Thirteen Colonies: Wikis


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The Thirteen Colonies were British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America, which declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States. The colonies, whose territory ranged from what is now Maine (then part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay) to the north and Georgia to the south, were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. At the time of the Revolution, these colonies contained territory now outside of the borders of the modern states.

Though the concept of "Thirteen Colonies" is firmly enshrined in American culture following the Revolution, through the war the colonies' relations with each other and with the other British colonies in North America was fluid. By mid-1775 only twelve of these colonies had taken any formal steps towards revolution; Georgia, the newest of the the thirteen, did not participate in the First Continental Congress and initially did not send delegates to the Second. The other British colonies (in the British West Indies, what is now Canada, and the Floridas) all remained officially loyal to the crown through the war, but several expressed some level of sympathy with the Patriot cause. However, their geographical isolation and the dominance of British naval power precluded any effective participation.



Contemporaneous documents usually list the thirteen colonies of British North America in geographical order, from the north to the south.

New England Colonies 
Middle Colonies 
Southern Colonies 
(Virginia and Maryland comprised the Chesapeake Colonies)

Other divisions prior to 1730

Dominion of New England 
Created in 1685 by a decree from King James II that consolidated Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Province of New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey into a single larger colony. The experiment was discontinued with the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, and the nine former colonies re-established their separate identities in 1689.
Province of Maine 
Settled in 1622 (An earlier attempt to settle the Popham Colony on Sagadahoc Island, Maine in 1607 was abandoned after only one year). Massachusetts Bay colony encroached into Maine during the English Civil War, but, with the Restoration, autonomy was returned to Maine in 1664. Maine was officially merged into Massachusetts Bay Colony with the issuance of the Massachusetts Bay charter of 1691.
Plymouth Colony 
Settled in 1620 by the Pilgrims. Plymouth was absorbed by Massachusetts Bay Colony with the issuance of the Massachusetts Bay charter of 1691.
Saybrook Colony 
Founded in 1635 and merged with Connecticut Colony in 1644.
New Haven 
Settled in late 1637. New Haven was absorbed by Connecticut Colony with the issuance of the Connecticut Charter in 1662, partly as royal punishment by King Charles II for harboring the regicide judges who sentenced King Charles I to death.
East and West Jersey 
New Jersey was divided into two separate colonies in 1674. The Jerseys were reunited in 1702.
Province of Carolina 
Founded in 1663. Carolina colony was divided into two colonies, North Carolina and South Carolina in 1712. Both colonies became royal colonies in 1729.


(Note: the population figures do not account for the native tribes outside the jurisdiction of the colonies; they do include slaves and indentured servants.)

Year Population
1625 1,980
1641 50,000
1688 200,000
1702 270,000
1715 434,600
1749 1,046,000
1754 1,485,634
1765 2,240,000
1775 2,418,000

At the time of the Revolutionary War, approximately 85 percent of the white population was of English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish descent. People of German origin represented 8.8 percent of the white population, and those of Dutch origin represented 3.5 percent of the colonists. Church membership was widespread, with over 98% of the members in protestant denominations; there were Catholic settlements in Maryland, and small Jewish communities in Charleston, Newport and New York City.[2] The populations continued to grow at a rapid rate throughout the 18th century primarily because of high birth rates, relatively low death rates, and fluctuating flows of immigrants from Britain and Germany. Over 90% were farmers, with several small cities that were also seaports linking the colonial economy to the larger British Empire.


The colonies were independent of each other before 1774 as efforts led by Benjamin Franklin to form a colonial union had not made progress. The thirteen all had well established systems of self government and elections based on the rights of Englishmen, which they were determined to protect from imperial interference. Most free men could and did vote.[3]

Beginning with the intense protests over the Stamp Act of 1765, the Americans insisted on the principle of "no taxation without representation". They argued that, as the colonies had no representation in the British Parliament, it was a violation of their rights as Englishmen for taxes to be imposed upon them. Those other British colonies that had assemblies largely agreed with those in the Thirteen Colonies, but they were thoroughly controlled by the British Empire and the Royal Navy, so protests were hopeless.[4]

Parliament rejected the colonial protests and asserted its authority by passing new taxes. Trouble escalated over the tea tax, as Americans in each colony boycotted the tea and in Boston, dumped the tea in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Tensions escalated in 1774 as Parliament passed the laws known as the Intolerable Acts, which, among other things, greatly restricted self-government in the colony of Massachusetts. In response the colonies formed extralegal bodies of elected representatives, generally known as Provincial Congresses, and later that year twelve colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. During the Second Continental Congress that year, a thirteenth colony, Georgia, sent delegates, and by spring 1775 all royal officials had been expelled from all thirteen colonies. The Continental Congress served as a national government through the war that raised an army to fight the British and named George Washington its commander, made treaties, declared independence, and instructed the colonies to write constitutions and become independent states.[5]

Other British colonies

At the time of the war Britain had seven other colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America: Newfoundland, Rupert's Land (the area around the Hudson Bay), Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, East Florida, West Florida, and the Province of Quebec. There were other colonies in the Americas as well, largely in the British West Indies. These colonies remained loyal to the crown through the war.

