HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
GROWTH OF SOLIDARITY
THE close of the seventeenth century saw the center of colonial life quite thoroughly transplanted to America. None of the principal colonies had any essential portion of their industrial life across the Atlantic. They still imported much, but they imported it in their own vessels, and under the control and for the profit of their own merchants, and not as a part of European commerce.
The colonies were everywhere drawing closer together. This was true in the simple geographical sense. The appearance of boundary disputes in a half dozen places is significant that populations were now approaching each other and that each colony was no longer a small settlement surrounded by miles of wilderness. The settlement of one of these boundary disputes marked a line that was to run with sinister significance through a succeeding century of American history. This was the line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which was carefully and ceremoniously surveyed and marked by two English surveyors in 1767, from whom it took the name of "Mason and Dixon's Line."
Household industry had developed to the point where each colony was well-nigh self-supporting, so far as the principal necessities of life were concerned. A laboring class, divorced from land and capital, had appeared in each of the colonies. In the South this was composed
largely of negro chattel slaves. These had been brought over by the thousands by the traders of New and old England. Nearly all the colonies at some time or another opposed the importation of slaves, but their importation was a profitable business for the mother country, and she would not listen to any restrictive proposals. Indeed, by the agreement called the "Asiento," signed at the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the slave trade was confined to a monopoly controlled by Queen Anne and her royal successors and court favorites. After that, all the power of the British government was used to push this traffic.
In the Middle colonies the laboring population was composed largely of "indentured servants" and others who were in a more or less open form of slavery. In New England these forms were also found, and here there were also considerable numbers of wageworkers.
The principal highway of commerce was along the coast, and with increasing
population and diversity of productions the coast cities were much more closely
connected with each other than with the "back country" of their own colony.
Population increased with great rapidity during the first half of the eighteenth
century. In 1700 there were about 250,000 people in the thirteen colonies. By
1750 the population had increased to 1,370,000.1 This increase of
population was forcing settlement back from the seacoast, and it was even
beginning to flow down into the Ohio valley. These "back-country" settlements
were coming into close proximity, and were finding many common interests.
1. R. G. Thwaites, "The Colonies," pp. 265-266.
The establishment of a crude postal system in 1693 did much to unify colonial life. This system began under private control, but was placed under royal management in 1707. In 1737, Benjamin Franklin was made colonial postmaster-general, and continued in that position until the outbreak of the Revolution. During this time the system was extended to Canada and regular mail routes established between the principal cities.
Every Indian outbreak drove the colonies closer together. Of even greater importance as a unifying force was the series of wars between England and various nations of continental Europe. The colonies were always involved in these wars, since both France and Spain, who were arrayed against England, had colonies on the American continent. In the War of the Austrian Succession, the New England colonists fitted out an expedition that captured Louisburg, in French Canada. This was supposed to be an impregnable fortress, and the fact that it fell before colonial troops gave a feeling of self-confidence that was to develop into one of independence.
The final grapple between France and England for the mastery of the commercial world came in what was known in America as the "French and Indian War," ending in 1763. In America this war was waged for the possession of the Mississippi Valley. The pressure of an increasing population, that had crowded the colonies together until they were quarreling over boundary lines, had become so great that it was at last breaking over the mighty barrier of the Alleghenies. But here it was meeting with conflicting claims of sovereignty. France had been sending her explorers all up and down the tribu-
taries of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence, and she claimed, by virtue of their discoveries and subsequent occupation by an army of fur traders, all this great inland empire.
Coming from the Atlantic side, the key to this territory lies at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio, and where the city of Pittsburg now stands.1
Virginia and Pennsylvania land speculators were already plotting this country, and when France suddenly seized the gateway to the Ohio and erected a fort on the present site of Pittsburg, England promptly protested. As her messenger to bear this protest she chose a young surveyor, who had been using his position to the advantage of the land companies with which he was just beginning to be connected, and in which his brother was a prominent figure. The name of this surveyor was George Washington. His efforts to persuade the French to leave were in vain; and when war broke out and British soldiers were sent to America he was chosen to cooperate with the regulars under General Braddock in an attack upon Fort Duquesne.
The result of that attack was to add greatly to colonial self-confidence.
Braddock refused to accept the advice of the trained Indian fighters who
accompanied him, and moved on through the wilderness with all the pomp and
ceremony of an English parade ground. Naturally he was ambushed, and when he
tried to meet the craftiest wilderness fighters the world has ever known with the
tactics of the European martinet, his forces were wellnigh annihilated. The man
who reaped what honors were
1. Frederick A. Ogg, "The Opening of the Mississippi," p. 251.
gained that day was Washington, who, with the trained frontier fighters, covered the retreat of the British regulars and prevented a wholesale massacre. It did not take long for the story of how untrained frontiersmen outfought British regulars to spread throughout the colonies. The result was to take away the halo of invincibility that had surrounded these troops and to replace it with something like contempt.
The growth of economic unity and the appearance of military necessity caused many plans to be set forth for the political unity of the colonies. Some of these, as the New England Confederation of 1643 to 1660, were quite fully organized. Others, as Leisler's plan of union in 1690, and William Penn's in 1697, never reached farther than the theoretical stage. There were several attempts at union on the part of royal governors. The main unifying effect of these officials, however, was indirect and unintended. The common hostility to them on the part of the various colonies tended to create a bond of sympathy that was to prove of value as a basis of a hostile movement against England at the time of the Revolution.