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Colonial New England Terms

Apalachee Indians, Apalachee, Apalachees

A tribe based around Apalachee Bay in northwestern Florida who spoke a Muskogean language. They were successful cultivators of corn and squash who managed to fight off the raids of their Creek neighbors until the early eighteenth century. In 1704, ex-governor of South Carolina James Moore led 50 Englishmen and 1,000 Creek allies against the Spanish and the Apalachee, who had joined up with the Spanish during Queen Anne's War. The Apalachee were massacred. Moore and his forces destroyed all but one of the fourteen Spanish missions that had been founded in the region. Some 1,400 Apalachees who had converted to Catholicism under Spanish tutelage were taken captive and then sold into slavery. Their villages were also destroyed. The tribe is now considered extinct.18

Colony, Colonies, Colonization

A territory under the control of another (usually distant) country, or "mother country." For hundreds of years, countries have colonized other lands with a diversity of motives. In the case of England and its colonization of North America, the mother country sought to erect British settlements on North American land in order to establish a thriving population and stake a claim to the lands of the New World. Both these lands and the products which came from them (and their oceans and streams)—timber, fish, rice, grain, rum—were very valuable sources of revenue for Britain. Thus the colonizing empires of the eighteenth century and beyond could look to their landholdings as a source of imperial pride, strength, and wealth.

Church Membership

Anglican and Catholic churches sought to make all their parish residents into full church members. The Puritans were different; they only allowed people who could testify about their personal conversion experiences. An immediate, personal conversion was thought to be proof that the converted person was "elect"; that he or she had been specially selected by God. Only the "elect" could gain full church membership, and you had to be a church member in order to enjoy the rights of colonial citizenship.

First Great Awakening, Great Awakening

In 1735, Congregationalist minister Jonathan Edwards presided over a remarkable religious awakening in his Northampton, Massachusetts congregation. He helped to spearhead a revivalist movement that came to be known as the Great Awakening, in which religion was once again popularized and made into a more direct and emotional experience for parishioners by charismatic ministers like Edwards. Interestingly, the Great Awakening began almost simultaneously with the medical disaster known as the great epidemic of "throat distemper," which killed 5,000 New Englanders in five years.

Half-Way Covenant

A measure adopted by a Puritan church synod in 1662 that changed the status of Puritan descendants and is often viewed as a key turning point in Puritan society. In Puritan society, children of full church members were admitted to all of the church privileges except the Lord's Supper. Not all of these children grew up to experience their own conversions, which left open the question of how their children should be treated by the church. By the terms of the Half-Way Covenant, grandchildren of the original Puritan church members were accorded the same limited church membership privileges as had been given their parents. So the second generation of Puritan children could be baptized, but churches were advised to wait until they were at least fourteen years old before allowing them to share their conversion experiences and admitting them to full membership.

Legal-tender Paper Money, Paper Money, Currency

The American colonies started issuing paper money fairly early on in their histories. Massachusetts was the first to do so in 1690, and it based its currency (called "bills of credit") on the credit of the colony. This currency production gave colonists an important source of credit in an age when the private bank did not exist. These bills of credit were not redeemable in specie (the more valuable hard currency, particularly sterling silver). Instead the colony collected the bills through a tax or through a loan office, and then the bills were destroyed in order to prevent their depreciation. But over time, currency depreciation took place anyway, as bill circulation increased and specie became increasingly difficult for colonists to come by. Over the course of the eighteenth century, sterling increasingly flowed to the mother country more than it stayed in New England, creating a discrepancy between specie and paper money and making specie more valuable while colonial currency became proportionately less valuable.

Mission System

Rather than the English colonial settlement model, the Spanish Empire was focused on a paradoxical combination of religious conversion and the exploitation of resources for financial profit. Spain established its foothold on North American shores when the conquistadors landed in Mexico, about a century before the Pilgrims arrived in New England. From the sixteenth century onward, Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit orders of the Roman Catholic Church built a far-flung network of missions extending from northern Mexico to the southwestern United States. The missions housed religious officials who sought to convert the local indigenous populations, but they also served as shelter for military officials who were supposed to maintain order in the region and squash any local uprisings against Spanish rule. In the eighteenth century, the Indian population began to decline rapidly from a combination of disease and gender imbalance, and the missions suffered critical defeats when English colonists and their Indian allies attacked the Spanish outposts.


A revival is the renewal of attention and devotion to one's religion, usually brought on by a large organized religious event and occurring after a period of widespread inactivity or malaise. Revivals are described in ancient scripture, but in the context of the First Great Awakening in the early eighteenth century, they began in England and spread to America under the leadership of young passionate preachers who traveled from town to town, often preaching extemporaneously and galvanizing the crowds. The Great Awakening was marked by a series of revivals up and down North America in a diverse range of settings. The Awakening incited great fervor among attendees because many felt—for the first time—that they were being empowered with the ability to help affect the outcome of their souls. According to Puritan theology, God had already determined (or "predestined") the fate of every person before he or she was even born. But itinerant evangelist preachers appealed to the passionate, emotional religious fervor of the masses; they told them that an emotional conversion experience was a good indication of one's salvation.

Socio-religious Vision

This term refers to the combined political and religious involvement of Puritan leaders in the New England colonies, all for the purpose of bringing about a more pious and pure society. The Puritans separated from England and the Anglican Church so that they could create a purer society and then recapture and control the Anglican leadership. They had no objection to the Established Church that England had created, and in fact developed their own version of it in New England.

Trade Balance, Balance Of Trade

One of the essential components of the British colonial relationship was the mercantilist system, whereby the mother country passed legislation to ensure exclusive trading privileges for itself. The Navigation Acts (also known as the British Acts of Trade) of the mid-seventeenth-century enforced this mercantilist relationship by ensuring the exclusive delivery of raw materials that England could not produce, specified as "enumerated articles," from the colonies. Limitations on colonial manufacturing and trade were coupled with monopolies that England granted the colonies, such as tobacco cultivation. But the colonies inevitably suffered inflation as the trade policies ensured that most hard currency returned to England. Subsequent Parliamentary limitations on the colonies' use of paper currency only created more frustration among colonists, particularly in the heavily trade-based New England economy, where merchants were in dire need of credit.

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