Origins of the Thirteen Colonies Research Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
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  • Subject: Government
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #71524723

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James II. had pursued it from a very different point-of-view when he consolidated the northern and middle colonies under Sir Edmund Andros (Appleby, 1984). The high-handed proceedings of Andros and his master rendered the Americans averse from any future plans of federation imposed from without, and the social and religious differences between the various regions long prevented the rise of any motion to union from within. All had their disagreements with the home government, but none had sufficient sympathy with their neighbors to fight their battles in common. Nevertheless, the French peril from 1689 onwards rendered co-ordination at least of military effort desirable, and plans were discussed from time to time which, whilst themselves abortive, kept alive the idea of union which bore fruit at length in the Philadelphia Congress of 1774. In all these plans the initiative came from the British government or its representatives; the royal officials in fact were almost the only men in America who showed any interest in the matter (Akenson, 1985). In the time of William III. Penn suggested a colonial congress, and the Board of Trade, on the representation of the colonial governors, proposed to appoint a captain general of the combined military forces of the northern colonies. The chartered colonies, however, declined to agree to what they considered an infringement of their liberties. Again in 1721 the Board in a report to the crown recommended the creation of a governor-general of America, with trading concessions as a bait to secure the colonists' compliance. But Walpole's reign of quieta non-movere was setting in and nothing came of the proposal. A like fate befell another memorandum from the Board five years later, suggesting a consolidation on autocratic lines accompanied by a stamp tax to pay the expenses of the new government (Lipset, 1963). The most promising attempt at federation came in 1754 when the French menace was again becoming acute. In that year representatives from all but two of the colonies met at Albany to treat with the chiefs of the Five Nations. Benjamin Franklin proposed to the meeting a plan of union whereby a president general was to be appointed by the crown and a grand council of forty-eight was to be elected by the colonies. This body was to take charge of Indian affairs and military defense, with power to raise money for those purposes. The representatives approved of the scheme, but the colonial assemblies, jealous of their own authority, all refused to ratify it.

The colonists indeed, except during the short period of Pitt's ministry, were extremely backward in defending their own territory against the French. To this Massachusetts and Connecticut were honorable exceptions (Archibald, 1978). The others, as a rule, expected the imperial government to take all necessary measures by land as well as by sea. In time of peace tiny detachments of the British army were stationed in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New York and South Carolina. On the outbreak of war the government began by requesting the colonies to call out their militias in addition (Appleby, 1984). New York, although comparatively wealthy and exposed to attack, usually haggled and procrastinated until the time for action had passed. The Quaker colonies had religious motives for standing aloof, although after the outbreak of the Seven Years' War the Quaker politicians of Pennsylvania withdrew from public affairs in order to allow their fellows a free hand in carrying out measures they could not themselves approve. Virginia found a few men for the operations against Fort Duquesne, but was parsimonious in paying and supplying them. The more southerly colonies, with their preponderance of slave labor, were never in a position to turn out large forces (Akenson, 1985). In general the colonies were slow to move, and when they did so, were often unwilling to trust their men out of their own jurisdiction. Under Pitt's sympathetic leadership they did better. He gave colonial officers an equal status with regulars of the same rank, and he explained fully his policy and his needs. In 1760, the year of the final assault upon Canada, the colonies contributed 16,000 men, of whom Massachusetts provided 5,000, Connecticut 4,000, Virginia 1000, and Maryland and the Carolinas nil (Appleby, 1992). After the fall of Canada the colonists' enthusiasm died away. They failed to provide the expected numbers for the West Indian campaign of 1762, and although they shared in the capture of Havana, the movement against Louisiana had to be given up. One authority holds that the colonial attitude was largely responsible for the retrocessions of territory at the Treaty of Paris. It was plain that the Americans would take little share in garrisoning the new acquisitions, and the magnitude of the national debt rendered it imperative to cut down military outlay at home (Myrdal, 1944).

The colonization of Georgia, the last of the thirteen states founded under British rule, was taken in hand in 1732 (Lipset, 1963). It originated in philanthropic motives, somewhat suggestive of the doctrines of Hakluyt a hundred and fifty years before. General James Oglethorpe was concerned at the unhappy fate of men committed to debtors' prisons, and came to the conclusion that a specially organized colony was needed to give such characters a fresh start in life. The government was favorable to his scheme because it desired to set up a buffer to protect the plantations of South Carolina from Spanish incursions. Oglethorpe and his associates therefore obtained a charter making them proprietors of the coast between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, that is, between Carolina and Florida (Appleby, 1984). In January, 1733, he crossed the Atlantic with his first party of emigrants, and founded the town of Savannah in a good military position upon the river of that name. Oglethorpe lived for some years in his colony, directing its early efforts and striving to render it a means of the moral reformation of its inhabitants. Some of his ideas were unsuitable to the local conditions. He allotted the land in very small parcels, which could not be worked as economically as the great estates in South Carolina. He also attempted to prohibit slavery, but the settlers were long found means of evading this rule (Parsons, 1951). The Spaniards in Florida were of course hostile, and there was much desultory fighting with them in the early years. This led to no decisive results except the general retardation of the colony's progress. The proprietary grant had been made terminable after twenty-one years, that is, in 1753. Before that date, however, the promoters saw the control of the undertaking slipping from their grasp, and were glad to resign their rights (Akenson, 1985). In 1751 Georgia became a crown colony. By 1760 its white population was about 6000 in numbers, principally engaged in rice cultivation.

The old colonial system, as we have seen, was based upon the ideal of self-sufficiency, of a self-contained empire in which the mother country produced all the manufactured goods required, and the colonies all the raw material and the tropical luxuries which were fast becoming necessities of civilized life. At home this ideal was fanatically and almost universally held; it was the common factor of all shades of mercantile opinion. The colonists, on the other hand, regarded it coldly. While quite happy to profit from those sections of the Navigation Acts which sheltered their shipping from foreign rivalry, they protested always beside the restriction of market for detailed wares and the bans against the import of manufactures straight from the continent of Europe. They usually overlooked the advantage they got from sacrifices in the imperial interest imposed upon the home population (Appleby, 1984). Of these sacrifices the ruthless suppression of the west of England tobacco culture was only one. English shipbuilders asked for protection against their New England competitors, but never obtained it. The English consumer paid monopoly prices for empire-grown sugar; his tea and his silks and other articles of non-British manufacture cost him more than the colonist paid for the same goods, owing to the system of remissions of duty upon re-exported merchandise; and as a taxpayer he found the money for the bounties upon naval stores and other productions which the imperial administration sought artificially to foster in America (Parsons, 1951).

The whole policy involved sacrifices upon both sides for corresponding benefits. It has already been considered at length, but it has been necessary to summarize it again in this chapter because it was undoubtedly the chief factor in producing that colonial discontent which a few tactless measures kindled rapidly into the flame of insurrection (Appleby, 1992). Rightly or wrongly the suspicion prevailed in America that the mother country was getting the better of the bargain (Lipset, 1963); and such an impression was inevitable so long as the whole imperial administration was centered at Westminster in the hands of British statesmen with the merchants and manufacturers of London close by to whisper in their ears. On the issue of imperial self-sufficiency the practical question is not…

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