The Development Of Colonial Nationalism

It is one of the well-known facts of history that a people loosely

united by domestic ties of a political and economic nature, even a

people torn by domestic strife, may be welded into a solid and compact

body by an attack from a foreign power. The imperative call to common

defense, the habit of sharing common burdens, the fusing force of common

service--these things, induced by the necessity of resisting outside

erence, act as an amalgam drawing together all elements, except,

perhaps, the most discordant. The presence of the enemy allays the most

virulent of quarrels, temporarily at least. "Politics," runs an old

saying, "stops at the water's edge."

This ancient political principle, so well understood in diplomatic

circles, applied nearly as well to the original thirteen American

colonies as to the countries of Europe. The necessity for common

defense, if not equally great, was certainly always pressing. Though it

has long been the practice to speak of the early settlements as founded

in "a wilderness," this was not actually the case. From the earliest

days of Jamestown on through the years, the American people were

confronted by dangers from without. All about their tiny settlements

were Indians, growing more and more hostile as the frontier advanced and

as sharp conflicts over land aroused angry passions. To the south and

west was the power of Spain, humiliated, it is true, by the disaster to

the Armada, but still presenting an imposing front to the British

empire. To the north and west were the French, ambitious, energetic,

imperial in temper, and prepared to contest on land and water the

advance of British dominion in America.


Indian Affairs

It is difficult to make general statements about the

relations of the colonists to the Indians. The problem was presented in

different shape in different sections of America. It was not handled

according to any coherent or uniform plan by the British government,

which alone could speak for all the provinces at the same time. Neither

did the proprietors and the governors who succeeded one another, in an

irregular train, have the consistent policy or the matured experience

necessary for dealing wisely with Indian matters. As the difficulties

arose mainly on the frontiers, where the restless and pushing pioneers

were making their way with gun and ax, nearly everything that happened

was the result of chance rather than of calculation. A personal quarrel

between traders and an Indian, a jug of whisky, a keg of gunpowder, the

exchange of guns for furs, personal treachery, or a flash of bad temper

often set in motion destructive forces of the most terrible character.

On one side of the ledger may be set innumerable generous records--of

Squanto and Samoset teaching the Pilgrims the ways of the wilds; of

Roger Williams buying his lands from the friendly natives; or of William

Penn treating with them on his arrival in America. On the other side of

the ledger must be recorded many a cruel and bloody conflict as the

frontier rolled westward with deadly precision. The Pequots on the

Connecticut border, sensing their doom, fell upon the tiny settlements

with awful fury in 1637 only to meet with equally terrible punishment. A

generation later, King Philip, son of Massasoit, the friend of the

Pilgrims, called his tribesmen to a war of extermination which brought

the strength of all New England to the field and ended in his own

destruction. In New York, the relations with the Indians, especially

with the Algonquins and the Mohawks, were marked by periodic and

desperate wars. Virginia and her Southern neighbors suffered as did New

England. In 1622 Opecacano, a brother of Powhatan, the friend of the

Jamestown settlers, launched a general massacre; and in 1644 he

attempted a war of extermination. In 1675 the whole frontier was ablaze.

Nathaniel Bacon vainly attempted to stir the colonial governor to put up

an adequate defense and, failing in that plea, himself headed a revolt

and a successful expedition against the Indians. As the Virginia

outposts advanced into the Kentucky country, the strife with the natives

was transferred to that "dark and bloody ground"; while to the

southeast, a desperate struggle with the Tuscaroras called forth the

combined forces of the two Carolinas and Virginia.

From such horrors New Jersey and Delaware were saved on account of their

geographical location. Pennsylvania, consistently following a policy of

conciliation, was likewise spared until her western vanguard came into

full conflict with the allied French and Indians. Georgia, by clever

negotiations and treaties of alliance, managed to keep on fair terms

with her belligerent Cherokees and Creeks. But neither diplomacy nor

generosity could stay the inevitable conflict as the frontier advanced,

especially after the French soldiers enlisted the Indians in their

imperial enterprises. It was then that desultory fighting became general


Early Relations with the French

During the first decades of French

exploration and settlement in the St. Lawrence country, the English

colonies, engrossed with their own problems, gave little or no thought

to their distant neighbors. Quebec, founded in 1608, and Montreal, in

1642, were too far away, too small in population, and too slight in

strength to be much of a menace to Boston, Hartford, or New York. It was

the statesmen in France and England, rather than the colonists in

America, who first grasped the significance of the slowly converging

empires in North America. It was the ambition of Louis XIV of France,

rather than the labors of Jesuit missionaries and French rangers, that

sounded the first note of colonial alarm.

