HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
THERE is much in common in the course of social evolution through which each of the colonies passed. Each was working out the problem of the creation of a new social unit with much the same materials. In the beginning the colony was generally established as an outlying possession of some private trading company. The London Company and the Plymouth Company were private corporations to which nearly all of what is now the United States was assigned as private property. Had the first ships sent out discovered gold, or realized the rich profits to be made in furs, the whole history of this country would possibly have been different. It is within the realm of the possible that these companies might have built up gigantic private enterprises with governmental functions like that of the East India Company in British India. That this idea is by no means fanciful is shown by the history of the Hudson Bay Company in the much less favorable location of northern Canada.
The first expeditions sent out by these companies did not find gold. They did not find profits of any kind. Consequently, the companies soon lost interest and the colonies were permitted to work out their own salvation.
The course of evolution pursued in each colony bears a striking resemblance to the line of development that
the race has followed. Caution is needed in applying this or any other historical analogy, because the colonists were not primitive savages, and they did not evolve independent of the remainder of the world.
In the beginning nearly every colony, being confronted with the problem of maintaining a small group, composed of individuals of nearly equal strength, in the midst of a hostile environment, solved that problem as the race solved it at the same stage by the adoption of primitive communism. As soon as the colony advanced to the point where division of labor and the importation of domestic animals with diversified industry made its appearance, communism was naturally discarded. It had not "failed" or "succeeded," or been "rejected" by the colonists any more than the similar stage in race history.1
Very early the colonies began to develop important differences, which were destined to have the most far-reaching consequences. It therefore becomes necessary to consider them separately, or at least by sections. This division and the peculiar development of the various sections depends largely upon geographical conditions, some of which already have been considered.
In each stage of social evolution the size of the social unit depends first of
all upon the extent and character of the transportation system upon which it
rests. During colonial times there were three systems of commercial communication
: (1) up and down the rivers within each colony ; (2) along the coast between the
colonies ; (3) for-
1. Doyle, "English Colonies in America," Vol. I, pp. 55-64, passim, where this evolution is traced, but with a complete misunderstanding of its explanation.
eign, across the ocean.1All except the last of these have to-day been overshadowed by the public highways and the railroads.
Such a system, or combination of systems, or lack of system, according to the point of view, tended to the creation of a series of almost isolated societies with very different characteristics. Each such society had its own seaport which evolved into the commercial, financial, and political head of the colony. From this city the river reached into the interior, determining the direction and extent of settlement, and acting as the common carrier for the produce of the forest and later of the farms that grew up along its banks. The colony as a whole, in the beginning at least, was constantly recruited from across the ocean and procured many of its necessities from the same source. During this time it was really in much closer touch with Europe than with perhaps its nearest neighbor among the other colonies.2
Aside from this individual isolation, the colonies as a whole fell into three
well-marked groups. These groups were New England, the Middle Colonies (between
the Hudson and the Potomac), and the Southern, lying south of the latter
1 Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," Vol. I, pp. 376-377
2I. L. Ringwalt, "Development of Transportation Systems in the United States," p. 3.:--
Each of the thirteen original colonies had one or more seaports, and the main current of trade existing during the entire colonial era, and in some respects up to much later periods, was between these ports and the interior districts of the colonies in which they were respectively located, on the one hand, and the outer world, via the ocean, on the other. Commerce between the colonies was of limited magnitude, and originally nearly all the movements made from one colony to another were conducted in shallops, sloops, schooners, and other sea-going vessels.
In each of these colonies a somewhat different group of Europeans was working out the problem of a new society with the peculiar natural environment of its locality.
New England was settled in the beginning largely by the Puritans, the English expression of the Reformation. They belonged mostly to the middle class, were generally fairly well educated, extremely individualistic in their ideas, and bigoted in their religion. These characteristics were rather accentuated than otherwise by being transplanted to a new country, and by the fact that whole congregations came together.
In its physical features New England possessed several points that differentiated
her quite sharply from the other colonies. The point where the break comes in the
rivers between the tidewater level and the rise of the continental mainland is
much closer to the ocean than in the more southern portion of the Atlantic coast.
