Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE FOUNDING OF THE COLONIES AND THE GROWTH OF POPULATION

The Groups and Motives Promoting Settlement. In the movement that led to the establishment of the colonies we may distinguish three separate groups whose activities contributed to the results: (1) the government; (2) the people who migrated to the colonies; (3) the trading companies or proprietors who promoted and financed the enterprises. In the case of each group varied motives were back of their action though the most prominent were religious, political, or economic in character.

In the case of the government, religious motives played a minor part but were not without influence. The prospect of converting the savages to Christianity made its appeal to many, and in the keen rivalry between Protestants and Catholics the establishment of one or the other faith in the colonies was regarded as so much strength gained. Furthermore, the close connection between the Church and the state at this period tended to increase this influence. The motive was most prominent before the eighteenth century and played a greater part in Spain and France than in England. Vastly more influential in the action of the state were the economic and political motives. As was explained in the preceding chapter, the economic advantages to be obtained through the possession of colonies were regarded as one of the important means for increasing the revenue of the government, augmenting the wealth of the nation, and thereby adding to its political power and prestige. Once the settlements were established, the colonial authorities also took an active interest in attracting immigrants.

Similarly varied motives influenced the people who migrated to the colonies. The religious motive was most marked in the case of those who came during the seventeenth century before the persecutions aroused during the struggles of the Reformation had subsided. This was reflected in the Puritan exodus to New England before 1640, the movement of churchmen to Virginia during the Protectorate, the later influx of Quakers into Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the Huguenots who fled from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Lutherans, Mennonites, and Moravians of Germany seeking to escape religious persecution and the ravages of war in the early years of the eighteenth century, and the Scotch-Irish desiring to flee from similar troubles in Ireland.

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