Evidence of this lies in the fact that three conflicts between the

English and the French occurred before their advancing frontiers met on

the Pennsylvania border. King William's War (1689-1697), Queen Anne's

War (1701-1713), and King George's War (1744-1748) owed their origins

and their endings mainly to the intrigues and rivalries of European

powers, although they all involved the American colonies in struggles

with the French and their savage allies.

The Clash in the Ohio Valley

The second of these wars had hardly

closed, however, before the English colonists themselves began to be

seriously alarmed about the rapidly expanding French dominion in the

West. Marquette and Joliet, who opened the Lake region, and La Salle,

who in 1682 had gone down the Mississippi to the Gulf, had been followed

by the builders of forts. In 1718, the French founded New Orleans, thus

taking possession of the gateway to the Mississippi as well as the St.

Lawrence. A few years later they built Fort Niagara; in 1731 they

occupied Crown Point; in 1749 they formally announced their dominion

over all the territory drained by the Ohio River. Having asserted this

lofty claim, they set out to make it good by constructing in the years

1752-1754 Fort Le Boeuf near Lake Erie, Fort Venango on the upper

waters of the Allegheny, and Fort Duquesne at the junction of the

streams forming the Ohio. Though they were warned by George Washington,

in the name of the governor of Virginia, to keep out of territory "so

notoriously known to be property of the crown of Great Britain," the

French showed no signs of relinquishing their pretensions.

The Final Phase--the French and Indian War

Thus it happened that the

shot which opened the Seven Years' War, known in America as the French

and Indian War, was fired in the wilds of Pennsylvania. There began the

conflict that spread to Europe and even Asia and finally involved

England and Prussia, on the one side, and France, Austria, Spain, and

minor powers on the other. On American soil, the defeat of Braddock in

1755 and Wolfe's exploit in capturing Quebec four years later were the

dramatic features. On the continent of Europe, England subsidized

Prussian arms to hold France at bay. In India, on the banks of the

Ganges, as on the banks of the St. Lawrence, British arms were

triumphant. Well could the historian write: "Conquests equaling in

rapidity and far surpassing in magnitude those of Cortes and Pizarro had

been achieved in the East." Well could the merchants of London declare

that under the administration of William Pitt, the imperial genius of

this world-wide conflict, commerce had been "united with and made to

flourish by war."

From the point of view of the British empire, the results of the war

were momentous. By the peace of 1763, Canada and the territory east of

the Mississippi, except New Orleans, passed under the British flag. The

remainder of the Louisiana territory was transferred to Spain and French

imperial ambitions on the American continent were laid to rest. In

exchange for Havana, which the British had seized during the war, Spain

ceded to King George the colony of Florida. Not without warrant did

Macaulay write in after years that Pitt "was the first Englishman of his

time; and he had made England the first country in the world."


The various wars with the French and the Indians, trivial in detail as

they seem to-day, had a profound influence on colonial life and on the

destiny of America. Circumstances beyond the control of popular

assemblies, jealous of their individual powers, compelled cooeperation

among them, grudging and stingy no doubt, but still cooeperation. The

American people, more eager to be busy in their fields or at their

trades, were simply forced to raise and support armies, to learn the

arts of warfare, and to practice, if in a small theater, the science of

statecraft. These forces, all cumulative, drove the colonists, so

tenaciously provincial in their habits, in the direction of nationalism.

