Colonial Times

  • Jan 1, 1215

    Magna Carta

    Magna Carta
    English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, or "great charter." This was the first document to place restrictions on an English ruler's power. It didn't let the monarch levy taxes without consulting the noble. It also protected the right to own private property and guaranteed the right to trial by jury.
  • Oct 12, 1492

    Columbus' First Voyage

    Columbus' First Voyage
    Columbus' first Voyage west. Once he arrived in the West Indies, he thought he was in Asia, and died thinking this. Columbus made a few other voyages to the Americas after this one.
  • Jan 1, 1510

    Vasco Nunez de Balboa

    Vasco Nunez de Balboa
    Vasco Nunez de Balboa was the first European to see the Pacific ocean. He had to cross the thick forests of what is today Panama.
  • Jan 1, 1513

    Juan Ponce de Leon

    Juan Ponce de Leon
    Juan Ponce de Leon sailed from Puerto Rico to investigate reports of a large island. Because of the flowers on this "island" he called it Florida. Today we know Florida is not an island but part of the United States. Therefore Ponce de Leon was the first Spaniard to set foot on today's U.S.
  • Jan 1, 1517


    Spain brought about 4,000 Africans to the Americas and forced them to work.
  • Sep 1, 1519

    Ferdinand Magellan

    Ferdinand Magellan
    Ferdinand Magellan left Portugal to try to find an Atlantic-Pacific passage. He found one, today's the Strait of Magellan, but once he reached the Philippine Islands, he was killed. About 18 men from his crew became the first to circumnavigate the Earth.
  • Nov 8, 1519

    Hernando Cortes

    Hernando Cortes
    Hernando Cortes went into the Aztec capital city, Tenochtitlan, with the goal of conquering the Aztecs. He took their leader, Moctezuma, captive. The Aztecs rebelled forcing the Spaniards out, but about a year later Cortes returned and destroyed Tenochtitlan.
  • Sep 1, 1532

    Francisco Pizarro

    Francisco Pizarro
    Pizarro led an army through the jungle of Peru to search for the Incas, who were said to have much gold. Once in the Inca Empire, Pizarro took the Inca ruler Atahualpa prisoner. Even though The Incas paid a huge ranson for Atahualpa, Pizarro killed him. Around a year later, the Spanish defeated the Incas.
  • Jan 1, 1533

    New religion in England

    New religion in England
    King Henry VIII set up a Protestant church and named it the Church of England because he wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon since she didn't produce a male heir. Catholic law doesn't permit divorce so he decide to set up a new church.
  • Jan 1, 1539

    Hernando de Soto

    Hernando de Soto
    Hernando de Soto searched for riches, and explored from as far north as the Carolinas and as far west as Oklahoma. He died in 1542 after finding the Mississippi River but no cities of gold.
  • Juan de Onate

    Onate led an expedition into New Mexico in which he aimed to find gold, convert Native Americans to Christianity, and establish a permanent colony. He never found gold, but he established Spain's first permanent in the region at Santa Fe.
  • Founding Jamestown

    Founding Jamestown
    About 100 men sailed into Chesapeake Bay and built a fort they called Jamestown. It became England's first permanent settlement in North America. By 1608, only 38 colonists were still alive. Therefore, a firm leader, John Smith, was sent out from London to lead the colony. His most important rule was "He who works not, eats not." He raided the Native Americans which angered their leader, Powhatan, who then refused to supply them with food. This caused the "starving time."
  • Henry Hudson

    Henry Hudson
    English explorer, Henry Hudson, reached what is today New York, after two other unsuccessful voyages to the across the Atlantic. He explored the Hudson River and as far north as the Hudson Bay, both named after him. Eventually his crew mutinied and set him adrift a small boat with his son, and seven loyal crew members.
  • House of Burgesses

    Virginia's lawmaking body, the House of Burgesses, was elected and met for the first time. It could pass laws and set taxes. The House of Burgesses became the first representative government.
  • The Mayflower

    The Mayflower
    About 100 Pilgrims sailed for Virginia but were blown off course and landed in what is now Massachusetts. They called their new home Plymouth. The Pilgrims belived they weren't bound by the rules of Virginia, but they needed some type of rules, so before landing ashore, forty-one men signed the Mayflower Compact which called for a government to make "just and equal laws."
  • New Netherland

    About 300 settlers arrived from the Netherlands, most of them settling at Fort Orange, a fur-trading post later renamed Albany. By 1626 another group settled at the mouth of the Hudson River and named their new home New Amsterdam.
  • Massachusetts' government

    Massachussets set a legislature called the General Court. Eventually colonists gained the right to elect delegates to the General Court.
  • The Puritans

    The Puritans
    About 900 Puritans set off in 11 ships, from England to what is now Massachusetts. They were led by John Winthrop. The Puritans didn't believe in religious toleration and people who didn't believe the same things they did were often put on trial.
  • Religious Toleration for Catholics

    Religious Toleration for Catholics
    King Charles I granted a charter for a new colony for George Calvert, an English Catholic. He set up a colony where Catholics could live safely, Maryland. His son, Lord Baltimore, passed the Act of Toleration, in 1649.
  • New colonies