Newfoundland stayed loyal to Britain without question. It was exempt from Navigation Acts and shared none of the grievances of the continental colonies. It was tightly bound to Britain and controlled by the British Navy, and had no assembly that could voice grievances.

Nova Scotia had a large Yankee element that had recently arrived from New England, and shared the sentiments of the Americans about demanding the rights of Englishmen. The royal government in Halifax reluctantly allowed the Yankees of Nova Scotia a kind of "neutrality". in any case, the island-like geography and the presence of the major British naval base at Halifax made the thought of armed resistance impossible.[6]

Quebec was comprised of French Catholic settlers who came under British control in the previous decade. The Quebec Act of 1774 gave them formal cultural autonomy within the empire, and many priests feared the intense Protestantism in New England. The American grievances over taxation had little relevance, and there was no assembly nor elections of any kind that could have mobilized any grievances. Even so the Americans offered membership in the new nation and sent a military expedition that failed to capture Canada in 1775. Most Canadians remained neutral but some joined the American cause.[7]

In the West Indies the elected assemblies of Jamaica, Grenada, and Barbados formally declared their sympathies for the American cause. The possibilities for overt action were sharply limited by the overwhelming power of British Navy in the islands. During the war there was some opportunistic trading with American ships.

In Bermuda and the Bahamas local leaders were angry at the food shortages caused by British blockade of American ports. There was increasing existing sympathies for the American cause, including smuggling and aid Indeed, both colonies were "passive allies" of the United States throughout the war. When an American naval squadron arrived in the Bahamas to seize gunpowder, the colony gave no resistance at all.[8]

East Florida and West Florida were new royal colonies with minimal local government. The colonists there needed Britain to protect them from attacks by Indians and Spanish. East Florida became a major base for the British war effort in the South, especially in the invasions of Georgia and South Carolina.[9] However Spain captured Pensacola in East Florida in 1781 and won both colonies in the Treaty of Paris that ended the war in 1783. Spain ultimately ceded the Floridas to the United States in 1819.[10]

See also


  1. ^ The present State of Vermont was disputed between the colonies of New York and New Hampshire. From 1777 to 1791, it existed as the de facto independent Vermont Republic.
  2. ^ Greene
  3. ^ Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole, eds. '"A Companion to the American Revolution (2004)
  4. ^ Donald William Meinig, The Shaping of America: Atlantic America, 1492-1800 (1986) p. 315; Greene and Pole, Companion ch 63
  5. ^ Robert Middlekauf, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (Oxford History of the United States) (2007)
  6. ^ Meinig pp 313-14; Greene and Pole (2004) ch 61
  7. ^ Meinig pp 314-15; Greene and Pole (2004) ch 61
  8. ^ Meinig pp 315-16; Greene and Pole (2004) ch 63
  9. ^ Meinig p 316
  10. ^ P. J. Marshall, ed. The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume II: The Eighteenth Century (2001)


  • Cooke, Jacob Ernest et al., ed. Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies. Scribner's, 1993. 3 vol; 2397 pp.
  • Gipson, Lawrence. The British Empire Before the American Revolution (15 volumes) (1936-1970), Pulitzer Prize; highly detailed discussion of every British colony in the New World
  • Greene, Evarts Boutelle et al., American Population before the Federal Census of 1790, 1993, ISBN 0806313773
  • Greene, Evarts Boutelle. Provincial America, 1690-1740. 1905. online
  • Osgood, Herbert L. The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century. 4 vol Columbia University Press, 1904-07. online
  • Vickers, Daniel, ed. A Companion to Colonial America. Blackwell, 2003. 576 pp.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

Thirteen Colonies


Thirteen Colonies

  1. The thirteen British colonies that successfully revolted in 1775--1781, forming the nucleus of the United States of America. To wit: New Hampshire, Massachusetts (including present-day Maine), Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York (including present-day Vermont), New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia (including present-day West Virginia), North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Simple English

The Thirteen Colonies were British colonies in North America. The colonies were started for a few reasons. Some people thought they would make a lot of money in new goods in America that could not be found in Europe, such as tobacco. Others left to find religious freedom or just to make a new start. Some wanted to be in charge and change things that they did not like in England. The first colony was Virginia. It was started in 1607 at Jamestown. The last colony of the thirteen to be started was Georgia in 1732.

The Thirteen Colonies (listed from north to south):

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Connecticut
  5. New York
  6. New Jersey
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Delaware
  9. Maryland
  10. Virginia
  11. North Carolina
  12. South Carolina
  13. Georgia

After the French and Indian War, Great Britain made new taxes and other laws that angered some people in the colonies. This led to war between Great Britain and its former colonies. This war was called the American Revolutionary War. The colonies said they were independent of Great Britain on July 4, 1776, in the Declaration of Independence. The colonies became known as the United States of America.


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