The discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492 led to the colonial expansion of the nations of Western Europe. These colonies were created to push trade forwards in the form of new imports, primarily raw materials as a base for trade and creations of new products. This topic will focus on the history of North America before the American Revolution in 1776. The first successful English colony was established by the London Virginia Company in 1607 and was known as Jamestown. It was primarily created for the purpose of looking for gold.
It was not successful in its venture but eventually found money in growing tobacco which eventually bloomed into plantations with settlers coming in with servants and slaves to create their own. The colony depended on the trade of these crops and most of them were shipped straight back to Britain. The formation of this colony was followed by the settlement of the Pilgrims, a protestant sect based in England and the Netherlands in Massachusetts. They were escaping religious persecution aboard the Mayflower and they drew themselves the Mayflower compact after landing which gave them power of self governance.
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This was followed by the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629 by the Puritans. They wished to create a religious nation that would serve the true religion. The banishment of Roger Williams from the colony for preaching the separation of church and state led the creation of Rhode Island Colony. From an economic standpoint they were also self-sustaining. Their economy worked on every farmer sustaining himself and having to trade for any goods they could not provide for themselves. The three of these colonies formed the Cheapsake bay area.
The middle colonies consisted of what are presently New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. These colonies were characterized by much diversity in their religious, economic, political and ethnic practices. Connecticut was also formed. The colonization of the lower south started in Carolina in 1670 by the English Lords Proprietors. It was mainly set up as a trading colony especially in South Carolina. They eventually cultivated rice in 1690 through the aid of the African slaves they brought with them.
The political differences between the settlers in this colony created much conflict and eventually war which lead to the Proprietors selling it back to the British Crown. A member of parliament known as James Oglethorpe established Georgia Colony in 1733 as a way to form a base against Florida which was occupied by Spain at the time. It was established with strict moral laws which forbade slavery and alcohol along with other forms of immortal acts. Once these laws were rescinded the country went from poverty to prosperity. It consisted of people from varied religious backgrounds.
Great Britain eventually won East and West Florida from the Spaniards in 1763 and returned it in 1783 when they left. By 1700 most of the regions were divided in two halves. Their origins brought about the creation of two very different societies. The colonies of New England were much more individualistic as compared to the Southern colonies. The northern colonies touted freedom of religion and of the political process. They formed their society around an orthodox method in order to set an example for all other societies. In contrast the southerners were developed around the bases of economics.
Their society was more geared towards mercantilism. The vast quantities of cheap land available to them allowed them to pursue this interest. In order to facilitate their economy they also formed a government which was based according to the Virginia Charter. The increasing demand for English goods grew rapidly in the 1700s and with the possession of the cotton industry in the south the colonies soon outpace England in terms of exports. This was mainly due to the fact that the colonies made use of slaves for labor purposes which brought them great prosperity.
In the 1600 the English passed a series of laws known as the Navigation Acts which restricted the use of foreign shipping to trade between England and its colonies. This was mainly done to limit Dutch merchants from trading with its colonies and allowed England to be the main hub for all colonial products. These acts though bringing Britain great wealth caused great resentment in the colonies. This was so because the laws restricted the ability of the colonies to trade with anyone but the English, with these in effect it decreased their power to be independent of the Royal Court.
Thus these Mercantilist policies were refused by the colonies as they saw it as a control over their economies and their government. In order to avoid heavy taxes and regulations the colonies resorted to smuggling their goods. The loss of much wealth led the British to enact the writ of assistance which enabled officers to freely search citizens and homes which were suspected of smuggling. The colonists found this to be a violation of their civil rights as citizens of the crown. One of the main ways that smugglers from the colonies operated was the selling tea to the American colonies.
Originally the tea came from England through the East India Company, however when Benjamin Franklin suggested that the company bypass England and deal with the colonists directly, the smugglers lost their source of income. In rebellion they tossed 342 crates of tea into the Boston Harbor. This led to the Boston Port Act through which Britain closed down Boston harbor until the tea was paid for. The mercantilism system had a draconian effect on the colonies. Following the Seven years war in 1765 the British Parliament imposed a stamp tax on the American colonies requiring by law that all printed materials carry it.
This was to pay for the military funds from the war of which the colonists were considered benefactors. This was also considered violations of their rights as colonial citizens to decide their own tax laws and led to many protests from New England to Georgia. Other British colonies also rebelled against the tax as they saw it as a threat to their economy and it was eventually repealed in 1766. This added further fuel to the colonist resentment and concerns of the British parliament. The last straw was that of the Boston Massacre where the deaths of five civilians in 1770 and sparked the fire which led to the American Revolution.
In the end it was all of the reasons above along with the need of the colonies to establish their own government free from the religious, economic and governmental persecution of the English that led to the creation and subsequently fight for the freedom of the colonies and as we know in the end they succeeded. References Internet History Sourcebooks Project. (2007, June 4). Colonial North America. Retrieved May 24, 2009, from Internet Modern History Sourcebook : http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/modsbook07. html
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