1902 Encyclopedia > United States > Colonization: 1607-1750

United States
(Part 1)


Part 1. Colonization: 1607-1750

Though the voyages of the Cabots (1497-98) along the coast of North America were the ground which the English finally adopted as a basis for their claims on that continent, no very effective steps were taken to reduce the continent, no very effective steps were taken to reduce the continent to possession until after 1606. Martin Frobisher (1576) failed in an attempt to explore Labrador. Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1578) failed in a similar attempt on the continent; and in a second effort (1583) he was lost in a storm at sea on his return. In 1584 his half-brother Raleigh took up the work under commission from Queen Elizabeth. He sent two small vessels under Amidas and Barlow. They explored the south-central coast of what is now the United States, and returned with such flattering reports that the courtly Raleigh at once named the country Virginia in honor of the queen, and sent out a colony. It was starved out in a year (1585). He sent another to the same place, Roanoke Island (1587), but it had disappeared when it was searched for three years after. Gosnold (1602) found a shorter route across the Atlantic, and spent a winter on an island off the present coast of Massachusetts; but his men refused to stay longer. These are the official records of English explorations up to 1606; but it is pretty certain that fishing and trading voyages, of which no record was kept, were more common than has been supposed, and that they kept alive a knowledge of the country.

2. In 1606 James I. formed two companies by a single charter. To one, the London Company, he granted the North-American coast between 34° and 38° N. lat; to the other, the Plymouth Company, whose membership was more in the west of England, he granted the coast between 41° and 45° N. lat. The intervening coast, between lat. 38° and 41°, or between the Rappahannock and Hudson rivers, was to common to both, but neither was to plant a settlement within 100 miles of a previous settlement of the other. Each was to be governed by a council appointed by the king, and these councils were to appoint colonial councils of thirteen, with really absolute powers. Neither company did much colonization: the London Company gave up its charter in 1624, and the Plymouth Company, after a complete change of constitution in 1620, surrendered its charter in 1635. But the London Company at least began the work of colonization, and the Plymouth Company parceled out its grant to actual colonists. Above all, the charter of the two companies had granted the principle to which the colonists always appealed as the foundation of English colonization in North America, as the condition on which immigrants had entered it, irrevocable unless by mutual consent of crown and subjects: "Also we do, for us, our heirs and successors, declare by these presents that all and every the persons, being our subjects, which shall go and inhabit within the said colony and plantation, and every their children and posterity, which shall happen to be born within any of the limits thereof, shall have and enjoy all liberties, franchises, and immunities of free denizens and natural subjects within any of our offer dominions, to all intents and purposes as if they had been abiding and born within this our realm of England, or in any other of our dominions."

3. The London Company was first in the field. A shipload of the adventures then swarming in London was sent out under Christopher Newport. He found a fine river, which he named after the king, and on its banks, within the present State of Virginia, he planted the settlement of Jamestown. 13th May 1607). Misgovernment, dissension, mismanagement, and starvation were almost too much for the infant colony, and several times the colonists were on the point of giving it up and going home. Twelve years were required to put Virginia on a sound footing By that time the liberal element in the London Company had got control of it, and granted colonists a representative government. The year in which this house of burgesses met (1619) was the year in which African slaves were introduced into the colony from a Dutch vessel.

4. Separatists from the Church of England began the more northerly settlements. Driven from England, they found refuge in Holland. Thence returning for the moment to England, a company of 102 of them set sail for America in the "Mayflower," landing (December 21, 1620) at Plymouth, in the south-eastern part of the present State of Massachusetts. The rigors of a new and cold country, combined with poverty and the payment of interest at 45 per cent., made the early years of the Plymouth colony a desperate struggle for existence, but it survived. It had no special charter, but a licence from the Plymouth Company. Other little towns were founded to the north of this settlement, and in 1629 these were all embraced in a charter given by Charles I. to the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay. This was a Puritan venture, composed of men of higher social grade than the Plymouth Separatists, and was meant to furnish a refuge for those who dreaded the ecclesiastical policy of the crown. The next year the company took the bold step of transferring its organization to America, so as to be out of the immediate notice of the crown and its agents. Eleven vessels took more than a thousand colonists over, and the real colony of Massachusetts was begun.