The New England Confederation

It was in their efforts to deal with

the problems presented by the Indian and French menace that the

Americans took the first steps toward union. Though there were many

common ties among the settlers of New England, it required a deadly

fear of the Indians to produce in 1643 the New England Confederation,

composed of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. The

colonies so united were bound together in "a firm and perpetual league

of friendship and amity for offense and defense, mutual service and

succor, upon all just occasions." They made provision for distributing

the burdens of wars among the members and provided for a congress of

commissioners from each colony to determine upon common policies. For

some twenty years the Confederation was active and it continued to hold

meetings until after the extinction of the Indian peril on the immediate


Virginia, no less than Massachusetts, was aware of the importance of

intercolonial cooeperation. In the middle of the seventeenth century, the

Old Dominion began treaties of commerce and amity with New York and the

colonies of New England. In 1684 delegates from Virginia met at Albany

with the agents of New York and Massachusetts to discuss problems of

mutual defense. A few years later the Old Dominion cooeperated loyally

with the Carolinas in defending their borders against Indian forays.

The Albany Plan of Union

An attempt at a general colonial union was

made in 1754. On the suggestion of the Lords of Trade in England, a

conference was held at Albany to consider Indian relations, to devise

measures of defense against the French, and to enter into "articles of

union and confederation for the general defense of his Majesty's

subjects and interests in North America as well in time of peace as of

war." New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York,

Pennsylvania, and Maryland were represented. After a long discussion, a

plan of union, drafted mainly, it seems, by Benjamin Franklin, was

adopted and sent to the colonies and the crown for approval. The

colonies, jealous of their individual rights, refused to accept the

scheme and the king disapproved it for the reason, Franklin said, that

it had "too much weight in the democratic part of the constitution."

Though the Albany union failed, the document is still worthy of study

because it forecast many of the perplexing problems that were not solved

until thirty-three years afterward, when another convention of which

also Franklin was a member drafted the Constitution of the United


The Military Education of the Colonists

The same wars that showed

the provincials the meaning of union likewise instructed them in the art

of defending their institutions. Particularly was this true of the last

French and Indian conflict, which stretched all the way from Maine to

the Carolinas and made heavy calls upon them all for troops. The answer,

it is admitted, was far from satisfactory to the British government and

the conduct of the militiamen was far from professional; but thousands

of Americans got a taste, a strong taste, of actual fighting in the

field. Men like George Washington and Daniel Morgan learned lessons that

were not forgotten in after years. They saw what American militiamen

could do under favorable circumstances and they watched British regulars

operating on American soil. "This whole transaction," shrewdly remarked

Franklin of Braddock's campaign, "gave us Americans the first suspicion

that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not

been well founded." It was no mere accident that the Virginia colonel

who drew his sword under the elm at Cambridge and took command of the

army of the Revolution was the brave officer who had "spurned the

whistle of bullets" at the memorable battle in western Pennsylvania.

Financial Burdens and Commercial Disorder

While the provincials were

learning lessons in warfare they were also paying the bills. All the

conflicts were costly in treasure as in blood. King Philip's war left

New England weak and almost bankrupt. The French and Indian struggle was

especially expensive. The twenty-five thousand men put in the field by

the colonies were sustained only by huge outlays of money. Paper

currency streamed from the press and debts were accumulated. Commerce

was driven from its usual channels and prices were enhanced. When the

end came, both England and America were staggering under heavy

liabilities, and to make matters worse there was a fall of prices

accompanied by a commercial depression which extended over a period of

ten years. It was in the midst of this crisis that measures of taxation

had to be devised to pay the cost of the war, precipitating the quarrel

which led to American independence.

The Expulsion of French Power from North America

The effects of the

defeat administered to France, as time proved, were difficult to

estimate. Some British statesmen regarded it as a happy circumstance

that the colonists, already restive under their administration, had no

foreign power at hand to aid them in case they struck for independence.

American leaders, on the other hand, now that the soldiers of King Louis

were driven from the continent, thought that they had no other country

to fear if they cast off British sovereignty. At all events, France,

though defeated, was not out of the sphere of American influence; for,

as events proved, it was the fortunate French alliance negotiated by

Franklin that assured the triumph of American arms in the War of the



It was neither the Indian wars nor the French wars that finally brought

forth American nationality. That was the product of the long strife

with the mother country which culminated in union for the war of

independence. The forces that created this nation did not operate in the

colonies alone. The character of the English sovereigns, the course of

events in English domestic politics, and English measures of control

over the colonies--executive, legislative, and judicial--must all be

taken into account.

