The Chronology of Colonial America: 1492-1763
The Events leading to the Revolutionary Age
1492 - On October 12,Christopher Columbus, sailing the Santa Maria for Spain lands on what he thinks is an Island near Japan. He will make four more trips back to the New World seeking a sea route to Asia, never certain that he wasn't in the Indies.
1497 - Englishman John Cabot explores the Atlantic coast of Canada, and claims the area for the English King, Henry VII. Cabot seeks a northern water route to Asia.
1499 - An Italian navigator sights the coast of South America while sailing for Spain. His name is Amerigo Vespucci.
1507 - The name "America" (named after Amerigo Vespucci) is first used referring to the New World.
1517 -The Protestant Reformation begins when Martin Luther posts his "95 Theses" at a church in Germany.
1519-1522 - The first person to sail around the world is Fernando Magellan.
1565 - The first permanent European colony in North America is founded by the Spanish at St. Augustine, Florida.
1584 - Sir Walter Raleigh lands on Roanoke Island and names the area Virginia, in honor of Queen Elizabeth I.
1588 - In Europe, England defeats the Spanish Armada, beginning the Spanish decline and the rise of English power in the world.
1606 - The London Company sponsors an expedition to Virginia.
1607 - Jamestown is founded in Virginia by the colonists of the London Company. By the end of the year, starvation, disease, and the hard winter reduces the number of settlers from the original 105 to 32.
1608 - In January, reinforcements of 110 additional colonists arrive at Jamestown. In December, the first items of export trade, lumber and iron ore are sent from Jamestown to England.
1609 - Colonists first plant and harvest Native tobacco in Virginia.
1613 - A Dutch trading post is established on Manhattan island.
1616 - Smallpox destroys the Native American population in New England.
1619 - The first session of the first legislative assembly in America convenes in the Virginia House of Burgesses in Jamestown. Twenty-two burgesses represent eleven plantations.
1619 - Twenty Africans are brought by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, this is the beginning of slavery in Colonial America.
1620 - November 9, the Mayflower lands at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with 101 colonists. On November 11, the Mayflower Compact is signed by 41 men. It establishes a form of local government in which the colonists agree to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the good of the colony. The Compact sets the precedent for other colonies as they set up governments.
1621 - One of the first treaties between colonists and Native Americans is signed as the Plymouth Pilgrims agree to a peace pact with the Wampanoag Tribe, with the aid of Squanto, an English speaking Native American.
1624 - The Virginia Company charter is revoked in London and Virginia is declared a Royal colony.
1626 - Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonist, buys Manhattan island from Native Americans for 60 guilders (about $24) and he names the island New Amsterdam.
1629 - In England, King Charles I dissolves Parliament and attempts to rule as absolute monarch, spurring many to leave for the American colonies.
1630 - In March, John Winthrop leads a Puritan migration of 900 colonists to Massachusetts Bay, where he will serve as the first governor. In September, Boston is officially established and serves as the site of Winthrop's government.
1633 - The first town government in the colonies is organized in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
1633 - First public school in America.
1634 - 200 colonists, many of them Catholic, settle in what would become Maryland. The lands were granted to Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore by King Charles I.
1636 - In June, Roger Williams founds Providence and Rhode Island. Williams had been banished from Massachusetts for unpopular opinions calling for religious and political freedoms, including separation of church and state, not granted under the Puritan rules. Providence then becomes a haven for many other colonists fleeing religious intolerance.
1638 - Anne Hutchinson is banished from Massachusetts for nonconformist religious views that advocate personal revelation over the role of the clergy. She then travels with her family to Rhode Island.
1646 - In Massachusetts, the general court approves a law that makes religious heresy punishable by death.
1652 - Rhode Island enacts the first law in the colonies declaring slavery illegal.
1660 - The English Crown approves a Navigation Act requiring the exclusive use of English ships for trade in the English Colonies and limits exports of tobacco and sugar and other commodities to England or its colonies.
1663 - King Charles II establishes the colony of Carolina and grants the territory to eight loyal supporters.
1663 - Navigation Act of 1663 requires that most imports to the colonies must be shipped through England on English ships.
1664 - The Dutch New Netherland colony becomes English New York after Gov. Peter Stuyvesant surrenders to the British following a naval blockade.
1664 - Maryland passes a law making lifelong servitude for black slaves mandatory to prevent them from taking advantage of legal precedents established in England which grant freedom under certain conditions, such as conversion to Christianity. Similar laws are later passed in New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Virginia.