The rivers could be navigated but a short distance. On the other hand, this gave
rise to numerous water powers, close to the ocean, at the head of navigation,
which later marked the seat of manufacturing cities. "With the exception of the
Connecticut, therefore," says Semple,1 "which added fertile meadow
lands to the attraction of the fur trade, the streams of New England, in
consequence of their limited basins and rapid, broken courses, scarcely affected
early settlement." There was a negative way in which this absence of navigable
rivers affected New England life. In the other colonies there was one river
around which the life of the colony was grouped and which formed the main
4 Ellen Churchill Semple, "American History and its Geographic Conditions," p. 24.
into the interior and for commerce within the colony itself. The absence of such rivers in New England kept the settlements close to the coast, and made the ocean the main carrier for all commerce, local or foreign. The geographical isolation from the remainder of the Atlantic coast led to an intensive growth of the New England society.
Mountains and straggling, rugged hills separated her from the great northern valleys. Until the middle of our century, when iron ways and steam-driven carriages pierced the mountain chains, carrying exchanges into the Hudson, Mohawk, and the St. Lawrence valleys, New England was a coastwise community, physically forced into the economic development of the Atlantic coast.1
Such growth so emphasized industrial and social institutions as to give them a remarkable power of impressing themselves upon aftertime. In this regard New England society was much like carefully bred live stock in that it showed a great power of persistence and capacity of impressing its characteristics upon its descendants even when the degree of relationship is extremely small.
During the first twenty years after the famous landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620,
New England life rested almost entirely upon crude agriculture, fishing, and the
trade with the Indians. Manufactured articles were brought from England, either
in exchange for furs or else as a part of the possessions of the steady stream of
immigrants. Agriculture was confined largely to the
1 Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," Vol. I, pp.* 15-16.
raising of Indian corn under the instruction of friendly Indians.
In 1624 the first cattle were brought over by Governor Winslow. These increased rapidly and were augmented by new shipments from England until by "1632 no farmer was satisfied to do without a cow; and there was in New England, not only a domestic, but an export, demand for the West Indies, which led to breeding for sale. But the market was soon overstocked, and the price of cattle went down from fifteen and twenty pounds to five pounds ; and milk was a penny a quart."1
This latter statement about the price of milk means very little, as cows were seldom milked at this time, being raised principally for their hides, and secondly for meat, and only very incidentally for their milk.1
During this period the machinery of commercial and industrial life and therefore
of society in general was extremely crude. The trade with the Indians was carried
on largely by barter, or by the use of the shell money called "wampum," which the
colonists adopted from the red men. The very fact that such a primitive currency
could be used in common by the two races speaks volumes for the nearness to which
they came to living upon the same social stage. In addition to "wampum" various
commodities, especially corn and beaver skins, were constituted mediums of
exchange by colonial law during this period.
1 Albert S. Bolles, "Industrial History of the United States," p. 115.
2 Ibid., p. 116.
3 Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," Vol. I, pp. 32-47, is a very full discussion of the function of wampum in colonial commerce with the Indians.
This use of various commodities as "money" is characteristic of an early stage of social organization. It is one through which the white race in other lands passed many centuries ago. There was one feature of the emigration from England that tended to prevent further reversion to lower social stages. The colonists came in groups, generally composed of a single church congregation. This transplanted the nucleus of a social organization directly to the New World.
About 1640 a change took place in England which had direct and far-reaching effects upon New England. The struggle between the Puritans and the Cavaliers broke into open warfare, in which the former, under Cromwell, were victorious. Naturally there was no longer any necessity for emigration on the part of the Puritans. On the contrary, it was now the turn of the Cavaliers to emigrate, but as the majority of these went to the Southern colonies we need not concern ourselves with them just now.
The stoppage of immigration meant many things to the colony. Each new family had brought with it a supply of manufactured articles for its own use at least. The ships which brought them carried similar articles for sale to the other colonists. A ship laden with immigrants could afford to carry freight cheaper and make much more frequent trips than one without passengers.As a result of this condition Weeden1 tells us that, -
There were many sellers, few buyers, and hardly any currency. There was a privation, not from scarcity, but it was enforced in the midst of abundance. Wares would not command wares, money there was none, and prices
1 Loc. cit., Vol. I, pp. 165-166.
fell to one half, yea, to a third, and staggered at last at about one quarter of the old standard.
As we shall see many times in the history of this country, when a nation is thus suddenly thrown back upon its own resources, it begins to develop new lines of industry. In this case the colonists were forced forward into a new industrial and social stage. New England now entered upon the road of diversified industry, the next step beyond primitive agriculture. The directions that the energies of the colony took were threefold, - domestic manufacturing, fishing, and shipbuilding.
