; the Charter of Privileges extended religious freedom to all monotheists, and the government was initially open to all Christians. Until the French and Indian War, Pennsylvania had no militia, few taxes, and no public debt. It also encouraged the rapid growth of Philadelphia into America’s most important city, and of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country hinterlands, where German religions and political refugees prospered on the fertile soil and spirit of cultural creativeness. Among the first settlers were the Mennonites, who founded Germantown in 1683, and the Amish, who established the Northkill Amish Settlement in 1740. Despite Quaker opposition to slavery, by 1730 colonists had brought about 4,000 slaves into Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first attempt to abolish slavery in the colonies.
The Demographics of the Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies were more ethnically diverse than elsewhere in British North America and were somewhat more socially tolerant.
Identify the cultural groups that made up the Middle Colonies
- American Indian tribes that had long occupied the area later to be conquered as the Middle Colonies included the Mohawk, Mahican, Algonquian Lenape, Wecquaesgeek, Hackensack, Raritan, Canarsee, Munsee, and Minquas. Early European colonists in the Middle Colonies included Germans, Scotch-Irish, French Huguenots, Welsh, Dutch, Swedes, Swiss, and Scots Highlanders.
- In New York ‘s Hudson Valley, the Dutch established a poltroon system which resembled a feudal aristocracy with vast land grants.
- The Dutch West India Company introduced slavery to New Netherland in 1625. When the colony fell to the British, the Company freed all of its slaves, establishing early on a nucleus of free Africans in the Northeast.
- Despite Quaker opposition to slavery, by 1730 colonists had brought about 4,000 slaves into Pennsylvania; however, this was still a relatively low number compared to other American colonies.
- poltroon: A system in Dutch colonial New York in which vast grants of land were given to investors, who in turn rented the lands to tenant farmers.
- Huguenots: Members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and
- Pennsylvania Dutch: The Amish; those people of German origin who settled in the British Middle Colonies in the Americas prior to 1800.
Introduction: The Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies tended to mix aspects of the New England and Southern Colonies. Families generally held and worked plots of between 40 and 160 acres. In New York’s Hudson Valley, however, the Dutch established the patroon system, which resembled a feudal aristocracy governing vast land grants. The title of patroon was given to some of the Dutch colony’s invested members, who operated very large landed estates and rented land to tenant farmers. Indentured servitude was especially common in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York in the 18th century, though few such servants worked in agriculture.
Varied Origins of Middle Colonials
American Indian tribes had long occupied the area that was conquered as the British Middle Colonies. These tribes included the Mohawk, Mahican, Algonquian Lenape, Wecquaesgeek, Hackensack, Raritan, Canarsee, and Tappan. Munsee inhabited the Highlands, Hudson Valley, and northern New Jersey, while Minquas, also known as the Susquehannocks, lived west of the Zuyd River along and beyond the Susquehanna River.
Once colonization had begun, the Middle Colonies were more ethnically diverse than the other British colonial regions in North America and tended to be more socially tolerant. For example, in New York, any foreigner professing Christianity was awarded citizenship, which made for a diverse (albeit largely Christian) populace. As a consequence, early settlements of Germans from many different sects concentrated in the Middle Colonies. German immigration greatly increased around 1717, and many immigrants began coming from the Rhineland in western Germany. They were erroneously labeled the Pennsylvania Dutch and comprised one-third of the population by the time of the American Revolution. The industry and farming skills they brought with them helped solidify the Middle Colonies’ prosperity. They were noted for tight-knit religious communities, which were often Lutheran.
The Scots-Irish also began immigrating to the Middle Colonies in waves after 1717. They primarily pushed farther into the western frontier of the colonies, where they repeatedly confronted American Indians. Other groups included the Welsh, Dutch, Swedes, Swiss, Scots Highlanders, and Huguenots. By 1780, about 17% of the population in New York were descendants of Dutch settlers; the rest were mostly English with a wide mixture of other Europeans and about 6% Africans. New Jersey and Delaware had a majority British population as well, with 7–11% German-descended colonists, about a 6% African population, and a small contingent of Swedish descendants.
Slavery in the Middle Colonies
The Dutch West India Company introduced slavery to New Netherland in 1625. When the colony fell to the British, the Company freed all of its slaves, establishing early on a nucleus of free Africans in the Northeast. In an early attempt to encourage European settlement, the New Jersey legislature enacted a prohibitive tariff against imported slaves and in favor of European indentured servitude. Despite Quaker opposition to slavery, by 1730, colonists had brought about 4,000 slaves into Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first attempt to abolish slavery in the colonies and what would become the United States.