5. The charter of the London Company was surrendered to the crown, as has been said, in 1624; and the king thereafter disposed of the territory which had been granted to it as he pleased. In 1632 the new colony of Maryland was carved out of it for Lord Baltimore. In 1663 the territory to the south of the present State of Virginia was cut off from it and called Carolina, covering the present States of North and South Carolina and Georgia. In 1729 Carolina was divided into North and South Carolina; and in 1732 the last of the colonies, Georgia, was organized . Five distinct colonies were thus formed out of the original London Company’s grant.

6. When the Plymouth Company finally surrendered its charter in 1635, it had made one ineffectual attempt at colonization (1607) near the mouth of the Kennebec river, in Maine, and one complete colony, Massachusetts Bay, had arisen within its territory. Another colony, that of Plymouth, existed by licence. Massachusetts settlers, without even a licence, were pouring into the vacant territory to the south of Massachusetts, there to form the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island, afterwards chartered by the crown, 1662 and 1663. A few fishing villages to the north of Massachusetts, established under the grant of John Mason, were the nucleus of the colony of New Hampshire. The present States of Vermont and Maine were not yet organized. Out of the original Plymouth Company’s grant were thus formed the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Then name New England was commonly applied to the whole territory from the beginning, having been first used by Captain John Smith in 1614.

7. Nine of the "old thirteen" colonies are thus accounted for. The remaining four fell in the territory between the two main grants, which was to be common to both companies, but was in fact never appropriated by either. The Spaniard had settled contentedly far to the south; and the Frenchman, still bound by too many of the ancient ecclesiastical influences to contest supremacy with the Spaniard, had settled as far to the north as possible, in Canada. England had been so far released from ecclesiastical influences by the spread of the Reformation as to be prepared to contest supremacy with Spaniard, Frenchman, or any one else; but her lingering desires to avoid open conflict at any cheap rate had tended to fix her settlements on the very choicest part of the coast, in the middle latitudes, - a fact which was to color the whole future history of the continent. The concurrent claims of the two English companies in the central zone seem to have deterred both of them from any attempt to interfere with the development of a colony there by the only other people of western Europe which was prepared to grasp at such an opportunity. The Dutch (1609) sent out Henry Hudson, an Englishman in their service, and he made the first close exploration of this central region. Dutch merchants thereupon set up a trading post at Manhadoes (the present city of New York), where a government under the Dutch West India Company was organized in 1621, when the Dutch states-general had granted the territory to it. The territory was named New Netherlands, and the town at the mouth of the Hudson river New Amsterdam. Sweden sent a colony to Delaware Bay in 1638; but the attempt was never thoroughly backed, and in 1655 it was surrendered to the Dutch.

8. By the time of the restoration in England, the northern and southern English colonies had developed so far that the existence of this alien element between them had come to be a recognized annoyance and danger. From the Hudson river to Maine, from the Savannah river to Delaware Bay, all was English. Roads had been roughly marked out; ships were sailing along the respective coasts as if at home; colonial governments were beginning to lean upon one another for support; but between the two was a territory which might at any moment turn to hostility. There was an evidently growing disposition in New England to attempt the conquest of it unaided. When England and Holland found themselves at war (1664), the opportunity arrived for a blow at Holland’s colonial possession. An English army and fleet under Colonel Nichols touched at Boston, and, proceeding thence to New Amsterdam, took possession of h4e whole central territory. It had been ranted by the king to his brother, the duke of York, and the province and city were now named New York in honor of the new proprietor. The duke, the same year, granted a part of his territory to Berkeley and Carteret, and the new colony of New Jersey was the result. In 1681 the great parallelogram west of New Jersey was granted to Penn and called Pennsylvania. In the following year Penn bought from the duke of York the little piece of territory which remained united to Pennsylvania until the revolution, then becoming the State of Delaware. The central territory thus furnished four of the "old thirteen" colonies, New England four, and the southern portion five.