May 13, 1640, the General Court of Massachusetts, passed an order to ascertain - "What men and women are skillful in braking, spinning, and weaving ; what means for the providing of wheels; and to consider with those skillful in that manufacture, what course may be taken to raise the materials and produce the manufacture."1
In 1646 a patent was granted to Joseph Jenks of the same colony for an improvement in the manufacture of scythes for the cutting of grass. He succeeded in producing so perfect a tool for this purpose that little improvement was made in his design for nearly three centuries.2
In 1648 an iron furnace in Lynn, Massachusetts, was turning out eight tons of
iron a week. During the next ten years furnaces were set up at several other
places in New England, all making use of the "bog ore" to be found in the
1 W. R. Bagnall, "The Textile Industries of the United States," p. 4.
2 Weeden, "Economic and Social History of New England," Vol. I, p. 183.
3 A. S. Bolles, "Industrial History of the United States," p. 194.
All these branches of manufacture grew steadily during the next hundred years. But faster than any of them grew fishing and shipbuilding and all manner of industrial life connected with the sea, until one writer declares of the people of New England at this time that, "The world never saw a more amphibious population."1
The first sawmill was built at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, in 1663, and was the beginning of the great shipbuilding industry of New England.2
All industrial life centered around the sea. Sometimes a farming, fishing sailor,
such as made up much of the population, would, with the aid of his neighbors,
build a ship at the mouth of some creek, launch it during the spring freshet, and
load it with rum for the African coast, fish for the Canaries, or, more
frequently, with pitch, tar, hemp, and long masts for England. Here ship and
cargo would both be sold, while the former owner, builder, and captain would ship
as a sailor on a return voyage, bringing home the proceeds of his venture.
One of the best established routes of colonial trade was the famous
"rum-molasses-slaves" triangular voyage. Loading with rum from one of the host of
distilleries that filled the coast towns of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the
good Puritan captain would set sail for the African coast with instructions to
"put plenty of water in ye rum, and use short meusure as much as possible," as
one letter which has been preserved quaintly reads. In Africa the rum was
exchanged for "black ivory," as the poor, entrapped negroes were called. Storing
1 Willis J. Abbot, "American Merchant Ships and Sailors," p. 5.
2 Eleanor L. Lord, "Industrial Experiments in the British Colonies of North America," John Hopkins Univ. Studies in Hist. and Pol. Sci.
chandise away in his hold, much as he had previously stored the hogsheads of rum, the ship would set sail for the West Indies or the Carolinas, where such of the cargo as had not died on the terrible "middle passage" would be traded for molasses, from which in turn more rum could be manufactured.
A society built upon such foundations could hardly be expected to attain the perfection which tradition has ascribed to Puritan New England. That it was something quite the reverse from the legendary society of most school histories is shown from the following quotation from Weeden, himself a New England writer:
We have seen molasses and alcohol, rum and slaves, gold and iron, in a perpetual and unholy round of commerce. All society was fouled in this lust ; it was inflamed by the passion for wealth ; it was callous to the wrongs of imported savages or displaced barbarians. . . . Cool, shrewd, sagacious merchants vied with punctilious, dogmatic priests in promoting this prostitution of industry."
With the change in the industrial base the appearance of commerce and manufacture
and exchange, the whole social organization was transformed. One of the first
signs of this was the adoption of a "money economy." "In the year 1670
Massachusetts repealed her law, `now injurious,' which made corn, cattle, etc.,
the equivalent for money."1 Nearly twenty years before (1652) the same
colony had established a mint at which the famous "Pine Tree Shillings" had been
coined. These first signs of industrial self-sufficiency were accompanied by the
beginnings of political unrest, and the
1 Weeden, "Economic History of New England," Vol. I, p. 326.
growth of a general independent feeling. One of the phases of this was the establishment of the New England Confederation in 1643, comprising all the New England colonies, except Rhode Island, which was kept out because of the religious heresy of its founder, Roger Williams, and his followers.
