Table of Contents
Many historians have sought to explore the story of colonial America and determine how the different colonies emerged. Colonial America comprised 13 colonies under the imperial rulership of different Europeans. The establishment of the European colonial powers began in the sixteenth century, when Europeans moved into the New World in search of better opportunities (Geise 66). Over time, the Europeans focused on colonial expansion with the core objective of exploiting the resources in the New World. Understanding the fundamental aspects defining each colony is of critical importance because the colonies eventually formed the United States of America (Gray 102). Each of the colonies had unique characteristics depending on the religious ideologies of the Europeans that colonized them. This paper will explore various aspects of colonial America, giving attention to the formation of the 13 colonies and highlighting their unique characteristics.
The 13 colonies included Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina (Rabushka 28). The Europeans exhibited different interests in North America. Particularly, the 13 colonies represented a bright future for the European settlers because they had numerous resources. Many of the Europeans considered the colonies as remarkable opportunities for owning land in the new world and focusing on large-scale farming. A significant level of competition between the main European powers was present in America. The European powers had the determination to exploit the colonies to their advantage and reap economic benefits (Taylor 86). Particularly, Britain had a special interest in North America, explaining why many scholars referred to the region as British North America. The European settlers influenced the Native Americans living in different colonies and compelled them to embrace different forms of civilization.
Britain had many colonies in North America and focused on extensive expansion. Through their expansion, they were able to create more colonies and establish an increasing level of control on the American colonies. The colonies represented business ventures that the Europeans sought to exploit and register increased profitability. The initial settlers from England comprised a group of Puritans who established the New England colonies (Geise 69). The Puritans went further to form Connecticut because they considered Massachusetts as a settlement without benefits. Additionally, the puritans expanded to create Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Some of the Puritans considered Massachusetts as restrictive and preferred to form other colonies that would grant them more freedom. Notably, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire represented the New England colonies. There were middle colonies; namely, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. In the southern region, the main colonies included South and North Carolina as well as Georgia (Gray 108). Undoubtedly, the European settlers established the colonies in agreement with the resources available in each colony as well as the geographical location. Colonies such as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania eventually became English colonies after Charles II underwent restoration.
There is evidence that the English settlers first established their colonial influence in a region named Chesapeake. From this region, the English settlers were able to expand to other areas depending on the identified resource. One of the significant interests of the English settlers was tobacco. They focused on areas that registered a significant level of tobacco growth. The interest of Europeans in different crops or agricultural projects was a key determinant of the colonies they formed (Rabushka 30). The Catholic settlers were in control of colonies such as Maryland. The competition between Protestants and Catholics determined how the Europeans ruled the colonies. In the initial stages of expansion, the European settlers introduced their religion to the Americans. The religious influence on the American colonies created a favorable environment for expansive exploitation (Taylor 67). Some colonies promoted religious freedom while others were highly stringent and religious freedom was not a privilege provided. The colonies required a constant source of labor to support the agricultural activities that defined the integral aspect of the economy.
The American colonies relied on African slaves who provided the much-desired labor to support the agricultural sector. The transatlantic trade brought Africans to the new world who eventually became laborers in the different colonies (Gray 99). It is evident that the colonies needed a reliable source of labor to support the agricultural activities. For this reason, many of them believed that slavery would be a potential solution to the shortage of labor. Some of the Europeans prohibited slavery in the earlier years. However, slavery grew significantly, especially in the southern colonies. Notably, colonies such as North and South Carolina as well as Georgia focused on maintaining large plantations. As a result, they were in greater need of slaves to resolve the problem with a labor shortage. The American colonies eventually embraced slavery as an important aspect of the growth of the economy. The religious beliefs of the European settlers did not condemn slavery because they considered Africans inferior beings (Geise 76). There was a significant increase of European settlers as they struggled to find more resources in the United States. The settlers occupied different areas in America and contributed significantly to the dispersal of enslaved Africans to different colonies.
