Life in New England
Even with a royal governor, colonists got an early taste of independence. The Puritans' belief that communities were formed by covenants led to the creation of town meetings, the first democratic institution in America. At town meetings, every church member could speak, those who were male and held property could vote, and the decision of the majority ruled. In some towns, men who were not property holders could also vote. This democratic atmosphere later led to fewer restrictions regarding religious and personal freedoms.
In the New England Puritan town, no one was more important than its minister. Ministers were expected to be well educated. Thus, Puritans laid the foundations of education in the colonies with America's first secondary school established in 1635. Harvard College (now Harvard University) began in 1636 as an institution to train ministers.
Native American Skirmishes
Most Native Americans were friendly to their colonist neighbors, some even welcoming the opportunity for trade and protection from other tribes. But the Pequot were a more aggressive group, and soon the friction became intense enough that it escalated into the Pequot War of 1637, the first major war fought in New England. Connecticut declared war on the Pequot, and the colonists launched a surprise attack that included setting a Pequot village on fire. Few Pequot survived in the aftermath. Some may have been sold into slavery, while others fled throughout New England.
King Philip's War between Anglos and the Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Nipmuck in the mid-1670s resulted in enormous casualties for both sides. Approximately one-sixteenth of the white male population of New England died in the fighting, and the total casualties, Anglo and Native, exceeded that of the French and Indian War, the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War.
King Philip's War
Another conflict with the Native Americans resulted in King Philip's War in 1675. The problem was that the colonists had encroached on native land, and as might be expected, the tribe retaliated. Philip was the chief of the Wampanoag tribe, and sufficiently provoked, he joined together with other Native Americans to fight the colonists.
The colonies, as part of the military alliance called the New England Confederation, captured Native American women and children, destroyed crops, and defeated the southern New England tribes. The war continued throughout the winter of 1675, and by the following summer, Philip was killed. This ended the struggle, and peace ensued as colonists continued to expand their settlements.
Struggles with France
Between the years 1689 and 1763, England and France were entangled in a struggle for supremacy. During this period, Massachusetts played a role in the skirmishes between England and France over dominance in North America. Each side used Native Americans and attacked each other's settlements. Many Massachusetts towns were destroyed, and many ships sunk; thousands of colonists were captured and killed. Here's a summary of the four North American wars waged by the English and French from 1689 to 1697, all a part of this larger European conflict.
King William's War
King William's War broke out in 1689 after England's William III entered the War of the League of Augsburg against France. Native Americans, provoked by the French to attack, ravaged the English settlements in New England and New York. Retaliating, New Englanders gained control of Port Royal, a key French post in Nova Scotia. Bloody border skirmishes ensued for at least six years until the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 halted both sides, restoring Port Royal to the French. However, this war accomplished nothing, for the treaty merely declared that the prewar positions would remain. As a result, the unresolved tensions led to further fighting.
Queen Anne's War
Queen Anne's War broke out in 1701. English colonists captured and burned Saint Augustine, Florida (then Spanish territory). There were massacres at the hands of French troops and their Native American allies in the colonies, and troops also tried again to wrest away control of Port Royal. The British and colonists conquered Acadia in 1710, but failed to encroach on Quebec and Montreal. When the Treaty of Utrecht ended Queen Anne's War in 1713, it ceded Acadia, as well as Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay territory, to the British. Cape Breton Island stayed French.
Samuel de Champlain produced the first accurate chart of the Atlantic coast, from Newfoundland to Cape Cod, as well as maps of the Saint Lawrence Valley and the Great Lakes. Champlain also created a trading post in what is now Quebec City, and established the commercial and military alliances that endured to the end of the French regime in Canada.
King George's War
King George's War broke out in 1744. The French captured and destroyed a British fort at Canso, Nova Scotia, and they took prisoners to their fortress at Cape Breton Island. Fearing the French, the governor of Massachusetts enlisted further colonial aid. Thus a militia of 4,000 sailed in British ships and fought under the command of Sir William Pepperell, a Maine merchant. They took Louisburg from the French, who reclaimed it the next year. This war ended in 1748 with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
The French and Indian War
The French and Indian War finally decided the question of colonial control. It broke out in 1754 and lasted until 1763. In fact, all these early conflicts are sometimes collectively called the French and Indian Wars.
Both Britain and France had built new frontier fortresses in the Ohio Valley. During these other conflicts, English traders had forged relationships with the tribes that had previously traded solely with the French. France concluded that it had better protect its own strategic interests with a series of forts from Lake Erie to present-day Pittsburgh.
With more resources and a greater supply of troops, it would seem that Britain had the clear advantage. However, France had powerful Native American allies.
Virginia's governor tried unsuccessfully to warn the French to get out of British territory. To get the message across, he dispatched an armed force under the command of George Washington to drive off the French. But the French had a surprise for Washington. They defeated his troops at the Battle of Fort Necessity in 1754, sending them back to Virginia. This officially started the French and Indian War.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended more than a century and a half of French power in the New World. French control of Canada went to Britain, and France ceded all of its territories east of the Mississippi River to the British as well. Spain also gave Florida to the British.
The following year, British general Edward Braddock with British regulars and colonial troops attempted to take Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh), but the French and Native Americans prevailed. There were some sporadic British victories. However, the French and Native Americans won battle after battle — at least until 1758, when British and colonial troops seized Louisburg as well as Forts Duquesne, Frontenac, and Ticonderoga. The British also claimed Fort Niagara, and that left French Canada open to attack.
In winning this war, though, Britain doubled its national debt and took on more territory than it could easily manage. The British tried to compel colonists to pay for these campaigns against French Canada. As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the American colonies.