New England has been hailed as the birthplace of social equality, and orators and superficial historians are prone to trace all democratic institutions back to the famous "New England town meeting." The fact is that in the beginning these colonies, so far as local government is concerned, were theocratic autocracies. Only those who were property holders and members of the Established Church had any voice whatever even in these town meetings. The social gradations with their privileges were carefully determined by law, even to the sort of clothing which each social class was permitted to wear, and the places which its members were to occupy in the "meeting-house." As soon as even the beginnings of a wage-working class appeared, the wages of its members were fixed by law, and their position carefully defined.1
When this stage had been reached in each of the colonies, they began to have a
common development which can be better traced as a whole after considering the
course by which the others arrived at this same stage.
1 Weeden, loc. cit., Vol. I, pp. 98--99; McMaster, "The Acquirement of Political, Social, and Industrial Rights of Man in America," pp. 31-36, on general condition of colonial laborers.
When we cross the Potomac, the physical conditions are so different that although the people who came as colonists were practically the same as those of New England, yet the industrial and social organization which they developed was strikingly different. Something has already been said of the physiographic conditions of Virginia. There is one phase, however, that is so strikingly described by John Fiske in his "Old Virginia and Her Neighbors" as to be worth quoting. He says (Vol. I, p. 263): -
The country known as `tidewater Virginia' is a kind of sylvan Venice. Into the depths of the shaggy woodland for many miles on either side of the great bay the salt tide ebbs and flows. One can go surprisingly far inland on a seafaring craft, while with a boat there are but few plantations on the old York peninsula to which one cannot approach very near.
This broad alluvial belt was in striking contrast with the narrow strip of glaciated clay that fringed the coast of New England. The "fall line" was distant several hundred miles from the coast ; there were no rich fishing banks within easy sailing distance, and the nature and the form of agriculture which arose made for dispersion and not for concentration of population.
In the beginning Virginia was ruled by a trading company seeking profits for its shareholders. For the first few years there was little sign of any profits. In fact the colonists repeatedly came within a narrow margin of starvation. Then came the discovery of the possibilities in the cultivation of a plant that was destined to form
the basis of the industrial life of Virginia for many years to come. This was tobacco, of whose influence Henry Cabot Lodge says : -
Tobacco founded this colony and gave it wealth. It was the currency of Virginia, and as bad a one as could be devised, and fluctuating with every crop, yet it retained its place as a circulating medium despite the most strenuous efforts to introduce specie. The clergy were paid and the taxes levied in tobacco. The whole prosperity of the colony rested upon it for more than a century, and it was not until the period of the Revolution that other crops began to come in and to replace it. The fluctuations in tobacco caused the first conflict with England, brought on by the clergy, and paved the way to resistance. In tobacco the Virginian estimated his income and the value of everything he possessed ; and in its various functions, as well as in its methods of cultivation, it had strong effect upon the character of the people.
bility of building up a gigantic and powerful commercial monopoly. Just what the result of the exploitation of this crop by a great trading corporation owning the entire southern half of what is now the United States would have been we shall never have an opportunity to know. Political considerations (resting, to be sure, upon economic conditions) in England did not permit the experiment to be tried. King James I was having a hard time to keep down the rising power of the commercial class. He was intriguing with reactionary Spain and threatening and fighting rebellious subjects at home in his efforts to that end. Naturally the founders of the Virginia Company were of the rising commercial class. They were establishing the forms of democracy and representative government in their colony. The first representative body in America was the Virginia "House of Burgesses," which was convened in 1619. James was assured that the London Company was but a "seminary to a seditious Parliament,"1 and he therefore revoked their charter, - the sacredness of corporation property not having as yet become a fundamental principle of jurisprudence.
Virginia, consequently, was left to work out her salvation, like New England, as an almost independent province.The most striking feature of Southern agriculture was the great size of the individual estates. This rested upon the plantation system, a system inseparable from a one-crop or staple agriculture in an alluvial country. The first members of the London Company were given grants of large extent, and a method was soon provided by which these could be extended to almost any size.
1 Ibid., Chap. VI.
Every shareholder who met the cost of importing an able-bodied laborer, man or woman, was entitled to fifty acres in the first division and fifty additional in the second. . . . Unscrupulous planters obtained grants in consideration of passage money paid for members of their own families or for their own journeys to and from England. The land offices grew corrupt, and soon it was not deemed necessary to bring evidence of passage paid. A small fee handed to the secretary insured the solicited grant with no questions asked. This practice became so general that it was finally (1705) sanctioned by law.... At the close of the century the average size of a Virginia estate was seven hundred acres, and many a planter owned thousands.1
These estates were extremely profitable when worked with the slaves brought by the New England and British traders. A body of wealthy planters arose resting upon a subject population. Tobacco being an export crop, and demanding the entire energies of those raising it, other industries were neglected, and the South became dependent upon the New England shipbuilders and merchants. The exhaustive methods of agriculture compelled frequent abandonment of the old fields and the conquest of new ones from the forest.