1672 - The Royal Africa Company is given a monopoly in the English slave trade.
1675-1676 - King Philip's War erupts in New England between colonists and Native Americans as a result of tensions over colonist's expansionist activities. The bloody war rages up and down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts and in the Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies, eventually resulting in 600 English colonials being killed and 3,000 Native Americans, including women and children on both sides. King Philip (the colonist's nickname for Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoags) is hunted down and killed on August 12, 1676, in a swamp in Rhode Island, ending the war in southern New England and ending the independent power of Native Americans there. In New Hampshire and Maine, the Saco Indians continue to raid settlements for another year and a half.
1681 - Pennsylvania is founded as William Penn, a Quaker, receives a Royal charter with a large land grant from King Charles II.
1682 - A large wave of immigrants, including many Quakers, arrives in Pennsylvania from Germany and the British Isles.
1685 - The Duke of York ascends the British throne as King James II.
1685 - Protestants in France lose their guarantee of religious freedom as King Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes (Click here to go to a copy of the revocation), spurring many to leave for America.
1686 - King James II begins consolidating the colonies of New England into a single Dominion depriving colonists of their local political rights and independence. Legislatures are dissolved and the King's representatives assume all of the judicial and legislative power.
1687 - In March, New England Royal Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, orders Boston's Old South Meeting House to be converted into an Anglican Church. In August, the Massachusetts towns of Ipswich and Topsfield resist assessments imposed by Gov. Andros in protest of taxation without representation.
1688 - In March, Gov. Andros imposes a limit of one annual town meeting for New England towns. The Governor then orders all militias to be placed under his control.
1688 - Quakers in Pennsylvania issue a formal protest against slavery in America.
1688 - In December, King James II of England flees to France after being deposed by influential English leaders.
1689 - In February, William and Mary of Orange become King and Queen of England. In April, New England Governor Andros is jailed by rebellious colonists in Boston. In July, the English government orders Andros to be returned to England to stand trial.
1692 - In May, hysteria grips the village of Salem, Massachusetts, as witchcraft suspects are arrested and imprisoned. A special court is then set up by the governor of Massachusetts. Between June and September, 150 persons are accused, with 20 persons, including 14 women, being executed. By October, the hysteria subsides, remaining prisoners are released and the special court is dissolved.
1696 - The Royal African Trade Company loses its slave trade monopoly, spurring colonists in New England to engage in slave trading for profit. In April, the Navigation Act of 1696 is passed by the English Parliament requiring colonial trade to be done exclusively via English built ships. The Act also expands the powers of colonial custom commissioners, including rights of forcible entry, and requires the posting of bonds on certain goods.
1697 - The Massachusetts general court expresses official repentance regarding the actions of its judges during the witch hysteria of 1692. Jurors sign a statement of regret and compensation is offered to families of those wrongly accused.
1700 - The Anglo population in the English colonies in America reaches 275,000, with Boston (pop. 7000) as the largest city, followed by New York (pop. 5000).
1700 - In June, Massachusetts passes a law ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave the colony within three months, upon penalty of life imprisonment or execution. New York then passes a similar law.
1702 - In March, Queen Anne ascends the English throne. In May, England declares war on France after the death of the King of Spain, Charles II, to stop the union of France and Spain. This War of the Spanish Succession is called Queen Anne's War in the colonies, where the English and American colonists will battle the French, their Native American allies, and the Spanish for the next eleven years.
1702 - In Maryland, the Anglican Church is established as the official church, financially supported by taxation imposed on all free men, male servants and slaves.
1704 - In April, the first enduring newspaper in America, The Boston News-Letter, is published.
1705 - In Virginia, slaves are assigned the status of real estate by the Virginia Black Code of 1705. In New York, a law against runaway slaves assigns the death penalty for those caught over 40 miles north of Albany. Massachusetts declares marriage between African Americans and whites to be illegal.
1706 - January 17, Benjamin Franklin is born in Boston. In November, South Carolina establishes the Anglican Church as its official church.
1707 - England, Scotland and Wales are combined into the United Kingdom of Great Britain by the Act of the Union, endorsed by Queen Anne.
1710 - The English Parliament passes the Post Office Act which starts a postal system in the American colony controlled by the postmaster general of London.
1712 - In May, the Carolina colony is officially divided into North Carolina and South Carolina. In June, the Pennsylvania assembly bans the import of slaves into that colony. In Massachusetts, the first sperm whale is captured at sea by an American from Nantucket.
