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A summary of the periods in us history of colonial america

This movement, impelled by powerful and diverse motivations, built a nation out of a wilderness and, by its nature, shaped the character and destiny of an uncharted continent. Today, the United States is the product of two principal forces-the immigration of European peoples with their varied ideas, customs, and national characteristics and the impact of a new country which modified these distinctly European cultural traits.

Of necessity, colonial America was a projection of Europe. Across the Atlantic came successive groups of Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Scots, Irishmen, Dutchmen, Swedes, and many others who attempted to transplant their habits and traditions to the new world. But, inevitably, the force of geographic conditions peculiar to America, the interplay of the varied national groups upon one another, and the sheer difficulty of maintaining old-world ways in a raw, new continent caused significant changes.

These changes were gradual and at first scarcely visible. But the result was a new social pattern which, although it resembled European society in many ways, had a character that was distinctly American. The first shiploads of immigrants bound for the territory which is now the United States crossed the Atlantic more than a hundred years after the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century explorations of North America.

These travelers to North America came in small, unmercifully overcrowded craft. During their six- to twelve-week voyage, they subsisted on meager rations.

Many of the ships were lost in storms, many passengers died of disease, and infants rarely survived the journey. Sometimes tempests blew the vessels far off their course, and often calm brought interminable delay. To the anxious travelers the sight of the American shore brought almost inexpressible relief.

Said one chronicler, "The air at twelve leagues' distance smelt as sweet as a new-blown garden.

The Peopling of North America

The virgin forest with its profusion and variety of trees was a veritable treasure-house which extended over 1,300 miles from Maine in the north to Georgia in the south. Here was abundant fuel and lumber. Here was the raw material of houses a summary of the periods in us history of colonial america furniture, ships and potash, dyes and naval stores.

The sea abounded in oysters and crabs, cod and lobster; and in the woods, there were turkeys "fat and incredible of weight," and quail, squirrels, pheasants, elk, geese, and so many deer that in places "venison is accounted a tiresome meat. Soon the newcomers found that grain would grow and that transplanted fruit trees flourished.

And sheep, goats, swine, and cows throve in the new land. The new continent was remarkably endowed by nature, but trade with Europe was vital for the import of articles the settlers could not yet produce. Here the coastline served the well. The whole length of shore provided innumerable inlets and harbors, and only two areas -North Carolina and southern New Jersey -lacked harbors for ocean-going vessels.

Majestic rivers - like the Kennebec in Maine, the Connecticut, New York's Hudson, Pennsylvania's Susquehanna, the Potomac in Virginia, and numerous others - formed links between the coastal plain and the ports, and thence with Europe.

Of the many large North American east coast rivers, however, only Canada's St. Lawrence, held by the French, offered a water passage to the real interior of the continent. This lack of a waterway, together with the formidable barrier of the Appalachian Mountains, long discouraged movement beyond the coastal plains region.

Only trappers and traders with light pack trains went beyond the seaboard. For a hundred years, in a summary of the periods in us history of colonial america, the colonists built their settlements compactly along the eastern shore. On farms such as this one, grain crops, especially wheat, were abundant, and flour was one of the colony's important exports.

It was the shoreline and the rivers that first spread population north and south along the band of coast traversed by the arteries of travel. The several colonies were independent communities with their own outlets to the sea. Their separateness, together with the distances between the settlements, prevented development of a centralized and unified government. Each colony instead became a separate entity, marked by a strong individuality which in the later history of the United States became the basis of the concept of "states rights.

The coming of colonists in the seventeenth century was the result of careful planning and management, and of considerable expense and risk. Settlers had to be transported three thousand miles across the sea. They needed utensils, clothing, seed, tools, building materials, livestock, arms, ammunition. In contrast to the colonization policies of other countries and other periods, the emigration from England was not fostered by the government.

Rather, the initiative was taken by unofficial groups or by individuals. Two colonies, Virginia and Massachusetts, were founded by chartered companies whose funds, provided by private investors, were used to equip, transport, and maintain the colonists.

In the case of the New Haven later a part of Connecticut colony, well to-do emigrants themselves financed the transport and equipment of their families and servants. Other settlements - New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, the Carolinas, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania - originally belonged to proprietors, members of the English gentry or nobility who, as landlords, advanced out of their own resources the funds for settling tenants and servants upon lands granted to them by the King in the same manner as they might be granted an estate at home.

Charles I, for instance, granted to Cecil Calvert Lord Baltimore and his heirs the nearly seven million acres which were later to become the state of Maryland; the Carolinas and Pennsylvania were given as grants by Charles II.

Technically, these proprietors and chartered companies were the King's tenants, but they made only symbolic payments for their lands. Lord Baltimore, for instance, gave the King two Indian arrowheads each year, and William Penn contributed two beaver skins annually. Several colonies were simply offshoots of other settlements. Rhode Island and Connecticut were founded by people from Massachusetts, the mother-colony of all New England. Still another, Georgia, was established largely for benevolent reasons by James Edward Oglethorpe and a few other philanthropic Englishmen.