    New colonies
    Roger Williams, minister of a church in the town of Salem believed Puritans should split completely from the Church of England. He was forced to leave Massachusetts Bay and founded the town of Providence. Anne Hutchinson was expelled from MA in 1638 and established a settlement on what is now Rhode Island. Thomas Hooker left MA in 1636 with followers and settled in what is today Connecticut. Finally, John Wheelright left MA and in 1638 him and some followers moved to New Hampshire.
  • Higher Education Begins in the Colonies

    Higher Education Begins in the Colonies
    Harvard College was the first college in the English colonies. In 1693 Virginia founded the College of William and Mary, the first college in the South.
  • Enslaved for Life

    Enslaved for Life
    Maryland passed a law stating that baptism didn't lead to liberty. In 1663, Virginia declared any child that was born to a slave was a slave too.
  • Poetry

    Anne Bradstreet was the first colonial poet. She wrote The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America which was her first published book. Another poet, Phillis Wheatley, was a slave in Boston. Her first poem was published in the 1760s when she was about 14.
  • The Navigation Acts

    The Navigation Acts were set to suppot mercantilism. They said ships from Europe to colonies had to go through England. Imports from England from the colonies had to come in ships built and owned by British subjects. The colonies could sell key products like tobacco and sugar only to England. These laws benefited colonists because they had sure market for their goods, but they thought the laws favored mostly English merchants so they got around the laws by smuggling.
  • The Carolinas

    The Carolinas
    King Charles II granted a charter for a new colony to be established south of Virginia. They called it Carolina. The northern part developed slowly while the southern part developed quickly. Eventually the colony was separated into two colonies: North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • Slave Codes

    In Gloucester, Virginia, the first serious slave revolt took place, but the rebels were betrayed. This began other revolts in Connecticut and Virginia. Colonial authorities wrote slave codes, or strict laws for slaves, fearing more trouble. Slaves couldn't meet in large numbers, own weapons, leave a plantation without permission, and it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write.
  • New Netherland becomes New York

    New Netherland becomes New York
    English King Charles II granted the right to all Dutch lands in North America to his brother James. James was the Duke of York so this colony was renamed New York.
  • New Jersey

    New Jersey
    New Jersey was a part of southern New York at first, but then it split off to form a new colony. It was at first a proprietary colony, but in 1702 it received a charter as a royal colony.
  • Nathaniel Bacon's Rebellion

    Nathaniel Bacon's Rebellion
    Nathaniel Bacon organized a force of 1000 westerners and began attacking and killing Native Americans. Then the governor declared Bacon and his men rebels, so he attacked Jamestown. When Bacon died, his revolt collapsed. The governor hanged 23 of Bacon's followers.
  • Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania was established by Quaker, William Penn. He wanted a place where people from different religious backgrounds could live peacefully, he called this his "holy experiment."
  • English Bill of Rights

    English Bill of Rights
    King William and Queen Mary signed the English Bill of Rights, which said without a grant from the Parliament levying money is illegal. Also the raising or keeping of an army in times of peace was against the law unless the Parliament agreed with it, among other laws.
  • John Locke and the Enlightenment

    John Locke and the Enlightenment
    Locke published "Two Treatises on Government." In this work, Locke argued that people have certain natural rights, or rights that belong to every human being from birth. These rights are life, liberty, and property. He also argued the idea of divine right, or the belief that monarchs get their authority to rule directly from God.
  • Triangular Trade

    Triangular Trade
    The triangular trade was a three-way trade between the colonies, the islands of the Caribbean, and Africa. Ships from New England carried fish, lumber, etc. to the Caribbean islands, then returned to New England with molasses and sugar. Ships from New England took rum, guns, etc. to West Africa and traded these goods for slaves. Ships from West Africa went to the Caribbean where they sold slaves and bought molasses.
  • Pennsylvania's government

    At first William Penn had full ownership of Pennsylvania, and the governor and a large council made laws that an assembly could only approve or reject. The colonists wanted to make up their own laws, though, so they forced Penn to agree that only the General Assembly could make laws.
  • Georgia

    James Oglethorpe set up this colony in 1732 because he wanted a colony where there would be protection for English debtors, since under English laws, the government could imprison debtors until they paid what they owed. At first slaves were banned in Georgia until the 1750's.
  • Ben Franklin

    Ben Franklin
    His most popular work was Poor Richard's Almanack which was published every year from 1733-1753. Franklin was a writer, a businessman, community leader, scientist, inventor, and diplomat. He also founded a library and fire department. Also he made discoveries in electricity and invented bifocal eyeglasses and a stove.
  • Freedom of the Press

    Freedom of the Press
    John Peter Zenger was a publisher of the N.Y. Weekly Journal who was arrested for printing a series of articles that criticized the governor. Zenger was charged with libel but his lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued that the articles were based on fact, therefore, couldn't be considered libel. The jurors agreed and Zenger was found innocent. This trial help set the principle that a democracy depends on well-informed citizens and the press has the right and responsibility to keep the public informed.
  • Resistance to Slavery

    An enslaved Angolan named Jemmy led a revolt in South Carolina. He and his followers killed more than 20 whites. Revolts continued to flare up until slavery itself ended in 1865.
  • Baron de Montesquieu

    Baron de Montesquieu
    In his book, "The Spirit of the Laws," Montesquieu argued that the powers of government should be clearly defined and limited. He favored separation of powers, or division of the power of government into separate branches. He suggested the government should be divided into three branches: legislative branch, executive branch, and a judicial branch. His thoughts became the basis of the U.S. government.