Early in the eighteenth century the larger portion of
1 Coman, "Industrial History of the United States," p. 33. Greene's "Provincial America," says:
Governor Spottswood signed on one occasion several grants of ten, twenty, and forty thousand acres, including an aggregate of over 86,000 acres for himself. Theoretically grants were conditioned upon occupation and improvement, but the land administration was in the hands of the governor and council, or sometimes of the councillors alone, who, being themselves large landholders, were lax in enforcing rules which operated against the interests of their class.
the rich alluvial lands along the coast had become private property. Settlement was therefore pushed back upon what is called the Piedmont plateau. This was the land above the "fall line" of the rivers, and its soil and consequent crops and social organization was so wholly different as to have the most important effects upon the whole history of this region, and indeed upon the history of the whole country.
This physiographic line received a still sharper emphasis through the fact that it chanced to coincide with a racial division. It so happened that when in 1700 the line of westward advance of settlement in Virginia had just reached this Piedmont plateau, and when the rich alluvial tobacco land had all been divided up into privately owned plantations, the great exodus from the north of Ireland, which has already been described, took place.1 The upland agriculture and the social organization based upon it was from the beginning totally different from that of the tidewater region. The back country people were raisers of corn and livestock, of a very stunted kind to be sure. They were most of all hunters and trappers and explorers of the wilderness. From them sprung a race of frontiersmen and Indian fighters that was to become the social class most characteristic of American society.The period of the "Commonwealth" in England had an important effect in Virginia as well as in New England. This effect was, however, very different. While in New England the triumph of the Puritan in the mother country stopped immigration almost entirely, it gave a strong impetus to a certain sort of immigration into Virginia.
1 John Fiske, "Old Virginia and Her Neighbors," Vol. II, pp. 456-461.
A number of the Cavaliers, finding England no longer agreeable as a place of residence, came to the New World.1 These were men of wealth and power, and they retained their power in Virginia. This was the time when the families of Randolph, Madison, Mason, Monroe, Marshall, Washington, and many others whose names were to be famous in American history came to these shores.
Such a society was bound to develop industrial classes that would struggle for
mastery. Throughout colonial times, and indeed for many years to follow, there
was always one main line of cleavage. With variations of numerous kinds, some of
which occasionally obscured the basic division, this line continued almost until
the present generation. This was the conflict between the "back country" and the
coast district. The causes of this conflict of interest were numerous. In the
first place, the coast population was a trading creditor class to which the back
country people were indebted. The frontier always offered an opportunity of
escape from industrial servitude, both wage and chattel, and this naturally
displeased those who profited by such servitude. The older sections have always
opposed further expansion, sometimes openly, but more frequently in an indirect
and sometimes secret manner. England long endeavored to restrict settlement to a
narrow strip along the coast. The merchants of the coast were often deeply
interested in the fur trade, and the advance of settlement wiped out this trade.
There was always complaint on the part of the frontiersmen that they were
overcharged by the
1 John Fiske, "Old Virginia and Her Neighbors," Vol. II, pp. 27-28; Phillip Alexander Bruce, "Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century," Vol. I, p. 246, Vol. II, pp. 487-581.
coast merchants, while the latter retorted with complaints of the nonpayment of debts. The relations with the Indians proved another constant source of friction. The "back country" men were always crowding the Indian from his hunting grounds and coming into conflict with him. They were therefore continually asking for troops and supplies for military expeditions and fortifications. The coast residents, wishing to use the Indian for trading purposes, or at least indifferent to his depredations, opposed appropriations for protection against his attacks.
In 1676 this conflict in Virginia broke into open war as "Bacon's Rebellion." There were peculiar local and personal conditions in this conflict as in all subsequent ones, but the causes assigned for the struggle are practically those given above. Governor Berkeley had been sent from England and had become the especial representative of the Cavalier class that emigrated at this time. His character may be judged from a famous extract from his report to the Commissioners of Plantations in 1670. In response to the question, "What course is taken about the instructing of the people within your government in the Christian religion? " he replied: -
The same course that is taken in England out of towns; every man according to his ability instructing his children. We have forty-eight parishes, and our ministers are well paid, and by my consent should be better, if they would pray oftener and preach less. But of all other commodities, so of this, the worst is sent us, and we had few that we could boast of, since the persecution in Cromwell's tyranny drove divers worthy men hither.