The Last of the Stuarts

The struggles between Charles I (1625-49)

and the parliamentary party and the turmoil of the Puritan regime

(1649-60) so engrossed the attention of Englishmen at home that they had

little time to think of colonial policies or to interfere with colonial

affairs. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660, accompanied by

internal peace and the increasing power of the mercantile classes in the

House of Commons, changed all that. In the reign of Charles II

(1660-85), himself an easy-going person, the policy of regulating trade

by act of Parliament was developed into a closely knit system and

powerful agencies to supervise the colonies were created. At the same

time a system of stricter control over the dominions was ushered in by

the annulment of the old charter of Massachusetts which conferred so

much self-government on the Puritans.

Charles' successor, James II, a man of sterner stuff and jealous of his

authority in the colonies as well as at home, continued the policy thus

inaugurated and enlarged upon it. If he could have kept his throne, he

would have bent the Americans under a harsh rule or brought on in his

dominions a revolution like that which he precipitated at home in 1688.

He determined to unite the Northern colonies and introduce a more

efficient administration based on the pattern of the royal provinces. He

made a martinet, Sir Edmund Andros, governor of all New England, New

York, and New Jersey. The charter of Massachusetts, annulled in the last

days of his brother's reign, he continued to ignore, and that of

Connecticut would have been seized if it had not been spirited away and

hidden, according to tradition, in a hollow oak.

For several months, Andros gave the Northern colonies a taste of

ill-tempered despotism. He wrung quit rents from land owners not

accustomed to feudal dues; he abrogated titles to land where, in his

opinion, they were unlawful; he forced the Episcopal service upon the

Old South Church in Boston; and he denied the writ of habeas corpus to

a preacher who denounced taxation without representation. In the middle

of his arbitrary course, however, his hand was stayed. The news came

that King James had been dethroned by his angry subjects, and the people

of Boston, kindling a fire on Beacon Hill, summoned the countryside to

dispose of Andros. The response was prompt and hearty. The hated

governor was arrested, imprisoned, and sent back across the sea under


The overthrow of James, followed by the accession of William and Mary

and by assured parliamentary supremacy, had an immediate effect in the

colonies. The new order was greeted with thanksgiving. Massachusetts was

given another charter which, though not so liberal as the first,

restored the spirit if not the entire letter of self-government. In the

other colonies where Andros had been operating, the old course of

affairs was resumed.

The Indifference of the First Two Georges

On the death in 1714 of

Queen Anne, the successor of King William, the throne passed to a

Hanoverian prince who, though grateful for English honors and revenues,

was more interested in Hanover than in England. George I and George II,

whose combined reigns extended from 1714 to 1760, never even learned to

speak the English language, at least without an accent. The necessity of

taking thought about colonial affairs bored both of them so that the

stoutest defender of popular privileges in Boston or Charleston had no

ground to complain of the exercise of personal prerogatives by the king.

Moreover, during a large part of this period, the direction of affairs

was in the hands of an astute leader, Sir Robert Walpole, who betrayed

his somewhat cynical view of politics by adopting as his motto: "Let

sleeping dogs lie." He revealed his appreciation of popular sentiment

by exclaiming: "I will not be the minister to enforce taxes at the

expense of blood." Such kings and such ministers were not likely to

arouse the slumbering resistance of the thirteen colonies across the


Control of the Crown over the Colonies

While no English ruler from

James II to George III ventured to interfere with colonial matters

personally, constant control over the colonies was exercised by royal

officers acting under the authority of the crown. Systematic supervision

began in 1660, when there was created by royal order a committee of the

king's council to meet on Mondays and Thursdays of each week to consider

petitions, memorials, and addresses respecting the plantations. In 1696

a regular board was established, known as the "Lords of Trade and

Plantations," which continued, until the American Revolution, to

scrutinize closely colonial business. The chief duties of the board were

to examine acts of colonial legislatures, to recommend measures to those

assemblies for adoption, and to hear memorials and petitions from the

colonies relative to their affairs.

The methods employed by this board were varied. All laws passed by

American legislatures came before it for review as a matter of routine.