9. If there was any governing idea in the organization of the colonial governments, it was of the rudest kind; and in the fact each was allowed to be so largely modified by circumstances that, with a general similarity, there was the widest possible divergence. A general division of the colonial governments is into charter, proprietary, and royal governments. The charter governments were Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In these the colonial governments had charters from the crown, giving the people, or freemen, the right to choose their own governors and other magistrates, to make their own laws, and to interpret and enforce them. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island kept their charters intact. The Massachusetts charter was cancelled by the crown judges (1684) under a quo warranto; and in 1691 a new charter was granted. As it reserved to the crown the appointment of the governor, with an absolute veto on laws and after 1726 on the election of the speaker of the lower house, Massachusetts was thus taken out of the class of purely charter colonies and put into that of a semi-royal colony. The proprietary colonies were New Hamsphire, New York, New jersey, Pennsylvania (including Delaware), Maryland, Carolina, and Georgia. These were granted to proprietors, who, as inducements to settlers, granted governmental privileges almost as liberal as those of the charter colonies. Only Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland remained proprietary colonies down to the revolution, and in these the governor had a charter right of veto on legislation. Virginia became a royal colony in 1620, and New York as soon as its proprietor became king; and other proprietors, becoming tired of continual quarrels with the colonists, gradually surrendered their grants to the crown. New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, and Georgia had thus become royal colonies before the revolution. In the royal colonies, commonly called provinces, the governors were appointed by the crown, and had a absolute veto on legislation. There were thus at last three proprietary, seven royal, one semi-royal, and to charter colonies.

10. The two charter colonies were simple representative democracies, having the power to legislate without even a practical appeal to the crown, and having no royal governor or agent within their borders. Their systems were the high-water mark to which the desires and claims of the other colonies gradually approached. Massachusetts and the proprietary colonies were very nearly on a level with them; and the royal or proprietary governor’s veto power was rather an annoyance than a fundamental difference. But in all the colonies representative governments had forced their way, and had very early taken a bicameral shape. In the charter colonies and Massachusetts the lower house was chosen by the towns and the upper house from the people at large, and the two houses made up the "assembly." In Pennsylvania and Daleware there was but one house. In the royal colonies and n Maryland the lower house alone was elected by the people; the upper house, or council, was chosen by the crown through the governor; and the assent of all three elements was essential to legislation. In the final revolution the charter colonies did not change their government at all; they already had what they wanted. The revolution was consummated in the other colonies by the assumption of power by the lower or popular house, usually known as the "assembly," the governor or council, or both, being ousted,

11. All these governmental organizations take a prominent place in American history, and had a strong influence on the ultimate development of the United States; and yet they touched the life of the people at comparatively few points. A more marked and important distinction is in the local organization of the northern and southern colonies. All the southern colonies began as proprietary governments. Settlers went there as individuals connected only with the colony. To the individual the colony was the great political factor; his only other connection was with his parish, to which the colony allowed few political functions; and, where political power touched him at all, it was through the colony. In time it became necessary to allow political powers to the parish or county, but they were really more judicial than political. "The southern county was a modified English shire, with the towns left out." The whole tendency shows the character of the immigration in this part of the country, from English districts outside of the influence of the towns.

