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  • The population of the American colonies continued to expand in all directions. From 1700 to 1775, population increased steadily at a rate of 3 percent per

    year. The biggest obstacles for the colonists were in some ways self-generated. Brutal policies with regard to the native peoples and political and legal

    favoritism for the wealthy and well-connected created an environment of fear and distrust. This motivated Native American hostility and caused dissension

    among the lower classes and slaves, especially early in settlement. It is interesting to consider how the population might have looked had the colonists

    attempted to assimilate rather than conquer.

    The first American census was taken in 1790. The total population of the sixteen American colonies totaled 3,893,874. The most populous was Virginia,

    with a total population of 747,550, of which 292,627 were slaves. Pennsylvania followed, with a total population of 433,611, but only 3,707 of these were

    slaves. The least populous colony was Delaware, with just over 59,000 inhabitants, followed by Rhode Island with 69,112. Only three colonies

    Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont were without slaves at the time of the census, as they had abolished the institution of slavery.

    Population growth everywhere is driven by the ability of the inhabitants to sustain themselves, given available resources. The colonists brought with them

    a powerful entrepreneurial spirit and were driven by a self-determination that continues to inform the American consciousness to this day. The success

    and power of this country is rooted in these fundamental ideals.

    We should keep in mind, however, that these ideals would not have sustained the colonists without the help of the native peoples. The Native Americans

    not only helped feed the starving and ill-prepared first settlers but also gave them their biggest cash crop in tobacco and with that the means to build a


    Anna Gersh

    See also: Children; Cities; Class; Death and Dying; Disease; Marriage and Divorce; Race and Ethnicity (Chronology); Race

    and Ethnicity (Essay).


    Quinn, Arthur. A New World: An Epic of Colonial America from the Founding of Jamestown to the Fall of Quebec. Boston: Faber & Faber, 1994.

    1790 Census Data.

    Taylor, Alan. American Colonies. New York: Viking, 2001.

    Ward, Harry M. Colonial America 16071763. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991.

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