If it found an act unsatisfactory, it recommended to the king the

exercise of his veto power, known as the royal disallowance. Any person

who believed his personal or property rights injured by a colonial law

could be heard by the board in person or by attorney; in such cases it

was the practice to hear at the same time the agent of the colony so

involved. The royal veto power over colonial legislation was not,

therefore, a formal affair, but was constantly employed on the

suggestion of a highly efficient agency of the crown. All this was in

addition to the powers exercised by the governors in the royal


Judicial Control

Supplementing this administrative control over the

colonies was a constant supervision by the English courts of law. The

king, by virtue of his inherent authority, claimed and exercised high

appellate powers over all judicial tribunals in the empire. The right

of appeal from local courts, expressly set forth in some charters, was,

on the eve of the Revolution, maintained in every colony. Any subject in

England or America, who, in the regular legal course, was aggrieved by

any act of a colonial legislature or any decision of a colonial court,

had the right, subject to certain regulations, to carry his case to the

king in council, forcing his opponent to follow him across the sea. In

the exercise of appellate power, the king in council acting as a court

could, and frequently did, declare acts of colonial legislatures duly

enacted and approved, null and void, on the ground that they were

contrary to English law.

Imperial Control in Operation

Day after day, week after week, year

after year, the machinery for political and judicial control over

colonial affairs was in operation. At one time the British governors in

the colonies were ordered not to approve any colonial law imposing a

duty on European goods imported in English vessels. Again, when North

Carolina laid a tax on peddlers, the council objected to it as

"restrictive upon the trade and dispersion of English manufactures

throughout the continent." At other times, Indian trade was regulated in

the interests of the whole empire or grants of lands by a colonial

legislature were set aside. Virginia was forbidden to close her ports to

North Carolina lest there should be retaliation.

In short, foreign and intercolonial trade were subjected to a control

higher than that of the colony, foreshadowing a day when the

Constitution of the United States was to commit to Congress the power to

regulate interstate and foreign commerce and commerce with the Indians.

A superior judicial power, towering above that of the colonies, as the

Supreme Court at Washington now towers above the states, kept the

colonial legislatures within the metes and bounds of established law. In

the thousands of appeals, memorials, petitions, and complaints, and the

rulings and decisions upon them, were written the real history of

British imperial control over the American colonies.

So great was the business before the Lords of Trade that the colonies

had to keep skilled agents in London to protect their interests. As

common grievances against the operation of this machinery of control

arose, there appeared in each colony a considerable body of men, with

the merchants in the lead, who chafed at the restraints imposed on their

enterprise. Only a powerful blow was needed to weld these bodies into a

common mass nourishing the spirit of colonial nationalism. When to the

repeated minor irritations were added general and sweeping measures of

Parliament applying to every colony, the rebound came in the Revolution.

Parliamentary Control over Colonial Affairs

As soon as Parliament

gained in power at the expense of the king, it reached out to bring the

American colonies under its sway as well. Between the execution of

Charles I and the accession of George III, there was enacted an immense

body of legislation regulating the shipping, trade, and manufactures of

America. All of it, based on the "mercantile" theory then prevalent in

all countries of Europe, was designed to control the overseas

plantations in such a way as to foster the commercial and business

interests of the mother country, where merchants and men of finance had

got the upper hand. According to this theory, the colonies of the

British empire should be confined to agriculture and the production of

raw materials, and forced to buy their manufactured goods of England.

The Navigation Acts.--In the first rank among these measures of

British colonial policy must be placed the navigation laws framed for

the purpose of building up the British merchant marine and navy--arms so

essential in defending the colonies against the Spanish, Dutch, and

French. The beginning of this type of legislation was made in 1651 and

it was worked out into a system early in the reign of Charles II


The Navigation Acts, in effect, gave a monopoly of colonial commerce to

British ships. No trade could be carried on between Great Britain and

her dominions save in vessels built and manned by British subjects. No

European goods could be brought to America save in the ships of the

country that produced them or in English ships. These laws, which were

almost fatal to Dutch shipping in America, fell with severity upon the

colonists, compelling them to pay higher freight rates. The adverse

effect, however, was short-lived, for the measures stimulated

shipbuilding in the colonies, where the abundance of raw materials gave

the master builders of America an advantage over those of the mother

country. Thus the colonists in the end profited from the restrictive

policy written into the Navigation Acts.