1714 - Tea is introduced for the first time into the American Colonies. In August, King George I ascends to the English throne, succeeding Queen Anne.
1718 - New Orleans founded by the French.
1720 - The population of American colonists reaches 475,000. Boston (pop. 12,000) is the largest city, followed by Philadelphia (pop. 10,000) and New York (pop. 7000).
1725 - The population of black slaves in the American colonies reaches 75,000.
1727 - King George II ascends the English throne.
1728 - Jewish colonists in New York City build the first American synagogue.
1729 - Benjamin Franklin begins publishing The Pennsylvania Gazette, which eventually becomes the most popular colonial newspaper.
1731 - The first American public library is founded in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin.
1732-1757 - Benjamin Franklin publishes Poor Richard's Almanac, containing weather predictions, humor, proverbs and epigrams, selling nearly 10,000 copies per year.
1733 - The Molasses Act, passed by the English Parliament, imposes heavy duties on molasses, rum and sugar imported from non-British islands in the Caribbean to protect the English planters there from French and Dutch competition.
1734 - In November, New York newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger is arrested and accused of seditious libel by the Governor. In December, the Great Awakening religious revival movement begins in Massachusetts. The movement will last ten years and spread to all of the American colonies.
1735 - John Peter Zenger is brought to trial for seditious libel but is acquitted after his lawyer successfully convinces the jury that truth is a defense against libel.
1737 - The first colonial copper coins are minted, in Connecticut.
1740 - Fifty black slaves are hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, after plans for a revolt are revealed. Also in 1740, in Europe, the War of the Austrian Succession begins after the death of Emperor Charles VI and eventually results in France and Spain allied against England. The conflict is known in the American colonies as King George's War and lasts until 1748.
1750 - The Iron Act is passed by the English Parliament, limiting the growth of the iron industry in the American colonies to protect the English Iron industry.
1751 - The Currency Act is passed by the English Parliament, banning the issuing of paper money by the New England colonies.
1752 - The first general hospital is founded, in Philadelphia.
1754 - The French and Indian War erupts as a result of disputes over land in the Ohio River Valley. In May, George Washington leads a small group of American colonists to victory over the French, then builds Fort Necessity in the Ohio territory. In July, after being attacked by numerically superior French forces, Washington surrenders the fort and retreats.
1755 - In February, English General Edward Braddock arrives in Virginia with two regiments of English troops. Gen. Braddock assumes the post of commander in chief of all English forces in America. In April, Gen. Braddock and Lt. Col. George Washington set out with nearly 2000 men to battle the French in the Ohio territory. In July, a force of about 900 French and Indians defeat those English forces. Braddock is mortally wounded. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley then becomes the new commander in chief.
1756 - England declares war on France, as the French and Indian War in the colonies now spreads to Europe.
1757 - In June, William Pitt becomes England's Secretary of State and escalates the French and Indian War in the colonies by establishing a policy of unlimited warfare. In July, Benjamin Franklin begins a five year stay in London.
1758 - In July, a devastating defeat occurs for English forces at Lake George, New York, as nearly two thousand men are lost during a frontal attack against well entrenched French forces at Fort Ticonderoga. French losses are 377. In November, the French abandon Fort Duquesne in the Ohio territory. Settlers then rush into the territory to establish homes. Also in 1758, the first Indian reservation in America is founded, in New Jersey, on 3000 acres.
1759 - French Fort Niagara is captured by the English. Also in 1759, war erupts between Cherokee Indians and southern colonists.
1760 - The population of colonists in America reaches 1,500,000. In March, much of Boston is destroyed by a raging fire. In September, Quebec surrenders to the English. In October, George III becomes the new English King.
1762 - England declares war on Spain, which had been planning to ally itself with France and Austria. The British then successfully attack Spanish outposts in the West Indies and Cuba.
1763 - The French and Indian War, known in Europe as the Seven Year's War, ends with the Treaty of Paris. Under the treaty, France gives England all French territory east of the Mississippi River, except New Orleans. The Spanish give up east and west Florida to the English in return for Cuba.
1763 - In May, the Ottawa Native Americans under Chief Pontiac begin all-out warfare against the British west of Niagara, destroying several British forts and conducting a siege against the British at Detroit. In August, Pontiac's forces are defeated by the British near Pittsburgh. The siege of Detroit ends in November, but hostilities between the British and Chief Pontiac continue for several years.