America Perceived: A View from Abroad in the 18th Century

America Perceived: A View from Abroad in the 18th Century

America Perceived: A View from Abroad in the 18th Century

America Perceived: A View from Abroad in the 18th Century

Excerpt

At the beginning of the 18th century, the American colonies were little more than tiny pockets of population huddled between the cold Atlantic and the imposing spine of the Appalachian Mountains. New England had grown to respectable size through immigration and a low death rate, but the total population of America was only about 250,000 souls -- black and white -- spread over some eleven colonies. Most of these people lived on widely scattered farms or in small towns. Boston was considered a large city with 6,700 inhabitants while Philadelphia in only seventeen years had become the largest metropolis in America with less than ten thousand persons. New York was only half that size.

But the new Americans, as promoters and travellers continually advertised, enjoyed a bountiful climate, fertile fields, and generally good health, which meant that they doubled their numbers about every 22-1/2 years. This was the factor that, perhaps more than anything else, spelled the ultimate victory of the English colonists over the native Indian populations and their less numerous but diplomatically adept French allies. Until French Canada fell to the British in 1760, the English were pinned to the Atlantic seaboard. When Montreal surrendered two years after Wolfe's dramatic seizure of Quebec, English colonists were at last free to spill over the Appalachians into the rich farming country of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, no longer fearful of the lightning attacks of French and Indian war parties. By 1775 the American colonies could boast a strapping population of 2-1/2 million, more than enough to wrestle from the British monarchy their independence.

It was to this growing, changing country that European visitors . . .

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