But, I thank God, there are no free schools, nor printing, and I hope we shall not have them these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!
Berkeley was a direct representative of the royal party in England. He was parceling out, the rich plantation lands of Virginia among his favorites even more recklessly than had been the custom hitherto. He had a subservient House of Burgesses, composed of the rich planters, and he refused to call a new election.1 He was directly concerned in the fur trade and was reported to have made agreements with the very Indians who were massacring the settlers on the frontier. Finally in 1676 Bacon gathered an army in spite of the orders of the Governor, defeated the Indians, and then marching to Jamestown, compelled the election of a new House of Burgesses, and was a successful candidate in that election. When Berkeley continued to plot against his life Bacon fled to the frontier to gather another army, which he again led first against the Indians who had risen once more, and then back again to Jamestown, which was then burned to the ground.In the midst of these stirring events he was taken sick and died, and Berkeley took such bloody vengeance as to call forth the historic remark from Charles II: "As I live, the old fool has put to death more people in that naked country than I did for the murder of my father.2
1. Wilson, "History of the American People," Vol. I, pp. 25&-275.
2 A contemporary report by a member of the Virginia Council contains some sentences that throw a striking light on the character of Bacon's Rebellion:
Bacon gathers about him a Rabble of the basest sort of People, whose Conditions are such as by a change could not admit of worse, with these began to stand in Defyance against the government... . These are the men that are sett up for the good of ye Country; who for ye ease of the Poore will have no taxes paied . . . would have all magistracie and government taken away & sett up one themselves & to make their good Intentions more manifest stick not to talk openly of shareing men's Estates among themselves.
The story of Virginia was typical of that of Georgia and the Carolinas. In each there was the same plantation system, the same division of interests between coast and back country. In the Carolinas the fur trade was of even more importance, and it was succeeded by a stage which was of little importance in Virginia, but which was to appear again and again in other portions of the country, - the ranching industry.1
1 In 1708 it was estimated that over 50,000 skins were shipped from Charleston annually. . . . In 1731 the item of deerskins alone amounted to 225,000. . . . The fur trade was at its best from 1721 to 1743. After that it began to decline. In South Carolina it declined rapidly after the removal of the Cherokees from the larger portion of the up-country in 1755. It had been one of the leading industries of the colony, and even as late as 1748 it ranked next to rice in the value of the amount exported. The total value of the exports from Nov. 1, 1747, to Nov. 1, 1748, amounted to 1,129,560 pounds sterling, of which rice supplied 618,750 pounds' worth, and the fur trade 252,300 pounds... . The decline of the fur trade in the decade following indicated that the first phase of frontier life had passed. The trader had started his operations on the coast, and as the frontier receded he followed to make room for the cow-pen keepers.
barren rockiness of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Hence it did not drive its population to the sea in boats nor attract them to great plantations, but built up instead a race of small farmers that was destined for many generations to be the dominant factor in American society. Its rivers were long enough for navigation, but did not partake of the marshy character of the James and the Roanoke. They were preeminently fitted for commerce rather than for agriculture or manufacturing.
New York, like several other colonies, was started as a trading venture by a commercial corporation, in this case by the Dutch West India Company. Holland was crowding Spain for first place in the commercial world, and was to hold that position for a moment before being pushed back by rapidly advancing England. In spite of the great wealth that came from the fur trade in New York, the Dutch West India Company, like all the other proprietary companies that established colonies in America, received but small profits. To the time of the control by this Company is due the establishment of the "patroon" estates. In its efforts to secure a permanent agricultural population the Company granted great tracts of country reaching back for miles on either side of the Hudson, together with certain semi-feudal rights to those who brought over a certain number of settlers. In few cases did this result in establishing permanent settlements such as were intended, but it did succeed in creating a mass of indefinite legal relations that still haunt the New York courts.1Pennsylvania was also a private property in the be-
1 John Fiske, "Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America," Vol. II, pp. 133-140.
ginning, but was established largely for other reasons than personal profit, although the family of William Penn sought very hard to derive such a profit from it.
