Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Colonizing the New World was an opportunity that Europe had not had for thousands of years. This was a new place with more potential that anyone could have realized. The Atlantic gave the mother countries a long, expansive lead to keep on their new children developing in the New World. This allowed the new colonies to develop style and character that was unique to them. This hands off version of governing worked well for Britain the beginning; but by letting the English colonies develop their own culture and governing with a lax hand, the British crown set the stage for the American Revolution. Imposing the Crown’s will on the colonies forced their hand to stand up and revolt.
The colonization of the North American lands did not begin with the intent for form a new country or even a new England. It all started with “the English colonizers pursuit of get-rich-quick schemes” as they heard of the gold and jewels the Spanish were collecting in Central and South America. Permanent settlements were not a priority. Those would come from trying to gain more items to fill the Crown’s treasury. It did not take long to realize that Spain was the lucky ones to find such wealth. Yet, Britain found new kinds of wealth in the land that was accessible to them.
Tobacco and sugar became Britain’s source of wealth. The settlers of the Chesapeake colony found a perfect place to raise high quality tobacco products. More and more emigrants arrived to seek their fortune. In fact, before 1620 Chesapeake received the most of Virginia’s indentured servants. These people mostly were forced to leave England as they were dependents of the state or were convicts. Britain saw the colonies as a chance to rid the island of the unwanted people and at the same time increase its coffers with tobacco. The West Indies islands were treated much the same way in raising and exploiting the sugar cane that could be grown in abundance there. Slaves, indentured servants, and those that saw the new land as a chance to turn their lives around were the main inhabitants of the colonies.
Eventually, others came to areas such as New England and Carolina to find a place to start over and live their lives in a manner that could not peacefully be found in England. Religion could be a tense topic. This led to the Puritans, Catholics, and many others, including Jews to see a place where they could practice their religion without the influence of the state. As time went on, colonies became havens for particular religions. This also, encouraged many other cultures to seek new lives in the British colonies. Through British ports and on British ships, Germans, French, Dutch, and others found themselves as new member of British colonies.
The entire process of colonizing the British American lands helped create the unique culture that would develop in the many colonial sections. The thirteen colonies, fourteen if the West Indies are included, were not one entity, though many in England saw them as such. They were completely unique. The population makeup was extremely diverse from colony to colony. The manner in which each colony was established was different. The governing of each and every colony was different. They were separate mini-nations that the British Empire had created with different goals and purposes. The reality was that the “America of the British mainland colonies had come to mean a new kind of society.”
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