Their plan was to release imprisoned debtors from English jails and send them to America to establish a colony which would serve as a bulwark against the Spaniards to the south. Founded in 1624 by the Dutch, the colony of New Netherlands came under British rule forty years later and was renamed New York.

The most impelling single motive which induced emigrants to leave their European homelands was the desire for greater economic opportunity.

This urge was frequently reinforced by other significant considerations such as a yearning for religious freedom, a determination to escape political oppression, or the lure of adventure.

Main Article

Between 1620 and 1635, economic difficulties swept England, and overflowing multitudes could not find work. Even the best artisans could earn little more than a bare living. Bad crops added to the distress. In addition, England's expanding woolen industry demanded an ever increasing supply of wool to keep the looms clacking, and sheep-raisers began to encroach on soil hitherto given over to tillage.

Concurrently, during the religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a body of men and women called Puritans sought to reform the Established Church of England from within. Essentially, their program called for the more complete protestantization of the national church, particularly insofar as church responsibility for individual conduct was concerned.

Their reformist ideas threatened to divide the people and to undermine royal authority by destroying the unity of the state church. A radical sect known as Separatists believed the Established Church could never be reformed to their liking. During the reign of James I, a small group of these - humble country folk - left for Leyden, Holland, where they were allowed to practice their religion as they wished.

Some years later, a part of this Leyden congregation decided to emigrate to the new world where, in 1620, they founded the "Pilgrim" colony of New Plymouth. The dotted section on this map indicates the extent of English colonization along the Atlantic Coast.

History of the United States

Organized settlement had not yet spread very far in from the seaboard, and inland bounderies were not yet permanently established. As westward expansion progressed, these bounderies were to cause frequent disputes Soon after Charles I ascended the throne in 1625, Puritan leaders in England were subjected to what they viewed as increasing persecution.

Several ministers, who were no longer allowed to preach, gathered their flocks about them and followed the Pilgrims to America. Unlike the earlier emigrants, however, this second group, which established Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, included many persons of substantial wealth and position.

Within the next decade, a Puritan stamp had been placed upon a half dozen English colonies. But the Puritans were not the only colonists driven by religious motives. Dissatisfaction with the lot of the Quakers in England led William Penn to undertake the founding of Pennsylvania. And many colonists in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were dissidents from Germany and Ireland who sought greater religious freedom as well as economic opportunity.

Political considerations, together with religious, influenced many to move to America. The attempted personal and arbitrary rule of England's Charles I gave impetus to the migration to the new world in the 1630's. And the subsequent revolt and triumph of Charles' opponents under Oliver Cromwell in the following decade led many cavaliers - "king's men" - to cast their lot in Virginia.

In Germany, the oppressive policies of various petty princes, particularly with regard to religion, and devastation from a long series of wars helped swell the movement to America in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In many instances, men and women who had little active interest in a new life in America were induced to make the move by the skillful persuasion of promoters.

William Penn publicized the opportunities awaiting newcomers to the Pennsylvania colony in a manner more than suggestive of modern advertising techniques. Ship captains, who received large rewards from the sale of service contracts of impecunious migrants, used every method from extravagant promises to out-and-out kidnapping to secure as many passengers as their vessels could transport.

Of the mass of colonists who crossed the ocean, relatively few could finance the cost of passage for themselves and their families and of making a start in the new land. For the earliest colonists, the expenses of transport and maintenance were provided by colonizing agencies such as the Virginia Company and the Massachusetts Bay Company In return, the settlers agreed to work a for the agency as contract laborers.

But a colonist who came to the new world under such an arrangement soon discovered that, since he was expected to remain a servant or tenant, he would have been better off in England without adding the hardships and dangers of a wilderness frontier to his dependent lot.

The Colonial Period

This system soon proved a handicap to successful colonization. In consequence, there developed a new method of encouraging settlers to come to America. In exchange for passage and maintenance, 'the emigrant was bound to labor for the contract-holder for a given period of time - usually from four to seven years.

Free at the end of this term, he would receive freedom dues, sometimes including a small tract of land, usually fifty acres. The emigrants so involved were called "indentured servants. Usually they fulfilled their obligations under the contracts faithfully. A few, however, ran away from their employers at the first opportunity.

They, too, were able to secure land easily and to set up homesteads either in the colony where they had originally settled or in a neighboring one. No social or other stigma attached to the family which had its beginnings in America under this semibondage arrangement. In every colony, in fact, many of the leading personages were, either former indentured servants or their children. They, like all other colonists, were the most valuable assets of a country whose greatest need was population.

Indeed, the colonies and all groups interested in their success prospered in direct ratio to the number of settlers who migrated.

For land and other natural resources were practically unlimited, and progress was entirely dependent on the size of the population available to develop them. Of the settlers who came to America in the first three quarters of the seventeenth century, the overwhelming majority was English. There was a sprinkling of Dutch, Swedes, and Germans in the middle region, a few French Huguenots in South Carolina and elsewhere, and here and there a scattering of Spaniards, Italians, and Portuguese.

But these represented hardly ten per cent of the total population. After 1680, England ceased to be the chief source of immigration, as great numbers came from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, and France for varied reasons. Thousands of Germans fled Europe to escape the path of war.