Both New York and Pennsylvania contained a large percentage of settlers from Continental Europe. Pennsylvania was especially the refuge of the Palatinate Germans1
None of the Middle colonies endured the periods of general hardship that came near destroying New England and Virginia in the cradle. Almost from the beginning they were fairly prosperous and grew rapidly. From the first the agricultural basis of the country was distinct from that of New England or the South. It was not a supplementary industry wrung from a barren soil to assist in supporting an "amphibious population." Neither was it the plantation production of a great staple for export. It was the small, diversified, self-supporting farming that was destined to be for many years the largest element in American industrial life. Moreover, just because this form of farming is, for the early stages of capitalism at least, the most economical, it was not long until Philadelphia was the leading port in America, passing even Boston in the amount of goods exported. Nor was it so many years before Boston was crowded to third place with New York at the head. The furs, lumber, hides, and other diverse products reached a greater value, and became the foundation of a larger and more stable commerce than cotton, fish, rum, or slaves.Moreover, if New England and the South were drawing vast profits from rum and slaves and smuggling, New York was not without an even more shady and profitable
1 See pp. 15-17.
commerce, for this city was the headquarters of seventeenth-century piracy. This was the golden age of piracy. Spain was still rich in commerce. Her ships were bringing valuable cargoes from the New World to the Old. But Spain, in spite of, or on account of, the ease with which she was obtaining certain forms of wealth from America, had lost her place as the foremost commercial nation. She had now been relegated to a position much inferior to either Holland or England.
Spain and Holland having lost the power to protect their still rich commerce, a race of pirates arose who preyed upon the merchant ships of these nations. New York was one of the chief harbors for the disposal of piratical plunder.' The entire colonial government became involved in piracy. The pirates were forced to share their booty with the royal governors, and this fact was cited as one of the grievances of the party which opposed these governors. This matter finally climaxed with the notorious affair of Captain Kidd, who was sent out to hunt the pirates, but found piracy more profitable, and was himself finally hung, - not because he was worse than the others, but because his career came just at the close of the period when piracy was almost a legitimate means of livelihood, and when the navies of England and Holland had become sufficiently strong to prevent piracy.
By the close of the seventeenth century the same class distinctions that had arisen in the other colonies were apparent in New York.
Long-continued arbitrary taxation and the repeated failure to obtain representative government had caused
much popular discontent. Though the population of the little city was scarcely more than 4000 souls, a distinction of classes was plainly to be seen. Without regard to race the small shopkeepers, small farmers, sailors, shipwrights, and artisans were far apart in their sympathies from the rich fur traders, patroons, lawyers, and royal officials.1
This antagonism broke into armed rebellion under Jacob Leisler, in 1689. The royal Governor was overthrown, and Leisler ruled for a time in his place. But later came reenforcements from England, and Leisler paid the penalty of his rebellion with his life. "Had things gone as Leisler hoped and expected," says John Fiske, "the name of Leisler would be inseparably associated with the firm establishment of representative government and the first triumph of democracy in the province of New York."The same political lines existed in Pennsylvania, but did not find violent expression until 1763, when a body of between two and three hundred armed frontiersmen moved upon Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin was sent to their camp by the Governor, and through him they presented a list of their grievances. They complained of the unfair method of districting the colony by which the back countries were given a much smaller number of representatives in the colonial legislature in proportion to population than the older districts. This was a universal method of maintaining the domination of the commercial classes during the colonial period. The complaint also voiced the old grievance concerning the Indians. Indeed, it was to attack some Indians who had
1 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 184.
been given shelter in Philadelphia that they had moved upon that city. The paper money controversy was also an issue here as it was in nearly every colony.' Having voiced their complaints, the backwoodsmen disbanded and went home, so that Pennsylvania was spared the bloodshed that had taken place in other colonies. When a society begins to develop class antagonisms, it is a sign that it has reached a point where independent existence is possible. It has begun to have a social life and method of growth of its own. If it is a colony, it has arrived at a critical stage where only a slight jar will be needed to start separatist tendencies.We have traced each of the main groups of colonies up to the point where this independent evolution was in progress. For a period their history has much in common, and can therefore be best treated as a whole.
1 Isaac Sharpless, "Two Centuries of Pennsylvania History," pp. 126, 142-143, 154-155. There were similar uprisings in other colonies. Those of Davis and Pate in Maryland and of the "Regulators" in the Carolinas are the most important of those not mentioned in the text.