The Acts against Manufactures.--The second group of laws was

deliberately aimed to prevent colonial industries from competing too

sharply with those of England. Among the earliest of these measures may

be counted the Woolen Act of 1699, forbidding the exportation of woolen

goods from the colonies and even the woolen trade between towns and

colonies. When Parliament learned, as the result of an inquiry, that New

England and New York were making thousands of hats a year and sending

large numbers annually to the Southern colonies and to Ireland, Spain,

and Portugal, it enacted in 1732 a law declaring that "no hats or felts,

dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished" should be "put upon any vessel

or laden upon any horse or cart with intent to export to any place

whatever." The effect of this measure upon the hat industry was almost

ruinous. A few years later a similar blow was given to the iron

industry. By an act of 1750, pig and bar iron from the colonies were

given free entry to England to encourage the production of the raw

material; but at the same time the law provided that "no mill or other

engine for slitting or rolling of iron, no plating forge to work with a

tilt hammer, and no furnace for making steel" should be built in the

colonies. As for those already built, they were declared public

nuisances and ordered closed. Thus three important economic interests of

the colonists, the woolen, hat, and iron industries, were laid under the


The Trade Laws.--The third group of restrictive measures passed by the

British Parliament related to the sale of colonial produce. An act of

1663 required the colonies to export certain articles to Great Britain

or to her dominions alone; while sugar, tobacco, and ginger consigned to

the continent of Europe had to pass through a British port paying custom

duties and through a British merchant's hands paying the usual

commission. At first tobacco was the only one of the "enumerated

articles" which seriously concerned the American colonies, the rest

coming mainly from the British West Indies. In the course of time,

however, other commodities were added to the list of enumerated

articles, until by 1764 it embraced rice, naval stores, copper, furs,

hides, iron, lumber, and pearl ashes. This was not all. The colonies

were compelled to bring their European purchases back through English

ports, paying duties to the government and commissions to merchants


The Molasses Act.--Not content with laws enacted in the interest of

English merchants and manufacturers, Parliament sought to protect the

British West Indies against competition from their French and Dutch

neighbors. New England merchants had long carried on a lucrative trade

with the French islands in the West Indies and Dutch Guiana, where sugar

and molasses could be obtained in large quantities at low prices. Acting

on the protests of English planters in the Barbadoes and Jamaica,

Parliament, in 1733, passed the famous Molasses Act imposing duties on

sugar and molasses imported into the colonies from foreign

countries--rates which would have destroyed the American trade with the

French and Dutch if the law had been enforced. The duties, however, were

not collected. The molasses and sugar trade with the foreigners went on

merrily, smuggling taking the place of lawful traffic.

Effect of the Laws in America

As compared with the strict monopoly

of her colonial trade which Spain consistently sought to maintain, the

policy of England was both moderate and liberal. Furthermore, the

restrictive laws were supplemented by many measures intended to be

favorable to colonial prosperity. The Navigation Acts, for example,

redounded to the advantage of American shipbuilders and the producers

of hemp, tar, lumber, and ship stores in general. Favors in British

ports were granted to colonial producers as against foreign competitors

and in some instances bounties were paid by England to encourage

colonial enterprise. Taken all in all, there is much justification in

the argument advanced by some modern scholars to the effect that the

colonists gained more than they lost by British trade and industrial

legislation. Certainly after the establishment of independence, when

free from these old restrictions, the Americans found themselves

handicapped by being treated as foreigners rather than favored traders

and the recipients of bounties in English markets.

Be that as it may, it appears that the colonists felt little irritation

against the mother country on account of the trade and navigation laws

enacted previous to the close of the French and Indian war. Relatively

few were engaged in the hat and iron industries as compared with those

in farming and planting, so that England's policy of restricting America

to agriculture did not conflict with the interests of the majority of

the inhabitants. The woolen industry was largely in the hands of women

and carried on in connection with their domestic duties, so that it was

not the sole support of any considerable number of people.

As a matter of fact, moreover, the restrictive laws, especially those

relating to trade, were not rigidly enforced. Cargoes of tobacco were

boldly sent to continental ports without even so much as a bow to the

English government, to which duties should have been paid. Sugar and

molasses from the French and Dutch colonies were shipped into New

England in spite of the law. Royal officers sometimes protested against

smuggling and sometimes connived at it; but at no time did they succeed

in stopping it. Taken all in all, very little was heard of "the galling

restraints of trade" until after the French war, when the British

government suddenly entered upon a new course.


