The creation of the American colonies was not done by chance. The European nations were very deliberate in their carving up of the New World. They plotted every acre. They made sure they got a good share of the best.
The Individual Colonies
The colonies were not one massive settlement from Europe. They were divided from the beginning with individual goals. The idea had merit, but what the British crown did not understand was how it was laying the foundation for something much bigger. They never thought the future could change and hurt the Empire in the long run.
The creation of the colonies were done as business ventures. Permanent settlements were deemed necessary to aid the business ventures which was to remove as much of the resources of the new world as possible. That also meant politics came into play as to who governed the colonies and aided Britain in its endeavor.
Each colony constructed itself around the ruling class of people and even in a manner that would better help them get the most of the land that they had settled on. Giving each of the colonies their own individual charters and grants was how the monarchy gave each of the colonies the ability and, in essence, the right to govern themselves and have a feeling of autonomy from each other and from the Crown.
The colonies were divided into three types: royal, charter, or proprietary. The royal colonies were directly governed and controlled by the Crown. Proprietary colonies were governed by a royal appointed businessman or group of businessmen. Charter colonies were mainly self-governed by groups of colonists who wanted a chance for more freedom, particularly that of religion.
An example of the extent of the charters can be found in the charter for the Maryland colony. The following is an excerpt from the actual charter located at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ma01.asp:
Also We do grant and likewise Confirm unto the said Baron of Baltimore, his Heirs, and Assigns, all Islands and Inlets within the Limits aforesaid, all and singular the Islands, and Islets, from the Eastern Shore of the aforesaid Region, towards the East, which had been, or shall be formed in the Sea, situate within Ten marine Leagues from the said shore; with all and singular the Ports, Harbours, Bays, Rivers, and Straits belonging to the Region or Islands aforesaid, and all the Soil, Plains, Woods, Marshes, Lakes, Rivers, Bays, and Straits, situate, or being within the Metes, Bounds, and Limits aforesaid, with the Fishings of every kind of Fish, as well of Whales, Sturgeons, and other royal Fish, as of other Fish, in the Sea, Bays, Straits, or Rivers, within the Premises, and the fish t here taken; And moreover all Veins, Mines, and Quarries, as well opened as hidden, already found, or that shall be found within the Region, Islands, or Limits aforesaid, of Gold, Silver, Gems, and precious Stones, and any other whatsoever, whether they be of Stones, or Metals, or of any other Thing, or Matter whatsoever; And furthermore the Patronages, and Advowsons of all Churches which (with the increasing Worship and Religion of Christ) within the said Region, Islands, Islets, and Limits aforesaid, hereafter shall happen to be built, together with License and Faculty of erecting and founding Churches, Chapels, and Places of Worship, in convenient and suitable places, within the Premises, and of causing the same to be dedicated and consecrated according to the Ecclesiastical Laws of our Kingdom of England, with all, and singular such, and as ample Rights, Jurisdictions, Privileges, Prerogatives, Royalties, Liberties, Immunities, and royal Rights, and temporal Franchises whatsoever, as well by Sea as by Land, within the Region, Islands, Islets, and Limits aforesaid, to be had, exercised, used, and enjoyed, as any Bishop of Durham, within the Bishoprick or County Palatine of Durham, in our Kingdom of England, ever heretofore hath had, held, used, or enjoyed, or of right could, or ought to have, hold, use, or enjoy.
Basically, all of God’s creation in that area belonged to Lord Baltimore.
These different types of colonies opened the door for unique traits in each one. With the colonies individually governed even from that of the Mother Country, they began to form their own identity apart from Britain and each other. The monarch sent them out to settle the land and exploit it. In return, the monarch saw a way to rid himself of those that were under his skin and to increase his coffers.
A Completely New World
As the decades went by in the New World, the colonies found themselves creating a new society vastly different than the ones they had left in Europe. This was not an England on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean. It was not a Germany, France, or any other country. It was America. It was a mix of new cultures with strong similarities that would bind them closer to each other than to anything British.
Each European culture that moved across the waters did make a huge influence on the new societies being created. Town names reflect the heavy influence of the native lands: Sussex, New Hampshire, New York, etc. Even tradition followed over the ocean, but over time, the colonies began to change the old ways to reflect the new generations in the new lands.
A closer look at the development of the colonies up to the late 1770s shows that the colonists had an increase in the “fascination with power and authority, a determination to make a world anew in yet untested images.” Though viewed by many across the ocean, the colonists were developing a deep, yet simple, economic system that would help them stand on their own feet and become their own leaders. Even their politics were unusual and all-American.
Many who came from the mother country found themselves lost in colonial politics. As stated before, this was not Britain. Each colony had its own version of government. While they were similar, they were markedly different, enough where they could not be combined into one entity and run smoothly.
Local officials were elected by those who owned land. The towns in New England truly ruled themselves and determined the rules of voting and how the governing of the land should be carried out instead of following a code that gave power to titled landowners. Other colonies had leaders selected or appointed by the monarch or even the proprietor of the colony, but were not necessarily titled men.
Women began to have a little more authority in the courts and in their lives in a few colonies such as New York and Virginia. The colonies were changing constantly from the countries that created them as more and more settlers from all walks of life and other cultures made their way there and put down roots. They were making strides into the future which Britain was determined not to do.
The new world had to create its own economy. The ocean was too large for it to completely immolate and integrate with Britain. Over time, how the colonial economy worked began to shift slightly due to the influences that combined to create the New World.
An economy developed that produced many exports and imports. America had become a big player in European markets. Add this with politics that had “emerged as assertive, provincially driven, institutionally sophisticated, and cohesive” and Britain was creating a child that was strong, independent and a rival to its own mother. The problem was that Britain could not see this at this point.
The Seven Years War became the turning point in the relationship between Britain and the American colonies. The war Britain raged on France in Europe spilled over into the colonies. Before the French and Indian War, the American campaign of the European Sevens Year War, Britain was content to let the colonies do what they will as long as the overall laws were followed and that trade continued to build up the treasury. They had “undertaken minimal contact with, or interference in, the internal affairs of the North American colonies.” They had passed the Navigation Acts, but overall these were accepted by the colonies. Mainly, because they were prone to ignore parts of acts passed if it would cripple the economy and obeyed the ones that seemed to make sense to them.
Benjamin Franklin. ‘”Benevolus’” On the Propriety of Taxing America’. Franklin Papers, http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp. (accessed April, 20, 2011).
Butler, Jon. Becoming America: the Revolution Before 1776. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.
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