Demographic Changes

Demographic Changes (in chronological order):



1)            The Atlantic Slave Trade, 1500-1860: About 400,000 slaves ended up in North America through the Atlantic slave trade, the majority of them arriving after 1700. By the mid-1680s, black slaves outnumbered white servants in the plantation colonies. The number of Africans increased drastically toward the end of the 17th century and, as white colonists reacted remorselessly to the supposed racial threat, the legal differences between a slave and a servant became sharply distinct.

2)            Chesapeake in the early to mid 1600s: Malaria, dysentery, and typhoid cut 10 years off the life expectancy of newcomers from England. Half the people born in early Virginia and Maryland did not survive to celebrate their 20th birthdays. The disease - stricken settlement of the Chesapeake grew very little in the 17th century. The majority of immigrants from England were single men in their late teens and early 20s and most died soon after their arrival. Surviving males outnumbered women nearly 6 to 1 in 1650, resulting in few and fragile families.

3)            The Great Migration of the 1630s: 70,000 refugees from England migrated to the North American colonies, primarily New England and the Caribbean. About 20,000 of them came to Massachusetts, which prospered into the biggest and most influential of the New England outpost because of its prosperity in industries such as fur trading, fishing, and shipbuilding.

4)            Smallpox epidemic in New England, 1633 – 1634: European settlers brought smallpox to North America in the 1600. The disease swept through the Northeast and wiped out entire Native American tribes, who had no immunity to the disease. Native populations in New England decreased by over 70% due to the outbreak of smallpox.

5)            New England in the 1600s: settlers in 17th century New England added 10 years to their lifespan by migrating from the old world. The first generation of Puritan colonists had an average lifespan of about 70 years. New Englanders typically migrated as families and not as individuals, so family remained at the center of New England life. New England’s population grew from the natural reproduction of the people and early marriage encouraged the booming birth rate.

6)            The exchange of indentured servants, 1600’s: Chesapeake planters bought around 100,000 indentured servants to the region by 1700. Indentured servants represented more than three quarters of all European immigrants to Virginia and Maryland in the 17th century. Their migration solved the problem of the constant labor shortage in the colonies and facilitated settlement.

7)            Early 1700s: Tens of thousands of embittered Scots-Irish abandoned Ireland and came to America, mainly to Pennsylvania. They pushed onto the frontier, becoming the first settlers of the American West. They numbered around 175,000 or 7% of the population.

8)            1775: Between 1700 and 1775, the population of the 13 colonies had increased by 2.2 million. White immigrants made up nearly 400,000 of the increased number and black slaves accounted for about a half million of the population. Most of the population boom stemmed from the remarkable natural fertility of all Americans, both white and black. The colonists were doubling their numbers every 25 years. The English advantage in numbers had fallen: in 1700 there were 20 English subjects for each American colonist and by 1775 there were three English subjects for each American colonist- setting the stage for a shift in the balance of power between the colonies and Britain. 

9)            Census of 1790: When the Constitution was ratified in 1789, the Republic was continuing to grow at an amazing rate with the population doubling every 25 years. The first official census in 1790 recorded almost 4million people .Cities had blossomed proportionately: “Philadelphia numbered 42,000, New York 33,000, Boston 18,000, Charleston 16,000, and Baltimore 13,000” (199). Despite these flourishing cities, America’s population was still about 90% rural.

10)          Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793: French colonial refugees from St. Dominique, escaping the slave revolution, crowded the port of Philadelphia in 1793 and most likely carried the yellow fever virus to Philadelphia. Around 5000 people in Philadelphia died from yellow fever and about 20,000 people fled the city to avoid catching the virus. This epidemic was one of the most severe epidemics in the United States history, causing around 10% of Philadelphia’s population to die.