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Colonies and Empires Index

15th Century 'Voyages of Discovery'
In the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries

European Settlement in North America

Introduction
The First Colony : Virginia
The Pilgrim Fathers
The Mayflower and the Mayflower Compact
Plymouth Settlement
The First Thanksgiving

The Origins of Canada

Introduction : New France
The Hudson Bay Company
France Claims the Mississippi River

The Struggle between France and Britain
for North America

Introduction
The Seven Years' War
The Fall of Quebec
The Treaty of Paris

The American War of Independence

Introduction
Britain Taxes its Colonies
The Boston Massacre
The "Boston Tea Party"
The First Continental Congress
The War for Independence Begins
The Second Continental Congress
American Victories
The Declaration of Independence

History Chapters Main Index

 

John Winthrope who started a colony at Salem, Massachusetts

John Winthrope who started a colony at Salem, Massachusetts

 

 

BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE

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Colonies and Empires

European Settlement in North America

 

Massachusetts

Plymouth proved to be not so "good for situation" and failed to develop but other colonists followed the Pilgrims to this part of North America, known by them as New England. By 1628 there were eight settlements along the coast and the Massachusetts Bay Company had been granted all the land in the region, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This was usual for colonial grants to chartered trading companies, since nobody knew how far away the Pacific was. In 1629, a group of Puritans took control of the company and completely transformed the future of New England.

Initially the Massachusetts Bay Company had planned to develop Massachusetts as a purely commercial affair, like Virginia to the south. However, the Puritans, under their leader John Winthrop, intended to make it into "New Zion", a place in which God-fearing Christians could live within a purified Church of England. There was a mass exodus of Puritan families from England and by 1643 the population was 16000 - more than the rest of British America put together. Not only was it the most populated colony, but also the best educated. There was a university graduate for every forty families, a ratio not to be found anywhere else in the world.

Although the Puritans were fleeing persecution in Charles I's England, they had no intention of providing refuge for any victims other than themselves. Nor were they interested in forming a democracy . To be able to vote you had to be approved by the Company.

The only people with whom the Puritans seemed to be friendly were the Indians. They scrupulously insisted on paying the natives for all the lands they settled.

Unlike the southern colonies where men with capital could sow tobacco or rice, buy slaves and make a fortune for relatively little effort, the hilly, rocky soil of Massachusetts and the other New England colonies could only be farmed with difficulty. Although most New Englanders were farmers, they also developed other trades, such as cloth manufacture and fishing.

 

Other Colonies

We have quickly examined the origins of Virginia and Massachusetts but there were, by the end of the 17th century, finally thirteen colonies.

Maryland

This was the northern part of Virginia, given by Charles I to Lord Baltimore in 1632 as a refuge for English Catholics. It was the first colony, however, to observe complete freedom of religion.

South Carolina

This colony was established after the Restoration of Charles II to allow friends of the king to enrich themselves. Slave plantations grew rice. The Constitution of 1669 is said to have been written by John Locke.

North Carolina

This was relatively isolated by marshes and wilderness. Here small slave properties grew tobacco and grazed cattle.

Georgia

This was the last colony to be established and was created in the 18th century as a refuge for people who had been imprisoned in England for minor crimes.

New Hampshire

This area lies to the north of Massachusetts and was claimed by the colony of Massachusetts until a group of Anglicans petitioned Charles II for their independence from the Puritan colony. This was granted by the king in 1679.

New York

New York was seized from the Dutch in 1664 on the orders of Charles II. The king gave the colony to his brother, the Duke of York, later James II, after whom it was named.

Pennsylvania

This lies between Maryland and New York and was given by Charles II to the son of one of his most loyal friends, William Penn. This son, also William Penn, was a Quaker and in 1681 the Quaker colony was named after him (although Penn tried to resist having his name used).

New Jersey and Delaware

These areas were also acquired by the Quakers and formed neighbouring colonies.

Rhode Island and Connecticut

Rhode Island was formed by independently minded and liberal Pilgrims in 1636, while Connecticut was created by exactly the opposite kind of people. This latter group taught that the Massachusetts Puritans were too relaxed and who wanted to create a rigid theocracy based on strict Biblical law. Charles II gave it a charter in 1662.

 

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