12. In New England local organization was quite different. A good example is the town of Dorchester. Organized (march 20, 1630) in Plymouth, England, when its people were on the point of embarkation for America, it took the shape of a distinct town and church before they went on shipboard. Its civil and ecclesiastical organization were complete before they landed in Massachusetts Bay and came under the jurisdiction of a chartered company. Its people governed themselves, in their town government, in all but a few points, in which the colony asserted superiority. As he colony’s claims increased, the town’s dissatisfaction increased. In 1635 the town migrated in a body, with its civil and ecclesiastical organization still intact, into the vacant territory of Connecticut, and there became the town of Windsor. Here, uniting with other towns, which had migrated in a similar fashion, it formed the new Commonwealth of Connecticut, in which the local liberty of the towns was fully secured in the frame of government. Rhode Island was formed in the same way, by separate towns; Vermont afterwards in the same way; and the towns of the parent colony of Massachusetts learned to claim a larger liberty than had been possible at first. Thus, all through New England, the local town organizations came to monopolize almost all ordinary governmental powers; and the counties to which the towns belonged were judicial, not political, units, marking merely the jurisdiction of the sheriff. In the annual town meetings, and in special meetings from time to time, the freemen exercised without any formal grant the powers of self-taxation, of expenditure of taxation, of trial by jury, and of a complete local government. Further, the lower houses of their colonial legislatures were made up of generally equal representations from he towns, while the upper houses were chosen from the colony at large. In this was the germ of the subsequent development of the United States senate, in which the States are equally represented, and of the house of representatives, representing the people numerically (S 104, 105, 109, 110).

13. The two opposite systems of the north and south found a field for conflict in the organization of the central territory after its acquisition (S 8). The crown agents were strongly disposed to follow the more centralized system of the southern colonies, though Penn, having organized counties and restricted his legislature to a single house, based it on the counties. In New York and New Jersey the Dutch system of "patroonships" had left a simulacrum of local independence, and a stronger tendency in the same direction came in through immigration from New England. To encourage this immigration, the new Jersey proprietors gave town powers to many of them; and some of the New Jersey towns were merely transplanted New England towns. But the middle colonies never arrived at any distinct system; at the best, their system was a conglomerate. Much the same result has been reached in the new Western States, organized under the care of the Federal Government, where the New England immigration has brought with it a demand for local self-government which has resulted in a compromise between the two systems of town units and county units.

14. Ecclesiastical divisions were at first as strong as civil diversities. The New England colonies were Congregational, and thee churches were established and supported by law, except in Rhode Island, where the Baptists were numerically superior. In the royal colonies generally there was a steady disposition to establish the Church of England, and it was more or less successful. In language there were striking dissimilarities, due to a most heterogeneous immigration. It was said that every language of Europe could be found in the colony of Pennsylvania. But, after all, this diversity had no indications of persistence; the immigration in each case had been too small to support itself. Very little of the wonderful increase of American population between 1607 and 1750 was due to immigration; most of it had come from natural increase. After the first outflow from Old to New England, in 1630-31, emigration was checked at first by the changing circumstances of the struggle between the people and the king, and when the struggle was over, by the better-known difficulties of life in the colonies. Franklin, in 1751, when he estimated that there were "near a million English souls" in the colonies, thought that scarce eighty thousand had been brought over by sea. No matter how diverse the small immigration might have been on its arrival, there was a steady pressure on its descendants to turn them into Englishmen; and it was very successful. When Whitefield, the revivalist, visited America about 1740, he found the population sufficiently homogeneous for his preaching to take effect, all the way from Georgia to New England. The same tendency shows itself in the complete freedom of intercolonial migration. Men went from one colony to another, or held estates, or took inheritances in different colonies, without the slightest notion that they were under any essentially diverse political conditions. The whole coast, from Nova Scotia to the Spanish possessions in Florida, was one in all essential circumstances; and there was only the need of some sudden shock to crystallize it into a real political unity. Hardly anything in history is more impressive than this mustering of Englishmen on the Atlantic coast of North America, their organization of natural and simple governments, and their preparations for the final march of 3000 miles westward, unless it be the utter ignorance of the home Government and people that any such process was going on.