Each colony had a unique culture depending on the Europeans who formed the imperial rules. There is evidence that different colonies operated under different mechanisms that appeared appropriate to the European settlers. The enslaved Africans were most disadvantaged in the system because they faced the compulsion to provide free labor despite the exploitation on the plantations (Rabushka 34). Although the European settlers belonged to various religions, they had similar interests in the American colonies. They needed colonies with different cash crops and desirable resources for them to survive. The new world registered a significant productivity level that provided all the colonies with adequate food. For this reason, the European settlers did not starve as they struggled to settle in different colonies. The enslaved Africans served to resolve a critical problem that the colonies were facing. The lack of adequate labor was threatening to bring down the agricultural system (Taylor 77). However, the slaves took the responsibility of working on the farms without expecting any pay due to the introduced slavery system. The differences between the colonies were highly significant, and the colonial culture was heterogeneous. It was impossible to characterize the similar features of the colonies unless a scholar focused on the presence of slaves in each colony.
Many of the colonies believed in traditional English freedom promoted by a constitutional government. However, actions by the British parliament motivated the colonists to rebel against the British tyranny. Such events triggered numerous changes in different colonies. However, the European settlers did not lose sight of their interests to continue expanding their control to various regions. The colonial powers would eventually become a source of exploitation through the establishment of undesirable policies. The increased exploitation motivated the colonies to work together and develop a revolution against the colonial powers (Geise 77). Undoubtedly, the colonies were under turmoil due to the unfavorable strategies that the European governments used to control the colonies. It was evident that the European governments were pushing the colonies beyond what they could bear. The excessive pressure motivated the colonies to rise against the colonial powers. The American colonists enjoyed a significant level of freedom in controlling their colonies. They worked with different representatives who served in the colonial assemblies to foster effective measures that governed the colonies. It was the role of the colonial assemblies to set up taxation laws (Gray 105). Unfortunately, some of the taxation laws were unacceptable to the people. The people felt exploited and wanted to revolt against the European governments.
The taxation controversy served as a significant event because it motivated the American colonies to take measures of the revolution. There were numerous revenue acts such as the molasses act, the currency act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, as well as the Quartering Act. All these Acts were subject to stringent reinforcement, a factor that made life unbearable for many individuals. The objective of the British government was to increase the control on taxation as a way of raising revenue (Rabushka 33). Unfortunately, the British government’s measures served to fuel a deeper crisis. The colonies organized resistance to new taxes through protests. It was impossible for the British government to prevent such protests because the colonies were determined to rebel against the unfavorable taxation Acts. The Boston Massacre is one of the events that depicted the unrelenting spirit of the American colonies to resist the unfair taxes (Taylor 88). One of the factors that led to resistance was that the imposition of taxes took place without the representatives of the colonies giving their contribution regarding the new Acts. For this reason, there emerged new colonial attitudes that focused on rebelling against the European settlers. The continental congress played a critical role in preparing the colonies to fight for freedom and independence from the European governments.
Understanding colonial America requires a critical analysis of the features of the 13 colonies. It is explicit that the European settlers introduced a measure of diversity in the manner in which the colonies operated. The development of slavery is one of the critical aspects that define colonial America. The role of the African slaves was critical importance in supporting agriculture in various colonies (Geise 78). However, the colonies exhibited a great level of diversity until they recognized the need to fight for freedom. With the excessive level of exploitation by the European governments, the colonies worked together to resist the unfair taxation. It was the first time for the colonies to come together with a common agenda. Understanding the colonial culture in the different colonies can help in appreciating the level of European influence on the American colonies. It was evident that the colonies had various experiences during the colonial era. However, they had similar views regarding the role of slavery in promoting the agricultural sector (Rabushka 40). The Europeans established different religions in the American colonies depending on their initial religious affiliations. The 13 colonies worked together to gain independence and formed the United States of America.
- Geise, Robert. American History to 1877. Hauppauge, N.Y: Barron’s Educational Series, 1992. Print.
- Gray, Edward G. Colonial America: A History in Documents. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Internet resource.
- Rabushka, Alvin. Taxation in Colonial America. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2008. Internet resource.
- Taylor, Alan. Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.