THE EUROPEAN INHERITANCE
THE development of the people now politically organized in the United States of America is in a very true sense a part of European history; for it is the record of European enterprise on American soil, of the transfer to a new environment of social habits and ideals which, though greatly changed by American conditions, are still essentially a phase of European civilization. The true starting point for the history of the United States is not, therefore, the study of aboriginal America, nor even the process by which America became known to Europeans; it is rather the European world from which the colonists came, the stock of traditions and prejudices which they inherited from their fathers, and the special characteristics of the age in which they lived.
The European background.
More definitely still, we must first try to understand the England and the Englishmen of the early seventeenth century. It is indeed true, as Thomas Paine said in his Common Sense, that America is the child not of England only but of Europe; nevertheless, our earlier history is primarily concerned with the emigration, and adaptation to American life, of English men and English institutions. It was in 1606, three years after the death of Queen Elizabeth, that the founders of the first successful English colony in America set out from the mother country. The foundation of twelve of the thirteen colonies which afterwards formed the United States of America was mainly the work of men then living,