15. This ignorance had one singular effect in completing the difference animals between the new and the old country. An odd belief that European plants and animals degenerated in size and quality on transplantation to the western continent was persistent at the time even among learned men in Europe, and Jefferson felt bound to take great pains to combat it so late as the end of the 18th century. That passage in Thackeray’s Virginians, where the head of the elder Virginian branch of the family returns to England, to be treated with contempt and indifference by the younger branch which had remained at home, indicates the state of mind among the influential classes in England which bent them against any admission of Americans to the honors or privileges of the English higher classes. A few titles were given; entails were maintained in the southern colonies; but there were no such systematic efforts as are necessary to maintain an aristocratic class. This may have been gratifying to the ruling class in England; but it was in reality an unconsciously systematic effort to develop democracy in the English colonies in North America. In combination with the free representative institutions which had taken root there, it was very successful, and, when the final struggle between the English ruling class and the colonists took shape, the former had singularly few friends or allies in the colonies. What the results might have been if efforts had been made to build up as titled class in the colonies, with entailed revenues and hereditary privileges in the upper houses of the colonial legislatures, is not easy to imagine; but the prejudices of the privileges classes at home eliminated this factor from the problem. Every influence conduced to make the American commonwealths representative democracies; and the reservation of crown influence in the functions of the governors or the appointment of the council was merely a dam which was sure to be broken down as development increased.

16. Social circumstances had all the features of life in a new country, aggravated by the difficulties of inter-communication at that time. In the southern and middle colonies there was a rude abundance, so that, however much the want of luxuries might be felt, there was no lack of the necessaries of life. The growth of tobacco, indigo, and rice in the southern colonies was so large a source of wealth that luxury in that part of the country had taken a more pronounced form than in the others. The southern planter, trained in English schools and universities and admitted to the English bar, was more like an English gentleman in a condition of temporary retirement than an American colonist. The settler of the middle colonies was the ordinary agriculturist. The hardships of colonial life were the special lot of the New England colonist. For some reason – perhaps because the forests retained the snow on the ground- the New England winters were more severe than they are now. The rudely built house, with it s enormous chimney attracting draughts of outer air from every point, was a poor protection against the cold. Travel, difficult enough at the best, became impossible in winter, unless the snow rose so high as to blot out the roads and permit the traveler to drive his sledge across country. Medical and surgical attendance was scarce in summer, and hardly dreamed of in winter. The religious feeling of the people was agai8nst amusements of all kinds, except going to funerals, an occasional dinner, and the restricted enjoyments of courtship. It was a point of honor or of religious feeling to exclude luxury from church equipment; stoves were not known in Connecticut churches until the beginning of this century, and yet newborn infants were taken to church for baptism in the bitterest weather.1

17. Wealth in the southern colonies was sufficient to give the better classes there an education of a very high order; and they in turn, by virtue of their political and social leadership, imparted something of their acquisitions to those below them. In the middle colonies commercial pursuits and those interests which go to make men of affairs had something of the same influence on special classes. In New England education was more general, even though it had no such advantages for special classes as at the south. The first immigration into New England contained an unusually large proportion of English university men, particularly among the ministers. These fixed the mould into which their descendants have been run, and New England’s influence in the United States has been due largely to them. The town system added to their influence. Owing to it the ebbing and flowing of population through New England was not blind or unorganized. Every little town was a skeleton battalion, to be filled up by subsequent increase and immigration; and the ministers and other professional men made a multitude of successors for themselves, with all their own ideas. Considering the execrable quality of school and college instruction in New England, as elsewhere at the time, it is very remarkable that, as the original supply of university bred leaders died off, there was a full crop of American bred men quite prepared to take their places and carry on their work. Here were Harvard and Yale, the two leading colleges of the country, which in 1760 had six:- Harvard College, in Massachusetts (founded in 1636); William and Mary College, in Virginia (1692); Yale College, in Connecticut (1700); Princeton College, in New Jersey (1746); Pennsylvania University (1749); and King’s, now Columbia, College, in New York (1754)