In the period between the landing of the English at Jamestown, Virginia,

in 1607, and the close of the French and Indian war in 1763--a period of

a century and a half--a new nation was being prepared on this continent

to take its place among the powers of the earth. It was an epoch of

migration. Western Europe contributed emigrants of many races and

nationalities. The English led the way. Next to them in numerical

importance were the Scotch-Irish and the Germans. Into the melting pot

were also cast Dutch, Swedes, French, Jews, Welsh, and Irish. Thousands

of negroes were brought from Africa to till Southern fields or labor as

domestic servants in the North.

Why did they come? The reasons are various. Some of them, the Pilgrims

and Puritans of New England, the French Huguenots, Scotch-Irish and

Irish, and the Catholics of Maryland, fled from intolerant governments

that denied them the right to worship God according to the dictates of

their consciences. Thousands came to escape the bondage of poverty in

the Old World and to find free homes in America. Thousands, like the

negroes from Africa, were dragged here against their will. The lure of

adventure appealed to the restless and the lure of profits to the

enterprising merchants.

How did they come? In some cases religious brotherhoods banded together

and borrowed or furnished the funds necessary to pay the way. In other

cases great trading companies were organized to found colonies. Again it

was the wealthy proprietor, like Lord Baltimore or William Penn, who

undertook to plant settlements. Many immigrants were able to pay their

own way across the sea. Others bound themselves out for a term of years

in exchange for the cost of the passage. Negroes were brought on account

of the profits derived from their sale as slaves.

Whatever the motive for their coming, however, they managed to get

across the sea. The immigrants set to work with a will. They cut down

forests, built houses, and laid out fields. They founded churches,

schools, and colleges. They set up forges and workshops. They spun and

wove. They fashioned ships and sailed the seas. They bartered and

traded. Here and there on favorable harbors they established centers of

commerce--Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and

Charleston. As soon as a firm foothold was secured on the shore line

they pressed westward until, by the close of the colonial period, they

were already on the crest of the Alleghanies.

Though they were widely scattered along a thousand miles of seacoast,

the colonists were united in spirit by many common ties. The major

portion of them were Protestants. The language, the law, and the

literature of England furnished the basis of national unity. Most of the

colonists were engaged in the same hard task; that of conquering a

wilderness. To ties of kinship and language were added ties created by

necessity. They had to unite in defense; first, against the Indians and

later against the French. They were all subjects of the same

sovereign--the king of England. The English Parliament made laws for

them and the English government supervised their local affairs, their

trade, and their manufactures. Common forces assailed them. Common

grievances vexed them. Common hopes inspired them.

Many of the things which tended to unite them likewise tended to throw

them into opposition to the British Crown and Parliament. Most of them

were freeholders; that is, farmers who owned their own land and tilled

it with their own hands. A free soil nourished the spirit of freedom.

The majority of them were Dissenters, critics, not friends, of the

Church of England, that stanch defender of the British monarchy. Each

colony in time developed its own legislature elected by the voters; it

grew accustomed to making laws and laying taxes for itself. Here was a

people learning self-reliance and self-government. The attempts to

strengthen the Church of England in America and the transformation of

colonies into royal provinces only fanned the spirit of independence

which they were designed to quench.

Nevertheless, the Americans owed much of their prosperity to the

assistance of the government that irritated them. It was the protection

of the British navy that prevented Holland, Spain, and France from

wiping out their settlements. Though their manufacture and trade were

controlled in the interests of the mother country, they also enjoyed

great advantages in her markets. Free trade existed nowhere upon the

earth; but the broad empire of Britain was open to American ships and

merchandise. It could be said, with good reason, that the disadvantages

which the colonists suffered through British regulation of their

industry and trade were more than offset by the privileges they enjoyed.

Still that is somewhat beside the point, for mere economic advantage is

not necessarily the determining factor in the fate of peoples. A

thousand circumstances had helped to develop on this continent a nation,

to inspire it with a passion for independence, and to prepare it for a

destiny greater than that of a prosperous dominion of the British

empire. The economists, who tried to prove by logic unassailable that

America would be richer under the British flag, could not change the

spirit of Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, or George