18. Shipwrights had been sent to Virginia at an early date; but shipbuilding never made great head in the southern colonies, in spite of the fact that they had all the materials for it in abundance. At a later period ships were built, and it was not uncommon for planters to have their private docks on their own plantations, where their ships were freighted for Europe. But such building was individual; each planter built only for himself. The first vessel built by Europeans in this part of the continent was constructed by Adrian Block at New Amsterdam (1614). Many small vessels were built at the mouth of the Hudson river under Dutch and English domination, but New York’s commercial supremacy did not fairly begin until after the revolution. Perhaps the hardships of life in New England made its people prefer water to land; at any rate they took to shipbuilding early and carried it on diligently and successfully. Plymouth built a little vessel before the settlement was five years old, and Massachusetts another, the "Blessing of the Bay" (1631). Before 1650 New England vessels had begun the general foreign trade, from port to port, which combined exportation with a foreign coasting trade an mercantile business, the form in which New England commercial enterprise was to show itself most strongly. Before 1724 English ship-carpenters complained of the competition of the Americans, and in 1760 the colonies were building new ships at the rate of about 20,000 tons a year, most of them being sold in England.

19. The earliest manufactures in the colonies were naturally those of the simplest kind, the products of sawmills, grist-mills, and tanneries, and home-made cloth. The search for ores, however, had been a prime cause of immigration with many of the settlers, and they turned almost at once to mining and metallurgy. Most of their efforts failed, in spite of "premiums," bounties, and monopolies for terms of years granted by the colonial legislatures. To this the production of iron was an exception. It was produced, from the beginning of the 18th century, in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, in eastern New York, in northern New Jersey, and in eastern Pennsylvania. All these districts were about on a level, until the adaptation of the furnaces to the use of anthracite coal drove the New England and New York districts, which had depended on wood as fuel, almost out of cometptition (§ 210). Until that time iron production was a leading New England industry. Not only were the various products of iron exported largely; the manufacture of nails, and of other articles which could be made by an industrious agricultural population in winter and stormy weather, was a "home industry" on which New Englanders depended for much of their support.

20. The colonial system of England differed in no respect from that of other European nations of the time; probably none of them could have conceived any other as possible. The colonies were to be depots for the distribution of home products on a new soil; whenever they assumed any other functions they were to be checked. The attempts of the Americans to engage in commerce with other nations, their shipbuilding, and their growing manufactures were, in appearance, deductions from the general market of English producers, and the home Government felt itself bound to interfere. Virginia claimed, by charter-right, the power to trade freely with foreign nations; and Virginia was notoriously on the side of the Stuarts against the Parliament. In 1651 parliament passed the Navigation Act, forbidding the carrying of colonial produce to England unless in English or colonial vessels, with an English captain and crew. By the Act of 1661 the reach of the system was extended. Sugar, tobacco, indigo, and other "enumerated articles," grown or manufactured in the colonies, were not to be shipped to any country but England. All that was necessary to make this part of the work complete was to add to the "enumerated articles," from time to time, any which should become important colonial products. The cap-stone was placed on the system in 1663, when the exportation of European products to the colonies was forbidden unless in vessels owned and loaded as in the preceding Acts and loaded in England. Virginia’s commerce withered at once under the enforcement of the system. New England, allowed to evade the system by Cromwell for political reasons, continued to evade it thereafter by smuggling and bold seamanship.

21. In 1699, on complaint of English manufacturers that the colonists were cutting them out of their foreign wool markets, parliament enacted that no wool or woolen manufactures should be shipped from any of the colonies, under penalty of forfeiture of ship and cargo. This was the first fruits of the appointment of the Board of Trade and Plantations three years before. From this time until the revolution, this body was never idle; but, as its work was almost confined to schemes for checking or destroying the trade and manufactures of the plantations, it cannot be said to have done them any great service. It was continually spurring on colonial governors to turn their people to the production of naval stores, or to any occupation which would divert them from manufactures; and the governors, between fear of the legislatures which paid their salaries and of the Board which was watching them narrowly, had evidently no easy position. at intervals the Board heard the complaints of English manufacturers, and framed remedial bills for parliament. From 1718 the manufacture of iron was considered particularly obnoxious; and, so late as 1766, Pitt himself asserted the right and duty of parliament to "bind the trade and confine the manufactures" of the colonies, and to do all but tax them without representation. In 1719 parliament passed its first prohibition of iron manufactures in the colonies; and in 1750 it forbade under penalties the maintaining of iron-mills, slitting or rolling mills, plating-forges, and steel-furnaces in the colonies. At the same time, but as a favor to English manufacturers, it allowed the importation of American bar-iron into England, as it was cheaper and better than the Swedish. Before this, in 1731, parliament had forbidden the manufacture or exportation of hats in or from the colonies, and even their transportation from one colony to another. All these Acts, and others of a kindred nature, were persistently evaded or defied; but the constant training in this direction was not a good one for the maintenance of the connection between the colonies and the mother country, after the interested classes in the colonies should become numerous and their interests large. Unluckily for the connection, the arrival at this point was just the time when the attempt was first made to enforce the Acts with vigor (§ 38).

22. English imports from the North-American colonies amounted to £395,000 in 1700, £574,000 in 1730, and £761,000 in 1760; the exports to the colonies in the same years were £344,000, £537,000, and £2,612,000. In spite of parliamentary exactions and interferences, a great and entirely new market had been opened to English trade. The difference between the year 1606, when there was not an English settler on the North American continent, and 1760, when there were a million and a half with a great and growing commerce, is remarkable. It is still more remarkable when one considers that this population was already nearly one-fourth of that of England and Wales. Its growth, however, steadily increased the difficulties of maintaining the English system of control, which consisted mainly in the interference of the governors with legislation proposed by the assemblies. As the numbers and material interests of the subjects increased, the necessities for governmental interference increased with them, and yet the power of the subjects to coerce the governors increased as well. Only time was needed to bring the divergence to a point where change of policy must have disruption as its only alternative.

23. Merely material prosperity, the development of wealth and comfort, was very far from the whole work of the colonies. In spite of attempts in almost every colony to establish some form of religious belief on a government foundation, religious freedom had really come to prevail to an extent very uncommon elsewhere at the time. even in New England, where the theory of the state as an isolated opportunity for the practice of a particular form of worship had been held most strongly, persecution was directed chiefly against the Quakers, and that mainly on semi-political grounds, because of their determination to annoy congregations in their worship or to outrage some feeling of propriety. As soon as it came to be realized that the easiest method to deprive them of the power of annoyance was to ignore them, that method was adopted; indeed, two of the New England colonies took hardly any other method from the beginning.

24. In political work the colonies had been very successful. They had built up thirteen distinct political units, representative democracies so simple and natural in their political structure that time has hardly changed the essential nature of the American State governments. In so doing, the Americans were really laying the foundations of the future national structure, for there is hardly a successful feature in the present national government which was not derived or directly copied from the original colonial growths; while the absolutely new features, such as the electoral system (§ 119), introduced into the national system by way of experiment, have almost as generally proved failures, and have been diverted from their original purposes or have become obsolete.


Page 729
1The former settlement of Jamestown is now in James City county, Va., about 32 miles from the mouth of the James river. It was at first the capital of the colony, but began to decline when Williamsburgh was made the capital. Its death-blow was received when it was burned in 1676, during Bacon’s rebellion. It was not rebuilt, and has now almost disappeared. "Nothing remains but the ruins of a church lower covered with ivy, and some old tombstones. The river encroacher year by year, and the ground occupied by the original huts is already submerged.

Page 732
1 An extract from a New England diary of 1716 will give some notion of social circumstances at that comparatively late period. "Lord’s Day, Jany. 15. An extraordinary cold Storm of wind and Snow. Blows much as coming home at Noon and so holds on. Bread was frozen at the Lord’s table; Mr. Pemberton administered. Came not out to afternoon exercise. Though ‘twas so cold, yet John Tuckerman was baptized. At six-a clock my ink freezes so that I can hardly write by a good fire in my wive’s chamber. Yet was very comfortable at meeting. Laus Deo."

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